Happy Mother's Day LFCommunity! Today, we're very excited to share a story from a community member who is a working, single mother. Read on and enjoy!
I am a 52 year old working mom from Cape Town, South Africa. I wanted to study drama at uni when I finished school, but decided to take a gap year before doing so. During this year I got a job as a receptionist at an advertising agency – this was in 1982 – I never really left. I took breaks and deviated a bit along the way – this is my story.
I grew up in a time when 90% of moms were housewives – they did not work. The men/dads were the providers, the moms were there to take care of the home, the kids and the husband. It was not frowned upon, it was just accepted as the norm. I am by no means undermining that role because women today still fulfill that role, most of them just do that at the same time as having a career. By the time I left school the mindset had already changed. From an economic point of view it made sense to have a dual income home and in fact became a necessity. The role of women in the workplace was starting to be valued as well, although positions were still fairly limited to secretarial/admin type posts.
Women also tended to get married at a much younger age than they do now. For my friends and I that was between the age of 21 & 23. I was married at 21 after being with my boyfriend for 4 years. He was 26. Very young in today’s terms. As mentioned above I was working at an advertising agency and by now I had worked my way up from receptionist to being a Media Planner in the agency. I loved my job, but it was without a doubt a male-dominated industry. I was fortunate to have a male boss who felt that this was an outdated and ridiculous practice and he would drag me with him to every client meeting, lunch, party etc. Very often I was the only woman present. I learned a lot, I absorbed all I could – mostly I just listened. I realized that knowledge truly does empower you and the more I listened the more I learned and the better I became at what I was doing. In those days, technology did not exist – everything was done manually, notes were hand written and proposals and correspondence were hand delivered or sent via the postal system.
At 28 I had my first baby and decided to step away and be a mom. It was a hard decision and instead of completely giving up my work, I found one or two clients that I could manage on my own, just to keep going. This is what I did – my income was limited, it was hard juggling the two, but mostly I realized how quickly you are replaced and forgotten in the corporate world – I would pop in to visit my old workplace and would be greeted warmly, but very soon you realize they are busy and you are really stealing valuable time from them by popping in unannounced. This was hard to accept. My second baby was born when I was 30. I was now 90% mom, 10% career person. This does not work. Very soon, I was 100% mom – I had become the housewife. I loved being a mom (still do), but I missed the stimulation that my job gave me. My husband bought me 2 video/DVD shops to keep me busy – they provided a very good income, but little satisfaction.
10 years later my husband, in a shocking turn of events, told me he had met someone else and wanted a divorce. I was absolutely shattered. Besides being heartbroken, not only for myself, but also for my two boys, panic set in about how I am now going to manage going forward. The life of the video/DVD shops were coming to an end – everyone was downloading whatever they wanted to see – I knew that well was going to dry up very soon. It is the scariest feeling in the world – not knowing what lies ahead.
Out of the blue I received a call from an old colleague from my days in the advertising agency – having not spoked to them for approx. 10 years, the timing was quite miraculous. She said she had started her own agency and was wondering if I was interested in joining them – part time at first. I was hesitant as by now technology was the name of the game and I was so out of touch. I could set up a basic excel spreadsheet and that was about all. I expressed these concerns and her response was: your work ethic is excellent, you pay attention the detail, you are loyal – that is what I want. You will have to take it upon yourself to bring yourself up to speed on the technology front. I took a leap and started – it was not easy. I realized, walking in that I was the oldest of all the staff – the average age was about 20 years younger than me – technology to them was 2nd nature – they were astounded by my ignorance.
In my early years I learned by listening and absorbing as much as I could – in these latter years, I realized that I had to swallow my pride and learn by asking questions – I learnt that young people are not that patient when it comes to technology-based stupidity… I had to learn fast.
I am now a Senior Planner – love my work, love the environment, am fairly technologically savvy (I fake it till I make it) – being employed, working under pressure to meet deadlines, interacting with interesting people, earning a living, having a purpose has saved me. Don’t ever under estimate your worth – it you have the right attitude and are prepared to work hard, you can make it. I am proud of being a single, working mom.