I was hesitant about creating “another mom blog” but felt it was important to continue to tell stories, share advice, lessons and provide some information or support for all moms out there but especially single moms living in the ever exciting and always evolving New York City. And I hope this blog will also help me to stay inspired and be the best mom I can be.
(Q&A with single mom of a beautiful daughter with Autism, Lilly Jinkins)
I wake up shivering. My forehead is piping hot and I’m aching throughout every inch of my body. I can barely speak but I hear myself saying “honey, can you please tend to Luke this morning, I think I have the flu”. Oh wait, I’m alone. Luke has been crying for almost 10 minutes now. I drag myself out of bed and go to him. I look at the clock. It’s too early to call anyone for help. And the day begins.
I knew being a single mom wouldn’t be easy. And I wanted this more than anything in the world so really I just need deal with it and stop complaining. And I try not to but it’s tough not to vent at times as this is harder than I ever imagined it would be.
Most of my married friends with kids are actually really good about giving me some praise and letting me know they can’t imagine how I do it alone. My sisters are certainly supportive and tell me all the time that I’m doing a great job. This really helps, getting encouragement from friends and family, but many times, you just feel like no one truly understands what you’re going through. And how could they unless they are a single mom. Even then, single moms have different support systems, tolerance levels, and financial circumstances.
Of course there are many challenges to being a single mom – lack of help, financial burdens, sole decision making, etc and just not having that other person to ask a simple question is frustrating. Of course there are support groups and friends you can ask. But when your child wakes up at 3:00 a.m., screaming and nothing is calming him down, it would be great to have another person to assess the situation. Or help keep you in check when you’re about to lose it. Or yes, give you a little break when you’re not feeling well.
Well, I was having one of my “poor me” days when I came across an article about a single mom raising a child with Autism. And it stopped me dead in my tracks. Just like my married friends can’t imagine raising a child on my own, I can’t imagine being a single mom raising an autistic child.
So I contacted Lilly Jinkins to ask her about what her motherhood experience is like. I was thrilled she decided to answer some questions. Shedding light on Autism is certainly important but interviewing Lilly helped me get a very clear perspective. I was amazed at how positive and uplifting Lilly is when it comes to raising her Autistic daughter Laila Rose, who is 4. Lilly also has a son Jay, 15 who doesn’t have Autism. Major kudos for being a single mom raising not just one child, but two.
If you struggle with being a single mom or just being a parent, it’s important to share stories on how we manage, how we stay focused and positive. It’s important to support each other and reach out to each other as much as we can. No matter what your parental situation is, we are all in it together, the joys, the challenges and the lessons.
Here’s what Lilly had to say.
Q. How did you become a single mom?
I became a single mom three years ago. I was married for thirteen years to my ex. We were married very young and towards the end of our relationship our differences became too much to handle. Though there was much pain through the separation, today we maintain a healthy relationship for our two beautiful children.
Q. I’m a single mom with a long list of challenges and I don’t have a special needs child, what are some of the challenges you have in raising a child with Autism?
My daughter’s Autism diagnosis and my divorce came at the same time in my life. I had very tough days. Raising my child with Autism has taught me how much we need to teach society about acceptance and understanding of people with differences. I have endured many stares at stores and restaurants if my daughter was feeling overwhelmed and having a sensory meltdown. Going through the public-school system to see where my daughter will be placed and how she will be included in the general classroom has also become a challenge. As a special-needs parent I have an undying need to protect her at all costs, though I understand that the biggest present I can give my daughter is to teach her how to survive and become an active member of society.
Q. In reading your stories, your outlook is so positive, how do you maintain that?
Wow! That’s a tough one. You know, I have allowed myself to feel every single emotion possible. I communicate my thoughts all the time, to my friends and family, writing stories for online publications, or just jotting them down to myself. If I am having a tough day, I allow myself to cry! (Often in the shower alone where my kids can’t hear me) Being able to process my thoughts and emotions has given me the opportunity to feel strong and ready to face anything. When my son (who is now taller than me) hugs me, I know that I have found true love in his arms. When my little girl tells me that she loves me (it took years of therapy to get there) I know that there is so much hope in the world. I know I only have this one chance to give my children all the love and support possible to lead a happy life. Waking up every day being grateful for all life has given me and maintaining hope at all costs have helped me maintain a positive outlook.
Q. What are some of the important lessons you have learned in doing this on your own?
I have learned that I am stronger than I ever thought I could be. As a single mother, you really must be “Momma Bear” and make sure your children will be ok and protected no matter what. I learned that my children are the driving force in my life to better myself and never give up. I have also learned to trust my own instinct when it comes to my children and what is best for them.
Q. What advice would you give to any single mom raising a child with any kind of disability or behavioral challenges?
I want to tell all the single mom’s out there that are raising a child with any kind of disability that you are your child’s biggest advocate in life! Speak up when it comes to doctors, teachers, school bus drivers, friends, family, significant others, etc. Never stop learning about your child’s situation so that you know how to take care of them best. Find online support groups with other parents going through what you are. Trust me, it helps so much to know that you are not alone. Most importantly (something I am trying to work on now) take care of yourself as much as possible. Eat right, go for walks, take some time to meditate, read a book. Your child needs you, and as a special needs parent perhaps it will be for longer than expected. Love will carry you through it all.
(see Q&A with HR specialist, Amy Dalton below – yep I asked her about “metoo”)
I got laid off not too long ago. In the world of Advertising, that’s common. In the world of single motherhood, it’s scary.
My company assured me it was strictly financial and they had been laying people off. I guess it’s always a shock when you are one of those people. My immediate reaction was fear because I knew I had to work and support my son. But once the initial shock was over, I was actually relieved.
Everyone says these type of events always end up being a blessing in disguise, or when one door closes another one, often a better one, opens. And it’s very true. I love what I do but I was frustrated at work lately. One of the main reasons for my frustration was they moved my department to Jersey City in an effort for the big parent company to save money on rent. This move added extra time to my commute so it directly effected my son’s schedule and spending less time with him.
The move to Jersey City was not a choice for any of us and so many people were upset, but companies need to do what they have to do to remain profitable. The move wouldn’t have been that bad if the entire company moved, but it was only a few departments so the majority of people I worked with were all back in the NYC office. Working remotely via phone and Skype became the constant. Most of the managers or bosses knew this was a disruption in everyone’s life so they allowed employees to work from home from time to time since we were all working remotely anyway. My boss had been working from home often, even before the move to Jersey City, so it surprised me that he did not grant any of us to work from home, except one producer who worked under me. She was well-connected and had a relative high up in the company. Needless to say, I was frustrated, but I did what I had to do, I made adjustments and saw my son less.
About a month of being laid off, I managed to get some freelance work with a few great dynamic companies. Without me even asking, they all offered me the opportunity to work from home as needed. It was a really nice opportunity especially from where I was. I ended up coming into the office anyways. Sometimes just knowing you have that latitude if needed is really comforting.
I learned so many valuable lessons in getting laid off. One of the most valuable lessons I learned was to stay positive and be open to any work situations and opportunities. Fear and worry get you no where. Be empathetic and be ready to help people when they are looking for a job. I had so many colleagues and friends help me, connect me with people, send my resume around, and it’s a strong reminder to return the favor as you never know when you will be in a situation where you need help.
I learned to trust in myself and my experience and reputation. Having 20 years of experience and working at different companies is a plus. And lastly cherish the time you can spend with your child. Even though I was anxious to start working again, I got to spend quality time with my son and saw him take his very first steps, something I know I would have missed.
In the process of looking for work, a few people suggested that I hide my single mom blog while looking as I might not get hired or considered if people knew I was a single mom. I couldn’t imagine a company, recruiter or HR person not hiring me if they knew I was a single mom. But I guess there’s that stigma that a mom might not be as available as someone who isn’t. It was quite the opposite for me when I had Luke. As hectic as things were, I made sure to check emails when at home and on weekends. I wanted people to see that my efficiency didn’t change just because I had a baby.
But it got me thinking. Do companies look badly upon single moms or mothers in general in the work place? Of course no company would say that outwardly as that’s discrimination, but I wondered, do they?
I did a bit of research on the Internet and came across so many studies that talked about how mothers in general are actually more productive than woman who are not mothers. It talked about how moms don’t waste time at work so they hustle and prioritize and organize, hence making their day extremely efficient. This made sense to me.
I was always an efficient person, even before I became a mother, but I would watch many co-workers spend a lot of time socializing, taking hour lunches, “dilly-dallying”, etc and whenever I inquired they were single with no children. This was logical as their work life was still part of their social life.
I always knew I wanted to be a working mom, even as challenging as it is as a single mom, I think it’s healthy to be working and it’s a great example for your child. It’s difficult at times, yes, but I assume it’s difficult for all parents as you are constantly juggling a work-life balance. It’s important to ask for help and surround yourself with good help, something I’m learning and adjusting to as I go.
I am happy to have my blog back on because blogging makes me happy. I don’t want to believe that anyone or any company would hesitate or not hire a person with great qualifications and a great reputation because they are a mother or a single mother at that. But I thought I’d bring in HR specialist, Amy Dalton, to get her point of view, here’s what she had to say:
Q: How do you see the workplace changing for women who have children? Is it getting better, worse or about the same? The answer is twofold – yes, and maybe the same. Yes, I want to believe we are always moving forward as a society (though there are some hiccups along the way). I saw change when I first started my career in a tech startup, and a management consulting company in Human Resources. There were accommodations for working moms and dads – like a reduced work schedule, or flexible time off, or work from home some hours during the week. That said, not all jobs and scenarios were alike. Some managers wanted and required the employee to be in the office and couldn’t offer a different work arrangement. My experience was such that the jobs which were more consultant, heavy travel and management type jobs were more flexible with work hours/work from home. The less senior jobs (typically more administrative) were not as flexible with schedules.
Q: As an HR specialist, I know its discrimination to not hire or fire someone solely based on their family structure eg. Mom or single parent, etc. Do you think this kind of discrimination happens? The optimist in me would say, “No, not nowadays!” But the realist says, “yes, I am sure it is happening, but companies, specifically human resource departments, are more aware and educated.” Let’s face it, a company hires people to make their business churn, and ultimately, they want to be successful. You can’t get that without employees. Companies need “all hands-on deck” and want employees to work hard, be available and loyal. That said, not all companies have same mindsets or philosophies. You would hope businesses, big and small, value their workforce enough to make accommodations and consider life situations.
Q: What can someone do if they think their company is discriminating them based on their social status? If you believe you have been treated unfairly due to your family status, I would suggest meeting with your employer’s personnel or human resources representative. Women and men should know what their rights are. Keep detailed records of conversations and emails, and be prepared to submit a grievance, if needed.
Q: If a company isn’t necessarily engaging in any acts of discrimination but just doesn’t have a good work life balance, what can you do? Not all individuals (parents or childless) have a choice to stay or go from a job. But you can be proactive. The advice I gave, and practiced myself, is to always have your resume updated and always practice networking. You never know when an opportunity will pop up or when your work experience will be valuable to others. You may not know it, but you network all the time – out with friends, conferences, meetings, neighbors. Someone always knows someone who knows someone. Get good at selling yourself. You are your best salesperson. Great job or not, always be “show ready.”
Q: For the record, if you are interviewing for a job, no company can ask you if you are married or have any children, is that correct? Yes, correct. No one should ask you about marital status, age, if you have kids, etc. in an interview. An interviewer doesn’t need to know those answers if they aren’t relevant to the job you’re interviewing for.
Q: We are seeing lots of companies like Facebook, Google and Amazon that are granting women six months leave and even one year maternity leave. The current policy in the United States is three months paid leave. Do you think more companies will start granting longer maternity leave? I have been out of the human resources business world for almost 10 years, but as I said earlier, I hope we are moving forward and evolving as a society to put needs of all families who must balance work and home on higher priority. Almost 14 years ago, when my son was born and we adopted him, I worked for a big, public company who encouraged time off. I took my family leave (FMLA) of 12 weeks and my company also offered another policy for families adopting children. I wound up taking four months off, more than the 12 weeks I was legally allowed to take. The leave consisted of the adoption policy, accrued vacation and personal time, and some of it unpaid. I was fortunate my husband and I could take some of it unpaid and the company was flexible with time off. A lot of families are not as fortunate and aren’t granted with good options. From a mother’s perspective, that, I know, doesn’t feel right.
Q: We always hear about how European companies grant six months or more of maternity leave. Why don’t a lot of U.S. companies grant more than three months leave? I certainly don’t know much about Europe’s practice of maternity leave. I don’t think they love or value family more than the U.S. or work less than counterparts in the U.S. I know employment law and time off is very different in Europe. Resting and resetting seems to be more cultural. I read something recently that said, “Americans maximize their happiness by working, and Europeans maximize their happiness through leisure.”
Q: With technology allowing everyone to be so accessible these days, should companies allow more flexibility for anyone who may need it? It would be fabulous if your contributions and work were judged by what you accomplished and your goals being met, not if you showed your face in the office or dropped everything to be available. Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen all the time or isn’t attainable. People’s family situations change and evolve. My recommendation would be to communicate your concerns with your supervisor. Hear his or her side. There are always nuances, and he or she may be in a situation you don’t know about. If you don’t feel like you are being heard, or exhausted your options, I would go to your human resource or personnel department.
Q: Lastly, I know this story isn’t about sexual harassment but given the latest awareness about sexual harassment and the “metoo” movement that’s going on, as an HR person, do you want to shed some light on it? Every company I worked for had a formal harassment/sexual harassment training program that all new employees took as part of the on-boarding process. My experience was that companies I worked for were always in compliance. That said, it was a presentation that you click through, take a short quiz and you are done. Certainly, it didn’t guarantee the company did their job and no one would harass or assault someone at work, it mostly let the company off the hook in a way as to say “see, we did what we were supposed to.” Companies need to set the tone from the beginning – we pay and treat men and women the same. Starts from head of company and trickles down.
The #Metoo and “Times Up” movements have been powerful and long overdue. I feel like there is this “reckoning”, if you will. In my opinion, women have had an imbalance of power for a very, very long time. Women are finding their voices and are shouting “enough, we are sick of feeling undervalued, underpaid, harassed and shamed”. It’s inspiring. BUT, a big BUT, we must move forward and make real changes with these voices – speak up, get involved, run for office, make a vow to say I am worth more and won’t take it.
My favorite line in Hamilton from Angelica Schuyler sums up how we need to keep moving forward:
I was pregnant during the 2016 Presidential election. I was pretty confident and excited that my son would be born into the first female President of the United States, and thought what a great way for my son to learn the importance of female leadership.
Of course, like many Americans, I was completely disheartened and disturbed that Hillary Clinton did not win. I couldn’t even finish watching the election that Tuesday night as I was getting anxious and I knew that wasn’t good energy to transmit to my unborn baby.
I was and still am in disbelief that Donald Trump is our President. I thought and hoped for a moment after the election that perhaps while he presented himself as a vile and arrogant human being during the candidacy, perhaps winning would humble him and maybe, just maybe he would turn out to be well, not exceptional by any stretch of the means, but at least not horrible, maybe okay. That again has resulted in my hope being completely deflated.
Three weeks after the election, my beautiful son was born. I was overjoyed and in my own happy bubble. As you could imagine, my first month was amazing as I finally had my sweet baby in my arms. I didn’t pay too much attention to what was going on as I was trying to get as much sleep as possible. But being on maternity leave, I would occasionally tune into watch CNN and see the disaster of what the Trump administration is unfold before my eyes.
I realized this is what having bipolar depression must be like. One minute I’m so ridiculously happy, and the next minute, I’m angry, sad and upset.
It’s 9 months later and I am still experiencing the same thing. I have immense joy of being a mother and my time with my son, but I absolutely hate (and I rarely use that word) hate what is happening to my country. I make my critical Trump posts on Facebook, I’ve signed petitions, I’ve called the Senate and Congress, I’ve donated to many organizations that Trump is dismantling, but I still feel sad and hopeless. Yes we’ve had some amazing reaction – the Woman’s March, Judges stopping Trumps racist travel ban, the taking down of confederate statues, Steve Bannon leaving the White House, and this is all great and part of the paramount RESIST movement. But as long as Trump is President, I can’t experience any real peace. Instead I feel so much concern for my nation and I’ve never been more fearful about the state of my country.
So how does one raise a child in this abysmal period? How do you not let the fear and anger get in the way?
The only way we can, with great consideration, love and as much optimism and compassion as possible. And I have to believe that hope and love will conquer in the end. I’m sure when my son is old enough he will one day ask me. My honor roll, kind, compassionate, respectful of all races, and women and anyone different than him will ask me. He will be reading about the Trump era in history books and will ask me, “mom, what was that time really like?” And I will respond, “it was a dark and dreary time in American history but you brought me light and hope into my life.” Thank goodness for my son because it allowed me to not be silent and try to do something, even small actions every day to better this world and country I am still so proud of despite a depraved President.
It’s up to all of us as parents to teach our kids that racism is not acceptable in any shape, that women deserve equal pay for the same work they do as men, that it is all of our jobs to protect this earth and take care of Mother Nature, that it’s not okay to bully someone because they have a different religious belief. And that despite a dark spot in American history, people are ultimately good, and above all love will always win.
When I was pregnant, the thought of putting my unborn son into day care didn’t seem like a bad idea. I thought, it will be good socialization for him especially since he will most likely be an only child. But once Luke was born and I saw how much personal attention and care he required, I began to get nervous about putting him in day care at only 3 months of age.
I lucked out and was able to have a nanny for 3 months, and putting off day care for three more months seemed a bit more appropriate. Dora, my Spanish-speaking nanny from Columbia was exceptional, and willing to work within my budget. She was visiting the States for three months so it worked out wonderful for both of us. Luke loved Dora. She was attentive and loving towards Luke. Every time Dora walked in the door in the morning, Luke would be all smiles so I knew he was in good hands.
Of course there are positives and negatives to both nannies and day care. The personalized attention your baby gets with a nanny will no doubt give you peace of mind. And your baby will most likely get in a solid routine with a nanny. But studies have found that being around other babies is not only great stimulation for your baby, but they learn to develop healthy coping skills and be better prepared for school.
When Dora left, I didn’t think Luke was ready to go straight from full time nanny to full time day care, but being a single mom, I had to be realistic about what I could afford. I came up with a compromise. Twice a week Luke would be with his new nanny, Kiara, and 3 days a week he would be in his new day care, All My Children, located at 112 Ridge street, (picking a day care is a whole other story), I felt this was a good way to gradually introduce day care and see if Luke would be okay with it.
Luke did transition well into day care and I am surprised at how much he likes it. He loves being around other babies. He is in his third month and never cries when I drop him off or pick him up. Most day cares will give you a progress report when you pick up your baby on how they did that day. But I always talk to the staff so that I can get as much information as possible.
Being a Producer, I am extremely organized, probably to a fault and day cares in general tend to be a bit disorganized when it comes to logistics and administration, or at least this has been my experience with All My Children. But most important, you want to feel good about the actual caregivers looking after your little one, and in this aspect, All My Children is great.
Kiara, as well is a great nanny. She was a baby nurse for many years, and so has great advice for me. One great piece of advice she gave me when I was introducing Luke to food was to not mix everything together, as I had been, to see what he really likes and what he may or may not develop an allergy to.
I do find that Luke’s overall schedule is not as great when he is at day care as to be expected, but writing out instructions helped with this. It’s still not perfect but it will never be and learning to let go is a big part of motherhood.
Here are some Pro’s and Con’s I have found with both:
Pros to Day Care – Luke loves the stimulation, developing sharing and coping skills, music class once a week, formula and food is included (if you use theirs), and it’s extremely cost-efficient.
Cons to Day Care – no one-on-one personalization, his schedule is sometimes off, no immediate attention, plan on your child getting sick often – but this can also be a pro as it will help build your child’s immune system up.
Pros to Nanny – one-on-one personalization, nanny comes right to your door, better assessment of behavior, he cries, she picks him up right away.
Cons to Nanny – more costly – you will need to give your nanny paid vacation and holiday, and no other baby stimulation – this is a big one as the more babies are around other babies, they learn to share and problem solve.
The combination of nanny and day care works for me and it’s a little less expensive than a full time nanny, but whatever you decide to do, you should of course do extensive research on both and of course meet your nanny and visit each day care.