Sunday, October 11, 2009

Single Mom Business

This week I had the pleasure of working with Amber. Amber is a single mom with a 3rd grade son. She assisted me at Tam Valley school helping direct hundreds of sweet faces in making photos that you will cherish. I picked her up early in front of her apartment because she doesn't have a car. When my son first suggested that Amber would be a great assistant but needed to be picked up, I had a moment of resistance- I already have to get up at the crack of dawn in order to manage my business, as well as be set up and ready to shoot when the school bell rings- now I have to get up even earlier to pick up an assistant! It took about 30 seconds to check myself and relate to what must be a total hassle each day for Amber, getting her son to school, finding a way to get to work, grocery shopping, etc, etc. All those things that I take for granted as I jet about town in the MugsyMobile.

After we finished our day of photos, Amber and I stopped for a late lunch at In and Out Burgers. As a 20 year veteran of single parenting Amber and I questioned each other on coping skills. She is always broke. Eleven hundred dollars of her sixteen hundred dollar monthly income as a restaurant hostess going to rent. Her boss was sick of her transportation issues, she was fighting hard for day shifts so she could be home with her son in the evenings to keep him on task regarding homework. She wants to go back to school but she is not sure how she can do it. Money. Transportation. Time. Listening to her rolled back my clock to my beginning days of divorce. Two small children, no degree, no money, foreclosure, bankruptcy. Existing entirely on a desire to do the best by my kids.

Being a second generation single mom I knew what I didn't want back in 1990. I didn't want to come home from a job I hated, filled with resentment and anger toward my kids. I didn't want to raise latch key kids who filled their lonely time between school and darkness with television and junk food. It was with these "didn't want to dos" that I decided to start my own business. Owning my schedule, my income, and my direction, was my antidote to hopelessness and the trap of under-employed single mothering. At the time it didn't seem crazy to just decide set out on my own path with no security or benefits. It felt like the only way I could balance my family and my economic needs. In hindsight it was a moment of brilliance. I created a life situation for myself where failure was not an option, and my needs would be met by my energy and determination. For me, it worked. Was it hard? Absolutely. Did I always balance with grace. No way. Sometimes I chose customers over kids, other times I compromised income for soccer. But ultimately I believe being a business owner was the lifesaver I needed to succeed what at times seemed impossible.

Over burgers and fries, I encouraged Amber. I celebrated her desire to grow, and her commitment to raising a young man of integrity and strength. I validated her dreams. I also suggested she start her own business. I rattled off the stats- 65% of businesses today are started by women. I relayed the business success stories I have heard from fellow Make Mine A Million Dollar winners. I shared my own mistakes and accomplishments. I told her what I knew of programs and opportunities. What she does with this information is Amber's journey, but as I hugged her goodbye I was grateful for the reminder of the courage it takes for a woman to embrace her strengths and move toward success. I have had many opportunities along the way but none has changed my life more than my decision to create my own work life and revenue streams. I would recommend this choice to all single moms with determination and focus, it truly made a difference in my ability to balance the parenting load.

Go steadfast toward your dreams Amber! They are possible.

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