Confessions of a Single Mom With Cancer Entry #16

I’ve said it before but being diagnosed with cancer makes you very reflective on how you’ve lived and are living your life. When I started looking back, I had to admit:

16. I have some regrets.

It’s hard to say that because it carries such a negative weight with it. But if you’ve lived at all, I’d bet you can say this.

I have some big regrets and some small ones. Some of them are things I wish I would have done, some are things I wish I wouldn’t have done or done differently. All of them come from choices and decisions I made. They are things like:

I wish I hadn’t been so anxious to start working and would have gone to live in California or overseas right after college.

I wish I would have married young and for love.

I wish I would have pursued singing more seriously.

I wish my kids were growing up in a more traditional family structure.

I wish I would have finished my masters.

That’s just a sampling. There are others. But when I start thinking about these things I look back on them and realize the flip side of any of these situations would have had consequences and likely a different set of regrets. I understand that the grass is not greener on the other side. It’s just different. I also know that many of the choices I did make had wonderful results that I may have missed out on if I had done things differently.

Some of my regrets were really just flat out mistakes – bad choices or decisions. But everyone agrees we can learn a lot from our mistakes. As I’ve become more willingly to be vulnerable, I think I’m learning a lot from my regrets too. But if we focus on them too much, they can create sorrow. They can also create envy. This state of reflection has sometimes created more envy in me than I had before cancer. Not wondering why I got cancer instead of someone else, but wanting to have some things in my life that I haven’t yet, before it’s too late. So I have to work on not coveting now, more than before. I have to work on being faithful that those things will come.

I can’t aspire to the idea of living life without regrets. I have them. But, I’ve decided what I can do is try to live going FORWARD not creating new regrets.

This means facing some of my old choices and trying to be sure I don’t repeat them. It means really acknowledging what I want and not accepting anything short of that. It means taking counsel with people I know love me, even when I’m afraid they won’t agree with me. It means taking more risks. It means following through. It means believing in myself and a great plan for my life….without the burden of NEW regrets.

So, yeh, I have some regrets, and I think that’s ok.

Do It Your Way!

Randomly, this post is related to Bruno Mars. I saw him in concert the other night and I have to say, he was great. Even better, he was authentic and frankly, that was refreshing. You can say he reminds you of Michael Jackson or anyone else, but you get the feeling he was inspired by them, not that he was trying to be them.

So, that’s the tip today for us single mom’s trying to lean in. Do it your way! You may have been inspired by managers or leaders you’ve worked with, but when you find your right rhythm that’s perfect for you, that’s when you’ll be able to accomplish more and be happier doing it.

What does this mean at work? I’ve mentored a few women in my career and eventually, I usually hear the comment, “but I’m not you.” And that is true. What I do works for me because it’s authentic and true to who I am. But I find so many women who are afraid to be themselves at work. They believe their real personality isn’t professional enough, doesn’t seem powerful enough, isn’t manly enough. I once had a woman who worked for me who was very quiet in meetings. She rarely shared her opinion and people tagged her as an introvert. However, when I had the chance to go to lunch with her, I found a very outgoing, opinionated, funny person. I of course brought this contrast up to her and she told me she didn’t want to seem overbearing or threatening to people. And I understand that, but her choice to hide the real her didn’t result in anything better. When I left that job for a new opportunity, my advice I left her with was to find a way to blend her true personality into her work personality. I hope she has because people like people who are authentic and consistent.

At home, this translates into ‘not keeping up with the Joneses’! Comparing yourself to another mom, single or married is a futile exercise. What we all know is that no one’s life is perfect. But the good news is your kids were made perfectly for you. They were built to stand up to your crazy schedule, traveling, late night projects, and multi-tasking. You may eat out a few more times than you should and they may miss their bedtime more often than you like, but if you accept your way of life, they will too. If you show them that your way is okay too, even if it’s different from their friends, you will teach them one of the most valuable lessons they can learn…to love themselves and be grateful for the life they’ve been given.

Now that’s how single mom’s lean in!

Inspiration

The best thing about inspiration is it can come from anywhere at anytime. It also can be just what you needed even though you didn’t know you needed anything.

I went to an event tonight where I was inspired. I was inspired by art, by the artist and his passion to do more than just art, by the people surrounding the project who want to get outside of themselves and make a difference, by a young single mom just trying to do her very best. It struck me as odd that this eclectic gathering could make me feel so much, but that’s what I think we can learn from.

It is likely, that you are an inspiration. It’s also likely that you don’t even know it. But I would challenge you to be more conscious of it.

Encouragement and inspiration are like cousins. We often recognize when we are encouraging someone because it is something we are engaging in. But many people inspire someone without trying or knowing that’s what they’re doing. How do the two differ? I think we inspire one another by sharing ourselves. When we open a window into our lives and let others see into our private world, they can walk away believing they can do it too, whatever it is. It’s showing, not saying, that gives us all hope. That is the root of inspiration, the seed of what you can do or be.

So show people how to live a full, balanced, leaning in kind of life. Watching you face and overcome challenges may make a difference in their life and the lives of those around them. Being a single mom, you know how much you need that inspiration, sometimes just to face the next day. So why not be that for someone else?

That’s how single mom’s leaning in!

Cut Yourself Some Slack!

I’ve slacked off! Not at some point, last week! It’s officially been a week since my last post which is the longest I’ve gone since I started The Single Mom’s Guide to Leaning In.

But the truth is, I was busy! I was at a conference, took the kids to Disney, got one ready to send off to overnight camp all in the midst of my floors being redone and my house being in complete shambles!

There were things I should have done, needed to do and wanted to do, but sometimes you have to understand, you can’t do everything. And frankly, most of it was still sitting there waiting for me this morning.

So how do I get myself comfortable with letting a ball drop here or there? I cut myself some slack! That’s the single mom’s lean in! Tip of the day!

We are our own worst enemy. We keep the ‘to do’ list running in our head. We taunt ourselves if we don’t think we can finish something. We fret over what others will say or do if we don’t respond or deliver when they want us to.

So much of what we do or don’t do is not life threatening, at home and work. We hold ourselves at times to unrealistic standards, which means we’ll never be happy with ourselves. This feeling can lead us down a very negative path. So how do you learn to cut yourself some slack?

1. Surround yourself with people who applaud you for what you do.
2. Prioritize what needs to get done so you can feel comfortable with not checking off some of the things on the bottom of the list.
3. Keep things in perspective. (In most cases, the world will not come to an end if you don’t complete the task.)
4. Change the voices in your head. (Instead of beating yourself up about what you haven’t done. Congratulate yourself for what you have accomplished.)
5. Lean In! What you do get done, knock it out of the park!

That’s right. Lean In! Last week, I didn’t get everything done that I wanted to but I leaned in. I came back with great new ideas for my team and I to pursue for the company. I created great memories with my kids. I prepared my daughter for an incredible experience and I got one step closer to having a livable house again. I did a lot, but there’s still much to be done. There always will be. So, cut yourself some slack.

Toot your own horn!

I believe humility is an important characteristic. I also believe you can over do it and that you must know when you need to be a little less humble.

How do you over do it?
It’s the definition of a martyr. Telling everyone all the time that all the things you do are no big deal, that nothing is a problem.

When do you need to be less humble?
When there’s a risk of people taking advantage of you or under-appreciating you. I know how hard you work and I know you probably make it look easy. This is why you have to learn to toot your own horn.

So, how do you do it and remain likable?
1. Say it jokingly. Example: Your boss says, “I don’t know what we would have done with out you.” You say, “I was just thinking the same thing, just kidding. It really was a team effort.” You probably mean the last part, but you reiterate the first part in your joke.

2. Point out facts of accomplishments that have had a positive impact. Example: I’m glad to see the new communication plan we implemented is working. We’ve received 50% more requests this month, which is a new record.

If you really are doing a good job, people are probably noticing. You may just need to remind them. Hopefully these techniques will work!

That’s how single mom’s lean in!

Happy Father’s Day Single Working Moms!

Maybe it’s a little strange to be starting a mom’s blog on father’s day, but, then again maybe it’s not. I think it may be the perfect day to start offering tips and techniques to single working mom’s everywhere who are working hard to do it all. So, here we go…

The Single Mom’s Guide to Leaning In was inspired in part by Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead. The book got a lot of attention. Probably because Sheryl Sandberg happens to be the COO of Facebook but I believe also because women crave information about how to be better, do more, succeed and achieve for the benefit of our families. We want to know what we need to do to be our best and it’s usually not even for us, but for those we love and care for everyday. I enjoyed the book and could definitely relate to many of the experiences Sandberg highlighted as she gave ideas to women who are trying to break through the glass ceiling at work and find their way into boardrooms and corner offices.

But something struck me in Sandberg’s book, something I’d heard before and we’ve all heard before. That thank you statement to her husband, Dave. The one that says, ‘for making everything possible’. Hmmmm….really? Was everything not possible without Dave?Could Sheryl Sandberg really not have become the COO of Facebook and a satisfied mother of 2 children without Dave?

Now this is not a criticism – I bet Dave is a great guy and an outstanding partner. It definitely seemed that way from the stories Sandberg shared in her book. But what does this mean to me a hardworking single mom trying to get the most out of her education, career, passion and commitment too? Does it mean that it’s not possible for me or any other single mom because I don’t have a Dave?

I believe too many of us may believe this. We believe that there’s no way to become the COO, CEO, President or Executive Director of a Fortune 500 company, big business or organization- unless we have a Dave. But, I think you’re wrong. I think it takes work, tricks, techniques, ideas, planning, creativity and perseverance. But I think even we, single moms, can make everything possible.

With 30% of families with children being led by a single parent and 85% of those parents being moms. We better find a way or make a way to make it possible!

I want to help you. I want to help make your dreams, plans, career ambitions and overall happiness come true. This blog is for single mom’s like me – with big jobs, big dreams, deserving kids and a lot of hope. It will give you applicable tools, techniques and tips on how to lean in at work and at home. The goal is to help you soar in the work place and achieve your goals while still providing the loving and balanced home I know you want to give your kids.

Now, this was just an introduction to what we’re going to do here. The rest of this blog will be something you can use. I’ll give examples of ways I’ve made my life easier and more effective a couple times a week, but everyday I’ll give a Single Mom’s Lean In! Tip of the Day! I want single mom’s everywhere to comment, give suggestions and speak up. This is our chance to help one another.

And maybe one day you’ll be on a stage or write a book and when you give your thank you’s, you’ll say, “To The Single Mom’s Guide to Leaning In – thanks for making everything possible!”

Happy Father’s Day – Single Moms!