Working mothers are everyday superheroes in my book. They are not only nurturing a home and family, but also nurturing a career and all of the responsibilities that come with it. As a working mother myself, I understand the daily struggle with "mom guilt" and making sure that your focus is wholly in either your office job or your "mom job" is no small feat.
There is a segment of working moms that are especially dear to my heart, because I was one of them. Single working moms add an extra ball to their already hectic juggling routine by being the sole caregiver and breadwinner for their families. Their balancing act is nothing short of miraculous!
I was a single working mom for six years with two children, my daughter Annie and son Christian. Each day, I prayed that I could get them off to school and myself off to work without a major incident. When I finally arrived at work each day, I felt like I had just started my eight hour vacation. Most wouldn’t think of my work as a vacation, being one of the few female commercial real estate professionals in the south and in a competitive industry. Yet when I arrived at work, I felt like half of my day was already over, since I had gotten up to go on a run, get myself ready, and then get my kiddos ready for the day.
The biggest stress in my life at the time was making sure Annie and Christian were well cared for while I needed to "bring home the bacon." My heart goes out to the single moms who can't afford convenient childcare. I was blessed to have the financial means to have a nanny. Her name was Linda, and she kept things going while I was at work for my first two years of singleness, until I moved to Dallas from Tulsa in 1997 to work at Trammell Crow Company headquarters. How different those two years would have been without the blessing of our nanny Linda!
My time as a single working mom was truly a time of growth and trusting in God for my strength! Single moms don't have the extreme blessing of having a spouse with which to share the load of parenting, so they often hold immeasurable amounts of responsibilities on their shoulders just to get themselves and their families through each day. During my six years as a single working mom (and still to this day, to some extent!), I had to adhere to the following principles I still share about when I speak about trying to find balance, the ultimate quest:
- Understand your strengths (Psalm 139:13-16 God created each one of us uniquely.) Don't take on responsibilities that don't fit your strengths. As I talk about in "Work, Love, Pray," being "room mom" does not overlap with my strengths. It was very important that I never said "yes" to being a room mom. I was, however, a good basketball player, so saying yes to coaching Christian's basketball team up until he was in 6th grade was a good use of my strengths.
- Get a little help from your friends (Romans 12:4-8 We are all given special gifts.) It is a blessing to give others the opportunity to help you. My assistant, Theresa Romack, could take care of travel details and respond to emails so efficiently, I never had to worry about that area of my daily life. It was wonderful to have her on my team! My friend, Sue, is a wonderful project manager and does a great job with home "fixer upper" projects. Recently, my friend Savannah, who loves to bake, has blessed our family with desserts each week for visitors while Annie heals from nerve pain. These women and many others have been such a blessing as they helped me during my various life stages and times of need.
- Set boundaries (Ecclesiastes 3:1-11 There is a time for everything.) - Boundaries are a vital part of any professional's life, but especially for single working moms. Personally, I knew I needed to work someplace I could leave the office at 5:45PM to be home with my kiddos by 6:00PM. Our family time in the evening was critical, and I never wanted anything to be a hindrance to it. If you have a similar need for protected family time each day, find a company and a boss, like I did at Trammell Crow Company and CBRE, where results were the key, not the "face time."
- Say "no" - "No" will be the little word that becomes your best friend. It is critical as a single mom to only take on what grows your faith, your relationships with your kiddos, and your profession. There were many opportunities to which I wanted to say "yes," but ultimately couldn't. The first time I was asked by the Women's Institute at the Bush Center to be a mentor, I had to say no. Two years later, however, I was able to say yes and serve as a Mentor through the Women's Initiative at the Bush Center. Don't be afraid to say no. It doesn't always mean the opportunity won't present itself again and at a more perfect time for you and your schedule!
- Build your house upon the rock (Matthew 7:24-27) - My faith has always been my foundation. I haven't let my life move away from this cornerstone. Through all things Christ has given me strength. It has been my faith that's kept me focused on eternity, not prizes on earth. When you have deadlines looming and a child who suddenly gets sick, you must tap into a strength and stamina that only God's grace can give.
To all of you single working moms, I salute you. I know the daily struggles you face and I know the sacrifices you make for the sake of your families. Don't be afraid to accept help when it is offered; it doesn't make you any less amazing of a person and mother. Continuously seek strength from your Heavenly Father and trust that He will see you and your loved ones through every day.
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