Interview With Emma Johnson, Author of ‘The Kickass Single Mom’

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 notstuck in the 1950s. Five years ago this need drove me to launch my blog,, 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.

What does it mean to be a “kickass single mom”? The goal is for women to live life fully on their own terms. We are living in a time of unprecedented opportunity, rights, and freedom for women. How do we make the most of these, while also honoring our own needs and dreams? This means each woman must think and act outside of any preconceived boxes. However, there are some tenets of “kickassiness”: Having or striving for financial independence, prioritizing our romantic needs, giving back, and focusing on being the kind of women we want our daughters to grow up to be, and our sons to embrace as their peers in every regard.

What are your tips for successful co-parenting? Start from a position of 50-50. Except in cases of abuse, each parent should be presumed equal and competent, with the same rights and responsibilities for the children. This means equal time with the kids; equal say in matters like education, health, and religion; and equal priority for each parent’s extended family, including new romantic partners. Not long ago my work travel schedule suddenly became incredibly busy, and both my boyfriend and my ex’s girlfriend offered to help with the kids. A few years ago my ex and I wouldn’t have been able to negotiate that without a brawl, but I am here to tell you this kind of cooperation is an incredible gift to the kids and their adults, both logistically and emotionally. Also, whenever possible, eliminate or minimize money tension between your kids’ dad and yourself. If you are constantly fighting over money, or one person is angry with the other over sums paid or not paid, find ways to automate any payments, make transparent out-of-pocket expenses for the kids (for things like health care, extracurricular activities, child care), or bring in a mediator to smooth things over. 

What are your tips for dealing with a not-so-nice ex? Take full responsibility for any role you play in the dynamic. Keep any correspondence to a minimum, stick to matters at hand, do not engage in arguing, never toss around threats to call lawyers, take the other parent to court, or use the kids against him. Not-nice and abusive are different things (though one can blur into the other). Calling in the courts and law can be necessary in some cases, but should not be done frivolously.

Also, be patient. Life is long, and you and your kids’ dad will likely be involved in each others’ lives for a long time. People calm down, heal and forgive. Be open to a new kind of relationship evolving.

What are the advantages for kids being raised by a single mom? Many women find that single motherhood suits them far better than parenting inside of a traditional partnership. The kids benefit from mothers who are living their best lives. Also, single moms tend to take on tasks that have traditionally been assigned to men, such as breadwinning, home repairs, and yard work. Kids in these families are graced with an enlightened view of what men and women can and should do. All children in single-mom families have the advantage of knowing that family can mean different things to different people. Chances are, kids of single moms will have less time with their mother, because she works more and/or because they spend more time with their other parent. Lots of research has found that children benefit from the closer relationships they form with the other caregivers in their lives, such as grandparents and babysitters. 

Tips for balancing it all by yourself? Get rid of the idea it should be about work-kids balance. Prioritize all parts of yourself: health, spirituality, a career that energizes and inspires you, community, friendships, dating, sex, and giving back. The more dynamic and fulfilling your life, the more you will have to give your kids and the world, and the more you will inspire and pull up those around you.


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