Out of work single mom? What can you do?
Out of Work? Are You Kidding Me?
It was a dark time in my life and I am glad it is over. As I was in the middle of getting divorced, I felt like I was falling further and further from my secure life.
The job I used to love was getting less lovely by the day. As the administration changed direction and philosophy, the disconnect between my vision and theirs became painfully obvious. I could not believe how quickly the environment had changed. With each day, it was clearer that my time at this job was coming to an end. And one day, we all agreed that I needed to do something different. My final piece of security had evaporated. First my marriage, and now my job. I felt like I had just been pushed out of a plane. As I hurtled toward the ground, I wondered if I had a parachute.
Surprising Feeling about Being Jobless
I was a single parent without a job. Although I had been looking for jobs in my small town, there was nothing available.
I remember coming home the morning I resigned and realizing that our “temporary” apartment would be home longer than expect. I called one of my mentors who understood how my life had been changing. He asked me, “How do you feel?”
I took stock and my answer surprised me. “More at peace than I have been in months.”
After a loud silence on the other end of the phone, he said, “Hang on to that feeling.” It was the oddest thing. Nothing was going according to my timeline, but I had a sense that a greater plan was at work. I do not know how I would have survived that time without it.
Working Without a Net
One of the hardest things about being a single parent is that you lack the safety net of having another adult in the family to help with the work and responsibilities. On the other hand, the knowledge that I was performing a feat of bravery without a safety net may have kept me from lingering too long in the stupor of depression that I found myself in a few days later.
Not out of the Woods
I had been planning to take the kids several hundred miles away to visit my parents. To avoid telling my mother in person, I called her on my way to their house to inform her that I was currently out of work. She was in a panic and I found myself reassuring her instead of the other way around, probably because I was still numb and in shock. The full gravity of the situation was beyond my comprehension at that moment.
When I got off the phone, I had to explain to the kids that it would be okay and why Grandma was so upset. When I got to my parents’ house, I slept most of the week. My sister asked what was wrong with me. I basically got up to eat and socialized minimally during that trip. Leaving the bedroom for meals was a Herculean effort. But, by the end of the visit, I was rested enough to make the trek home.
A Plan Forms
I still had quite a few days of staring into space to deal with, but my plan was coming together. Even before I left my previous agency, I’d had an urge to go back into private practice. One of my mentors had strongly encouraged me to go back to private practice. I believe he said something along the lines of, “It is ridiculous that you are at an agency when you need to be in a private practice.” Subtlety and coddling are not his strong suit.
What Are My Options?
First, I checked into agencies in town to see if there were any jobs available. My mentor believed it was ridiculous; however, I thought it was the safest bet. I found no jobs in my town. Next, I talked to some of the other therapists in private practice to inform my decision.
I started looking for office space and found a space to sublease and share a waiting room with another therapist. The office was too small to see a family, but there was a conference room down the hall I could use. Wow! I felt like I was catching a break.
A couple of years later, I moved to a bigger office where I could meet with families. A friend who was starting a business joined me and it was a great move for both of us. It has not always been a smooth journey from being out of work to having a private practice, but it has been good. Private practice allowed me more flexibility than any agency job would have. It has also allowed me to explore opportunities that may not have been available in an agency, and in the end private practice has provided more resources for my family.
Life Lessons from Unplanned Transition
1. Circumstances are not always what they seem to be.
A wise attorney told me at the time, “You may find out that it is for the best.” It most definitely was for the best for
me to leave the agency. It reminds me of the Chinese proverb about the man who goes through many things and what his neighbors think is good news turns out bad and what seems to be bad news works out for the best. We don’t really know how things will turn out. When we remember this, it helps keep life in perspective. You can listen to the story of The Parable of Good or Bad here.
2. Focus on what is possible.
Focusing on what is possible enabled me to start a private practice. I did not focus on what someone else could have or should have done differently. We can only control our own actions.
I am so glad that I was able to start a business instead of work for someone else. It was not the easiest way to go about starting a business. However, I probably would have avoided the risk of starting a business if my job had been more comfortable. In some ways, there is less security being a solopreneur and in other ways, there is more security. Being a solopreneur or owning any kind of a business is not for everyone. If you are one of the lucky ones and it is for you, find a way to make it happen.
3. It is good to have a higher power.
Being a solopreneur has been good for my spiritual life. I am aware that God provides for me in a way that did not feel quite as real or direct as when I worked at an agency. I often look at life as a spiritual journey with opportunities to grow and learn, which enables me to focus on the long-term and be less bogged down by my current circumstances.
4. Education is a permanent resource.
Education is an asset. It cannot be taken away from you. Once you have it, you have it. In my case, having my M.S.W. and my independent clinical license gave me the option to start a private practice. More education gives you more options. Whether it is a formal education with degrees or informally acquired knowledge, the more you know, the more skills you have and the more options you have for how to make a living.
5. Dig a well before you are thirsty.
Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty. The name of this book says it all. We need a network both personally and professionally. Life is hard and we need people. Nothing great is ever achieved alone, but even everyday life is easier with someone in your corner. When you look at my story, you see that I had many helpers: a mentor offered support when I first left my job, another mentor pushed me to start a private practice, my parents provided a space to rest, another professional allowed me to sublease an office, and my children gave me a reason to get up and work even when it was hard. These are only a few of the many people who supported my journey of starting a business. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it.
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Single moms need a support network. However, there are often holes in that network. I started a Facebook group to help you reinforce your network, so please join us in Empowered Single Mom Tribe.
This article is part of the Secrets of a Successful Life by Single Mom Bloggers. This month we are focusing on how to make money. You can see the rest of the articles in the series here.
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More on Dealing with Depression
Hi, I’m Tamara the creator of Empowered Single Moms, a single mom, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LICSW) and the author of Thriving a Single Mom’s Guide to a Happy, Positive Life and Thriving a Single Mom Journal. I have a solo private psychotherapy practice where I treat anxiety, depression, and relationship issues.
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