Wealthy Single Mommy founder Emma Johnson sees the parallels between single motherhood and entrepreneurship - because she's doing both. Separated and later divorced from her husband while pregnant with her second child, Johnson has now become a voice of single mothers choosing to thrive within the new economy.
Her new book, The Kickass Single Mom, captures Johnson's insights from building her large online community. We ask her about how the book grew from the online conversation, what she hopes to bring to the gender pay gap discussion and why you should probably pay someone else to do your housework.
How long have you had your Wealthy Single Mommy community?
Five years now. The book is really coming at a moment where my life experience and my passion are coming together when we are collectively talking more about women, money, sex and gender.
The financial story of single moms is more intense than other women, including the money discussion and the sex discussion, and now we have Hillary Clinton and the unprecedented pay gap discussion. I loved talking with my girlfriends and men I was dating, and I realized we need to take this discussion beyond us.
I'm from small town Illinois, moved to New York and I appreciate the difference. I now can throw a rock out my window and find someone to have a progressive discussion with, but if I was back in Sycamore, IL, I would not be having such interesting conversations because of my available network.
I began asking, "How can I serve?" And that question was intensified after the election. I can volunteer, sure, but I can also use my network and my platform.
This could have been a straight financial book. When did you decide to get personal?
The book was hard to write. I've written millions of words, and I'm a fast writer, but this book took me a long time to do. If you're not going to tell personal stories and get to the real heart of the matter, you miss an opportunity to really connect with your audience.
I was already a financial writer... but I wanted to lean into my uniqueness and make a bigger impact.
You have a great line in the book about spending money to make money. Can you elaborate on that idea?
I know it's hard. Honestly, after my separation, I wanted to hire a cleaning person - even to the point of contention, since that was a sticking point in our marriage. Things were so tight financially. You can't just look at the numbers, though. You have to look at your energy level: If you are absolutely dreading folding the laundry, considering the time you could be spending elsewhere, or even the headspace taken with you being angry about folding the laundry! It's just negative. Let's just get this out of our lives and hire someone.
Look at the people you admire, like someone famous or successful: They often don't do their laundry, as they are focused on spending time with their kids or making a mark on the world.
It's all about running your life like it is a business, and you have to take risks if you are going to grow. In the short term, risks are volatile, but in the long term, they usually pay off. I want women to decouple their identity from housework. What they are really passionate about will move the needle towards success.
You mention frugality and thoughtfulness in how you approach money. How else has single motherhood prepared you for entrepreneurship?
I had my own business as a freelance writer and, when I did the pivot, focused on my blog. Now I really have a business that is scalable and not tied to my time.
That's what I'm calling women to do: At this time, with the redefining family and gender roles, everything is up for grabs. There aren't many rules any more. It can be a very scary and also exciting, like entrepreneurship.
How often do women limit their careers, side hustles and all, to keep the piece at home?
I'm so passion about it! We do it all the time, every day, consciously and unconsciously. Forty percent of the breadwinners are moms, but most of them are single moms. What about the women who aren't the breadwinners, who are unconsciously limiting themselves because the marriage or core dynamic can't handle that power shift? I ask a lot of women for higher self awareness: Do you prioritize your pay gap or your marriage?
I've met many women who've come out of their marriages and found so much financial success. It is often a necessity, but it also shows the potentially limiting marriage dynamic.
What is the very first step single moms should take?
Prioritize money, because if you're feeling good about your money, then you'll feel better about everything: Less arguing with your ex, you're not shacking up with some dumbass guy, and more. And you may have to get a smaller apartment, too. Don't just try to do your old life - just make up your mind that you're going to do it because women do it every single day.