Shelley in London writes:
Will things ever get better? I am a single mother and since my divorce 5 years ago, I have found it very difficult to survive financially and emotionally. My lifestyle has, of course, changed like other divorced spouses, from living a fairly affluent middle class life while I was married, to finally having to quit my two jobs and go on welfare benefits as my child has special needs and I have no relatives in England.
Through all of this, there have been many victories. I fought and won a court case for my son to get extra help at school, and he has had excellent assistants and teachers who have given him lots of support. I had the opportunity to start a Master’s degree, which I have always wanted to do. And I have the time now to help my son and do artwork, which I love.
However, I have a horrible job reference that resulted from having to juggle my son’s therapy and work at the same time. My supervisors were kind at first, but they also report they had “managerial issues” with me, though I tried as hard as I could to fulfill my work responsibilities… So I’m staying on benefits while trying to volunteer so I can get new references, yet I can’t seem to get back into my old profession again – the bad experience seems to stick. It is a small world here in my profession.
Things were looking up as I finally moved out of my problematic apartment to a nicer one that was more affordable. I went on vacation this summer, though, and came back to a damaged apartment, as a fire had started in the neighbour’s ceiling downstairs… And I have to fight for repairs to be done.
I am trying to be positive, but find all of this to be the last straw. I imagine myself and my son in a nice place one day, with a new partner, a new profession and with love and an abundant life. Am I wrong? Will this happen any time soon? Thanks for listening.
You’ve got a loving heart and a spunky spirit, and both are going to come in quite handy over the next two years. You are on a path of change.
While you will still have to battle over the repairs to your home, eventually your apartment will be restored. It doesn’t look as if there is a move in your immediate future, so there is little you can do but continue to navigate through this unpleasant process. Keep in mind that all this chaos is temporary, and things will settle into normality once more.
Your professional record is marred, and that is something you must accept. You have a larger responsibility than many parents, because of your son’s problems. I can see that you did your best, as exhausting as it was to juggle your personal and professional obligations. However, you worked for a faceless entity that strives to run as a well-oiled machine. Human understanding and compassion has little place in that world. It’s all about the job, the performance – and bottom line. Because you were offered flexibility – and there were often times that you needed more flexibility due to your son’s needs and schedule – there technically were managerial issues. You were contracted to do a job to the company’s specifications, and you couldn’t fulfill your obligations as well as someone might who has a less complicated life. End of story… it’s strictly business.
However, there are ways of working around a substandard reference. When you are enquiring about or applying for any openings in your field, make your CV (resume) shine – and be honest and upfront. Use your opening statement to highlight your professional strengths, and step across the line of normal form by including a paragraph that indicates you have a less-than-glowing reference because you have a special-needs child.
Push the boundaries by further offering your services on a contract basis, outlining how this would be a mutually beneficial arrangement – because you need flexibility, and the company can acquire a pro with less red tape and obligations attached than if they were to fill the slot with a standard employee. Be honest and creative, but not needy or dramatic. Put effort into researching each opportunity, and tailor your statements and explanations so that they will be appealing. It will take time, but you will eventually start being considered and interviewed. Sometimes, you just have step outside of the box.
Keep volunteering, networking, and follow through with furthering your education. Much of the life you dream about will come to you through your own sweat, blood, tears and ingenuity. Some days it will seem like an uphill battle, but that only makes each victory the sweeter. You will create your own professional niche, and do well for yourself on the monetary plane. Love will come, and so will the nice house. You will understand in time that the challenges and setbacks you are currently working through are what will create the opportunities that are headed your way.