A Mom's Guide to Wealth
“We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” Joseph Campbell
It’s no secret. Many women dream about the day they get married. They most likely also dream about the day they become a mother. In one way or another, we all have our own romantic fairy tale ending where love isn’t complicated and we all live happily ever after. I don’t think any of us fantasize about becoming a single parent, getting divorced, becoming a widow, or ending up alone. However, life happens… and even second-rate Cinderella stories can quickly become nightmares.
There were no rainbows or unicorns in my childhood romantic story. My parents were 19 and 21 years old and unmarried when I was born. Soon thereafter, my biological mother began a drug addiction that would last the rest of her life. My young father bravely raised me and we learned the rules of dating and dysfunction together. My father’s girlfriend of 15 years was the only mother I’ve ever really known (and the only person I call “mom” today) and helped raise me without ever being formally married to my father. Their relationship was rocky to say the least. After quite a few breakups, they finally broke things off for good. To this day, I spend time with both she and my father frequently. We’re all happy and loving our lives. And so went my fairy tale… I never expected things to be perfect. I mildly expect them to be rocky with a probable breakup at the end. But we would be in each other’s lives forever and happy in the end … or so I thought.
When I unexpectedly got pregnant at 23, it was clear that the circumstances weren’t ideal. Her father and I weren’t married and — over a period of seven years of dating off and on — probably weren’t able to make it work for longer than 6 months at a time. But he was truly a great man. Honest. Caring. Responsible. Intelligent. Funny. Bigger than life. He was one of my best friends and couldn’t have been a better father to his then 9-year-old son. Sure, we had our share of arguments and struggles, but we always found a way to come back together … and, for me, that’s what mattered most. There was no doubt in my mind that regardless of whether or not our relationship worked out, we would survive any difficulty and be great parents in the end.
During the course of my pregnancy, our arguments worsened. What would have previously been resolved over a couple of conversations and maybe a few tense words now ended in tears, screams, and days without contact. Even at this point, I wasn’t disillusioned. The possibility of marriage became more distant, but I remained comforted by the knowledge that the strength of our friendship and the power of time would be the cure-all for our troubles.
The truth was, there would no cure for the cancer that had overrun his 31-year-old body, unbeknownst to me. His death a few short weeks after our daughter’s birth would be the shock of my lifetime. I could understand if things didn’t work out between us, but I couldn’t understand his death. I still can’t.
What followed was a crash course in Maturity 101. I learned the lesson that tomorrow is really not promised and began my life that day. I went to work. I went to therapy. I went to church. I took my slightly chubby self to the gym and whipped myself back into shape. I wanted to make my daughter proud. I wanted to make my friends and family proud. Sometimes, things became overwhelming and I broke down, but I never stopped. Life is indeed too short. This is why I’m always perplexed as to how often women (and some men) wait until they find the perfect person to begin to get their life — and many times, their finances — together.
Yes… a dashing, financially secure, and emotionally available Prince Charming would be great. Believe me, there are days when Prince Mediocre would be great as long as he helped me figure out dinner, pick up the cleaners, or took out the trash. Seriously. But unfortunately, we have no idea when Prince What’s-His-Name or his white horse is going to arrive. My grandmother’s Prince Charming arrived when she was in her sixties — over 20 years after her divorce from my grandfather. She’s a blissfully happy married woman now, but she was also a very independent, strong, and happy single woman.
The point is, when it comes to your money — Prince Charming doesn’t matter for three major reasons: 1.) We have no idea when he is going to show up 2.) He may have a few chinks in his armor and 3.) Life happens! Single moms already know this. Most of us have lived it. If you want to be wealthy, the first thing you need to do is stop waiting for somebody else to solve your financial problems or help you get rich — be it Prince Charming, your boss, your parents, or your government.
So here it is … Step One: Get off your ass! Put the oxygen mask on you first! Single mothers don’t have time for excuses and neither do successful and wealthy people. Cinderella and her second-rate counterparts suck because in your happy ending, wealth may come before love or whatever other excuse you’re using to remain broke. And that’s absolutely fabulous.