I am a 26-year old working mother of a highly intelligent five-year old. Single Black Motherhood was created to share my experiences throughout my single mom journey along with tips and tricks to inspire and uplift other moms via podcasting and blogging. I'm so excited about sharing this journey and looking forward to connecting with each of you!!
As the school year comes to an end, I highly encourage you to take time to start thinking about where you are right now and what you want to work on this summer. One thing I recommend is for you to evaluate your employer. This is the perfect time for you to start job searching if you’re on the hunt. You can use the summer to do interviews and research since your schedule will be a little less strenuous. I often hear moms complain about their current employer but I always wonder if they have done their initial research before accepting a job offer. I understand that sometimes you have to do what you have to do but other times, you have options. I have switched jobs three times in the last year (one wasn’t optional due to the company downsizing) and have learned a lot as I am still in the beginning of my career. Today, I want to share 10 things you should consider when looking for your next job (in no particular order).
Flexibility. This is major for me and I am sure it is for you. I can work in a typical 9-5 environment with the ability to come in and go as long as I am getting my work done. If your child has a lot of doctor’s appointments or school events, you may want a company that is okay with you taking off to handle your mom duties. Do they offer laptops? Telecommuting is huge today. Ask if there are opportunities to work from at home, if not everyday, maybe once or twice a week. I’ve been fortunate to be able to make up my time if I didn’t want to use PTO or come in later on days we have appointments. Also, having the option to come in on Saturdays has helped. If you are a salaried employee, none of this may matter to you. I am still entry level at this point.
Company culture. What is the environment like? Do the departments function as teams or individual employees? Are there casual Fridays? Do you have to wear business attire or is it business casual? Do the employees believe in the company and its values? I bet you are wondering: how will I figure this out? I’ll tell you. Ask around. Randomly message people on LinkedIn to get their opinion. You may not get a response from everyone but at least one or two can help. Read reviews on Glassdoor and other job sites. Look around at the environment when you interview. How do the desks look? You do not want to go work in a toxic environment. It can make you tired before you even start.
Location. This will determine your commute and how far you are from your home and your child’s school. If your commute is 30 minutes to an hour, you may not be able to show up when you want and be active because your lunch break is only 30 minutes or an hour.
Financial status. Is the company cash heavy or drowning in debt? I learned this a couple of years ago. You do not want to join a company, only to learn that the company is in financial distress especially as the sole provider for your child. Most large companies will have financial information available on their website. However, if you are considering joining a small company or startup, you can ask various questions in the interview. For example: How many employees do you have/forsee hiring next year? How long have the top three employees been with the company? How does the company receive funding? When was the last round received? Do you anticipate needing another round of funding? Is the company growing or shrinking? You may get some stares but it is worth the discussion.
Professional growth opportunities. Does the company have a budget for professional memberships? Do they allow you to attend conferences? Most companies have tuition reimbursement and I’m glad to say that the company I work for recently implemented direct bill, where they pay for courses up front for full-time employees. They also have an education department that provides trainings and courses for the employees to strengthen their skills. Ask yourself what will you learn new. How does the companies invest in their employees?
Salary. A lot of people switch jobs for the increase in pay. Sometimes it is not worth it, especially if you have more pros than cons at your current job. The least you should accept is a $10K increase unless it’s a lateral move for a very good reason i.e. increased exposure, exposure to different areas of the industries, more opportunities for growth, distance from home.. You don’t want to go running to another job if they are only giving you two more dollars for way more work. You get where I am going with this. Personal satisfaction is more important plus you can always negotiate other things. You want to be able to provide but you also want to be able to maintain your sanity and grow in the process.
Benefits package. What is the cost of medical, dental, vision, etc? Are the benefits effective immediately upon hire? What does the PTO policy look like? Can you choose how you use it versus it being allocated as sick, personal, and vacation time. Does the company offer childcare memberships, onsite childcare, employee wellness, financial planning, or anything you are interested in? My current employer offers for Care.com memberships, financial planning, and employee wellness programs to mention a few. You can workout anytime at any of the locations employee gyms or you can attend fitness classes for free.
Prospective Manager or Director. Make sure you take time to interview them. A lot of times your leader has a big impact on your experience at work. Most of the times, the person scheduling your interview will give you their name. Google them, look them up on LinkedIn, and be ready to ask them questions in the interview to see if they align with your values.
Size of the company. There are pros and cons to both, depending on where you are in your career at that moment. With bigger companies, you are more likely to benefit from professional growth and have more resources. With smaller ones, you have to wear multiple hats and your resources are often limited.
Long term goals. Do you find purpose in the new role? Does it align with where want to be in five years? What do you need to learn to be most qualified for the job that you want in five years? Can you learn it there?
The goal is for you to make sure you can be at a company where you grow under amazing leadership. Making sure the company is a good fit for you matters! If you don’t have a five-year plan, develop one and work backwards. Don’t forget that you are interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you.
I want to hear from you. What are some things that you look in a new job? Did you find these things helpful? Have you tried any before?
Happy birthday to me!! I cannot believe I have made it to chapter 28 in the book of life. This morning I immediately went back through my journal to see where I was last year and surprisingly, there hasn’t been much change over the past year in areas where I wanted to mainly focus: finance and physical health. *sigh* This year has to be be the year that I prioritize both! Anyways… I wanted to share 28 lessons I have learned in 28 years with you:
Devotion/prayer/quiet time is essential first thing in the morning. This has helped and continues to help set the tone for my day.
Be kind to people. You never know their story or why they act a certain way, even if they are mean or rude to you. Having this platform has taught me a lot about the background of people, how it impacts their life, and why they act a certain way.
It is okay to ask for help when I don’t want to. For a long time I’ve struggled with asking for help, especially from people who I don’t feel that I have contributed anything to BUT when I need help, I have to ask for it. Sometimes you’re can be just ONE ASK AWAY from getting what you need to get to the next level.
I don’t owe anyone an explanation for my decisions, whether it’s parents, grandparents, and/or other relatives. Recently, I caught myself about to do this and reminded myself that it wasn’t necessary. Half the time, they won’t understand anyways.
It is okay to separate myself from negative people (even family) or anyone that makes me feel less than, as if I am a hindrance, or as if I am constantly being judged.
Wealth is not all about money. As a kid, I was taught to basically get a degree that is supposed to land me a great job that I will retire from. I got the degree and I have been constantly chasing a dollar, not really knowing what building wealth entails. I’m learning to show up, operate in excellence, and provide value wherever I am. I’ve been told that if I do this, the money will come in addition to investing and having multiple streams of income.
Budgeting and actually sticking to a budget is important so that you can know where your money is going. Zero-based budgeting helps to designate every single dollar. It is a struggle but I know that it can be done.
Saving for the kid’s future matters. I know that I do not want my daughter to be in the place that I was when I HAD to start working at 15 then figure out ways to generate income in college to stay afloat.
Health should be a priority. I’ve been slacking big time and in the process I’ve gained over 20 pounds and I’m like HOWWW?? By not paying close attention to what I’m eating and when I’m eating... Moreover, it is important to make sure that I have my regular check-ups for myself i.e. OBGYN, optometrist, and dentist. How can you take your kid to her regular appointments and not go yourself? I am doing better this year.
Water is an essential. There are so many benefits but keeping your body hydrated, skin looking flawless, and helping your food digest is major.
A skin care routine is necessary. I’ve finally got my five-minute morning routine down and I’m working on being consistent with the night care routine. It’s a struggle. (If you need help, check out the podcast episode on skin care. So many people reached out to thank me for this topic.) I recently had a mini-facial and the lady told me that I have nice skin but the key to getting it and keeping it flawless is going to be staying consistent with a day and night skin routine and drinking my water.
Learn to ask for what you want PERIOD. People are not mindreaders, therefore it is important to communicate. I don’t know why it is so difficult for me to ask for simple things i.e. for a work laptop because I’m hourly and my employer typically only provides them to salaried employees. I know what you’re thinking.. That’s an easy ask… but guess what? It wasn’t for me. After asking my director and explaining why I needed one, his response was I don’t see why you can’t get one if you are doing x, y, z. That just confirms the saying, “If you don’t ask, you’ll never know.” This applies to everything.. negotiating, opportunities, you get where I’m going with this.
Networking is so important. You never know who is watching you that has the power to bless you. At my most recent conference, I met up with one of the presenters and I had no clue she was an executive director at her company. After talking with her, she offered her business card and told me to email her and she would send me some material to help with my role as well as helping with the certification exam that I am intending to sit for. I’ve also had the opportunity to meet moms on social media and later meet them in-person, which leads to having mom friends that are able to babysit, share advice, have play dates, etc.
Therapy is officially a tool in my toolbox. For so long I didn’t consider it because of growing up with my mom’s mental illness and people calling her crazy. I wish I would’ve started way back when I first became a mom… It’s been so good for me! I feel like I am going to talk to an auntie every other week. It has been one of the best investments ever!
Face-to-face adult interaction is essential without the kid. I just learned this one from my therapist. I thought I was doing good to have adult interaction with the kid. I always bring her everywhere.. from meetings to networking happy hour mixers. My therapist suggested budgeting for at least once a month to get out without the kid. She said I looked overwhelmed when I talked about it and that she could see it in my eyes. She said I know you don’t want to pay the sitter but your sanity is important. I felt like I have been pretty sane but every now and then I will raise my voice or become irritated simply because my daughter is following me around our apartment or constantly saying mommy ever minute… I almost broke down mama during that session. I never realized how much a therapist could tell about you from the way you look to the way you speak.
Sacrifices are sometimes required for growth. As I proceed into this next chapter, I know that finances are a major focus and one of the things I’m doing is downsizing. I’m moving into an even smaller one-bedroom apartment (with a study) from my two-bedroom luxury apartment. Yes. I am giving up the stainless steel appliances and granite countertops to save and be able to supplement my employer’s contribution for graduate school tuition payments. I feel like student loans are a trap and I did not want to go that route again. I’m still paying on the ones I had in undergraduate school. *sigh*
Investing in yourself is a major key for growth. That includes therapy, coaching, paying for a certification, purchasing a self-help book, attending a course… You name it! Make sure you do your research though. We are living in a digital age right now and so many people are scamming people to make a dollar.
There are some nuances to school ratings. For a while I struggled with the thought of sending my daughter to public school. Then I thought it about… I am either staying in a neighborhood where I can’t really walk to sacrifice and afford private school or I’m staying in a decent area and private school doesn’t fit the budget. I ended up choosing the latter and choosing a school that had a 9/10 rating. While I haven’t been disappointed in the school completely, it hasn’t completely met my expectations. I have learned that the teachers ultimately determine your child’s learning experience even though the school plays a part. So now, I do not worry about the ratings as much but I’ve learned to ask people in the community that have kids that attend or have attended that school when choosing the next area we would live in.
I am my child’s first teacher. She is a reflection of me so it’s very important that I model the behavior that I want to see. This one is a tough one. Back in the day, we were told to “do as I say and not as I do.” I now believe that is unfair. We are supposed to set the examples and be their role models.
Being active in your child’s education is important. Teachers are more likely to respect you and let you know what’s going on with your child when you show up and let them know that you mean business, especially being a black single mom in a predominantly white school. Since I am moving closer to my job this year, I am going to do a better job of showing up at the school. It’s difficult when you have a long commute to show up and go back to work or to take off a whole day off.
There are psychological effects of taking a momcation. I took my first solo trip last year to Colombia and loved it. Momcations allow you have breaks from everyone and everything. It’s different from a group trip because you have the flexibility to go where you want and do what you want. It forces you out of your comfort zone when you desire company to speak to strangers.
I won’t be for everyone and that is totally okay. I’ve learned that I absolutely cannot impact everyone and that my focus needs to be on those that want to hear what I have to say and are striving for greatness just like me.
Social media is powerful. I’ve already talked about how you can network via social media but have you realized how many opportunities are being given through social media alone? It’s mind-blowing! I got my first blog and podcast sponsorships because of social media.
I have the ability to impact. Creating this platform has shown me that God can use me to speak life into other people. So many people have reached out to say that they have created their blog, started a business, paid off their debt, purchased a home, designated family nights for the kids, and so much more. This feeds my soul. I am truly grateful for this opportunity to be able to impact moms, single women, and men (yes there are a few of them that follow the platform) around the world.
You can be present, but not present. Taking time to actually enjoy my daughter without trying to do other things has been challenging but I have done so much better. Do you realize that your child can live with you but you don’t ever spend quality time with them or give them your undivided attention?? I am still working on this one but making a conscious effort to put my phone and/or computer down has been helpful.
Writing things down has so many benefits. You can dump your brain and free up some of your memory capacity. It’s helpful for reflection, especially journaling when you want to go back and see where you were last week, last month, or even last year. Remember, our memory can only hold so much. Writing down goals help bring focus and clarity.
Stop the comparison. I’ve been doing a whole lot better with this. It’s so easy to do this on social media. If I find myself trying to play the comparison game with another mom, I either unfollow or hide her from my timeline. It’s not worth it. Everyone’s situation is different and I have to remember that social media is a highlight reel and most people don’t share what’s really happening behind the scenes.
Continue to make myself a priority. This is probably the most important lesson and I now know that this is bigger than carving out time before the kid gets up in the morning or after she goes to sleep. It’s more about getting to know myself more, doing things that I like to do, and making time for adult-only face-to-face interaction. I don’t think I’ve taken much time to actually “live life” enough. If my cup is empty, how will I pour into my daughter and other people?
What advice do you have for someone in their late 20s that you wish someone would’ve given you?? Drop it below.
If you have been following me for quite a while, attending Single Mom Chat on Thursday nights over on Instagram Live and/or listening to the podcast, you know that I’ve been talking about finding a therapist for a while. I don’t know why it has taken me this long but I’ve finally made the decision and scheduled my very first session. Eeek. I announced that I found a therapist on my InstaStory and so many of you wanted me to document my journey, so here we are. At this point, I feel like an open book. I wanted to share my main reasons for seeking therapy, so here we go.
Dealing with childhood trauma
I don’t know if it’s called trauma but I’m going to call it that. I have this deep desire to find out if the way I was raised has impacted the way I act and do things. As a child, my mom was diagnosed with bipolar and schizophrenia. I still have yet to find out if this was heredity or if some event or thing trigged the onset of these things. Every one has their own story and if I’m honest, I’ll just say that I haven’t been the most comfortable asking my mom about her mental health. She takes medication daily and if she doesn’t, she is not a normal functioning human. I remember my grandmother mentioning that she had not taken it once and going outside in the garage to find her talking to herself as if someone was there. You may or may not be able to imagine what that was like as a kid. I would like to think that at that point my mom became handicapped because of the lack of knowledge of mental health in our home. She stopped working and doing the things that she’d do normally. She was hospitalized a couple times and we were never told any details about her situation, only that she wasn’t working anymore, had to take medication everyday, see the doctor (psychiatrist), and attend group sessions (therapy). It’s 2019 and my family and I have barely scratched the surface of having a conversation about mental health. When I was in school, kids in the community would pick on me and say my mom was crazy because I guess that was all they could find to pick on me about. My grandmother ended up raising my brother and I so I didn’t have a lot of parental involvement as a kid. My dad was in and out of our lives, mostly out with excuses. He blames my grandmother for a lot of it but every one has their side of the story. I still believe that my grandmother did the best she could to raise us, considering the circumstances. I wouldn’t be who I am today if it wasn’t for the Lord, his grace, and her grace. So yeah I knew my dad growing up but after a while, I didn’t care whether he was in or out of my life due to all of his broken promises to show up and spend time with my brother and me. After I graduated college, he claimed he wanted to help out since he hadn’t been there for me and recommended that I move and that’s another whole story. We then tried rebuilding our relationship but it failed for various reasons and we equally decided that we’d no longer communicate. He even told me I was beginning to act like my mom since I had began to isolate myself and even though I didn’t believe that, it has stuck with me. However, I am constantly being told that I should contact him and give him another chance and I do not feel that I should. It’s my way of protecting my peace and energy. My hope is that I can work through this stuff, gain clarity, and be done with feeling a certain type of way because of the decisions that I’ve made.
Being impatient as a mom
I have a huge desire to be the best parent I can be but if I’m going to be honest, I am not the most patient and I am still working on my effective listening skills when it comes down to hearing my daughter talk 24/8. I have came a LONG way though. Let’s be real. When my daughter was going through the stage of being two or three years old, I had the least amount of patience. It seemed like everything she did was a test and I found myself using some of the parenting skills I observed from my grandmother as a kid i.e. hollering and spanking occasionally. Now, I’ve gotten so much better and understand more of child development but there are little things that still push my button and they shouldn’t. I haven’t spanked her in years although I’ve threatened her numerous time and I have learned to use a calm voice way more. I think she has a fear of spankings now and when I holler, she jumps a little. *Sigh* My daughter is also super sensitive and gets frustrated easily. Sometimes I literally have to drag things out of her and I want her to feel more comfortable with telling me things instead of feeling like I might get mad at her. I feel like a therapist would be able to recommend some communication and coping mechanisms that I haven’t tried to help me out in these areas. I am also going to explore play therapy for my daughter or see if the therapist recommends it because I want her to be expressive and be in the best shape she can possibly be mentally as a kid and work through growing up in a single parent home, so she doesn’t have to do the work later on in life. I believe this age is a crucial time in her childhood development, especially with teaching her how to identify and articulate her feelings.
Feelings of guilt
Being a working mom is tough (no matter if you work from home or in a corporate setting). The weekdays are filled with work, homework, extracurricular activities, working a side hustle or business, and trying to squeeze in time for yourself and the kid. The weekends are for cleaning, getting caught up on rest, carving out time to spend with the little ones, and going harder on your projects. Sometimes, I wonder am I really spending enough time with my daughter specially since time can never be replaced or purchased again. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. Recently, my daughter was sick and didn’t feel good, saying her stomach hurted. I had to make the choice between using the rest of my PTO and allowing my daughter to go to school. I ended up giving her Tylenol and sending her to school since there were no other symptoms I could see. Situations like this make me feel a little guilty (because here I am in this city with no one to call because everyone I know is working too) but I have to realize that it’s just me doing the job of two parents, with the exception of providing financially because her dad does do his part in that area. My grandmother likes to remind me that it was my decision to move away from the help I had, which does not make the situation better, and can be very irritating. Then on the other hand, I wonder if I ever get enough alone time even though I try to make sure I get some alone time in the morning and on some nights. I’ve become so selfish with my time that I’ve had to make time for connecting with other moms and people to have some face-to-face adult interaction.
Lack of understanding
Whenever I first relocated to Houston, I believe I became isolated in a sense. I didn’t talk to anyone as much because I didn’t feel that they would understand. I seemed to only meet people that were either single or married. I mainly focused on work and saving money, working two jobs. I’ve found that it is hard to talk to people about single motherhood that’s never been through it. Majority of us have an issue of finding other single moms who get it and are trying to do better, which is why I have created this online community, Single Black Motherhood. Although it is helpful and I’ve learned a lot from other moms, it’s not the same as having a single mom community offline that’s able to help out and this year, I am really working on building a community offline. Until then, I’d prefer to share my thoughts and business with a therapist who will offer an unbiased opinion due to previous experiences or due to experience with clients and testing. I’ve also learned to not unload my baggage on my friends before checking in with them to see how they are feeling mentally or if I feel like it’s too much. I feel that I will be able to just unloaded everything on the therapist’s couch.
There is a ton of research that shows the effects on improved mental health. I love to talk anyways so why not talk to get help? I’ll keep you all posted on the journey.
If you are considering therapy, here are some ways to get started:
Figure out your why. I’ve found that this helps when you’re searching but I’ve also heard therapists can help you when you don’t know.
Ask for recommendations from family, co-workers, or friends (this includes Facebook groups and your social media friends).
Search directories: Therapy for Black Girls, Melanin Mental Health, and Psychology Today are the ones I used - Make sure to check their specialties and what they are passionate about
Log on to your insurance’s site and search their provider directory or give them a call and they can direct you to the appropriate place. I was able to search and filter by African American female, 10 miles of my zip code.
Schedule a phone consult or email them with your questions. I personally like to chat to her their tone and sort of feel them out. Discuss availability, length of time in the field, previous experience with your issues, their approach to therapy, whether they have been to therapy or not (this matters), whether your insurance is accepted (if you didn’t check the provider directory on you insurance’s site), co-pays, late fees, etc.
I hope this helps someone who has been thinking about finding a therapist. It literally took me a little over a year to get my crap together and do the research. Let me know below if you are in therapy (and how it’s helped you) or if you have been thinking about it. I do understand that very few moms have said it did not help them but you have to choose your therapists like your doctors. If one doesn’t work/fit, find another one. You cannot give up that easily.
If you follow me on Instagram, you know that I am always asking what you mamas want to hear about in Single Mom Chat or on the podcast. One of the moms said that she needed tips for getting involved in her child’s education. I thought, wow! This is such a good topic! I need to take this a bit further and write a post and do a podcast on this (live on Thursday!) So many of us are working moms and do not feel like we have the time to get involved and some of us think that involvement only happens at school. I want to share some ways in which you are able to get involved in your child’s education. Please note: This may require some sacrifice. Your child should not only learn in the classroom, but also outside of the classroom. Learning starts at home. You are your child’s first teacher. How can you teach your child to value their education if you don’t?
Review your child’s curriculum.
Before my daughter started talking, I started thinking about her education. I never used baby talk with her and always spoke to her with correct words. I purchased little board books so that we could begin to form her vocabulary. Between the ages of two and three, I knew that I wanted her to attend a daycare or learning center that had the Abeka curriculum because it’s what my cousin used at the homeschool academy she had. I used to volunteer during my summers in New Orleans as a kid and her students in the same grade as me would always know so much more. Some daycares did not have curriculums for kids that were younger than four which made me think that they were literally a babysitting service. They claimed to teach your kid but had no concrete information and that bothered me. It really helps if you get involved in your child’s age at an early age to help you remain consistent throughout the years. Now that my daughter is in public school, I don’t have much control over choosing a type of curriculum that I’d like. Before the year or new semester begins, I always like to review the curriculum to see where my daughter is at and review the school’s policies. I believe it helps to know what will be covered and how you can help out, especially if your child will be learning new things. If your child is going to be in a public school where he or she may be already familiar with a lot of the topics, you can incorporate some things at home to stimulate their brain. You can also help at home by reinforcing what is taught at school. It is helpful to communicate your expectations of the teacher at the very beginning of the school year and develop a relationship with them, which brings me to my next tip.
Develop a relationship with your child’s teacher.
As a single mom, it’s so important to understand that you and your child’s teacher are partners, especially if you don’t have a lot of time to attend meetings and be present. You are your child’s advocate! If you do not advocate for them, who will? No one. I believe that as the kids approach middle school, you teach them how to advocate for themselves but also continue to assist them along the way. I also believe that you should let the teacher know that you value your child’s education and you are committed to helping them become successful. What I have learned is that all teachers are not created equal. Some will only do the bare minimum and these are the ones that you have to stay on top of. They may not let you know how your kid is doing until an issue or problem happens so I encourage you to check in biweekly, at least. I normally send my daughter’s teacher an email to see if there is anything I can work on with her at home since she is in Kindergarten and they don’t have homework, which was frustrating originally because she had homework in Pre-K at the private program she was attending previously. So even if you feel like the child’s teacher is crappy and does the bare minimum, don’t voice it to your child. They are always listening and you influence their thoughts. So if you have an attitude when it comes to helping them with their work or discussing school behavior, they will have one too.
Attend the parent teacher conferences.
I believe it’s more effective for you to show up in person at the parent teacher conferences. Conference calls are just not the same as talking to them face to face, letting them know that you mean business. I know that a lot of us don’t like to use our PTO unless it’s for emergencies, sick time, or vacation time. This is where communication with leadership is important. Let them know that you want to be involved with your child’s education. I know what you are thinking. Not all leadership will understand but you can at least try. If you work for a company that allows you to make up time, you can simply take off an hour or two to go to the conference. You will thank yourself later for doing this. This is a part of the sacrifice as a mom. If you are not able to make it during the time that is allotted for that day, ask the teacher if you can come before or after school another. Most times they are flexible. Let the teacher know that you want to know about issues, whether behavioral or academic. It does not matter if they think the issue is small or not, you want to know. Small issues lead to big issues. If your child is having an issue, ask the teacher how the two of you can work together to solve it. Write down your questions and bring them with you to the conference. This is a great time for you to ask about a certain skill if you are not knowledgeable and know that your child is struggling with it. I always get great tips from asking questions. Parent teacher conferences do not have to only be scheduled by the teacher, you can schedule them too. Try your best to be an active listener during this time. I know sometimes we are frustrated before we get there but we have to learn how to be calm so that we can understand what’s happening in the classroom. We have to model behavior for our children. The teacher spends more time with your child than you do on the weekdays. I believe the teacher values you as a parent more when they know that they have your support at home. If for some reason the teacher is not effective, follow the chain of command and do not be afraid to use your voice to let them know that and have your reasons why, including examples of your attempts to reach out and work on various issues.
Show your face at the school.
Many schools have opportunities to volunteer. I believe every school has a PTA. I am a part of the PTA for my daughter’s school but the meetings are always at 9AM which sucks for working moms so I haven’t made time to attend the them. However, I may make an effort to attend during the spring. When the kids have field trips, the teachers normally want parents to attend to chaperone. I had the privilege of doing this for my daughter’s first Kindergarten trip and I took off work with no problem. Chaperoning allowed me to see who was in my daughter’s class, interact with the students, meet some other moms, and connect with the teacher a little more. There are also opportunities for parents to read to the class on Friday mornings, which I haven’t done yet but it is a goal of mine. My daughter has asked countless times. Sigh. Even if you want to sit in the class for a day, you can. There are also several other opportunities to get involved so I encourage you to take time to visit your child’s school website to see what’s available for you to get involved. Again, I just believe you are taken more serious when you SHOW UP.
Be available to assist your child with their homework
The kids need to know they have your support. Those who are in elementary have not fully mastered doing homework on their own so they may need a little help but you can still encourage working independently and build their confidence. Remember to be patience as their little attention spans are short. Be there to help them when they get stuck but do not complete the work for them. I know that is tough after a long day but as much as you think you are helping them, you are hurting them. In middle and high school, they become self sufficient and don’t really need your help unless they can’t figure out how to do something. After they have completed the work, I believe it is okay for you to check for completeness and make sure they understand what they are doing. If you find that you do not know how to help them, ask them if they have an example of the problem from class or try researching Google and YouTube. There are tons of supplemental resources out there. Be sure to give your child positive feedback as well. You can also set aside 10-15 minutes and let your them read aloud to you and you can read to them at bedtime. Are you aware of some of the benefits of reading? The more the child reads, the better their reading skills become. Reading also improves their vocabulary and general knowledge.
Foster learning through activities
Education should not be happening only in the classroom. Children can learn through play! Did you know that? There are countless opportunities to teach your child. On the weekends, take your child to the local museums. There are always learning opportunities there. When you are going to the grocery store let the child count the money, learn the names of vegetables and fruits, and read the shopping list. My daughter loves to read signs and labels. Even when we are driving and we pass different stores, I ask her to read the signs. There are even lessons that can be learned at the park or playing board games. Find out what activities your child likes and get them involved! Learning should be fun! We want our children to be involved in things that stimulate their mind.
I know that becoming involved will require time and commitment but YOU CAN DO IT, even if this means that you cannot volunteer at the school but you are making a conscious effort to be active at home. I don’t want you to be that parent that is just too busy to where you won’t show up for your own child. What are you currently doing to be involved in your child’s education or will you be trying any of the things I mentioned? Let me know in the comments below.
Happy New Year!! I’m so grateful to be here another year with the opportunity to share my knowledge and do life with you! Often times we focus on setting resolutions and goals for the new year and we forget about the simple, yet impactful things. I want to encourage you to do ten things this year that will improve your life.
Practice gratitude daily. It is so easy to get caught up in what you don’t have or what could be. Practicing gratitude daily allows you to focus more on the things that you do have and what’s happening around you. I really want us to complain less and become more grateful as a community. There is always someone out there in a worse situation than you. If you don’t have a journal, get a notebook and write down three things that you are grateful for each day, whether it is before bed or first thing in the morning. This practice can change your life, especially if you’re one who complains a lot.
Create a budget. As single moms, finances is one of the number one issues. How can you fix the issue if you don’t know where your money is going? Make this the year you stop spending without knowing where your money is going. I am currently trying zero-based budgeting. It is simply where you take your income and subtract everything that you have on your budget from it and get zero. If you do not have a budget at this time, I encourage you to create one. Figure out what type of budget works best for you. You may want to first spend some time tracking your spending over a month by just writing it down. Then, develop the budget. In the zero-based budgeting method, everything is accounted for from bills down to savings. If you try zero-based budgeting and the budget doesn’t equal zero right now, it’s okay. It is a process. Figure out how to get to zero whether it means decreasing expenses or increasing income.
Get a side hustle. I constantly hear every single mom should have a side hustle and I now understand why. I also understand that everyone is not able to start their own business and become a mompreneur but everyone is able to get a side hustle. Our 9-5 full-time income is good but what happens if you get fired or your salary gets cut due to budgeting? You will have to figure it out but if you have a side hustle, you at least have some income flowing outside of your primary income. You should never be solely dependent on one source of income and I’m talking to myself too. I had a side hustle but I was not consistent last yea. I will do better this year. Having a side hustle also helps you not depend on child support. What happens when the child support doesn’t come or it gets decreased? I know that you can list it as a source of income but this year, I want you to make it a goal to not have to rely on child support as a source of income. What do I mean when I say this? You are actually able to pay all of your bills without it (and put money aside). Who knows? Your side-hustle may just become your full-time gig one day! Here are some side hustle ideas to get you started: babysitting, blogging, baking, podcasting, planning events, tutoring, housecleaning, delivering groceries (Shipt, Postmatets, or Instacart), driving people around (Uber or Lyft), mystery shopping, photography, odd jobs (Taskrabbit), coaching, and direct sales (usually requires little money to start).
Put you at the top of your to do list. Another thing I hear often is “I don’t have time for myself.” I’m too busy. If you have been following me for quite some time, you know that I get up an hour or two before my daughter to have some “me” time and if I want to take it a step further, I will stay up an hour or so after her bedtime. This allows me to make time to do things for myself. You can do it to. Instead of laying in bed and mindlessly scrolling on social media when you wake or or before you go to bed, figure out what things make you happy and begin to incorporate them into your schedule. It may seem impossible when you’re thinking about it, but I promise you can do it. Start off with 15 minutes and gradually increase it over time.
Learn to manage your time. I always hear “I don’t have enough time” or “I’m too busy.” I know. Life is tough. You are trying to juggle so much between your life and the life of your kids all on your own, whether co-parenting or not. I want you all to evaluate your daily schedule and see where your time is going. If you are not where you want to be, I do not think you should ever be too busy to work on things that will benefit you. I like to plan out my week on Saturday or Sunday morning then block off my time on Google calendar and sync it with iCal. It allows me to receive notifications right before it’s time to start my next task. Scheduling everything allows you to see where your time is going and holds you accountable.
Spend quality time with your kids. This is something that I am going to do a better job of. I asked a question in Single Mom Chat (on Instagram Live each and every Thursday at 7:30PM CST) about how moms are spending time with their kids. There were some really good ideas such as date night during the week on days that kids eat free, carving out time on the weekend to go to the park, or simply having a movie night. Doing these things while eliminating distractions sounded great! I’m going to incorporate one of them. I have grown to understand that time is the one thing you cannot get back and kids grow so fast that if you blink you might miss a major milestone!
Invest in your personal development. How will you grow if your mindset is messed up? After learning how to manage your time, evaluate your morning routine. Are you feeding your brain? I suggest listening to podcasts, reading books and/or e-books, taking advantage of free courses, or even educational or motivational videos on YouTube at least once daily. It may seem like a lot but it’s not. You can do this in the morning when you get up before the kids or at night after the kids go to sleep. This does not cost you anything and doesn’t have to take up much time. I encourage you to take it a step further and attend a conference or consider joining a local community or organization with like-minded women. See if there are local single mom communities in your area. Google, Facebook, MeetUp, and Instagram are great places to start searching.
Deal with the stuff you have been carrying. Mental health is very important. I recently found an interest in Child Psychology and learned that a lot of the things that affected us in our childhood later affects us in adulthood. We carry baggage and become bitter about what happened to us. Begin to journal, talk to a trusted friend or family member, or seek therapy if neither of those work. I hear that a lot of you are still holding on to things that your child’s father did two and three years ago. It is time to let that stuff go. How can we operate in excellence if our focus is back in 2016? We have to learn how to move forward. You can’t heal what you don’t reveal. I have some questions about my childhood that may be the cause for some of my actions. I want an unbiased opinion so I am in the process of finding a therapist for that reason. I will be sharing the journey. Stay tuned for that.
Invest in your professional development. If you are not were you want to be in your career, this is necessary. Commit to growth this year! Similar to personal development, you should attend a conference or join a local organization. I cannot tell you how networking has opened so many doors. Don’t be afraid to discuss your professional goals with your leaders. The company may have funds allocated for professional development. You won’t know until you ask. Also, find a mentor or someone in the company or field that is where you want to be and reach out to them. Most people love to talk about their journeys and how they got where they are. If you are a work at home mom and you are looking to grow, there are also conferences that you can attend, Facebook groups, and organizations that you can join. You can also look for other work at home moms to see how they are doing it. I want us to become more resourceful. We often discount our abilities simply because of the lack of financial resources. Learn to use Google and YouTube. It is life changing! If you do have the financial means and do not prefer to do the research, take this thing a step further and invest in a coach. The coach has already done the research and is able to help you get to the next level. Be sure to research the coach and read reviews, if there are any. In this age of social media and coaching, it is easy to be fooled.
Make relationship building a priority. In 2018, my goal was to make connections. This year I am focusing on relationship building. It’s important that I make time to build my tribe here in Houston. I’ve been living here for three years now and I have made connections with moms but haven’t built one relationship. I know that I could do a whole lot more with a support system. Parenting alone can be isolating. By having a support system of moms, I could help them and they could help me, whether babysitting or a simple moms night out to vent and share advice. It’s easy for me to connect with moms on social but so hard to connect off social due to scheduling and the lack of time. I’ve connected with some young ladies off social who were not moms and they have been so helpful but they don’t understand a lot of the struggles that I go through. It’s just something about being able to talk to people who are going through similar issues and get it. I’m honestly not sure how I have made it this far without knowing any other moms that are local. We have to make time to make this happen. Houston moms, lookout for more meetups this year!
Let me know below what you are working on and if you find any of these things helpful!
Oh my gosh!! I finally went on my very first INTERNATIONAL SOLO TRIP. This is something I’ve always wanted to do but I just never put forth the effort. Just so you know, I have traveled around the US quite a bit alone but I have never ventured outside of the country. Typically, I plan a girls’ trip each year but this time my friends could not go for various reasons. I decided to still move forward with planning a trip, leaving my laptop and daughter behind. When you travel with a group, you have to be mindful that things are much cheaper because you can split the cost. However, I did not let this deter me as I needed the break. I simply decided that I would travel for as less as possible.
If you have never traveled solo before, start with a weekend trip in the US. I encourage everyone to try it at least once! It forces you out of your comfort done especially if you are not a social person.
How I chose my destination
I used Skyscanner.com and searched for the cheapest destinations in November leaving from MSY, since it is the closest airport to my grandma’s house, where my daughter would be staying. I wanted to go somewhere warm that had a beach so Mexico and Colombia were at the top of the list for cheap international destinations. I never pay over $500 for an international flight. Just FYI. I went to Tulum, Mexico last year so I decided I would give Colombia a shot. I chose Cartagena since people spent most of their time there and Medellin since it was high on the list of cities to visit in Colombia. I started to compare flights for the dates I wanted with various travel sites such as Kayak, Google Flights, and TravelZoo to name a few.
Spirit Airlines is typically my go-to because of the bare fare. For a while, I wouldn’t give them a shot because of the reputation but I gave them a shot in February of this year and been flying with them every since. The flight was $373 leaving from MSY and arriving in CTG. However, there was an overnight layover in FLL on Saturday, which required me to stay there and a four hour layover on the way back. I had no issues with the flights and they all arrived on time, if not earlier. I only traveled with a personal item so I did not have to pay for a carry-on and I also checked-in online each time so I did not pay for my boarding pass or have issues with any other fees.
In Colombia, I used Latham & Avianca airlines. Both of these airlines were fine as well. If you don’t speak Spanish, you will have a hard time knowing what the announcements are but it will be fine. Avianca even have tv’s on their plane.
Where I stayed
In Fort Lauderdale, I reserved a private room on AirBnB. It was my very first time reserving a private room so I was kind of afraid but it worked out. The host was very accommodating. The latest check-in was at 11PM and he was kind enough to allow me to check-in at 11:30PM. I stayed in a three-bedroom house and two of the rooms were on AirBnB and we had to share the guest bathroom.
For my first two nights in Cartagena, I stayed at the Oz Hotel. My stay there was fine for two nights. It was a four-star hotel but I think they should pay more attention to the maintenance there. If you are just looking for a place to lay your head and you know you won’t be there long, this is great for less than $100 a night. The shower was hot and the bed was nice. That was all that mattered to me. The receptionist did not speak much English so beware of that.
For my two nights in Medellin, I stayed at a cute little studio apartment. The check-in time was 3PM and they would not allow me to check in early. Ugh. However, they did allow me to drop off my luggage. They also had a 24-hour security guard so that was great but he couldn’t speak any English and he’s the one that does check-in. This AirBnB had all of the essentials: water, an iron (thank God!), towels, an extra blanket, and soap. The only issue I had was that after a period of time, the shower’s water would get cool and later would go back to hot. It was annoying but I just learned that I needed to stop trying to take extra long showers there and I was fine.
For my last night in Cartagena, I stayed at the Conrad. I loved my room! It is a five-star hotel so I was definitely expecting a great experience when I got there even thought I find a deal at $105 per night. Talk about a STEAL! I arrived before check-in and they allowed me to check-in early. However, I had to settle for two queen beds instead of the king sized bed I requested. The view was amazing. The hotel had a beach club that you can go to that’s included and you can get there via a golf cart. I relaxed there for the rest of the day. Beware. The hotel is far (30 mins or so) from the Walled City and they charge $55,000COP (around $17.50 USD) for their taxi to take you there. I didn’t realize this when I booked it so I decided that I would just hang out there once I got there.
What I did and how much I paid for each activity
It’s easier to share my itinerary. So here it is:
Park at Park N Fly New Orleans for seven days - $90.98
Arrive in Fort Lauderdale via Spirit Airlines: $373.91 roundtrip
Uber to the AirBnb: $16.39
Private room cost: $48.71
Uber to the Airport: $13.39
Breakfast - $6.64
Taxi to hotel - $4.25 (Only because I met another solo traveler)
Arrive at hotel - $125.07 for two nights
Eat dinner at Jeno’s Pizza - $9.87 (Don’t judge me - I was tired of walking and finding everything in Spanish. Hahaha)
Stop at the supermarket for some snacks - $2
Taxi to the Walled City - $2.47
Breakfast at Epocoa - $15 (I had an omelet and ORGANIC mimosas :) - they had a special that was 3 mimosas for the price of 2)
Free Tour - $6 tip
Arepa on the street/Water - $2
Arepa - $2
Drinks - $3
Castle - $6
Water - $1
Taxi to hotel - $3
Taxi back to the Walled City - $1.50
Margarita at a Bar - $6
Their mangoes are green and they sprinkle salt & Pepper on top
Dinner - $10
Taxi - $1.50 (split)
Taxi to airport - $6
Breakfast - $1.50
Travel to Medellin w/Latham Airlines - $53.42
Arrive at AirBnB for two nights - $108.06
Taxi to AirBnB - $15.50 (split with another solo traveler - reg. $23)
Taxi to Pergamino - $2.50
Pergamino coffee/cookie - $2
Lunch/Drink at Hooter’s - $16.66 (Don’t judge. Both my phone and battery pack were dying - I needed somewhere to charge it and I spotted an outlet from passing by)
Uber to the AirBnb - $2.20
Uber to dinner - $3.03
Dinner/Drink at Gato’s - $19
Cab - $2.50
Uber to Parque el Poblado - $3
Guatape Tour - $26.03
Fee to climb El Pinol - $6
Coffee/Cookie - $3
Dinner at OCI.MDE - $17.78
Uber to AirBnB - $3.50
Uber to Airport - $25
Breakfast at Burger King - $2.16
Travel back to Cartagena w/Avianca Airlines - $75.22
Stay at the Conrad - $105.07
Lunch/Drinks at the Beach Club - $30
Taxi to Walled City - $17.21
Photoshoot via AirBnb Experiences: $55.03 (Yes! AirBnB has experiences)
Choco Museum - FREE entry
Souvenir shopping - $90 ($25 was spent at the Choco Museum on Cocoa Butter and Chocolate - The rest was spent on coffee, magnets, a shot glass, and tees)
Lunch at the airport - $7
Dinner at the airport - $12.97
Recap of the costs
Flight to/from CTG (Cartagena): $373.91
Flight to/from MDE (Medellin): $128.64
Approximate total trip cost including all flights, accommodations, activities, and spending: $1436.55 excluding gas from driving to and from Houston
Overall, I enjoyed this trip but I believe I should’ve just done one city (Cartagena) because of the time lost during the flights. I’m glad I didn’t let the travel advisory or other’s bad experiences to influence my decision. I met other solo travelers at the airports and on the tours and I didn’t feel that my safety was being compromised at any time! It’s just like being aware of your surroundings when you are anywhere else! Google Translate, Google Maps, and Waze saved me. Very few people speak English and I had to know where I was going. I had lots of time for self-care (sitting in silence, reading, and reflecting). I’m sad I did not get to go to Rosario Islands, Playa Blanca, or any of the beautiful beaches I read about. I simply ran out of time. Sigh. Wi-fi is not available everywhere so I ended up getting an International Pay-as-you Go Plan through AT&T, my cellphone carrier, at $10 per day that included unlimited calling, texting, and use of your data plan. It was definitely worth it for those places that did not have wi-fi. A lot of solo travelers did not worry about their phones but they could also speak some Spanish. I was struggling with basic Spanish. I heard that there was also an option to purchase a SIM card and get a plan there. As for photos, I asked the other solo travelers I met or the tour guides.
The taxi drivers will try and rip you off because there is no meter in Cartagena so be aware of that. Also, ask the cost of the ride before you hop in. I had a slight issue with a taxi driver because of this. In Medellin, the taxis are metered and it’s easier to use Uber there. However, they say Uber is illegal so it’s best that you sit in the front seat if you decide to use it. Also, Uber charges a few cents for their foreign transaction fee and you have to deal with surges in price. There’s also an app that useful in Medellin called EasyTaxi. I used it as well. Wi-Fi is at most places in Medellin. It seems to resemble the US more than Cartagena.
If you are wondering how I afford a trip as such, each year I typically take $1000 out of my income tax and put it in a savings account (I call it my travel fund) and I figure out how much more I need and save that per check. So in this case, I needed $436.55. Saving $50 a check or $100 a month allowed me to save up the rest. Just save how much you can until you have enough to book your flight (especially if you find a good deal because prices can fluctuate hourly), your hotel, and activities.
You know you could use them for the holidays or to put towards your solo trip!
I hope this helps you with your solo trip planning! Let me know below if you are thinking about taking a solo trip, or if you have done one let me know where you have been and where you want to go! Also, be on the lookout for the podcast where I will actually talk about my experience more in depth.