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As a Single Mom Over 40, Is It Even Possible to Change My Life?

Sometimes I wake up and think, “OK, I’m done. I need a totally new life.” But by the time I've guzzled six cups of coffee, walked the dog, cobbled kids’ lunches together, dropped them off at school and Waze’d my way to work (which I'll inevitably be late for), I realize, “Nope, I’m stuck with this one. No way I’m going to be able to claw my way out of this shit.”

I want something different. But I know I'm out of my mind. Because as a post-45 single mom with two small kids, the odds are not on my side. Let’s add to the mix that for more than the first half of my life I never had a "real job," like one of those office thingies where you know how to work an Excel document. Sure there were stints here and there during my college years when I put on panty hose and pumps and worked on the 23rd floor at Disney on Fifth Avenue. But that was when I realized this isn't for me. I dove swiftly and deftly into the arts and never looked back.

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But now, something is changing in me. I want more. I need more. I cobble together my living by writing, doing design work, teaching fitness classes, running my blog and teaching performing arts full time at a charter school in South Central Los Angeles. It’s still not enough—or should I say, not right. I work too hard and too much, and I need a life change.

Here’s the rub. Is it too late? Is it even possible at my age to start over? The only one I can look to is motivational author and speaker Byron Katie, who didn’t have her wake-up call until she was 43, and look at her now. Am I too old to make this happen?

It's terrifying to think (a life overhaul) is impossible, especially when I teach my kids that anything is possible.

They say that for people over 40 who are seeking a new career, it’s all about recognizing your skills and organizing the years that fill your resume. (My resume reads like the dialogue between 10 schizos in a group therapy session.)

According to some reports, there is hope.

Stephen Adams, president of American Institute for Economic Research, tells The Wall Street Journal, “Our research shows that older workers are finding rewarding new careers, not just new jobs, later in life.” The study also reported that Americans are working longer now. “In 1995, the average person expected to work until the age of 60,” says the study, “but now the average non-retiree anticipates working until age 66.”

In the report, called "New Careers for Older Workers," 82 percent of late-in-career changes, specifically those made after age 45, were successful.

But this isn’t what I want. It’s not just a career I'm considering. It’s a life overhaul, and it’s terrifying to think that’s impossible, especially when I teach my kids that anything is possible. If I look at statistics, sure I can get a "new job" and take a pay cut (not possible though on a public-school teacher's salary), but I don't want a new job. I like my job. It's just not enough. I'm not living in my potential. and I need to figure out how to make it happen.

Time magazine doesn't paint a pretty picture for over-40 single moms when it comes to the daunting task of putting food on the table.

“A woman planning for single motherhood should have a sizable emergency fund,” Carolyn Ozcan of Ithaka Financial Planning tells the magazine. “I would recommend a year’s worth of living expenses, including child-care expenses in case of job loss or extended illness.”

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Yeah, that's not happening. Things are week-to-week over here.

So what's a single, post-40-year-old mom to do? Do we stick things out because we can put food on the table for the kids? Do we go grab our own lives and figure it out and let the chips fall? I'm not sure, but I am going to make an effort to find out. I'll let you know what happens.

Photograph by: Emily Wagner

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