With the wildfires in SoCal today, I can SO easily feel sorry for myself being a single mom – having to deal with a potential disaster, being in charge, not having someone else to talk to (or to blame if things go wrong!) These days, the decisions and the cash flow belong to me, and to me alone. In my mind, I can rewind back ten years ago to the last Malibu fire: my husband and I simply whooshed the fam in the car and evacuated to the Four Seasons Hotel along with Barbara Streisand (I could have sworn I saw her walking her dog). We sipped Mojitos by the pool while the girls swam and splashed around…
Today things are not exactly like they were back then. Fortunately, I have invested time in growing my friendships and building new relationships since my divorce — I have emotional support. But let’s face it, in times of crisis it’s not only the people who get you through hard times– you need cold hard cash.
For a while, after I had “lost” my fortune, I didn’t even have a credit card. Once I was on a trip with my kids and I was rejected by the discount car-rental agency where I had made a reservation because I only had a debit card to my name. Fortunately, the desk agent referred me to another agency who accepts ATM cards. However, the rate was twice as much, and they held a deposit for the time that I had the car. That left me with less than $200 in the bank for our weekend trip. In that moment, I promised myself to never be in that situation again. I needed financial solutions, but I needed solutions that would allow me the time to raise my family too. It’s not that I wouldn’t have accepted an office job — I would have. But to find a “regular” job that would support me and my girls in Los Angeles proved nearly impossible to me.
I have learned from experience that playing the role of a victim is not helpful, so I simply got to work to turn things around. Today, even though I’m not running off to a 5-star hotel like I used to, I kept that promise to myself.
Here are 5 things I did, and you can do too, to get yourself back on your feet when you stumble:
- Never stop networking. Believe me, there were many times when I would have rather curled up with a pint of ice cream and Netflix instead of blowing out my hair and driving on Los Angeles freeways to go talk to strangers. But I’d go anyway. When I didn’t have work, I made up business cards nonetheless and I followed up with some of the people who I met. The reason that I followed up with some and not all, is that I had limited time as a single mom and I needed to be selective. You can’t give your time to everyone who wants it, and I learned to set boundaries by politely saying, “No,” to people who weren’t right for me.
- Keep learning and reading. Obviously, I don’t have a lot of free. I treat books similarly to new people in my life. If I realize they aren’t good for me early on, I don’t invest more time in the relationship. But like friendships, books make me feel alive — they help me to keep learning and to stay connected with the non-techie parts of life. I keep a Pinterest board of my favorites so I can keep track of them and share. The Power of a Positive No is one of my faves — it’s helped me to set boundaries — SO important in life!
- Create opportunities even if it seems there are none. I had closed a business in 2015 and shutting things down was a lot of work. Since I could no longer pay employees, I had to do it on my own — even selling the office furniture and painting the walls to make sure I got back my deposit. Not to mention legal paperwork and taxes! I wondered who would hire me — I felt deflated and like a failure. However, since I didn’t have time for self-pity, I had to find the things that would work for me. I immediately volunteered to help other women-owned businesses in a pitch competition. I knew I had to stay plugged-in, even if it stung to be around entrepreneurs when my business had failed. From that network, I found several contracting jobs that kept me relevant, and afloat. To add another stream of revenue, I started selling and recruiting for a beauty business on the side. As I solved my own problems, my self-esteem began rising and so did my piece of mind. I realized how much I enjoy working with start-up teams by doing the things that I do best.
- Take care of yourself: mentally and physically. I did, and I still do, lots of self-help! Besides reading books, I started attending a program that was relevant to me. In the program, I learn how to take care of myself, set boundaries, be vulnerable so that I can develop deeper relationships, and let go of what I cannot control. I make exercise a priority. Like with those networking events I mentioned earlier, there are lots of times that I don’t want to go to the gym. But, I know that when I do I will feel unstoppable. Exercise is the #1 top activity that keeps me sane. And sleep. After a good night’s rest, I can handle anything that comes my way.
- Appreciate life as it is right now. I stopped dwelling in the past, and I try not to fear the future. I am grateful for my work — it’s engaging and fascinating and I still get to keep my passion projects like this blog.
Now, I work remotely with the ability to travel anywhere. I earn multiple streams of income (I learned how to monetize my blog from this online course Making Sense of Cents). When I came to understand that I could not change the past, my life became more peaceful. When I stopped trying to control the future, my life became more manageable. There are a lot of resources to help women be financially empowered. Blogs about “Boss Moms,” How-to’s on becoming a “millionaire mom,” Motivational YouTubes on being your best self…but I always wonder what’s real and what’s smoke and mirrors. For me, it’s been step-by-step, goal setting, trial and error to figure out what works. Through the author of the blog I mentioned earlier, I found another resource that could help you think of what to do — 73 ideas to make money at home (it’s free).
Today, my life looks different than it did a decade ago and I might even like it better than the “good old days.” One day I hope to have someone to share in natural disasters with. In the meantime, I’m becoming the kind of person who I’d want by my side. It took a house fire of sorts to take me down from where I was. But I am a strong single mom who is building back up — now with a more solid foundation than ever before.