Work/life balance is a challenge for all of us but perhaps even more so for divorced moms. If we need to return to the workforce after years of staying home with the kids or even shifting from part-time, how do we juggle taking care of the kids with outside obligations and still have time to take care of ourselves?
How do we get rid of the guilt we may feel about divorce that may have contributed to our changing finances? And is it possible to turn a job into a career when the only position you can find pays $10 an hour for a few hours a week?
Leslie Tayne is a divorced mom of three who balances a successful full-service debt resolution law firm with offices in Manhattan, Mt. Kisco, White Plains, and Long Island. She’s established herself as an authority in the consumer debt field, has authored Life & Debt: A Fresh Approach to Achieving Financial Wellness — and is currently rolling out a franchise program for her practice to reach even more clients. At the same time, she’s been the primary parent for her now college-aged daughter and twins who are in high school.
I sat down with Leslie to get some tips she’s used to balancing career and single parenting — and how to not only re-enter the workforce but maybe even apply what you’ve learned to start your own business.
Can we bake five dozen red velvet cupcake for tomorrow’s bake sale and juggle our work responsibilities? Leslie says we need to cut ourselves some slack. “When it comes to the work/life balance piece, there are some days when I can’t be perfect at being a mom and there are some days when my focus is off at work when it comes to things I need to do for the kids.”
9 Work/Life Balance Tips From Leslie Tayne For The Divorced Mom
1. Getting support from kids is an essential for working mom.
“When you have the kids on board, they can understand what the focus is. I do counsel women who are coming out of divorces and coming out of marriages that didn’t work long term and a lot of this is explaining to the kids that mom’s going to work now and when I’m at work, I can’t use the phone so if there’s an emergency, this is who you have to call. This is when I’m available so you can’t just text me at random anymore.”
2. You have to be creative and reach out to other resources in the community.
“When I had someone tell me my kid has to be picked up at school, I told her to have him dropped off at a friend’s house. Make arrangements. You have to be creative,” shares Leslie.
3. Invest in the Long-Term.
“Sometimes, you’re going to need a babysitter. ” Leslie suggests finding a high school or college students or even retired grandparents. “It’s not always ideal and sometimes you feel like you’re working to pay for the babysitter but it’s worth it because you’re not losing valuable time in your career. Eventually, the money comes as you stay with it and stay focused.”
4. Set Boundaries.
Leslie says setting boundaries teaches kids you aren’t available at their beck and call. They will eventually adjust when you tell them you’re running late to pick them up. “Teaching them that is teaching them that there’s not instant gratification. When you tell the kids that I’m always here for you, you’re setting quite a standard. When you go to work, you cannot have that with the kids. They have to understand that your obligation is to your work.”
5. Have the Conversation.
Explain to kids that you’ve all been through a lot but going back to work is going to be good for everyone. We’re all going to need to pitch in. “It’s age appropriate conversation,” Leslie explains. “You can say it easier to 5 to 7- year olds than to 12-year olds or 18-year olds but still you can say it to them and you might not get the same kind of pushback but say to them you’re not available to do this — we’ll have to do it on my days off — they’ll adjust. They’ll learn.”
6. Going Back to Work is a Break.
Concentrating on your job can provide a respite from focusing on what you see as the “negatives” of divorce and from obsessing over your ex-husband. Leslie recommends focusing on the positives of this change and get past the anger, the hurt, and the rage. “Try not to focus on what your ex is doing now and why he’s spending money on his girlfriend. Once you start focusing on the outside and not focusing on yourself and improving yourself, that anger just builds and builds and builds. You’ve got to let it go.”
7. Use Work to Help You Move Forward.
Leslie has found it’s more productive to focus on career and building her business, as well as spending quality time with her kids than to remain stuck in old patterns with her ex-husband. “It drains the energy out of you to focus on what your ex is doing, why he didn’t do the right thing or why he’s not responding.”
Go out, get a job, focus on the kids, get what you get and move on from it. I try to stay focused on what’s important to me. My career is important to me; my kids are important to me. Happiness is really important to me. Peace is really important to me. None of focusing on what he does brings any of these to me. –– Leslie Tayne, Esq.
8. Can I Build a Career from This Part Time Gig?
You never know what doors will open from taking that first job. “Start someplace and continue to look for a job and continue to create opportunities for yourself. You never know who you’ll meet. You’re learning to get back in the workforce.”
9. What About Starting My Own Business or Side-Hustle?
Leslie says entrepreneurship takes certain skill sets, such as focus, computer skills, speaking and communication skills, budgeting, and a willingness to do what it takes to get the business off the ground. “Anybody can be an entrepreneur. It takes belief in what you’re doing. Get out there and network. Join different organizations. Let them know who you are. Get familiar with social media. If you want to promote anything that you’re building, it has to be done online. That’s why it’s a good idea to work for somebody else. You can learn those skills using someone else’s resources.”
Returning to work after divorce provides not only economic benefits but personal benefits for both mothers and their kids. Growing your career will take time and effort but at the end of the day, you’re heading in the right direction.
Beth Cone Kramer is a journalist and co-founder of Divorce.ly, a program to help women transform divorce into personal triumph.