Can you be a CEO and solo parent?

It might be easier than you think

Photo by Anna Samoylova on Unsplash

Solo parenting — any parenting is not always easy. However, it may be a whole lot easier than your mind may tell you it should be. The choice is yours to see your role as a parent as a horrid, gruelling punishment of your sins and bad choices OR a blessing full of many and varied life lessons and opportunities. I choose the latter.

Solo-parenting can actually be quite rewarding no matter what your work role is. Personally, I find the stimulation of work as something to keep me connected with the world. And let’s face it, work is easier than parenting any day.

Leaving my (former) husband was a necessity. I had only been in my CEO role for a few months when his final burst of crazy made it impossible to continue the relationship.

I did have a choice though. I could continue the role and learn how to solo parent at the same time. Or I could step down. I held my breath, put my head down and forged forward.

Despite the views of some it was not my selfish hunger for my career (and I no longer think that’s a bad thing by the way) that drove me forward. It was (a) a last ditch grab to hang onto ‘normal’ (b) somewhere within myself I knew that I’d regret passing up the opportunity in the future and (c) there was a financial necessity to forge on.

I’m parenting three teenagers. By myself. I’m a CEO of a regional company and Director of my company. I live on a 5acre ‘pretend’ farm — Life is busy. But it’s good.

By day I’m a CEO being oh so important in decision making meetings, influencing decisions for my region to the best of my ability, inventing solutions for complex problems and having meetings… SO. Many. Meetings.

By afternoon I’m a mum-uber and on the weekends I get to continue my driving moonlighting as I take one teen to one of her two jobs (or volunteer work) and the other to various friend adventures. The eldest has his licence so rather than drive him around I just get to worry that he’s arrived OK (yes, that’s a choice too, I know). And then there’s the groceries, the cooking, the washing, the appointments (thank goodness my children are mostly healthy), the complaints department (which is alive and thriving I may add) and the negotiating. Let me tell you, the business leaders I work with have nothing on the negotiation skills of my kids.

My middle child reminds me when I groan about ANOTHER late night shift she’s signed onto “But mum, you’re all about employment for young people. You shouldn’t complain”. And she’s right which makes it even more ironic.

But it works for us. Right now.

Life with my former husband was chaotic and unpredictable. I am thankful for the peace that is now in our house. This sense of peace and my gratitude for it are important components of my day to day motivation. But there’s more that makes this family tick;

  • Acceptance. I accept this is my life and I am determined to make the most of it. Some days I get annoyed with myself for poor life choices — but that’s what’s happened. I cannot change the past. I’m grateful for our life, our health and our ability to grow.
  • I’ll admit I’m not by nature one of the most organised people so I needed an organisational system that my whole family can work with. It’s a set of physical tools and habits that gets us through. I keep a paper diary for home and work and a digital diary for work which highlights personal appointments as necessary. We also keep a family diary on the wall where the kids are hounded to put in their various excursions, appointments, work roster and anything else.
  • Having limited time has made me skill up in areas such as business writing. I can put reports together with lightening speed, I write meeting minutes IN the meeting and constantly find myself on the lookout for tools to automate my work enabling me to be more productive on my creative skill set be that thinking through new programs, solutions to problems or building new networks.
  • Costumes. Sounds weird right? But there’s something about putting on my work ‘costume’ that makes me ready for the role. Get those heals on and I’m ready for that day. But there is always a pair of thongs in the car and yes, I have been known to traipse around the supermarket wearing suit plus thongs (that is footwear for my non Aussie readers).
  • The right people around — lean into the fact that the quality of your life will be very much determined by the people you spend most of your time with. As my psyche morphed from the person who tolerated the many and varied exploits of my former husband I mentally raised the bar on the people I invested my time in. Life is so much better with people who lift you up.
  • Outsourcing. My friend Rosemary says that ‘whatever you don’t want to do there’s someone else out there dying to do it’. Living that philosophy has enabled me to outsource a multitude of things and to get to know some really awesome people. House cleaning was most certainly been my greatest triumph in this area and despite any belief associated with this it just makes our home work oh, so, much better.
  • Asking for help None of this would have been possible without the support of my mum and step-dad who came in when I had to travel for work, or when there was something fiddly around the house I couldn’t sort out. And yes, this is different to outsourcing and often more challenging because asking for help isn’t always easy.
  • Flexibility. Perhaps the most important aspect of the workability of my situation is flexibility. Flexibility in my attitudes, I teach my children flexibility and my workplace is (very) flexible.

Are there still ‘those’ days? Of course there are. The days my diary becomes simply impossible and someone has to compromise. The days where I have a work trip coming up and I sit in the car sobbing, the days I’m juggling a radio interview and a lost school shoe. Oh yeah — the days that build character.

This October (2020) I’ll have been doing this dance for four years. My eldest moves on to University in a few weeks and it will just be the girls and I. I’m proud of myself for sticking it out and quite openly tell people that the job really enabled me to step up and into the person I’m pretty pleased to be today (and believe me that’s a tough thing for an Aussie to say — tall poppy syndrome is well and truly living here). I note my kids all have big plans for their future (including their relationships), we get along (which I feel is an achievement within itself) and I’m OK and growing.

Can you be a CEO and solo parent?

Abso-freakin-loutely !

Kerry Grace: Exploring the human condition and what it takes to lead collaborative and future-proof communities.

Economic and community development practitioner. Useful tips for people who DO.

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