My husband convinced me to get pregnant. I had the baby, got laid off, and left him — I’m happy with all of my decisions.

For almost 10 years, my husband and I lived a good life. We weren’t rich, but we always had enough, and we had a lot of fun. He’s American, and we met during his working holiday in New Zealand, my home country. We hit it off instantly. Within 3 months, we were living together, engaged, and planning our future. Life was sunny.

Pretty early on, we agreed not to have kids. This sat well with me, as I had never wanted to be a mother. Instead, as we used to say, we celebrated life every day. This meant alcohol, enjoying good food, visiting the beach, and indulging in our hobbies. We also bought an old house together, adopted a few cats, and got married.

Our relationship was built on having carefree fun

But my life hasn’t turned out how I expected it to. At 37, I wanted to be running a successful business, happily married, and traveling in my spare time. Instead, I’m a single mother to a two-year-old, divorced, jobless, and living in my childhood home. I’m so broke that I’ve had to let strangers live in the house we bought because I can’t afford to pay utilities or the mortgage.

All this happened because my now ex-husband convinced me to have a baby. At the time, I knew it was a bad idea, in that we weren’t in a strong or healthy place in our marriage, but saying no felt like depriving my best friend of his heart’s desire. I have always been an opportunist, willing to give anything a go, and I enjoy learning new skills. I felt I would approach motherhood in the same way.

When he asked to have a baby, I was working for a great company with amazing perks and loving life. He worked the night shift in a factory. Although the pay and progression were good, it wasn’t the future he had envisioned. He became dark and depressed, then decided that a baby would make him happy. I eventually agreed.

When he asked to have a baby, I was working for a great company with amazing perks and loving life. He worked the night shift in a factory. Although the pay and progression were good, it wasn’t the future he had envisioned. He became dark and depressed, then decided that a baby would make him happy. I eventually agreed.

A pregnant woman sitting on a wooden bench wearing a tie-dye dress.
Cat Jones was happy with the decision not to have kids but agreed to have a baby. Cat Jones

Having a baby wasn’t the dream my husband expected

Our daughter was born with silent reflux, meaning stomach acid rose up her esophagus. For almost five months, I put her down only to change her diaper. We barely slept, me and the baby, yet it was my ex who couldn’t cope. He became bitter and neglectful, refusing to help with anything and calling me lazy when I asked.

I knew the most important thing was our child’s safety and happiness, and if she couldn’t have that with two parents, I would make it work with one. I asked him to leave, and eventually, when our baby was eight months old, he did, moving back to the US. I bought out his share of the house.

Luckily, I was able to work from home with my baby. Despite working hard and being promoted, I was caught up in a mass layoff a few months later. Last in, first out, they said. In just over a year, I had become a mom, left my husband, and lost my dream job. My income went from 82,000 New Zealand dollars, or about $50,000, to a government benefit that just pays my mortgage.

I let strangers — an immigrant family — live in my house and pay my utilities while I share a bedroom with my daughter in my childhood home. Instead of putting her in care and finding a new job, I made use of the government benefit, reduced my bills, and embraced the multigenerational family home.

I chose to focus on my daughter, not my career

Mother reading a book on coach with baby laying on her.
Cat Jones’ daughter was born with silent reflux and she couldn’t put her down for almost 5 months. Cat Jones

I could not be happier. Becoming a mother changed my priorities, and being her only caregiver strengthened my resolve to raise her well. I feel strongly that having a stable, loving, and attentive caregiver is important for babies, far more important than money. So far, it’s proving true.

At two years old, my daughter is toilet trained, has an advanced vocabulary, knows more than half the alphabet, and can count into double digits. She uses manners, has minimal screen time, and is comfortable with other people. Seeing her thrive makes me proud, and thanks to her — and being divorced and laid off — I have renewed relationships with my family.

Being a mom has made me realize that one of the most important things we can do for our children is to develop a strong, safe, and loving relationship with them. We need to be present to do that. I can start a business at any age, but I can’t get this time back once it’s gone. That’s why I am embracing my situation with joy and thanks every day.

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