New year. New job?

by mssinglemama on January 14, 2012

Three years ago this May I quit my day job.

Some of you called me crazy, but most of you were cheering me on. I was “crazy” I guess. I left a solid career at a solid advertising agency during a recession to chase a dream of working for myself. Why? Because I was tired of trying to fit their rigid, corporate structure – and all of the bull that comes with it – into my life as a single mother. Try explaining 9-5 to a two year old who needs you more than anything in the world. And try explaining to a typical boss that motherhood is more important than their bottom line.

There was also the memory of my first boss and mentor walking out of our radio newsroom with a pile of boxes in his hands after he had been fired (for no good reason at all).

“Remember,” he said, “this is what they do to you after 16 years.” Watching him being forced to leave something he loved because he didn’t follow their rules was the most valuable lesson he every taught me.

There was also writing on the wall at my ad agency. They were trying to “accommodate” all of this “digital stuff.” Clearly they were missing the boat entirely and I was on their boat. It was the perfect time for me to break out on my own and seize an opportunity to offer my own clients what they clearly could not. Cement Marketing is the result. I work just as hard, but on my own schedule.

Even though I had a) motivation and b) a goal and a plan – it was still the most frightening thing I’d ever done (next to leaving my ex husband with a four month old). Funny how “leaving” things or “quitting” things that aren’t good for you can feel so right, isn’t it?

So many of you have asked me over the years to write about starting your own business as a single mom. I didn’t even know where to start… it would require another blog entirely. So, I turned to Jennifer Foss, aka Job Jenny. We met when we were both new single mom bloggers. Today, her website is bursting with resources and she’ll even help you re-design your resume and advise you on what career path you should choose.

I asked her to write about finding a new job in the new year…Limits Shmimits: On how I turned a potential disaster into a fresh career (and life) start.

By Jenny Foss
About eight years ago, I was enticed. Not by a man, mind you. Nope, I was enticed to make a fairly dramatic career shift ? from corporate communications director to (drum roll…) recruiter.

That’s right. In late 2004, after many months of unrest and unfulfillment in a safe, well-paying corporate management role, I ditched to go learn how to be a headhunter, effectively cutting my base salary by about 2/3rds.

Yes, many questioned my sanity. Of course they did.

But I found it exhilarating. And frankly? Not very dangerous. At that time, I was a single working professional. No kids, not a lot of gun-to-your-head financial responsibility. What could possibly go wrong, right?

The answer to that smacked me in the head in the spring of 2005. Just as I began to get traction in my new (and demanding) profession, I found out that I was (quite unexpectedly) expecting. My long-term partner was stunned as well, to say the least.

I’ll spare everyone the agony of how the next several months unfolded, but the net result was my becoming a single mom in late 2005.

Here’s where the potential disaster comes in.

While I loved the field of recruiting, it was admittedly grueling keeping up with the demands of a recruiting agency, learning to be a mom AND performing to a level that kept a baby happy and commission checks rolling in the door.

Simply put, it sucked.

I’d come home from work in tears because I felt like I was doing everything half-assed, and getting nowhere in the process. I wanted to excel at both parenting and in my career, and I was floundering at both.

And this is when I realized I had but once choice: Reinvent, again.

This time, the reinvention didn’t involve a change in my chosen field, but it certainly was a big gamble: I decided to launch my own recruiting agency. Right there in the middle of my financial strain, emotional upheaval and uncertainly over how the hell to be a mom, I decided to launch a business.


  • I knew I’d lose my mind trying to be a great parent while keeping up with the demands of 9-5 employment.
  • I was hell-bent on earning an income that didn’t just keep our family afloat, but allowed us to THRIVE.
  • I wanted my daughter to be proud of her mom.
  • I’d just weathered an incredibly difficult life event, and needed to prove to myself I could do something amazing.

And so in late 2005, I announced my resignation from the “day job,” took out a loan that would keep us going for a few months, and I launched Ladder Recruiting Group, LLC.

And then I ran like hell.  After three terrifying months, I closed my first deal, and never looked back.

In the five years that have followed:

  • I’ve met and married the most wonderful (and unlikely – he lived 2,800 miles away when I met him) man. (This, btw, I have Ms. Single Mama to thank for, but that’s an ENTIRELY different tale for another day);
  • I’ve launched a career coaching and resume writing business/blog (which you’ll find over at; and
  • I’ve become really damned good at being both a mom and an entrepreneur (Most of the time. I screw it all up some days, I do.)

And so the moral of this story? I have four:

  1. Don’t let life’s curveballs scare you into believing you can’t do big, daring things.
  2. Show yourself, show your children, show the world what you’re made of.
  3. Even small victories can give you momentum and audacity to pull off bigger wins. And,
  4. Costco chicken pot pie and a bagged Caesar salad totally counts as a home-cooked dinner.

Go big in 2012, single mamas. You’ve got everything it takes to make this your year.

Jenny Foss operates an independent recruiting firm, Ladder Recruiting Group, and is creator of the blog Your job search BFF and tough love expert on finding career passion, Jenny is also the author of To Whom It May Concern: Or, How to Stop Sucking at Your Job Search. You may Jenny on Twitter @JobJenny.

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{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

Ericaerica January 14, 2012 at 5:16 pm

Jenny and Alana, Just answer one question, pks…health insurance? I have a newborn plus two other kids and no financial support or insurance support from the ex. I am ready to leap into my own independent consulting gig but I keep hearing health insurance is a major barrier. Could you recommend a company/resource? Thanks for this inspiring post!!!


mssinglemama January 15, 2012 at 9:06 am

Erica – my health insurance at my FT job (for Benjamin and I) was about $150 each month – when I quit and sought out independent health insurance (super easy) it was about $225 per month. So, a $75.00 difference. The cost of health insurance is one of the biggest myths of breaking out on your own. I was SO surprised at how you could easily and inexpensively buy your own.


Jean January 16, 2012 at 4:34 pm

Hmmm….that was certainly not my experience. Health insurance for the 4 of us was well over $1000/month and then you had to pay a large deductible ($5000) and then it only covered 80%. If I had been in a car accident or been diagnosed with cancer, it could have bankrupted our family. As it was, I had a few health problems as did my son, and I ended up owing over $8000 in a few months time. I am now back to working for a large company with good health benefits (and retirement, and tuition). I sleep a lot better at night.


Anna January 14, 2012 at 10:34 pm

I’m ready. Been doing what I do for 15 years, and I need a change. I know what I wanna do, but getting a job where I want to be is a challenge. And one with benefits because of my son’ special needs is an even bigger challenge. But I’m not scared. I’ll get there one way or another (although it may be 2013 before I do)!!


Jenny January 15, 2012 at 12:29 am

@Ericaerica — Talk to an independent health insurance broker in your state – someone who will shop around for the right policy for you and your family. Admittedly, our health benefits aren’t as robust (and the deductible is higher) than when I was a corporate manager, but it’s a lot more affordable than many people think it will be. Also, as an entrpreneur, you can write off the premiums as a business expense.

Fear of benefits holds a lot of people back from entrepreneurial dreams. I’d absolutely take the time to investigate options before you assume it will be a deal breaker!


Hydrangea January 17, 2012 at 12:31 pm

I am in the process of making a huge career change myself! Not starting my own business (I’m not of the entrepreneurial spirit personally) but completely changing careers- following my dream after not being able to for so many years. It’s hard as hell and most people probably think I’m insane (although they wouldn’t dare tell this to my face) because I’m leaving the safe corporate world with it’s awesome perks: retirement plans, health benefits, 4 weeks of paid vacation, etc etc to become a veterinarian. I’m taking pre-requisites at school which is incredibly difficult to juggle as a single mom working full time and because the courses are really hard (o-chem, ugh) but the pay off will be awesome and I’ll be much more fulfilled on a personal and professional level. I know I’m setting a positive example for my daughter in this respect. Not only showing her that she can always follow her dreams no matter what but also to believe in yourself. Just like with Jenny, it seems propsterous to start over in these unstable economic times, but you gotta go where your heart leads you- and that should apply to everything in your life!


Lindsey January 17, 2012 at 2:22 pm

I have Tweeted and asked around many times to find single Moms that started their own successful companies on their own! No response! Lots of Mom’s with great companies but there seems to be a working husband/partner to help out.

I’m a single self-employed Mom successfully managing but it’s not really a ‘design company’ so I tend to not count myself… This is great inspiration ladies for all the Mom’s out there thinking it can’t be done!

We rock.


Jenny Foss January 20, 2012 at 11:41 pm

Single moms do rock. We prove our super powers, often out of necessity, and this lends very well to entrepreneurism!


susan January 17, 2012 at 4:34 pm

It can be done! Yes it’s hard. Yes you’ll have days of wondering why you’re trying so hard and not really seeing any results. But have a plan, and slowly surely you can get there.
I don’t think though that the answer is to have a plan and STICK TO IT. It’s far better to have a plan and keep checking in on it, reviewing it, evolving it and growing it.
I have been in business mentoring for 9 years now – some contracting, some regular wages, some private clients, and it’s a great mix. There’s a lot of juggling (single mother, 2 young kids) but ultimately worth it. And now my children also see their Mum being independent, financially supportive and happy in a life that isn’t just about them. Can’t beat that.


znakomstva January 18, 2012 at 11:05 am

After reading the challenging tale of singlemama I am just taken back. I really appreciate the boldness to face life in a very different angle. Today this moment I also have decided to leave my day job and follow your path. Thanks for your valuable suggestions on business.


znakomstva January 18, 2012 at 11:11 am

After reading the challenging tale of singlemama I am just taken back. I really appreciate the boldness to face life in a very different angle. Today this moment I also have decided to leave my day job and follow your path. Thanks for your valuable suggestions on business.


DatingDaddy January 18, 2012 at 11:25 am

Hi Jenny, you look great. I wonder how such a beautiful woman could be so strong. Wish you all the best in your life. I got to give a link to your story to the visitors of my own site


Jenny Foss January 20, 2012 at 11:42 pm

LOL! Thanks, @DatingDaddy!


kris January 18, 2012 at 11:43 am

I too decided to open my open business while going through a divorce with a new baby. Best decision of my life! “Show yourself, show your children, show the world what you’re made of.” Pretty much sums it up!


NewStart January 20, 2012 at 12:25 pm

I am on the cusp of starting a new business and currently going through a divorce. I work at a job that does have benefits but does not pay well. I carry the kids and myself too. I lay at night and hear the opportunity calling and stay frozen with hope and fear at the same time. I had the same feeling before leaving my husband after finding out he was having an affair. I was scared to leave and scared to stay. I have found new breathe with my choice of leaving him and can’t wait to jump into my new venture. If I fail, I fail. I have a strong feeling that I won’t. If I do not try I will be letting myself down. Thank you for you guidance and blog.


Heather January 20, 2012 at 4:22 pm

Exactly what I needed to hear today. I’m working on launching my own im company and you are a total inspiration, as always. 🙂


~Monica January 20, 2012 at 6:08 pm

I’m a single mom and I am in the process of starting my own handmade crafting & art business. I thankfully have financial backing in the form of an inheritance I received when my Mom passed away but it’s not going to last forever so I’m going to work my ass off to make sure that in a year, I’m well on my way. I would LOVE to have a resource or place of connection for single mom entrepreneurs! Almost all the women I know (with a child or children to support) who are creative entrepreneur’s are NOT single moms. Sometimes I feel like I’m alone … but then again, I’m not even like most single moms anyway because I have financial backing right now and I own my own house outright so there is no mortgage to pay (but there ARE bills/utilities/property taxes & upkeep to pay).

Please send any resources or fabulous blogs on this topic my way! <3


KQ January 20, 2012 at 9:25 pm

While I haven’t been inhabited by the entrepreneurial spirit, I’m about to start grad school after years of delays…So often people use “single mom” like it’s a negative way to define us. I think it’s pretty awesome that we can take care of the children, the home, the finances and try something brave to better ourselves and care for the family!

If you’re looking for independent health coverage, also check with your state’s program. My state has something designed for self-employed/small business people that has pretty decent rates, because statewide they can get a lot of people on board. It’s designed to get people off the state Medicaid who can afford coverage, and when my former employer looked at it, the coverage was pretty decent.


Bodie P January 23, 2012 at 4:58 pm

Wow! I’m delighted to read these stories. I, too quit a “safe” job strike out on my own as a new mother. In my case, I took the work I had been doing (design) and turned it into a business I could do from anywhere. That was fifteen years ago. My son is now 6’5″, a killer tubist, a developing football player, a sterling mathematician, and the kid every little kid in town says “hi” to. And he says “hi” back. These years have been some of the scariest, happiest, and most exciting years of my life. I’ve evolved from straight design to illustration to design/illustration, to design/illustration/writing–I just published a memoir about being a single mom in business for herself. Making the best choice for myself and my son wasn’t the “smart” choice. It was dangerous, and risky, and I heard a lot about how I needed to put my son in daycare and get a “real” job. But you know what? I wouldn’t trade our life for anything.


Amanda January 25, 2012 at 5:18 pm

This came at the perfect time in my life! I’m a single mama to an amazing 2 year old, and have been trying long and hard to get my business on it’s feet because the 9-5 schedule is just ridiculous for a single mom. I’ve been down on myself lately because it’s been tough, but this is the little extra encouragement I needed!


Bodie P January 28, 2012 at 6:57 pm

Good luck, Amanda–it’s not easy having your own business, but the trade-offs are wonderful–you can be home and raise your own child, and when school starts you’ll have the flexibility to do fieldtrips, volunteer if you like–and actually be present in your child’s life. The downside is that there will be a lot of late nights, and there will still be times when business has to come first. I recommend finding a kind, loving person who can do “drop-in” daycare for you when your child is small (it’s necessary for meetings and things).


anton August 6, 2012 at 4:15 pm

I really love this one..Looking for partners? Why don’t you try this site?


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