By TARA PRINGLE JEFFERSON
Sleepy and still aching from my C-section, I took a quick walk to the mailbox to get some fresh air and actually remember what it was like to feel the sun on my face. Only a week since my daughter was born and I was already going stir-crazy in the house all day.
I pulled out an envelope I got from the hospital. Thinking nothing of it, I tore it open and found a bill for $27,000. That emergency C-section and seven-day hospital stay for both mother and baby was hella expensive, it turned out.
Since I was on my mother's insurance at the time, the amount the insurance company was going to pay would only get the amount under $20K. No good.
I spent the next year dealing with the hospital billing department, going around and around about my income and answering the same questions over and over: Had I filled out this form? When did you mail that? Did you make a copy of this letter?
By my daughter's first birthday, however, I had mailed my final payment.
As we blew out her candles on her birthday cake, I made a birthday promise: that we would ALWAYS be financially secure and I would work as hard as I could to make sure of it. But I wondered, how would I actually go about fulfilling that promise? At the time, I was 21, working an entry-level PR job at a large foundation that didn't exactly have any paths for advancement. I wanted to write. I didn't want to work in PR forever. But that's what paid the bills, so PR it was.
I'm a mom now. Stability. Decent income. That became more important than me feeling fulfilled at work. So I began a blog, TheYoungMommyLife.com, as a creative outlet “ to keep me from feeling that suffocating depression you feel when your dream life is living on without you. I got to know a ton of moms who were going through the same thing and all we had was each other.
It was then I got the idea to write a book for young mothers. It was my goal to write the What to Expect When You're Expecting for the 18-28 set. Because things are different. They just are. You're dealing with fewer years of education under your belt, lower incomes, relationships in flux, etc. To pretend otherwise does a huge disservice to the women who need that information but can't get it because it hasn't been written.
But I couldn't write the book because the day job took all my time. So I shelved it. Then pulled it out again. Did some research. Then put it away when the day job came calling. Did that dance off and on for a year. Would I ever get the damn thing finished? Every day I thought about the young mothers who were ready to make positive steps, searching in vain for information and resources and feeling defeated when they couldn't find anything. I wanted to be there for them.
But then the axe came down late last year. After I had heard rumbles of money troubles in the organization, my boss called me in her office and very calmly told me I was being laid off “ effective immediately. As soon as she told me I no longer had a job, I smiled. I actually smiled while I was getting laid off. With a decent severance package and a hefty amount in savings I had amassed by being extremely frugal, I dove headfirst into my freelancing career with gusto. Did I get every assignment I went after? Nope, not even close. But I made enough (and am still making enough) to fulfill my promise to my daughter.
I also kept the blog front and center. Because I wanted my success story to be their success story. One of the first things I did was dust off my book ideas. I got to business.
I am proud to say I recently released, Make It Happen: The Young Mommy Guide To Creating The Career You Crave. I decided to write a book about career and money first as opposed to the “sexier” topics of relationships, body image and all that because a good chunk of our day-to-day life revolves around money. For a lot of us, being a stay-at-home mom isn’t really an option, even if that’s what we long to do.
So we go to work to support our families the best way we know how. Our jobs may not pay that much or we might just really feel like our job is sucking the soul right out of us. But we don’t want to complain because that job is putting food in our baby's mouth. Right?
I wanted to tell other young parents what I’ve learned over the past couple years that we own our future. Too often we feel like we’re scrambling, playing catch-up, but the truth is, we’ve got just the right combination of factors youth, motivation, drive, the new digital age that allows us to contact anyone anywhere that makes success more than just a strong possibility for us.
We can have a career that is of our making, that allows us to pay the bills and then some, that gives us a daily dose of happiness. If it sounds like poppycock to you, let me just say: I’m living it now. Other moms I know are either there or well on their way.
In the book, I help young mothers find their passion, learn to budget so they make the most of the money they earn, and give them 20 ideas for side hustles they can start TODAY for little or no money.
Once we get financially empowered, it makes all the big decisions where we live, what we eat, where our kids go to school so much easier to make. I hope once people finish reading, they’re ready to make that next step in their career – whether it’s reaching out to someone they admire or setting up their own website/portfolio (I cover both items in the book).
On a totally personal note, I hope people buy it to show that young parents can be successful when we step out of the box and work hard to uplift each other.
Let’s make this the start of a movement.
Tara Pringle Jefferson is a freelance writer, blogger and PR professional living in Ohio with her husband and two kids. She's managing editor of BlackAndMarriedWithKids.com. She's also the author of Make It Happen: The Young Mommy Guide To Creating The Career You Crave. Follow her on Twitter (@TheYoungMommy) or check out her blog, The Young Mommy Life, for her insights on what it means to be a mom, wife, student, writer, and about three other labels she's too tired to remember. To order a copy of Make It Happen, check it out on Amazon.com.
Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.