Emma Johnson is a veteran money writer, noted blogger and an host of the podcast Like a Mother with Emma Johnson. A former Associated Press Financial Wire reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has written for the New York Times, Wall Street journal, Forbes, WORTH, Glamour, REAL SIMPLE, Parenting, Dr. Oz Good Life, Men’s Health, USA Today and others.
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Her popular blog WealthySingleMommy.com, and podcast Like a Mother, explore issues facing professional single moms: business and career, money, sex, relationships and parenting. Emma regularly comments on these topics for outlets such as CNN, Headline News, Wall Street journal, FoxNews.com, CNBC, NPR, TIME, O, The Oprah Magazine, Woman’s Day, Ryan Seacrest Radio and many more. She was named Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web,” one of “20 Personal Finance Influencers to Follow on Twitter” by AOL DailyFinance, “Top 15 Personal Finance Podcasts” by U.S. News, and “9 Overachieving New Yorkers You Must Date” by New York Observer. She is also author of the book, The Kickass Single Mom, which helps women be financially independent, discover their sexiest self, and raise fabulous, happy children.
Emma grew up in Sycamore, Ill., and lives in New York City with her young children, Helena and Lucas.
Can you tell us a little bit about how you became a writer? How did you first become interested in writing? What were your creative influences growing up?
Writing has always been my primary skill, even as a child. I majored in journalism in college, and worked in daily newspapers in small U.S. towns and abroad for a few years in my 20s, then moved to NYC, where I landed a miserable job writing 20 stories about equities for the Associated Press financial wire before I went out on my own as a fulltime freelance writer. The rest is history!
Why did you write The Kickass Single Mom?
When I was becoming a single mom, I felt so alone, and doomed. There weren’t any positive, progressive resources out there that spoke to me: a professional single mom who had big career goals, a modern dating life and parenting practices not stuck in the 1950s. Five years ago this need drove me to launch my blog, Wealthysinglemommy.com, and then my podcast, Like a Mother. It quickly became clear that there are countless women like me throughout the country — and world: Educated, hustling, brilliant women who are either in incredible positions of success, or striving to get there, while also building thriving personal lives and raising great kids. Yet we all faced the same challenges: Negative, toxic, sexist messages about what we are capable of from both the world at large, and those closest to us. There is a disconnect, one that aligns with my passion for feminism, and gender equality. I realized that in order to change sexism in the world, we need a different story for moms in non-traditional families. Two years ago, my work with single moms became my full-time job, and this book is one important part of my mission to help single moms lead really, incredible, kickass lives.
Single moms often feel guilty that they cannot be stay-at-home-moms. Why do you say that this ‘mom guilt’ is unfounded?
Women have been financially critical to their families since the dawn of time: Typically, either working alongside men on the family farm, or running family businesses alongside men. Never in history have women spent their prime earning years devoted full-time to child rearing. It has only been in the past 100 years in the developed world that women have gained financial and political rights that mean our labor is tracked (plus, the rise of the labor force means all workers’ wages are tracked more effectively). In those post-war years of the 1950s and 1960s, media celebrated the June Cleaver model as ideal — women staying home full-time devoted to children and marginal housekeeping, since most of housework has been outsourced thanks to technology (prepared food at the grocery store, easy-to-clean tile/carpet/linoleum/hardwood floors/ ready-made clothes and linens, and on and on). Plus: Please read Betty Fridan’s 1963 Feminine Mystique. All the June Cleavers were bored, depressed and strung out on barbiturates and 2 p.m. cocktails — then burned their bras and rioted for equal pay in the 1970s!
Thankfully, troves of recent scientific research has freed women from pressure to be the omnipotent, dependent stay-at-home mom — or, more statistically likely, a guilty mom who works, as 70 percent of mothers do work, most likely because they and their children need to eat!
A meta study by University of Maryland researchers found that after age 2, there is ZERO connection between the quantity of hours parents spend with their children, and those kids’ emotional, academic or other wellbeing. Further, Kathleen McGinn and Harvard studied families in 25 countries and found that children whose mothers worked for pay outside the home fared far better than those who had unpaid, stay-at-home moms. Girls raised by working moms performed better academically, and grew up to earn more and hold higher managerial positions. Meanwhile, boys raised by working moms performed equally well, and were more caring for loved ones in the home — babies, elders — as both boys and adults.
Further, women who work and earn and have their own money reduce their likelihood of poverty, poor mental health and being a domestic violence victim by landslides. There is zero benefit to anyone when women stop working, and benefits to women, children, marriage, the pay gap and the economy when women do work. So stop feeling guilty, dammit!!
What do you hope readers will take away from your book?
You can and must build a life truly on your own terms, no matter your family structure. I don’t care what path took you to single motherhood, you and your kids deserve a rich, full life of financial comfort, creative and professional fulfillment, adventure, health, community and love. Thankfully, we live in a time when that is entirely attainable for you.
What’s a day in your life look like now?
I get up about 5:45, and about half the time my boyfriend stays over. We have a little time in bed before we get up — I head to the kitchen, turn on NPR, start coffee and breakfast and then wake up my kids. We eat together as a family, then I hustle everyone out the door, and I go to the gym or for a run. Then I sit down and work. It really isn’t glamorous. Increasingly, I have meetings or media appearances in Manhattan, and I usually try to make lunch or coffee dates with friends before or after. Most of my friends are also colleagues, so there is a lot of overlap in business and life, which makes for great tax deductions!
What is the thing you dislike the most in running your business? What is the best thing? What are the biggest challenges?
There is really no downside to running my business. Sometimes I get stuck on something, say, growing my podcast audience, or generating leads for partnerships. But that motivates me to network and connect with others who can help me, and that leads to getting the chance to work with brilliant people who make my business, life and self better. I love the flexibility of time, pursuits and ability to earn endlessly that comes with self-employment.
Do you have any tips, resources, or tools for managing work/life balance?
I keep things simple. I have one credit card for business, one for personal expenses, and manage all my finances in one place: Mint.com. I invest in housekeeping weekly, and outsource all my laundry, and urge women to do the same. You can’t have it all and do it all, especially when you try to spend time on tasks you hate!
What creative activities do you like to do with your kid(s)?
Mainly cooking. I try to include them in the daily meal preparation, and also encourage them to initiate dishes they want to cook, which is nearly always a dessert.
Fill in the Blanks
If I could have a super power, it would be… revamp national governments worldwide to ensure safe water, universal child and health care, and quality, free education for all children.
A famous person I would love to meet is… Meryl Streep.
If I had extra 2 hours in the day, I’d… spend more time volunteering.