There are 12 million single-parent-led households in the U.S., a figure that continues to climb as the number of babies born to unmarried mothers grows. In fact, 57 percent of millennial moms in the U.S. are not married when they give birth, according to a Johns Hopkins University study.
Despite scant positive media messages about what is possible for these parents and their families, un-partnered parents of all income levels thrive in countless ways. For four years I have blogged at WealthySingleMommy.com and have interacted with thousands of these parents. Most are women (85 percent of single parents are moms) who have built incredible lives for themselves and their families. Follow these rules to become a wealthy single parent:
Un-partnered parents of all income levels thrive in countless ways.
1. Take full responsibility for your quality of life. Yes, your children’s other parent might be legally and morally responsible to share in raising the children, both logistically and financially. But he or she might not do that. Focus on what you can control, and never give your power away to others.
2. Never under-earn to qualify for more child support or alimony or to avoid paying child support or alimony.
3. Live a full romantic life that you crave and deserve, and never be ashamed of this part of your life just because you’re a parent.
4. Never make professional decisions “as a single parent.” When faced with an opportunity to build a career or business that empowers you, or to earn more, or to create the life you crave, always go for it. You and your children will benefit in countless ways, including having an energized parent, more income and setting an invaluable example for your children for what is possible.
5. Prioritize self-care. Do not buy into the messages that all single parents are harried, worn out and barely getting by. Exercise every day. Make time each week to spend with people you love and who make you laugh. Invest time in hobbies and volunteer work that fulfills you. All of these things make you a better person, which means you have that much more to give to your children.
6. Build a network. You and your children need and deserve a warm circle of loving, supportive people on whom you can count for support, laughter and shared memories. Maybe this circle is your wonderful given family, or a tribe of friends and neighbors you build yourself. Perhaps you find this community in your house of worship or through a local organization. Reach out, humble yourself and accept help. Ask for what you need, and be open to receiving it.
7. Be grateful. Yes, being a single parent is hard, but you also live in a time of unprecedented wealth, convenience, and professional and economic opportunity. Focus on what you do have—including the love of your children—and seek ways to give back a slice of the abundance you enjoy.
50; biotech executive and co-founder of Leading Women for Shared Parenting (LW4SP); two daughters, ages 10 and 12; Newton, Massachusetts
When I divorced, my children were awarded the standard every-other-weekend visitation. Later, representing myself, I secured a shared parenting schedule. Since co-founding LW4SP, I’m thankful we’ve attracted so many accomplished women who are helping to introduce shared parenting legislation in 20 states. In my own family, my children and I now share a meaningful relationship, and I’m involved in their educational, emotional and spiritual development. Perhaps I’m most proud of our ability to talk about any subject, including difficult topics such as sex, boys and drugs. I’m hopeful this relationship skill will serve my children well in their teen years and beyond.
51; financial expert and entrepreneur; 17-year-old son and 10-year-old daughter; Lake Tahoe, Nevada
I was a single mom for many years and had already made millions of dollars in oil, gas and real estate, so I needed to reinvent myself in a way that allowed me to be available and home with my children as much as possible. It was as much about building a business as it was about shaping the world around me. Today my son has his own business as a math tutor, event planner and ski instructor, and I helped my housekeeper set up her own cleaning business. When I travel for work, I bring my children along as much as possible, exposing them to the world, incredible experiences and people. I prioritize building my tribe, including household help that is passionate about what they do and our family, and a team of adults in my community that are there for my children when I cannot be. I never felt guilt or shame about being a single mom.
38, owner of Black-Tie Babysitting, an on-site childcare company for special events; children ages 8, 10, 14 and 16; Garland, Texas
When I became a single mom, I was barely making ends meet at a corporate job, working long hours, commuting hours each day, and receiving less than $1 per month in child support. I barely saw my children, including one of my children who struggles with autism and a second with mental health concerns. When my sister asked for no children at her wedding, I told her that hiring a baby sitter would make the event unaffordable for me. So I hired a baby sitter to watch the children in a room adjacent to the wedding. I packed up some toys and a slow-cooker full of hotdogs and asked parents of 20 other children to chip in. My business was born. The business has since grown to include corporate and networking events to address parents who lose social and professional connectivity.
This article originally appeared in the April 2017 issue of SUCCESS magazine.