Finding My Success As A Single Mother
By Terra Potts
Being a single mother was the best thing to happen for my career. No, I haven’t gone crazy, I truly believe this. I am at the director level at one of the largest film studios in the world at the age of 33 and I promise this would never have happened without my daughter. She is the single driving force in my determination to succeed in business. She is the reason that I constantly challenge myself to push past all the insecurities that have held me back.
Let’s take it back to pre-baby for a minute. I was a party girl working at an entertainment public relations agency doing all things a 20-something year old should do. I went to the hottest celebrity-filled nightclubs. I sipped on Margaritas by the pool on weekends and spent my paycheck on designer dresses at Barneys. My barometer of professional growth was based on how good the parties were that I was attending.
Then, one night a party led to an unplanned pregnancy.
Imagine breaks screeching because that’s what my life did – screeching halt. I always tell people “I got good ol’ fashioned knocked up.” I literally watched the movie “knocked Up” 100 times while I was pregnant, but unfortunately I didn’t have the happy ending. I was going at this alone and was scared, embarrassed and ashamed. My employer at the time was suffering from the recession and tried to move me to part-time, but who can support a baby in Los Angeles off that? I felt like no one in my business would want me to work for them. Why would any employer in the entertainment industry want to deal with a young single mother when there are thousands of young single adults dying for their break into film?
That sour attitude lasted a full two months and then I thought “ok, this is my shot. I’ve been doing this for years, time to call my contacts and see what I can make happen.”
All bets were off when I started my job search. I was desperate and knew I now had a daughter to take care of. I started polishing my resume and drafting creative cover letters. I wasn’t out looking for a job, I was a saleswoman out there selling me! I had my resume ready and would tell anyone who would listen why I was the best person for his or her company. Every time I got the rejection call or email I would send back a note to express my sincere gratitude for the opportunity to meet with them. I also asked that they keep me in mind should something else come up. I believe this was the attitude that led me to where I am today. I went through a string of interviews at the studio for three different positions that I didn’t get. It wasn’t until the fourth position that I finally hit the jackpot. But now let me tell you, I was manager of publicity at my previous job and I took an administrative job at the studio. I did this because, first, I needed health insurance and a steady check for baby and second, sometimes you have to take a step back to move forward.
The way I’ve handled my career this time around is a 180 degree turn from where I was pre-motherhood. I started taking things real seriously real quick. With my mind always on Madeline, I started to “lean in” and push past my fears. I have a lifestyle and level of opportunity that I want to offer my daughter and no one, especially not me is going to stand in the way. In order to do this I became determined to hang onto my career and reputation for dear life. I changed from being reactive to work situations to really listening and understanding what was in front of me and how it affects the bigger picture at the office and in my life. I developed professional relationships where we help to move each other ahead instead of relationships based on party invitations. I’ve turned into a sponge soaking up as much knowledge and behaviors from those in business who I respect. I took “me” and my ego out of the picture and replaced my thoughts with “we” and my daughter’s well-being.
Before Madeline I had never been at a company for over two years or experienced true professional growth. I didn’t consider benefits and 401k, I considered social events and meeting celebrities. My boss jokes that I sit at my desk sharpening my nails saying, “I have a baby to feed,” and he isn’t lying. I am so grateful for that baby who has made me see what I am capable of. I stopped looking at her like a set back and realized that she is the key to my success.