Category Archives: Working Single Moms

Achieving Equality: A PipeDream?

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Pic from ExhaustedWoman.com

 

Did you go into your marriage, pre-children, expecting to have equitable parenting duties with your husband? Did it ever occur to you that your career would be deemed less important, therefore you’d be expected to have more time to shop, clean, care-take? Did you ever imagine that you would have less time off to replenish, while working more than your spouse? If you knew all this going into your marriage, would you feel differently about your husband?

Equitable parenting duties. Equal time off. Mutual respect. In 2018, according to multiple studies, these are still drastically missing within heterosexual couples who have children.

In reality, for most American women, these ideas are mere pipe dreams. It’s just not how our society, and how most fathers, behave. Period. End of story. There is a lot of research to back this up. See the links below for in-depth articles in The Washington Post, Forbes and Time magazines. 

Maybe in the top echelons of society among very young couples who live in democratic, liberal University settings, do you see fathers who are doing more and are behaving with more respect. But for the most part, throughout America, at every age and social and economic demographic, this isn’t the case. A woman’s career can be treated like a hobby and not as important as a man’s, by his behavior—forcing a woman to feel battered into doing the lion’s share of parenting, cleaning, care-taking of in-laws, parents and organizing of family activities.

For example, one mom interviewed said her husband “Just doesn’t get up.” She explained that her young husband will remain drinking his coffee at the kitchen table and checking his phone, while his wife, also a full-time working executive, is racing to put together backpacks, get the children dressed, prepare lunches. It puts her at a disadvantage with work as well as loading her down with stress, anxiety and bitterness—resulting in poor health and marital resentments, lack of sex drive and dissipating connection between mom and dad. And the children notice. They see what we do, much more than what we say—and model our behavior. Which is why many experts say the misogyny behind the #metoo movement, has its roots at home where mom is undervalued, taken for granted and disrespected.

In the Washington Post article Where do Kids Learn to Undervalue Women? From Their Parents, multiple studies showed that: “even progressive spouses don’t divide burdens equitably. The children notice.”

According to university research, conclusions ranged from misogyny budding from modeled parent behavior to malignant gender dynamics being passed down generation to generation.

Sadly, recent studies showed the following, reported by Darcy Lockman:

“Among heterosexual parents, fathers — even the youngest and most theoretically progressive among them — do not partake generously of the workload at home. Employed women partnered with employed men carry 65 percent of the family’s child-care responsibilities, a figure that has held steady since the turn of the century. Women with babies enjoy half as much leisure time on weekends as their husbands. Working mothers with preschool-age children are 2 1/2 times as likely to perform middle-of-the-night care as their husbands. And in hours not so easily tallied, mothers remain almost solely in charge of the endless managerial care that comes with raising children: securing babysitters, filling out school forms, sorting through hand-me-downs.”

Ey ey ey people.

I feel strongly that this lack of respect and “unawareness” among fathers who overburden their wives by not stepping up, is the root of divorce. I’ve seen so many moms become severely bitter, insecure and disconnected without hope they can ever achieve their dreams within this family dynamic. This is likely the reason why so many mothers look forward to their alcohol binging nights out with other moms, highlighted in The Bad Moms movies. And it is also why I, as a full time single mother for the past nine years, feel extremely lucky. At least as a sole parent, I don’t have ANY expectations that a partner will be, or should be, doing ANYTHING for me and my boys within the household on a daily basis. No one will be prepping for schools, buying foods, cooking dinners, planning sports and summer camps, going to parents nights or performances, yard work, etc. It’s just me. Surprisingly, I find peace and liberation with this as I have lost all my bitterness from needing that from someone. I am also never, ever going to live with someone who may be critical of my appearance, or my house’s appearance, my cooking (or lack thereof), or parenting abilities—while also pouting about my lack of sexual desire at the end of the night. I’m tired. Yet, I’m following my dreams again and writing novels and teaching yoga and my boys know that mommy needs help at home and that her dreams are just as important as their own.

When I was married, my older son was learning something different. He was learning that mommy’s dreams don’t count, because they don’t pay as well as daddy’s, and that she needs to do the lion share of parenting and cleaning and deserves less time off than daddy. And I’m to blame for allowing this dynamic. I used to think my ex taking our son to the park on a Saturday afternoon, after he had been gone all week and I had spent late-nights catching up on work, meant that I had an hour to clean the house and race to the grocery store. It didn’t occur to me to get a massage and let him help me do the other stuff later. Yet I was working full time as a magazine editor and taking care of our son solo and staying up late managing deadlines. Where did I get this misconception that I had to work, work, work and never rest? From my parent dynamic of a working full – time mother who did all the parenting. It really does get passed down generation to generation and women (especially those raised in the South) are taught to believe that they are just more compassionate, better organized, better at cooking, more patient and therefore, better at parenting, so it’s easier for us. I can’t tell you how many times I heard friends prepare weeks of food for their husbands before leaving for a work trip because their husbands “just can’t open a can of soup.”

This has to stop. Having a penis doesn’t mean a man can’t cook, tuck a child into bed, read bedtime stories, grocery shop, plan birthday parties, volunteer at schools, design holiday cards, and help with in-law care-taking. None of these activities are exclusively made for humans with vaginas. But I understand why women just do the extra work when they fear that it just won’t get done otherwise.

It took divorce and becoming a full-time single mother for me to realize that I allowed this toxic, old-fashioned inequitable dynamic to exist by not demanding my ex do more. If I had boycotted the home situation, protested, left for an extended amount of time while leaving our child at home, perhaps my ex would have seen what was going on. Or likely, he would have hired a full-time nanny and not fretted about the cost.

I predict there will be a shift in the American family (heterosexual) dynamic within the next 50 years where women just opt out. We’re tired. And we’re worthy of time off and help. It’s time for us to raise our hands, lift our white flags and say ENOUGH. Doing it all and being everything to everyone, enables a toxic old-fashioned view of parenting, and is just not worth ruining our health and forgetting our dreams for.

If this has riled you up, sadly, here are more articles and studies regarding the lack of gender equality in American households and society:

“A stunning chart shows the true cause of the gender wage gap.” 

“From concubine to CEO, how far have women really come?” Forbes, Dec. 20, 2015

“The Parenting Fantasy that holds Women Back” Time, Oct. 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Artists Guide to Finding Time Step 2: Trust the Universe

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Photo by Chloe Moore Photography

Hmmm, what does THAT mean, I imagine many of you fellow writers and artists asking. When a yogi says you need to “trust the Universe” it can sound vague at best and spiritually superior at worst. But as a writer for 25 years and a yogi for only 8, I can tell you that trusting the Universe requires specific actions in order to create more, produce more, and live in an abundance consciousness that can create a vibration of attraction and opportunities. And it’s a daily achievement, as each day will be different. But if you, like me, are focussed on your art and know that it is what you are born to do, then trust your instinctual voice and your universal guides—even if you aren’t completely sure you believe in their existence. If you do, you will banish your FEAR that is ultimately what is standing in your way in the first place, right? The FEAR of not being good enough. The FEAR of ‘who am I to think I can be X (insert: published, artist with gallery exhibit, musician with record deal, etc.)? The FEAR of what if I don’t make it? The FEAR of what if I can’t pay rent?

These are all serious concerns, for sure, but what you focus on grows. I’m not advocating everyone throw caution to the wind and go bankrupt, but there is more time in a day than we actually realize. There are ways to find more time to slip into a creative space on a daily basis. There are ways to minimize fears, produce more effectively and live with more joy—while you’re reaching for your dreams. This way, you can enjoy today, the moment, so much that reaching your goal almost doesn’t matter. Why? Because you’re living your art, living authentically, and enjoying your life more. Here are tools that are currently working for me:

  1. Reduce the hours at work in your day job so you can focus more on your art. Over the years I’ve encountered this lesson time and time again. At one point, I left a high paying consultancy gig with a New York PR firm. Why? Because it was taking up all my time and I couldn’t actually finish my 2nd novel. (The first I wrote in graduate school moons ago, so this was my second attempt to return to fiction in more than 12 years!) I also recently let go of co-managing a yoga studio because the hours were long, the work labor-intensive in the heat (a hot yoga studio) and I was exhausted after taking care of the kiddos every night and not actually writing. So now I just teach yoga classes and write for magazines when an editor reaches out. Yes, the money is less, but I finished my 3rd novel and am now jamming on my 4th! My days feel yummy. I enjoy the hours I write and I love the balance I’m creating.
  2. Start your day early and set positive intentions. If you aren’t a meditator, consider it. You can literally download free guided meditations from DavidJi (one of my favorite human beings) or from The Chopra Center and just listen for 15 minutes with ear plugs. All have messages to light up your agni (internal fire) and help you tap into your intuitive, creative center to manifest your dreams. We often have to let go of mental baggage, or negative fear-based programming from childhood, that trigger our less-than thinking. We have to let go of that and embrace our Divine right to infinite possibilities.
  3. Commit to your art every day, even if some days that means a mere 30 minutes. This is hard, I know. Some days I don’t write or work on my fiction. Those days are usually consumed with a sick child, or work from a day job that required extra time. But I’ve realized that the more I try to stick to this goal, the easier it is to achieve. By letting go of social media and 15 hours a week at a low-paying day job, I’m able to find an hour or more every day to write or pitch an agent, or enter a contest…getting me closer to my goal of publishing traditionally.
  4. Put aside art-focussed weekends. If you are single without children, you can really do this. 🙂 If you are married or a single parent, this can be a little challenging. I’ve asked my former mother-in-law to watch the children for weekends when I needed to get away, flying her across the state to help, even if I just went down the road to write. I’m also considering swapping kiddos for a few hours every other Saturday with another single mother who is an artist, so we both garner more time and our kids get to play. Find creative solutions!
  5. Take breaks to exercise & breathe deeply. This is important, especially when fear is creeping back in. If you can’t afford yoga classes or a gym membership, exercise in your house, or jog or take a walk. And breathe. Take 3 deep breaths, holding them at the top, then releasing slowly, visualizing all the stress melting away with the breath.
  6. Pay attention to the energy you surround yourself with. If you listen to the news first thing in the morning, or read your social media scroll, or check your email—before meditating or planning out your day—you may sink into a fear-based mentality. If you often talk with relatives or friends who doubt your abilities and don’t support your artistic endeavors, think about cutting down your time with them. Start to allow in other artists or supportive friends if you aren’t all ready. Find them via Meetup groups or start your own. Cut off the news and turn on music that inspires you when you’re home. Create the energy that fosters creativity.
  7. Read from the experts! Anne Lamott, author of Bird by Bird and many others, is beyond inspirational. Check out her Ted Talk video: 12 Truths I learned from Writing and Life. Steven Pressfield, author of 17 books, is another favorite of mine. The Art of War is Pressfield’s eye-opening book that explains why artists and writers often stop or get discouraged, just when they’re on the verge of a breakthrough. He describes it as the Universal Law of Resistance that manifests in procrastination, self-sabotage, fear, arrogance, self-doubt. His weekly advice can be emailed to you as well, a helpful tool of inspiration!

Believe in yourself. Be good to yourself. You are on this planet for a reason. I’ve come to believe that art is the universal language of love and compassion. It is a worthy endeavor. Anyone who tells you differently, must never have cried during a movie or at the end of a novel or when finding that perfect song that speaks to his soul. And isn’t that sad to imagine? To me, nothing trumps that soul connection via art.

Have a beautiful day. As always, thank you kindly for reading my humble suggestions and prose.

Laura x

The Artists Guide to Finding Time

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I wear many hats, but my purpose in this lifetime is to write and to publish compelling stories with characters many would not pause to consider or feel compassion for—people on the fringe of society, whose inner light is rarely acknowledged. This is my passion. Yet it seems that all my other ‘work’ demands my primary focus. Intention plus Attention, Manifests. Yet most of my Attention, for years, has been drawn in too many directions. I am a single mom who has been raising her two boys solo for nine years. I am the author of three novels seeking representation, as I desire to publish traditionally. I am a freelance journalist who writes for magazines. I am a yoga teacher who has taken 5 yoga trainings and led a yoga and writers retreat in Greece, hoping to run more! My ex lives in Europe and I have no family help, so I have few weekends off to re-charge, and no help when a kid is sick or there is an emergency at school. I guess you can say I am a master juggler. Yesterday a friend told me she can’t find time or motivation to write/create her blog because she has too many demands, yet she has no children or full-time employment. Our demands, are our demands, however. What we focus on, grows. If we focus on fear and lack, we will scramble in too many distracted directions and lose our willpower.

I am finally mastering the balance and carving out more time to focus—even within my hectic schedule. Trust me, between school runs, lunches, dinners, homework, soccer games and practices, violin performances, Taekwondo, volunteer requests, yoga classes I teach, etc…My daily life can become a blinding, dizzying, depressing grind that used to relegate my passion for writing to a mere 30 minutes a day—and that was on good days! I’ve now cut out the major fat, the time-suckers and distractions and am working on my fourth novel. If I can find more time—trust me—you can too. I want to help. Here is the first of a five-part-series on how to find the time to create:

First, cut out ALL the distractions. By that, I mean, ALL SOCIAL MEDIA HAS TO GO. For a year. It’s been seven months of no social media for me in my first year cleanse. During this period, I finished my 3rd novel (click here for excerpt), edited it four times, attended a writers conference and submitted the novel to agents who are currently considering it. Also during that period, I taught yoga classes, helped manage a studio, worked with private clients, attended a meditation retreat, raised two humans by myself and dealt with health issues. If I had stayed on social media, I would have been sucked into its time-wasting trap—losing momentum, motivation and self confidence—while wasting valuable time better spent writing. Now I know all authors and artists need a “platform” to sell their art. But while you are still struggling to create & produce art and then garner an agent or deal, social media needs to go. Here’s why social media is not only a waste of time for budding artists and writers, but it actually makes us less creative, less authentic, and less productive:

  1. Social media thwarts momentum. Why? because it turns the focus outward and not inward. You may be half -way through that novel, or composition or mural, and suddenly you become overwhelmingly self-conscious and fearful and less sure, losing your drive to move forward. We lose our ability to connect deeply to our core and hear our intuition (the birth place of creativity) and our desires, when we focus on others: on what they are doing, how they are doing it and and on how others feel about us and what we do. To create, we need to turn inward, tap into our inner power, our inner passion, our inner purpose and JAM.
  2. Social media drains our Motivation and lessens our Gratitude—which can spur bad habits that actually suck more time away from our projects becoming successful. Looking at what others are doing, can thwart us from realizing our dreams and we can become filled with thoughts like:  Maybe I should be going out more? Those drink looks good, I need a happy hour. I need to have a spa day, why don’t I get to have a spa day? I love her dress and shoes, I haven’t had a new outfit in years. etc etc. Yes we all need balance, but spending more, getting hung-over, or spending money we don’t have or time with negative friends, will NOT help.
  3. Social media lowers self-confidence by comparing our lives and our projects with others. This is an expansion of the last point. Artists often live with less before they are published or discovered. If we compare our lives by what we have or own and are constantly filling our minds with visions from Instagram or Facebook of ‘friends’ new houses, new cars, new relationships we can develop thoughts of fear and lack, that dissuade us thinking in affirmative powerful ways that manifest. Thoughts like: I should be doing more. Or I’m not as good as him. Or I need to focus on money-making projects or pick up more part-time work in order to get a date like his. etc …
  4. Studies have shown that even a mere 20 minutes of social media photo sharing or scrolling increases anxiety, depression and feelings of lack. Studies proved social media lowers self-esteem and it creates disrupted sleep patterns (likely from light erupting from a phone by the bed). One study says that not only does social media foster addiction, but it re-wires the brain to become more addictive and reactive in general. All thwart inspiration to create authentically and powerfully.
  5. The more time we spend on social media, the less we take ourselves and our art and our passions seriously. Sure, you may post a pic of yourself painting or writing, and love the 100 likes you receive, but are you really delving into the project for hours, connecting to your inner voice, inner guides and moving forward in a powerful way? Answer this truthfully.

So, my advice, drop the Instagram, SnapChat, Facebook for a year and gain back the two—or more hours a day—to focus on your art, your potential, your inner fire.

Next installment covers what to replace those two hours with. SO GOOD.

Have a beautiful day!

If you liked this article, you may be interested in:

Is Social Media Bad for You? BBC, January 2018

 

Embracing Chaos

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So, I cried today. Hate to admit it. Maybe a little over the weekend too. Life is hectic right now. I’m trying so hard to be mindful, but I’m doing so much solo, somethings gotta give. There was a gas leak because my landlord didn’t install the dryer properly. That was scary. And then trying to get my son and pick him back up from beach camp every day this week (school starts Sept. 6!!) has been stressful. First I take my oldest to school by 7 a.m., then I’m racing to the studio to open it in the morning, get it cleaned and ready for the 9 a.m. class, then race with my son to the beach drop off spot and then back and it takes an hour at least with parking being nutty. It feels like I just can’t get it all together. I raced so fast to pick him back up by 2 p.m. the other day that I nearly ran a stop sign. I can barely leave the hot studio before 2 with all the work that needs to get done. Most afternoons and evenings involve racing to pick up my oldest, then soccer practices, then taekwondo, then my yoga classes I teach (that fill me with gratitude and peace). I don’t know what I’d do without the yoga. Because I literally feel like I’m teetering on many days. My landlord laughed at me the other day and said “girls can do anything boys can do, you’ve got this.” That was his way of getting out of doing something that needed to be done at the house that is in disarray with lots of things still broken. I thought I’d cry. I can’t handle one more job. I’m still writing too, so yesterday I had to finish an article, and edit another chapter in my spare time. Ironically, like yoga, the writing centers me. I just wish I could figure out how to balance all the family demands a little easier and find more time away from parenting when I need to.

So I missed a dear friend’s funeral last weekend because I couldn’t get sitter coverage and my ex is rarely free. It was a family friend who helped take care of my mother, an aunt to me my whole life: she did my hair, she made my prom dress, you get the idea. Family. I’ll send a letter, it’ll be ok. My oldest was in a soccer tournament anyway, so 5 games Saturday and Sunday and I needed to be there, the boys were super aggressive. But I may miss my real aunt’s funeral at the end of Sept in Maine, and even though my ex will be in the States, he is choosing not to help. Something’s gotta give. After cleaning the studio and two races back and forth for the beach camp pickups, then back to the studio, after cleaning it, I just sat down in the girls locker room and cried. Probably because I’m tired. Probably because I feel so unsupported.

It’ll be ok. It always is. I’ve been doing this solo parenting gig for 8.5 years, right? I’ll dip into savings again and hire a sitter and go to Maine. It’s worth it.

Life is hard now, but as Buddha says, it doesn’t stay hard forever: “Life is a circle of happiness, hard times and good times. If you are going through hard times, have faith that good times are on their way.” Buddha

For the rest of today, I will mindfully be present and grateful that I am safe, I am healthy, that my boys are amazing, healthy and happy and that I am mainly surrounded in my life by sweet, thoughtful yogis. I am thankful to have kicked the social media habit, too, as I need not compare my life with others. This is my life right now. Today is hard. Tomorrow will be better.

Love & Light ~

L. x

Becoming Gracefully Strong

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I dare you to find an athlete who is stronger than a a petite graceful ballet dancer. I remember working with football players when I danced and one linebacker growling at me: “This is HAAARD!” as he tried to leap. Yes, it is hard. Ballet dancers, especially, know that grace and strength come from hard work on oneself. The strongest person in the room is not always the biggest person—it is the one who can endure the most, who can continue to try to dance, even when in pain. Here are some more thoughts about strength:

Strength is never loud. It isn’t controlling. It isn’t angry. Or forceful. Or threatening. A strong person doesn’t hurt another for his own gain. Words of strength never belittle, or bully, or make fun of another. A truly strong person doesn’t boast, hold grudges, manipulate, or try to get even.

A strong person has already surrendered, accepted her situation and her role in it completely, and has forgiven her teachers—especially the cruel and harshest ones. This must happen before she can then begin the process of becoming strong. For me, it’s a process that will likely continue to unfold for the rest of my life. Today I saw a picture of myself from six years ago and it shocked me. I must have been 85 to 90 lbs, although I was trying to hide it wearing a baggy skirt and boots. Holding my nearly 2 year old in my arms, I was faking a smile. All the emotions flooded back in. I was broken hearted, tired, scared, worried, fearful. I had been taking care of two boys alone for nearly 16 months and I was with friends and trying to pretend that everything was OK. I was in a nasty divorce with an ex living abroad with his girlfriend. My mother was slipping away with Alzheimer’s. Some friends and a few in my and my ex’s family  were telling me things like I wasn’t capable and should give up. They reminded me that it was too hard; that I’d fall apart; that I would fail; that no one would want me with kids full time; that it wasn’t financially feasible to pursue a career in my field AND take care of them solo; that LA was too expensive; maybe I should take my ex back, etc. etc.  The fear and anxiety and anger and victimhood and martyrdom swirled around inside me like a raging storm. Until one day, while exhausted on the yoga mat in savasana (meditation), it all finally stopped. I could hear a little whisper that said “ENOUGH.”

This rock bottom place allowed me to sit still, acknowledge the people-pleasing storm I had allowed myself to create, and to realize that it was time to walk away from the drama. As the fog lifted, I began to listen more to that inner voice and to take baby steps into finding my strength and my core vision. If you are finding yourself knocked down by a sudden turn in life or are just unsure of your path, these steps may help. I’m sharing them with the humble intention that I may be of service. Steps to Find Your Strength:

  1. Listen to you inner voice. This requires finding stillness. In the beginning, it required power yoga, running and biking with tunes. I had to exhaust my body before I could get out of my head, lay in stillness and meditate. Find what works for you. A walk in the woods or on the beach alone. Lighting a candle and sitting in the dark. Taking a bath and closing your eyes while taking deep breaths. Just listen without judgement and allow whatever needs to surface, to surface. Maybe that requires journaling. But make this an alone exercise. No chatting with friends who may try to sway you.
  2. Acknowledge. Be honest and own up to your role in your situation. Do this without being too hard on yourself. But it’s important to not always be pointing fingers at others and playing the victim. What role did you play? For me, I was co-dependent and other’s happiness was more important than my own. Another’s vision for my life, was more important than my own. What role did you play in your current circumstance?
  3. Accept. Accept your life, your circumstances, your family members, your loved one, right now, for exactly what it is and who they are. Try to change nothing about circumstances or people. Do this without bitterness, without blame, without shame, without judgement. It’s hard. But just try it.
  4. Surrender. Surrender your life to a higher power. If you are not religious or spiritual just surrender to all that is. This is your way of saying, ‘I surrender to something more powerful than myself to help me, to guide me, to let me know that I am not alone.’ For me, it felt powerless at first. But once I surrendered, and asked my angels for guidance, I started to see where I did have power, over finding my own way, finding my own voice, following my heart, finding my courage. … Surender first, you’ll love what then comes.
  5. Dream. Start to dream. Make vision boards. Just go through magazine pics and cut out what you like. If you’ve been controlled for a long time,  it may be hard to even know what you like. This is fun. What designs, what colors, what music, quotes, etc. do you like? What do YOU WANT? It’s a step towards saying you are WORTHY and DESERVING. Make lists of dream jobs, without attaching to them and see if they are all in a creative field or analytical or health-oriented field. Focus solely on what you like, what you’d love to explore: Italy, Greece, India? Put those pics on your board without a thought about finances. This is dream time. Have fun. Play your favorite music while you do it.
  6. Trust. Trust the Universe, God, a Higher Power to take care of you. Say affirmations every morning in the mirror: I trust the process of my life. I trust that my life is unfolding exactly as it is meant to. I have faith that I will always be taken care of. I trust my voice, my vision, my heart. I am capable and I trust I am led and guided every day. I am safe. I am loved. I am abundant. I trust that only those people who want the highest good for me will float into my life. I trust myself. I trust the Universe. I trust, therefore I will not try to force anything, opportunity or person. Those people and opportunities meant to be in my life will float in with ease and grace.
  7. Take Baby steps. This is where I mainly live right now. (I did a cha-cha with Trust for years, ha ha! And I know I still have more dances with trust in my future!)  Just know this: Strength isn’t loud or forceful. It doesn’t require perfection either. It just builds by taking baby steps in the direction of your heart. It requires courage. So, for me, it meant writing another chapter, then another, until my novel was finished. It meant that I had to have thick skin for rejection and edits and to then send my novel out to more editors and publishers.
    It also required taking multiple yoga trainings, trusting my voice, finding confidence, and teaching class after class. Both writing and teaching yoga are equally frightening to me. But how wonderful is it that six years ago I whispered to myself that someday I’d like my career to involve my writing and teaching yoga. I love the creative and cerebral and spiritual aspects of each. One allows me to go inward and have the alone time I crave and need. The other provides the community and family and social outlet that I also need to thrive. As a single mom without much support or family or free-time, it’s critical that I take care of my health and not become a hermit by being alone too much. It’s the Yin and Yang of my existence. I love my life so much. I’m still taking baby steps. Another book to write. Yoga classes in bigger studios to tackle. Maybe a yoga retreat? Maybe more ways to explore my trust issues with loved ones…It’s never ending. Where can you take baby-steps today? Do you want to apply for a new job? Want to explore going back to school? Want to join a MeetUp group to go hiking or attend music or art shows? Take a few baby steps and see what emerges.

    With LOVE & LIGHT,

    Laura

 

 

Wives Who Refuse to Work: Strikes Chord

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This morning I woke up to read a post by the always insightful Lisa Belkin, whom I’ve been following for at least 15 years. Today she asked her followers on social media for thoughts about this Letter published in The Guardian newspaper entitled: A Letter to My Wife, Who Won’t Get a Job, While I Work Myself To Death.

 

As I read the letter, and the many comments and harsh judgements in response, I started wondering what else was going on in this couple’s relationship. There is undoubtedly more to the story than meets the eye.And isn’t that always the case when only one side is presented? Didn’t he mention that she did work part-time at one point but it didn’t pay well? But for arguments sake, lets just imagine that this man’s letter is truthful and reveals the whole story.

 

Wow, as a former parenting & pregnancy editor, and a careers writer for years—and a single mom, this letter struck a chord. And, apparently, it did with many other women as well. Remember all the trends in parenting over the past decade? There’s been the Lean In argument verses the Opt Out one. Lisa Belkin actually coined the Opt Out term, referring to educated women who stop working. Here’s a Pew Research Study that confirms 10 % of all educated women in America permanently opt out of the workforce.

Women are their worst enemies it seems. We can publicly shame others and find fault in just about anything a mom does or doesn’t do. Opt out and homeschool? You are ignorant, fearful and financially irresponsible. Work long hours as a partner in a law firm? You must be selfish, materialistic and risking your kids’ health and well-being. Remember the backlash on Tiger Parenting? (Time Magazine wrote a piece about the real effects of Tiger Moms on their children. Go Here to read it.)

Women criticize each other on just about everything—where as men seem to shrug things off more with a Live and Let Live attitude. Maybe a man disapproves of another man’s choice to stay home with his kids for a few years while his wife works, but rarely does that man get angry and write a scathing letter or op-ed to The Wall Street Journal or New York Times bludgeoning that man’s choice. Women, however, are different. We seem to want to make others’ choices wrong so we can feel better about our own—a sign that we are too caught up in worrying about what others think? At least, that’s how it seems to me. Or, we want to justify what we choose, like Opting Out of the workforce for a few years, so that others can see our point of view and still approve of us. But at the end of the day, the only thing that matters is what you and your partner feel good about. If a person decides to spend more time with his/her kiddos, that’s his/her choice. And if a woman opts out, the husband had to have been on board with it at some point.

So when does that point end? My question for the author of that letter is at what point did your wife ‘not working’ become a massive bourdon filling you with anger, resentment and seething indignation? And did you relay this information to her clearly and honestly? This letter feels like a justification for leaving her.

I strongly feel that couples often don’t communicate strongly enough and clearly enough about their agreements. If they did, they could each adjust and change and move forward. But sometimes, they don’t want to adjust, change and move forward. They want an exit strategy. I would guess that even if this woman got a job tomorrow, her husband’s resentment wouldn’t vanish and they may split anyway. There are other matters at work if the two couldn’t talk about this issue before and start working toward a solution.

I can relate to what this husband is relaying, however, because I slightly lived through it. I never opted out entirely from the workforce, but I didn’t live up to my husband’s changing standards. I’ll explain. After our baby was born, my husband and I decided that I’d stay a freelancer, rather than enter the full-time workforce, until our child entered kindergarten. My husband was on board with this agreement, until he wasn’t. And that was discovered via stressed out comments and me over-hearing what he said to male friends whose wives worked full-time. It was a harsh wake up call to me that our agreement didn’t matter and somehow I was the last to know.

Here’s how our agreement (to let me freelance verses full-time work) began. I was offered a full-time journalism teaching position at Loyola Marymount University when my oldest was 9 months old. I panicked. Yes, it was a cool gig and I’d edit the student newspaper and all other publications while teaching students and mentoring the student writers at the paper. And then suddenly it seemed like an awful lot of work for very little pay. Day care cost more than what I’d earn. So, we decided as a couple, that I’d turn the position down and just continue to freelance as an editor and writer until our baby was in kindergarten. It would also allow us to be mobile—a good thing since we moved to Atlanta and to London within a two year time frame and my clients went with me.

I thought, as a wife who continued to freelance and keep her career track stable, while also doing the lion share of parenting, allowing my hubs to work long hours and move up in his field, that I was a very good egg. But clearly I wasn’t in his eyes, even though he rarely told me. Again, I overheard things or would get snide comments.

Thank God kindergarten started one year earlier in England than in the US, as my husband was clearly “over” our agreement and on a campaign to change me. I’m such a smart person, shouldn’t I be doing something other than writing so I can actually earn more money? He was over my profession in general. I was editing books on contract and writing for magazines that didn’t pay terribly well, but was also able to spend more time with our three-year-old, allowing my husband to travel, work long hours and rise within his company and attract eyes of recruiters. I thought I was pitching in. But he was stressed out. Yes we moved for his job. Yes, he wanted to live in London. Yes, I was the only expatriate wife that I knew in our circle of friends who was able to work part-time. Still, London is one of the most expensive cities in the world.

Once I took a full-time editor job, it was like a huge audible sigh was released within our marriage. The pressure was off of him completely. The job paid well and I could work from home, so I oversaw the part-time nanny, was still able to go to parent-teacher conferences or school plays and could still manage our household—allowing husband to continue work travel and his long hours. We could save more, vacation more and just breathe.

Why am I sharing this personal tidbit? Because I think couples often get stuck in a rut of holding tightly to past agreements. I wanted to sternly hold on to the understanding that I’d go back to full time work once my son was in kindergarten. It was rational. It made sense. But living in London and all it’s massive expense, was triggering fear in my husband. The agreement needed to be re-thought out. And it was. But there was another side to this story too. I WAS working and doing most of the parenting, allowing the husband to be able to do whatever it took to rise in his field. I wonder what the real story is in this letter? Did this woman work part-time but didn’t want to be a partner because of the hours and because her husband wasn’t around? Perhaps he needed to work extremely long hours to make partner and she wanted that for him? And besides, when kids were small,  she’d still have to do the majority of the parenting, cooking, help with homework, carpooling, etc.? Maybe now she is planning on working now that the kiddos are off to college?

This couple has let so many years go by that likely the husband has bottled up his anger and it’s now overflowing. She likely may feel entitled and mis-understood and not appreciated. Raising kids isn’t easy work. Maybe she manages all their finances and cooks, cleans and manages all the family vacations and family communications. (Why is it that women tend to send out all the holiday cards, plan all the birthday parties, for instance? Is it demanded within our XX chromosome? I hate that.)

What are your thoughts? Some followers of Lisa Belkin wrote in scathingly to the wife of this letter—even calling her stupid. In their eyes, she was stupid for putting her marriage at risk, for not being a good role model for her children, for not contributing financially, and more importantly, for not keeping her career on track in case her husband died or left her “for a younger model.”

Ouch. How much fear is in all of those statements??

 

I instinctively feel that it’s always important for a woman to work, even if just part-time or freelance in order to stay in the game. It’s good for the pocketbook, it’s good for the self esteem and it provides intellectual stimulation away from the family dynamic. But, my view, by no means, is a harsh judgement against my fellow stay-at-home moms. Some women feel that their husbands would have NO way to move up in their fields if their wives didn’t do all the childrearing.  We live in a country that allows freedom of choice and we are all on own journey of self discovery. She was married to an attorney. Maybe his hours were brutal? Maybe she thought it was the best for their family and he agreed and couldn’t bring himself to say differently until he was DONE. Maybe he has his eye on a young female attorney and just wants an exit clause? Who knows.

Thoughts? Is it okay in this day and age for a well-educated woman to stay home until her kids enter college? Does a husband need his wife to earn money in order to “feel loved?” And, if so, to flip that coin, a wife must need a partner to help with raising the kids and household tasks to “feel loved.” Hmmm….I’m suddenly feeling better about not being married anymore. Sigh. Doing all the work without expectations of help, or without resentment or feelings of unworthiness due to this drama, is actually a relief.

Feel the same? Feel different?

Chime in!

Always grateful to those of you who read my musings!

Laura

First Creative Writer’s Conference…with Kids in Tow!

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I’m writing this post from my hotel room in San Diego at the La Jolla Writer’s Conference. What an amazing two days so far! At first I almost cancelled coming, as I didn’t have a sitter Friday and Sunday I’m throwing a birthday party for my youngest munchkin..So, not only would I need to bring my children along Friday and part of Saturday, I wouldn’t have the extra time and attention needed to throw a perfect birthday party back in LA on Sunday. You dads out there might not get this…but man, don’t you moms know that need to throw a perfect party? 🙂 I could spend hours arranging flowers, cleaning house, making cupcakes etc. even for 6-year-olds. It must be a southern thing…I’m trying to recover from this.

So, it’s clear that I need to let go of that perfect parenting bug I’ve been bitten by. AND, I’ve realized that it was a wise decision to go to my first creative writer’s conference and let my kiddos tag along. Why? Because how often does my life revolve around them?  From soccer games and practices, to violin lessons, homework, concerts, doctor visits, etc.—I’m at their beckon call. And it struck me, as a single mom writing a novel, that it’s okay to ask my boys to come along and sacrifice some of their agenda in order to support me and my work. So that’s what we did. It was no problem.  My 12-year-old babysat my just-turned 6-year-old while I attended two lectures Friday. They watched a movie and I garnered amazing advice. It was a win-win. Instead of going to the networking event Friday evening, the three of us hit the pool, had a yummy dinner, rented a good movie and snuggled. Saturday morning started at 6 a.m. for me and I raced from lecture to events all day with a lunch break at the pool with my boys. My nanny picked them up this afternoon and took them back to LA for me, so luckily, I was able to participate in all the afternoon lectures and even my own terrifying pitch session, where I described my novel to two agents and a filmmaker and screenwriter—talk about frightening! I’m still speechless at their responses, encouragement and requests to read my work. I’m so filled with gratitude and excitement for next steps. 🙂

So, I have a few things to say about this experience:

First, my years interviewing experts as a parenting editor suggested this —but I now know without a doubt—that it’s good for children to see and support their parents working toward goals. This is especially true of single parents. If all children see are moms sacrificing their identities, dreams and goals for their children, these children may grow up with a sense of self importance, a false sense of entitlement and little patience for cooperation or compromise—not to mention out-dated views on spousal roles.

Secondly: WOW the writers, film makers, poets, agents, publicists, attorneys at this conference have been amazing!  Their willingness to give their time, insights and support have been invaluable to me. I haven’t been to one lecture that didn’t provide incredible information and inspiration. I have a lot of advice to digest from the business of publishing and negotiating contracts, to writing the perfect query and synopsis, to marketing strategies.

It’s a lot to cover. And that’s not even touching on the part that I love most: creating and how to keep those negative voices at bay that can stall the writing process. I’ve gotten a lot of support at this conference. I love the writers that I’ve met. I’m inspired by their honesty and their bravery. Each one is an artist who is baring his/her soul to some degree. In order to write well, a person must “find those tender places,” as Patti Callahan Henry,  a New York Times best-selling author, eloquently explained today. It requires cutting off the fear of being good enough and being able to close the door on that negative critic inside that worries about what others will think. And in doing so, we can keep working and getting better at our craft, while finding our unique voice as writers. I loved what Callahan Henry said today: “Our voice is buried in that compost pile from our youth.” The best writers bravely go there. And clearly, Henry does this. I picked up many books by this southern writer, and am excited to read all of them. I’m half-way through her latest: The Stories We Tell, and know I won’t go to bed until I’m done. I’m immersed in this Savannah-based tale and want to learn the truth lingering between the couple who seem to have it all…Her characters are compelling and believable, who live in a world that invites me in to sit a while and marinate in their truth—which may just resonate with my own. And that’s all a writer can hope for isn’t it?

If you’re a creative writer or artist, please chime in. What helps you find your voice? What helps you stay on track? How do you keep negative voices at bay and continue creating when the world—or your world—might be telling you to do “better” things with your time? I look forward to hearing from you. x

Finding Courage to Stay on Course

Take-control-of-Your-Life

I recently read an inspiring quote from a friend, (I’ll paraphrase): “All the shit, drama and pain you’ve dealt with in life has prepared you for this present moment, this present action, this present course.”

It’s so true, right? Well, sometimes. It’s only true if each painful experience propels growth. As long as I can see that each time someone has hurt me, hasn’t seen, or heard me, or said something cruel, or treated me without respect—it was exactly what I needed in order to find my boundaries, my self-respect, my strength, my confidence, my kindness, my direction. And even when I hurt others, or typically myself, if I can learn to forgive, have more compassion and ‘own’ my issues, I’ll become stronger and closer to the person I want to be.

All of this sounds groovy now, but when I’m in the thick of it with someone, it’s hard to keep in mind. But I’m learning that that’s ok too—maybe I’m letting myself feel more now, and not dismiss things so quickly in order to avoid confrontation. I don’t know. Here’s an example:

Someone recently hurt me by saying I needed to give up writing—that it would never work out and that I needed to move out of California or I’d be destitute within 3 years. Ow.

Ok, that was really negative. My eyes welled up with tears and my stomach felt like it had been kicked as I listened. (It didn’t help that this conversation came a week after I had been heart broken. But that’s not for this venue.) This judgmental tirade came after I said, happily, that I had finished polishing 150 pages of my novel…I was in shock as I listened to the negative rant. The old me, the me before daily yoga and meditation, would have likely not said anything, took more abuse, felt horrible, internalized this, doubted myself, and then finally complained to a few friends in order to try to garner some sort of support. The new me just looked at this person, felt the pain that was welling inside my stomach and said quietly that the conversation wasn’t kind. The conversation didn’t end, sadly, with more justifications as to why I would never get published and was living beyond my means…but in my mind, I knew I responded authentically and calmly—in the moment–(a big deal for me) and was able to mentally button up the judgement as unsupportive, fearful, negative.

I’ve been a journalist and writer for 15 + years and this person hadn’t read anything of mine or even a chapter of my current book or my first novel. And, of course, I won’t be destitute within 3 years!

Honestly.

But for some reason, over the past two weeks, I’ve come back to this conversation in my mind to see what I can learn from it. I’ve decided to dismiss the negativity of it. What you think is what you can manifest right?

But it struck a chord. I have half my novel finished and the rest outlined. I’m very excited and a few friends have read a bit of it to give me feedback. But since this summer, I have found so many distractions. I am to blame for allowing each and every one them. Between soccer games, homework, sickness, volunteer demands, friend demands, work, trainings, it can get hairy. But, at the end of the day, I am in control of my schedule. I am in control of my time. I am in control of my thoughts, my actions and who I choose to let into my life.

So with that in mind, I’ve decided that the reason why I keep floating back to this conversation is that I realize that I’m out of balance. It can seem almost insurmountable with kid demands, but there really is at least 2 hours a day to work on my book. And I can fit in yoga and mediation for my sanity. (All you single parents know just what I mean!) So, if that means that dishes pile up in the sink or that my kiddos don’t have rooms made or the perfectly-kept house, who cares?

I’m taking the steps I need to get published. I spent more money today (Egads! One more step toward destitution! ha ha) and signed up for the La Jolla Writers Conference next weekend. Yup, there are soccer games, a bar mitzvah, and my son’s birthday party to prep for. But I’ve decided that I have to put my writing goal on my to-do list each week. If it means missing a soccer game, or having a birthday party that isn’t perfect. So be it.

I’m so excited (and nervous) to go as many agents and authors attend this conference where they give feedback on work, have writer jam sessions, as well as listen to “7 minute pitches”.  So now I have to hone my 7 minute pitch for Uriel’s Mask—as well as polish my one page synopsis. But it’s what I need to do. If I expect an agent, who likely works 50+ hour weeks in this field to take me seriously, I have to push aside distractions and take my writing just as seriously. I even ordered new business cards.

So, I’m officially taking the plunge. And you know what? I’m actually thankful for the hard knocks this month…they are helping me to focus on my path, my journey and GET IN CONTROL OF MY LIFE.

I’d really love to hear from any of you out there who have had similar experiences where either fear or distractions kept you from finishing a project or keeping you from your art. How do you stay on course? Any single parents out there trying to carve out a regular schedule for an artistic project? PLEASE reach out. I’d love to share motivational strategies. Some days, I feel like I’ve run a marathon before 10 a.m. Lets share strategies to keep a daily schedule or to stay on track.  Thanks so much for reading! XO

Is Success a Destination?

Photo by: Laura Roe Stevens

Photo by: Laura Roe Stevens

My apologies for being gone so long. To say life has been nutty lately would be an understatement. As a recap: the last two weeks of August my boys were with their father and I had delicious, rare alone time at home working feverishly on my new book. It’s southern, semi-historical fiction and a lot of fun. I was really in the groove. It was amazing to have the freedom to write, work out, take walks, etc. I was SO excited when the boys returned, however. For two days beforehand, I organized the house, their toys, books, etc. I prepared meals like veggie lasagne, freezing half. I was determined to start the new school year on the right foot. School would start, I would focus 3 to 4 hours a day on my book with the goal of getting through half of it by October.

Little did I realize that I was entering a crazed period. The first week with my boys should have been an indicator of what was to come! School hadn’t yet started, my nanny was away that week, and to add insult to injury, my freezer broke. Repairman couldn’t come for two days. I lost just about everything.

Second week, school still had not completely started for my oldest (we had one day off and one half day for some reason with two intensive back to school nights!) and the preschool for my youngest wouldn’t start until Sept 9th—and only half days till Oct. 1! I also had five articles to write for clients. Oh BOY! No work on my book could be done while I struggled to finish two cancer articles, one pregnancy article and begin two more bylines for an author/client. I was very grateful for the work, because as luck would have it, my car broke down. And when I say broke down, I mean completely broke! I had wanted to sell it and get a hybrid this Fall, but in this condition, there was no way. The transmission cost $3,500 and required me to be without my car for a week. During this time, I had also started yoga teacher training. All the times were not completely convenient for me or my babysitter. Some morning training started at 6:30 / 7a.m.

Finally, last week, as the crescendo, someone hacked into my email system, compromising clients and friends and family—even nearly fooling my ex-husband into giving him money—pretending to be me having an emergency. My computer had to be shut down, the FBI contacted and an expert hired to fix and clean my machine. All this delayed my projects and even infected one of my editor’s machines.

Sigh.

So, what valuable life lessons did I learn during this period? Plenty!

Lesson One:  Prepare/Plan ahead.
From the freezer incident, I learned how great it was to cook ahead of time. With many of my frozen foods thawing, I began to cook with abandon, preparing marinated chicken dishes, cooking meats and fish, making sandwiches with cooked meats, and having every meal accounted for the entire week. Life went smoother. Similarly, the computer incident taught me that while some things can’t be helped (we still don’t know exactly how the hacker gained access to my account), I can back up my important documents with a new hard drive.

Lesson Two: New Beginnings are Energizing.
Cleaning the freezer, I realized how much I had kept in there that I didn’t use for years. Throwing out the old and cleaning the freezer, energized me. As I slowly restock the freezer, I am conscious about what I put in and what I will actually cook within the week.

Lesson Three: Let People Help You.
The car incident and my yoga training needs taught me to ask for help when I need it and to accept that help. I have no problem helping others. I do, however, feel badly about asking for help. But friends often want to and are honored when you trust them with important things, such as your children. As a single mom without family nearby, I need to reach out more. I started doing that and am grateful for the car borrowed and the help with my kids on days that I need it. I know that I’ll respond with love and assistance in the future.

Lesson Four:  BREATHE.
Sure, I had a lot of expenditures and demands on my time and stress that didn’t allow me to focus on my goal of putting in more writing on my book. I did, however,  keep my cool. I credit that completely with yoga and meditation. Instead of snapping, getting distracted, thinking (too many!) negative thoughts, etc. I took deep breaths and centered my mind. Daily yoga (even if at home for 20 minutes) and 10 minutes of meditation each morning or evening stilled my mind. I have to distance myself from all that stresses me and all that is out of my control, to garner the perspective I need to focus on all that is possible.

Lesson Five:  Slow Down.

If you’re stuck in the fast lane, spinning from moment to moment—something HAS TO GIVE. For me, these weeks were crazed because I had so many school and athletic demands for my oldest son and a preschool getting out at 11:45 a.m. daily for my youngest. ( Oct. 1st, we start full days!) It seems that California schools start later and ease into their year more slowly than East Coast schools. That’s just life. I also had soccer games and deadlines and yoga training. At the time, it felt like I couldn’t say no to any freelance projects as the car breakdown and all the school payments from PTAs and ed foundations and other multiple requests, meant that I could have easily spent nearly $6,000 additional this month alone. Now, I’m slowing down. There’s no reason to take every assignment or go to every event or contribute to the point of insanity.

Lesson Six:  Success isn’t a Destination, It’s a Daily Journey
As Andre Agassi said in a recent interview (Q&A in the October 2013 issue of The Red Bulletin): success isn’t a destination. “Setting goals and always meeting them doesn’t make you happy. It’s how you feel every night when you go to bed.”

“Success isn’t what comes out, it’s what you put in,” says Agassi. “Doing things completely or not at all. Caring about what you do. …  Don’t lie to yourself and look for shortcuts. Success isn’t a result. Success is a way of living you choose for yourself.”

Lesson Seven: Concentrate on What You Can Do

Instead of letting fear take over when stressed, focus on what can be done. For me, I could worry about losing clients or worry about paying all the bills and berate myself for not logging more pages in my book. Instead, I chose to concentrate on my strengths and what I could do—triaging daily what needed to be addressed. Agassi put it perfectly in his advice for child athletes (which is applicable to all of us setting goals): “You should concentrate on the things that you can influence—you can control your attitude, your work ethic, your concentration. If it’s windy or hot or something aches or you’re tired from the match yesterday, then you have to accept it.”

For me, each day, I have to concentrate of being present with my boys. Listening to them. Being in the moment at dinner, or during bathtime. It all counts. Making sure I don’t freak out, and am a good role model. That’s what matters most, at the end of the day, this matters so much more than whether I logged 10 pages. I will, however, log more pages as my schedule allows.

Lesson Eight: Be Kind To Yourself

Beating myself up will never help me accomplish my goals. Sure, I could have handled some things better. I could have backed up my computer, for instance. I could have stayed up till 1 a.m. and logged more pages in my book. But rehashing all of my mistakes and beating myself up doesn’t do anything. Over the past month I’ve really been introspective and honest about past mistakes and while that can be helpful when trying to improve, it can also be destructive if I let negative voices into my mind and constantly berate myself. Instead, as I drift off to sleep, I say to myself: I am doing the best that I can. I am exactly where I am meant to be right now. I am enough.

Final Lesson: Laugh Every Day

Even during all the mess, I love that my four-year-old, especially, makes me laugh. He demands that I look at him when he makes silly faces. He dances. He prances. He tickles. He skips. We have secret codes and games that make us laugh. Our latest is when he starts talking gibberish like Mr. Chatterbox and only I know what he’s trying to do as it’s our favorite bedtime story. We also have a daily competition on who loves each other most. “I love you more than an eagle!” he says. I respond: “I love you more than a pelican!” These moments last a lifetime. They sustain me. I only hope that as my little one gets older, I can keep finding ways to laugh a little each day—in spite of how my day may proceed.

NV’s Inspirational Single Moms List

RosieRiviter

I need inspiration these days—maybe you do too? Being a single mom doesn’t necessitate giving up on personal dreams and goals, right?! … I keep telling myself this—like a mantra to get me through the eye of a storm. Yet, weeks go by where I find myself juggling demands from school, illnesses with the boys, a myriad of activities, homework help, cooking, shopping, freelance work, etc. … I know I don’t need to tell any of you about any of this! I am not alone. There are more than 10 million single mothers in America, according to the US Census Bureau’s Mother’s Day 2013 report .
I’d venture to guess that most of us are great moms. (Regardless of what silly politicians may say!) We put our children’s needs first and work diligently to provide safe and nurturing homes for them. But there’s no reason why we can’t also put ourselves, our dreams, and aspirations on our to-do lists, too.

For inspiration, I started researching successful women who pursued their passions—while also raising children solo. From poets and journalists—to athletes and politicians—these single working mothers beat the odds, pushed aside doubts and societal conventions and fought to make their dreams come true. I hope you are inspired by NV’s Inspirational Single Moms List:

mayaMaya Angelou: Ms. Angelou tops my list. Before writing I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings—and certainly before she became the Reynolds Professorship of American Studies at Wake Forest University, OR read at Clinton’s inauguration, OR inspired Oprah—Angelou held a number of wild jobs to help raise her son Guy, including dancing, acting, writing and waiting tables. She was even rumored to have been a madam at one point. Thankfully, she kept writing, as her her poetry and vision has inspired millions. Angelou received a Pulitzer Prize nomination for her book of poetry Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water ‘fore I Diiie, numerous literary awards, theNational Medal of Arts by President Bill Clinton. In 2010, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the U.S., by President Barack Obama.  

Maria Montessori: Most have heard of the popular Montessori schools, but did you know the person who developed that particular method of education, was a single mother? Her determination in a male-dominated field, must have helped Montessori later as a single mother. Montessori had to fight her way into the University of Rome in 1890 to study physics, maths and natural sciences—subjects women in Italy were not allowed to study at the time. (When turned down, she pled her case to the Pope.) Upon her graduation, with another intercession by the Pope, Montessori entered the Faculty of Medicine, and became the first woman to enter and graduate medical school in Italy. Her work as a physician with disabled children, inspired her to ultimately create the Montessori style of teaching . Her drive and ambition is incredibly motivational, especially at a time, and in a country, that shunned women from science and further education.

IsadoraDuncanIsadora Duncan: The inventor of Modern Dance led an adventurous and rather unconventional life for the times. She was born  in San Francisco in 1877 (on my birthday, May 27th, coincidentally), and taught dance at a very early age.  After a few stints with dance companies in America, she sailed on a cattle boat to England at the age of 21. She worked throughout Europe and even in Russia, creating schools of dance to follow her modern dance style. Duncan interpreted music freely and without restriction, with a fondness for scarfs and Greek-inspired attire. A performance in London, with her dancing barefoot, soon enraptured concerts halls throughout Europe. The revolutionary dancer was a single mother of two.

Madeleine K. Albright:  The first female Secretary of State took a circuitous route in her career. For many years Albright focussed on raising her three young daughters and supporting her husband and his career. After her husband left her for a younger woman, Albright, who earned a Ph.D from Columbia University, became foreign policy adviser to vice presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro. By 1988 she was advising presidential candidate Michael Dukakis. In the course of that doomed crusade, she met Bill Clinton and wrote him a letter of recommendation to the Council on Foreign Relations. A few years later, he named her ambassador to the United Nations. And we all know where this position ultimately led her.

NataschaNatascha Ragosina: As an undefeated professional boxer, this Russian athlete spent much of her career as the top super middleweight of the world. Not afraid to show her sexiness, or her powerful reach and quickness in the ring, she held all major female super middleweight titles and two heavyweight belts. This single mom embodies strength, power and beauty.

J.K. Rowling: Rowling worked hard—to not only support her infant daughter—but also to write a little book that would become known around the world: Harry Potter. After divorcing her first husband while pregnant, Joanne “Jo” Rowling raised her daughter Jessica solo while on state assistance and writing Harry Potter. Her depression during this period inspired the now famous soul-sucking dementors.  Rowling wrote in 2008 that there were “fringe benefits of failure,” explaining that she poured all her energy into finishing her book, as she considered herself officially a failure in everything else in her life.  “Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one area where I truly belonged.” Rowling’s hard work writing in cafes while her baby girl slept, paid off. She is now remarried and has two more children. Oh, and the mother of three has sold more than 400 million copies of her Harry Potter series worldwide. Her latest book, The Casual Vacancy, was published in 2012.

katiecouricKatie CouricThe now-famous TV journalist and talk show host, lost her husband to colon cancer in 1998—leaving her to raise her two teenage girls on her own. Couric rose to fame as a NBC new reporter, landing a job as the co-anchor of Today, then in 2006 becoming the first solo female anchor of CBS Evening News. Now Couric has her own talk show, Katie.  Clearly, she’s done a great job juggling single parenting and her career, while making it seem effortless.

Naomi Judd:  Before becoming the elder member of the wildly popular country music duo, Naomi Judd was a young single mother raising two little girls. She worked several jobs to support her family, including being a nurse, secretary, waitress and clerk, before she and her daughter Wynonna formed The Judds. The group would go on to become country music’s most successful mother-daughter duo. Her second daughter, Ashley Judd, became an acclaimed film actress. Along with her daughter, Wynona, Naomi has earned five Grammy Awards, and eight CMA awards. Not too shabby by any account!

mcclendonSarah Newcomb McClendon: McClendon worked as a long-time White House reporter and founded her own news service as a single mom during the post-World War II era. What I didn’t realize, is that this woman clearly embodies Texas grit and determination. After enlisting in the War and being assigned a public relations post, her husband left her before he met his death. She, meanwhile, was pregnant. Using her connections in Washington, D.C., McClendon landed a job—the same month as her daughter’s birth. Her moxie was evident her entire life as the savvy reporter became a leading model for women in the press and she was well known for asking bold questions during Presidential press conferences. She died in 2003.

Harriet Strong:  Her last name is perfect. I can’t imagine the strength it took to be able to invent a water conservation device and irrigation system during the first World War—after her husband left her and their four daughters for the California Gold Rush. The single mother and scientist was also a well known speaker for women’s independence and suffrage.

Julie-Newmar-CatwomanJulie Newmar: There are many actresses who are single mothers today. But to be honest, it’s hard to garner inspiration from their lives, when many achieved stardom before having or adopting children and have an entourage of help and money at their disposal. One actress, however, is a bit different. The original Catwoman in the popular “Batman and Robin” TV series, Newmar was an accomplished Broadway success in the 50′s and 60′s. Few realize, however, that she  raised her son, John who has down syndrome, alone—taking him with her all around the world. She showed that women can pursue their passions, while finding a way to provide love and security for a child.