The Money Question

I follow a lot of blogs for Choice Moms.  Every few weeks, someone poses the question: “How much did you plan financially before you took the plunge as a single mom?”  or “How much do I need to save before having a child on my own?” “How much money do I need to raise a child alone?

Money is a huge concern that most women who are consciously choosing to bring a child into the world solo confront before deciding to undertake single motherhood.  For me it was a big factor and it wasn’t until I felt comfortable with the money question that I could move forward with trying to get pregnant.

But it was almost impossible to quantify and amount of money that I would need to raise a child alone or decide on an amount I needed saved before I started trying to get pregnant. So how did I get look at the money question?

Through many years of spiritual practice as well as my work as a life and somatic coach, I’ve come to see money in a much different light.  Yes, it is a necessary vehicle to buy and sell goods and services.  But, in reality it is much more loaded and complicated. It is often tied into our feelings of self-worth and success.  The most common measure of life-time success or achievement is money!  And, most businesses measure success via their profits or net worth as opposed to their ethics or impact on the environment etc. 

Through reflection, I’ve come to notice more and more about how I relate to money.It’s something external that I hope will bring a sense of security, happiness or success. I notice myself saying, “if only I had more money I’d feel comfortable about having a baby alone, or be content, or could buy some thing that would solve my problems.  If I really pay close attention, what I’m really saying is “if I had more money, I’d be more successful, happy or secure.” 

But more often than not, once I get more money, I realize that I don't in fact feel any more happy, secure or successful because I am searching externally for a visceral sensation and a state of being.  I want the external (more money) to fix the visceral internal sensation (insecurity or unhappiness etc), but it doesn’t. The best way to feel secure is to return to the body and tune into its supportive qualities. In this way, I can generate a physical (visceral) sensation of security that is real and self-generated, not predicated on acquiring more goods and services.  Then from that place of clarity, I can actually assess how to plan for a baby.  

Never Enough

I’ve heard many single moms talk about how only having one income makes it more difficult to feel like they have enough money.  Certainly, that must be true.  And, I’ve heard both Choice Moms and Choice Kids talk explain that their children are often asked to have a part-time job in high school to save up for items that aren’t necessities, such as an iPad, cell phone or elective school trip.

But my question: Does anyone ever feel like they have enough money? In my experience, no matter how much money a person has, it rarely feels like enough. It’s seems to be the nature of money!  One author on money talks about how from the moment we wake up we immediately sense we don’t have enough time, money, food, clothes, vacation, help etc.  We are completely preoccupied by what we don’t have enough of.  It doesn't help that advertisers and the media are constantly telling us we need more.

In addition to society’s messages about money, our family upbringing also impacts our ideas about money.  In my case, my parents reinforced the idea that we did not have enough. My mother, who grew up in England during World War 2, was constantly paranoid about money.  It seemed no matter how much money we had she could only see scarcity.  It was NEVER enough.  I grew up thinking I was poor, even though I grew up in a very affluent area of West Los Angeles.  We did have less than many of my friends whose parents were producers, directors, actors, lawyers etc.  But we were far from poor.

As an adult, I notice the temptation to feel like I don’t have enough money, clothes, furniture, friends, time—you name it.  It’s a compelling and very convincing voice.  If I pay close attention, its soundtrack is almost always running like static noise in the background, regardless of its veracity.   I try to take a step back from time to time to figure out whether I really don't have enough, or whether I’m simply running my familiar soundtrack. Am I simply panicked about money because that’s what my parents and society have told me I need to do?

Many parents likely struggle with feeling like they don’t have enough money to provide everything they would like for their children. And, a solo income only accentuates the problem.  It may be harder to make ends meet.

But, women and families with far more money and far less money than you raise children all the time.  I’m definitely not saying to ignore the question about finances, but beware of the traps.  It’s easy to put off your dreams in fear of money because our society always tells us we don’t have enough and that we need more stuff.   For some it’s important to realize that no matter how much money they have, it will never feel like enough. 

Other people may have different histories and stories that affect their ideas and relationship to money.  Some common ones: Money is meant to be spent not saved.   If you follow your heart you will always be poor.  Artists will always starve.  Making money exploits others.  Money = Success. 

Spend some time thinking about the messages you received about money growing up.  By noticing them and realizing they are simply stories and conditioning, you can try to disentangle yourself from them in order to see money differently. 

Instead of simply thinking, “I don't have enough to raise a child alone” sort out to what extent you are succumbing to a common trap of needing more or feeling like you do not have enough.  Examine what other beliefs about money you’ve been taught.  Approach it from various angles.  Look at your own personal relationship to money as well as taking practical steps to visit a financial planner.

Uncertainty

Another major pitfall I see people make around money, and life in general, is to yearn for and seek certainty—about money, the future, relationships etc.  It’s particularly evident in the way some women phrase their questions about money.  “How much did you financially plan before becoming a single mother?”  But the bottom line is that security is a misnomer—nothing in life is secure or certain. 

It’s the nature of life.  We want to know what the future holds or that we will be ok.  But no matter how much you plan, you can never be certain what life has in store. You are an ever-changing being who will definitely change the minute you become a mother.  And you live in an ever-changing economy with ups and downs. Even if you have an amazing, well-paying seemingly stable job when you decide to get pregnant, it can be taken away from you at any time.  You could get laid off tomorrow.  Or, you may decide to quit in order to spend more time with your kids. You will never know what lies around the corner financially.  You can lay out a plan and a budget but there is no guarantee that life will follow that plan.

In my coaching practice, I work with people going through career transitions. People want to change jobs but they fear the loss of income or the financial uncertainty of a career shift.  It often paralyzes them from taking a risk, so instead they stay in a job that deadens their soul. The same can be true of the decision to pursue single motherhood. The fear of having change and uncertainty can prevent women from pursuing their primal desire and dream of motherhood. 

Do some self-reflection around your desire to have everything be certain or to know the answer.  Notice its grip on you and how it might be preventing you from following your dreams. This is a great place to return to the body and its support so that you can stop grasping for a false, external sense of support.

Back Up Plan

Once I realized that life is uncertain, I decided to look at the money question differently.  Instead of relying on a particular job or path, I began to look at the Worst Case Scenario and generate as many back up plans as possible. What would I do if I lost my business and couldn’t find a new job?  Could I go live with family?  I know, for some, myself included, this is a heinous thought, but I could do it if I had to?  Do I have other friends that would take me in?  Could I lease my home, get a roommate, use a different skill set to take lower paying or less desirable work that may not make my heart sing but I could do to hold me over till the right job came along? 

I realized I could rent out another room in my home, and cut back on many unessential expenses.  But worst-case scenario, I could move out of my home and rent the whole thing, while moving to a very cheap rental or moving in with friends.  I know several people who would not let me fall flat on my butt—they would take me in and help me get my feet on the ground.  I know I would not end up in the streets.  To be safe and to build a bigger cushion, I gave up my home office and got a second roommate so that I could rent to generate more income. I’ve contemplated having another single mother move in to share expenses and childcare. 

But also don’t be surprised by what unfolds if you follow what feels true in your heart.  If having a baby is something you really want, you might be surprised what doors open up.  I went to law school years ago because I had a passion to work in bioethics and reproductive rights.  I quit after only 4 years of practice because, try as I might, I could not find work in either of those areas, so I ended up in corporate litigation. I got burnt out and quit.  But now, over 15 years later, my dream job is staring me in the face.  There are now more options for creating alternative family structures using various methods to get pregnant or create families.  Yet, there is an incredible lack of policies and regulations surrounding the use of known and unknown donors, surrogates etc.  Strangely, my life has come full circle and I may just end up practicing law, combining bioethics and reproductive rights. And, I’ve also been called to write a book about my journey and change my entire business focus.  I have a feeling that this avenue will yield much more money than my previous life coaching business would have ever earned. 

Summary

When my writing buddies read a very different first draft of this blog entry they thought I was advising women to ignore the money question if they really wanted the dream of motherhood.  By all means, I am not suggesting to throw caution to the wind and jump in without considering its financial implications. 

Here are some things to consider when thinking about the financial aspects of bringing a child into the world alone:

·      Take a realistic look at your finances.  Talk to a financial advisor. Make sure you have a good cushion or some good back up plans in case things do not go as expected. 

·      Gain some understanding about how you relate to money.  Do you feel like you never have enough?  How does it tie into your feelings of value, self-worth, security and happiness? Do you conflate money with success or security?  Do your work to untangle these confusions as much as possible. 

·      Develop a somatic sense of security and/or happiness so that you are not constantly seeking externally for these things. 

·      Get creative.  Think outside the box about how you could structure your work and living situations. 

·      Be open to the unexpected.  Let go of your desire for certainty.

These questions can be hard to navigate alone.  I’ve been working as a life coach for many years helping people untangle these questions.  I would love an opportunity to help you look at your underlying relationship to money, your desire for security and help you think outside the box to generate potential back up plans so that you can move forward in your dream for motherhood if you so choose.  

© Choice Mama Baby Project 2013