If you travel by air, you’ve heard this safety message before take-off. They say: “In the event of a loss of cabin pressure, oxygen masks will automatically appear from the overhead bins. Place a mask over your nose and mouth and breathe normally. If you have young children with you, place the mask on yourself before assisting them.”
How could we ever save ourselves before saving our children? Aren’t we supposed to take care of our children above all else?I think we live in a nation of altruists. Maybe I’m lucky in that I meet so many nice people. This is especially true of single Moms.
Here’s a typical scenario: A single Mom, unemployed, approaches me for career counseling. As we begin to get acquainted she shares with me that she wants to work for a not for profit. She says that she has been volunteering at two charity organizations and I discover that she is spending 15 – 20 hours per week doing charitable work. Meantime, back in her home she is taking care of her school age children, chauffeuring them around extracurricular activities. She has gone through a grinding, contentious divorce. She is somehow keeping it all together but she is still unemployed and without a plan. Financially destitute because her deadbeat ex-husband is four months behind in child support, her savings are gone and she is asking her parents for financial help or she’ll lose her house.
This scenario and others much worse is frighteningly frequent in seemingly affluent, suburban neighborhoods.The point is that she is giving away even more of herself, giving away oxygen she doesn’t have. She wants to be a “good Mom” for her children and for others. Now she’s desperately broke and exhausted.Can we give away what we don’t have? Giving away her time is debiting her own account, which is overdrawn.
My counsel to her and others in similar circumstances is that the charity and volunteer work have to be reduced or postponed. She needs to spend more time looking for gainful employment. This also means that others including her children have to be enlisted to tasks at hand. Children who are old enough should take on part time jobs and contribute towards their own expenses. For children too young to work, she must sit down with them and make it clear Mommy is not the housemaid, that they have their own chores to do (I distinctly remember when I was 12, I had to hand wash all my socks and underwear in the bathtub so we could save 25 cents for a load of wash).Unemployed? Then let others know that you are laying out a strategy and tactics to land a job, enlist their support to get some cash flow started and begin financial stabilization.
Place the mask on yourself before assisting others.