This was it. I made it. This car was the symbol of my success. I’m a car girl… I like nice things and I like to drive fast, so as my career and my income grew, so did the luxuriousness of my car. In fact, I traded up 9 times between the ages of 18-35, about once every year and a half… two years was too long. Civic, Accord, Acura, Supra with the T-top, Mercedes #1- C class, Mercedes #2- CLK, Mercedes #3- CLS, Mercedes #4- CLS with the sport package and tan interior and finally… Mercedes #5 black on black CLS 63 AMG. I know what you are thinking, this sounds vain and irresponsible, but that is just it. This was the symbol of my success because I did it ON TOP OF everything else, as a single mother. You see, the real symbol of my success is my incredible daughter, a child I raised entirely on my own. The fact that I could do so without any involvement whatsoever from her father and with very inconsistent child support payments… and still live in a beach house and drive a $100,000 car… That, to me, was special.
So, how did I do it?
I started my career in property management, quickly advancing to travel the country as the company's Training Coordinator. At twenty-three, I was conducting training courses for people twice my age, often with as many years of experience as I had years on the planet. The greatest tool I had was confidence. I believed in myself so strongly, that I made others believe in me too. I was so sure of myself and my worth that I blended easily into all types of environments. And, most importantly, I remained a student at all times, learning as much as I was teaching. Those two themes continued throughout my career. I loved to teach, to empower others, but I also loved to learn.
Next, I transitioned into a Regional Manager position, again unheard of at the age of twenty-five. Concurrently, I went back to junior college, attending class one night per week and studying each night after putting my daughter to bed. From this learned the most important factor to achieving success- discipline. By making the most of every hour of every day, I was able to advance my career, spend quality time with my daughter and continue my education. We all have 24 hours in each day; it is what you do with them that determines your fate.
During my time as a Regional Property Manager, I worked with many real estate brokers who listed commercial property for sale or lease. I often worked alongside them to complete a process called “due diligence”, the gathering of information to justify the value of the asset. In one particular instance I invested many, many hours into this process. The transaction closed, and the broker earned a record high commission… To show his gratitude for my hard work, he bought me a cosmopolitan. He received about a hundred thousand dollar commission, and I received a fruity, pink cocktail. This injustice was just more fuel for my fire.
I decided not to renew my real estate sales person’s license, but instead to seek a real estate broker’s license, that way I would be considered equal to this and every other broker in my field. That way I too could earn record high commissions. Using the same method of studying for a few hours per night after putting my daughter to bed, I completed the necessary coursework, then studied for the Real Estate Broker’s exam, an exam that is akin to the CPA exam and has a 42% pass rate. Fully prepared and fueled by confidence, I passed on the first try.
A Real Estate Broker’s license made me equal to others in my industry, but it also gave me the ability to be in business for myself. In both commercial and residential real estate, all activity must be supervised by a licensed real estate broker, which I now was. So, at 29, as a single mom with an eight year old daughter, a mortgage and no reserves, I opened my own property management company.
I succeeded because I had to, I had my daughter to provide for, and because I believed I could.
Meanwhile, my younger brother asked if I would partner with him in a new business and together we started a security company. He had the gift of gab, and I had my desire to learn and teach, which quickly morphed into leadership skills. Within a few years, we merged with another security dealer and became one of the top ten ADT dealerships in the nation. Considering there were 650 dealers at the time, which was quite a feat. I was running a multi-million dollar grossing company in my early thirties.
Between the age of 29, when I started my first company, and the age of 39, when I left the security industry to start Single Mom Strong, I worked extremely hard. We had over 60 employees at our peak and I felt responsible for their livelihood. I took that responsibility very seriously. I studied human resources and leadership and worked to ensure every employee learned and excelled in their positions. I prided myself on making a positive impact on their lives AND the bottom line. There were countless nights I fell asleep working, but the money and flexibility made it all worth it, because at the same time, I was excelling in the most important job I had, my job as a mother.
Early on as a single mother, the hardships piled up. I spent many tearful hours on the phone with the Department of Child Support, before I finally gave up and realized that child support was something I wouldn’t be able to count on. But I always chose to turn adversity into motivation. I refused to be the victim in my own life story. No child support? No problem. I figured out how to live within my means and saved child support checks, when I received them, for larger one-time expenses like school clothes and holiday gifts. Eventually, as my income grew, my daughter and I used the few and far between checks like bonus checks and went on shopping sprees with them.
The one and only time I tried to receive aid of any kind, I was turned down. The program, called Child Action, was a child care subsidy that paid about half of child care expenses, based on need. I had been advancing quickly in my career, and was making enough to survive, but nowhere near enough for a woman and child to flourish on their own. I was told I made $27 per month too much to qualify.
These and many other instances could have beaten me, and they understandably overwhelm many single mothers.
But when child action denied my application, I again found a work around. It was important to me that my daughter attend pre-school, not day care, so I ended up driving 45 minutes in the wrong direction each morning and an hour through traffic each evening to take her back and forth to a pre-school that I could afford. Some of our quality time had to be spent in the car in those days, but we made the best of it.
The work-around's and sacrifices began to slow down when I started my own company. I built my schedule around my daughter’s activities and worked to be present for her. She had developed a love of soccer that monopolized our weekends and an exorbitant amount of my income… and I loved it. As a club player on a traveling team, training and travel exceeded $10,000 per year at its peak, and I was proud that I was able to afford it. Not surprisingly, I was almost always the only single mother on those sidelines, and I handled more business calls in the grass than most, but I always found a way.
I found a way to achieve my career goals and my mom goals.
And there was no greater display of that than my black on black Mercedes CLS 63 AMG, which I bought immediately after paying off my daughter’s final club soccer season. But more importantly, the greatest confirmation came directly from my daughter. In the early years of Single Mom Strong, I asked her to be featured in a video and explain what it was like to be raised by a single mother. Her response was music to my ears, “I had everything a kid could want. I didn’t notice any difference.”
Inspiration for Single Mom Strong has been drawn from its founder, Tara Taylor’s personal experience. Based on the premise that a single mother can be a professional “success” and a great parent, and the belief that neither the single mother nor her children are limited in any way by this circumstance, Single Mom Strong is:
A community, meeting the need for belonging and love for single mothers and their children
A place of empowerment: for single mothers, through education and opportunity for balance; for their children through education and positive relationships
A means for betterment: with their children in safe, quality child care, single mothers can better provide for their families and achieve personal goals