Everyday Champion Series: Fishy Crackers and Wine; A Single Mom’s Survival Guide

I’m delighted to introduce our third Everyday Champion, Christa Tucker. I was first introduced to Christa on paper in 2016 when I reviewed her submission for a Young Women in Energy Award. As a recent member to the mom-club, this woman was a standout to me; she was working, completing her MBA (distance, no less) and doing so as a single mom (her son was barely one when she started). I was barely surviving this parenting business with a supportive spouse.

Christa’s story stuck. When I decided to revitalize the Everyday Champion Series with a focus on parents, I thought: I need to connect with Christa. So I emailed stalked her (as she doesn’t really know me from a hole in the wall) and thankfully, she agreed to write.

Without any further ado…Christa.

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Christa-27 (2).jpg
Christa and her sweet baby boy.

So many people have asked me, “How did you do it?! Baby, work, single mom, and still get your MBA?”

My typical reply, “Fishy crackers and wine.” No word of a lie.

It was a perfect storm…balancing baby, transitioning from maternity leave back to work, crumbling marriage….why not throw an MBA in there too, right?!

A week after I had accepted a spot in the Queen’s Accelerated MBA program, I found out I was el prego.  Something that I had desperately wanted and was actively trying for but until that point seemed like only a dream. Hmm…I debated for a while…maybe I could do both?? Then I gave my head a good shake (thankfully in hindsight!) and made the decision to defer for a year. I would tackle that challenge after tackling being a mom for the first time.

Fast forward 18 months later: I was on the tail end of my maternity leave and starting to feel more like a human again (Amen!).  Just as I was starting to revive, I started my MBA program with two weeks of pure hell in Kingston, Ontario. They say if you can survive the first on campus session of the program, you are golden. I believe this to be true.

I arrived in Kingston with The Boss: a cute and cuddly but VERY demanding 10 month old who would rather starve to death than stoop to the level of taking a bottle *GASP*.  I will be forever grateful to my mother in law who graciously offered to come and help wrangle The Boss. She recently passed and I fondly reflect on this time spent together and the support she provided to help get me through.

The program was designed to be a heavy workload but balanced with some fun activities to relieve some stress. While my classmates were participating in fitness testing, sailing lessons and dodge ball, I was racing to and from class to squeeze in a quick breastfeeding sesh with The Boss.  To make things worse, my son and I both came down with the flu. I have never been so sick. I recall lying down in the shower one morning for a quick rest and cry-fest, just the boost I needed to pick myself up and get to class. It wasn’t pretty, but we did it.

The duration of the MBA program was team based, and I was incredibly fortunate to have the best team. I was the only one with a child, but they were so supportive and accommodating. Team meetings were often conducted after The Boss’ bedtime. Meetings were held over Skype so I could stay home. I knew that any extra help or flexibility I required would be there.

The support I also received from my work and direct leaders made a huge impact. I was encouraged to reduce to a 4-day work week upon my return from maternity leave, they allowed flexible work hours, and provided significant financial support to cover the cost of the program. They were invested in my future and made sure I knew it. This made all the difference adjusting to the new normal of being a working mom in a busy role, racing against the clock to pick up the The Boss from dayhome, and finding time for school.

I would love to say that the biggest support came from my partner in marriage and life. Unfortunately, life doesn’t pan out the way you hope and dream sometimes. He was well down the path of starting a new life even before my MBA program started…thanks for the memo! When times got tough, I assumed we would turn towards each other instead of away. Unknowingly, I was talking to the back of his head! Marriage counselling followed by a separation mid-program was icing on the cake. Boundaries, respect, trust and the truth were put to the ultimate test.

It was definitely a dark time.

My family was my saving grace. I’m usually a very private person and don’t share a lot beyond my small band of trusted confidants, but I got to the point where I had to step outside of myself and objectively assess the gong-show that was suddenly my love life and think: this shit is entertaining in an “I honestly can’t believe this is my life” and “this could be an episode of Jerry Springer” kind of way. I was laughing through the tears. I thought, I may as well find the humour in it or I may get lost in the dark. This is the most devastating thing I have been through thus far, but I know I am stronger for it. In a funny way, the timing for doing my MBA was perfect; it was a welcomed reprieve and positive force during such a trying time.

I’m happy and proud to say I am writing this on the other side of the storm and I am thankful for the life experience.

Here’s a few nuggets that I gleaned moving through this period of highs and lows. I hope you find them helpful, whatever journey you are on.

  • Don’t back down from a challenge. You are badass and can accomplish anything by breaking it down one piece at a time until viola, you’ve done it!
  • Discipline. Regardless of my fatigue level I trudged down to my computer after putting The Boss to bed to meet my obligations (wine and fishy crackers in hand).
  • Let go of perfection. Sometime it’s just about survival!
  • You can have it all, just not all at the same time (it’s true). Be patient that things will come together in time.
  • Don’t take the opportunity for granted. Appreciate what has been afforded to you.
  • Watch your worry. Understand that worrying about tomorrow is going to ruin your today (and take away your focus from passing your statistics exam or wiping your baby’s butt – ha!).
  • Accept help. Take help from family, classmates, work and make peace with the accommodations required without feeling inadequate.

And when all else fails…try fishy crackers and wine…

Christa

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Thank you, Christa, for being vulnerable and sharing your experience as single momma completing her MBA (while working, geesh). You are truly an everyday champion.

M

Check out previous posts in the Everyday Champion Series here and here and here

Interested in learning more unique and useful parenting strategies? Check out Live It Active’s upcoming Speaker Series, Discovering the Inner (and Awesome) Parent in You.

Check out and subscribe to my YouTube Channel, Mom(me)Thinks.

 

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