I was a single mother for 11 years. During that time, I learned a LOT about people and life in general. Many of the lessons and skills developed while navigating the tumultuous waters of single parenting have made me a stronger person, and a better bookkeeper/business owner.
Here are some takeaways:
- Count every penny
When I was first on my own, I had to support myself and my son on less than $7/hour, and then on $10-$12/hour for many years. It was not easy but I was able to have my own place, own a car and put myself through school all without child support and government subsidies. I learned to count every penny and track where I spent it. If I over-indulged on any one thing, I was able to identify it and change my spending habits.
- Work hard....work smart
When I was first on my own, I had to work 3 jobs to make ends meet. I became very creative and flexible with scheduling, sometimes working split shifts at one job, and fitting work at the other jobs in-between. I was working hard, but I was always thinking of ways to work smarter. Through each phase of my work life, the balance gradually tipped towards the ‘working smart’ side of the scale.
- If they’ll do it with you, they’ll do it to you
Dating as a single mother is not fun. When you date someone who is in a relationship they ‘say’ they’re getting out of, you can pretty much guarantee that YOU will eventually be the relationship they’re getting away from when they start seeing someone else. On the business side, I have worked with people who treated their vendors and employees with disrespect, refusing to pay for good work or having unrealistic expectations. I eventually received the same treatment, so my advice to you....look for the warning signs of ‘bully’ business owners with questionable character and run for the hills!
- Don’t judge a book by its cover
Cliché, yes, but it is SO true. In my dating life, some truly despicable men looked the best, had the best jobs and drove the nicest cars. In business, a big, fancy storefront or the appearance of wealth are not necessarily telling the true story. When someone’s ‘cover’ is more important than their substance, you’re in for a rough ride whether it’s in personal relationships or business.
- Be flexible
At times, negotiating visitation schedules with my ex was like trying to free an international hostage. Flexibility and patience was the only viable (and affordable) option. A tough lesson to learn, but a valuable one that has served me well in all areas of life.
- Pay your bills
When I was a single mother, paying bills was incredibly satisfying. It was proof that I had the ability to care for my son. It validated me as a mother and a viable, contributing member of society. I have also observed that business owners who understand the importance of paying bills and make it a priority are more successful.
- Pick your battles
Sometimes we just don’t get our own way. I have had to stand my ground as a Mom..."NO you can't play Nintendo if your homework isn't done" and I learned when to back off..."OK, you don't have to eat the squash". In business there have been times when I was confident I had a viable solution to a problem a client was trying to solve, but their impatience with new technology or reluctance to try something new forced me to back off and adjust my processes to fit in with what they were comfortable with.
- Good people get what they deserve and vice versa
We may not always see it, but I am a firm believer that people eventually reap what they sow.
- Own up to mistakes and give credit where credit is due
My most important role as a mother was to raise a son who understood that his character would be his most valuable asset. If he did something wrong, I let him know in no uncertain terms, and I held him accountable. If he did something right, I didn't hesitate to dole out genuine praise. I've worked with many people who breeze over their blunders or go so far as to shift the blame to someone else. Not cool!! Yes, I make mistakes on occasion and I take ownership of those mistakes......but I also do a lot right When I do something good, I expect to get credit for it, but I am realistic enough to know that not all of my efforts will be recognized and appreciated.
- Treat others with respect
This is one of my core values that I carry into every business and personal relationship. Even at the lowest moments of going through a not-so-pleasant divorce, single motherhood, dating and working for peanuts, I held fast to the 'do unto others as you would have them do unto you' philosophy, and it has served me well! (THANKS MOM!!!).