This blog post is dedicated to a client who is at a crossroads due to life changes in her life and the COVID-19 pandemic. Feel free to provide positive comments and resources.
I hope this letter finds you well! I am in need of some career advice and wonder if you can help me. The COVID-19 pandemic has turned my life upside down. You see, I am a single mom of 2 teenagers ages 14 and 16 years old, and a newborn. My baby was an unexpected pregnancy at the age of 44 years old. The plans I had for my future have been derailed so I am struggling to prepare a new plan.
My problem is two-fold. First, I need a job that pays decently, but is also flexible to work around a chaotic schedule. I want a job online so that I can stay home and stay safe for my children. Do you have any suggestions that could help my situation? I need something that utilizes my skills as a teacher and counselor, but isn’t too time consuming or emotionally draining as I want to give my internship my best energy.
Second, I have been working on finishing my masters degree in Mental Health Counseling. I am in the final year of a 4 year investment of school. This will be the toughest year to date as I will be interning at a local victims crisis center. Basically, I will be working 30 hours per week for free. I have had some deeply personal life changes including losing my job in July 2019 and my mom passing away September 2019.
I am wondering if I should quit the MHC program. At this point, the financial burden is overwhelming and I am currently living off of financial aid. Also, the time to complete assignments, and work as an intern is limited. The time and energy it takes to raise a baby, especially that first year, is immense. Should I quit when I am so close to completing my lifelong goal? I am afraid that I can’t juggle any of it and will completely fail at it all.
Any help is greatly appreciated,
Thank you for reaching out. It sounds like you have a unique situation. Yet, there are pieces that others can relate to based on the many letters I've received inquiring about online jobs, public health and financial resources, and grief support. Please know that you are not alone.
I am going to go in an order that will address every aspect of your letter, which will give you maximum impact in resources.
Where to begin?
I want to address basic needs before we answer the big question: Should you finish your Master's Degree?
You may have heard of a psychologist named Abraham Maslow who is best known for the Theory of Hierarchy of Needs (left). This theory is of a person's psychological health contingent on fulfilling innate human needs like food, shelter, safety. He believed that once our needs are met, the goal is to move
Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs Pyramid 1.1
up the pyramid towards self-actualization. In other words, human basic needs should be met before a person can successfully build self-esteem, inner purpose and potential. With this idea in mind, I will address your basic needs first.
Where can you find an online job?
As an educator there are plenty of tutoring and teaching jobs online. Check out the Top 15 Legitimate Sites That Offer Online Tutoring Jobs for a money making list.
An online job that is up and coming right now is becoming a COVID-19 contact tracer. You will make outbound calls to positive Coronavirus patients and their contacts who may have been infected. This is a customer service job so excellent phone and communication skills is necessary.
If animals are your thang, look into being an at home pet sitter. 5 Pet Sitting Sites to Help You Launch Your Business is a great place to start. I highly recommend Rover.com or Fetchpetcare.com.
Last but not least, I will insert a shameless plug! Check out my latest blog 10 Blogs to Help Women Level Up in the Workforce. Each of these handpicked blogs was chosen because of its exhaustive list of career resources, as well as, supplemental ideas to support an income.
Where can you go for Food Benefits?
An online job will pay your mortgage and electric, but let's look at how to receive food benefits. Most likely, if you're a student you will qualify for EBT and SNAP! benefits in the state of Florida. Head over to the Access Florida website to apply for both.
While you're there, apply for Medicaid to cover any health issues for you and your children. This is especially necessary in the dawn of COVID-19. Don't forget that your college has a clinic included in your tuition that can also help you if you get sick.
An extra resource focused specifically for you as a single mom is WIC. WIC is a federally funded nutrition program for Women, Infants, and Children. Signing up is easy. You are given a WIC debit card which makes going through the grocery line a confidential process and keeps a user's dignity in tact.
You can apply for the Cares (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act through your college. This money has been set aside to help students pay for bills and food during the pandemic. Rewards can also go towards paying your tuition and books if you prefer. You will need to contact your school's financial aid department for their application.
Now that you have an overabundant of social distancing time at home use it to apply to that long list of scholarships. You know. The one you keep pushing to the side because there just isn't enough time to fill out the applications and write the essays. Carpe Diem the scholarship-em! (I know. That's a dad joke. Sorry.)
These benefits are here for emergencies, which is the COVID reality. See what you qualify for and the way you can relieve some of the financial burden. Doing this may help you regain your intrinsic motivation to finish your degree. You are committing your career to helping others as a counselor. Learn to receive help when YOU need it. An added bonus? This will help you, help clients navigate these services later on in your career!
Where can you find the motivation to finish your Master's Degree?
I've given your question deep thought. I don't have a flippant answer with a Hollywood 'root for the underdog' sentiment. Instead my two-prong answer is rooted in self-care and a motivational grit.
First with the self-care...
You have had serious life changes in the past year. With the passing of your mother in September and an unexpected birth of your daughter in April, change has taken over your life whether you were ready for it or not. Grieving a parent is a forever life changing event, but you know this already.
I would encourage you to reach out to a grief counselor who can walk with you through this difficult time in your life. He or she can help you get the support you need to accept and embrace the changes. By doing this you may relieve some of the burden weighing down on you and help you to see hope in your future to finish your degree.
Corrine Counseling Center is a caring resource of counselors who will work with you on a financial sliding scale, as well as, counsel you in the comfort and safety of your home through tele-therapy. Working with counselors like Robin Carrillo or Chris Suarez at www.christinasuarezcounseling.com can help you assess if you want to finish school or take a break. They can walk with you in your decision and continue to support you as you navigate a new plan.
Additionally, a big part of the grieving process is finding healing and connection in a support group. One source is an organization called New Hope for Kids. Their staff will surround you with care and emotional support while you and your children grieve the loss of your mother and their grandmother.
Second with the motivational grit should you decide to finish school...
I once ran a marathon back in 2002. There were 2 pinnacle moments that defined my character in that race. The first one was at the 13.1 mile marker. I didn't see the turn for the full marathon runners. (I like to think I was in the zone and so focused that I missed the turn, not delirious with exhaustion.) Instead of continuing with the second half of the marathon, I found myself running over the finish line at 13.1 miles.
Stunned I had a choice. Do I go back and finish the race or do I sit down on that curb and quit? I gotta say, I really wanted to quit.
Through many, many, many tears, I decided to run back to the half way point and continue running the 2nd leg of the race. This added an additional 1.2 miles onto the already grueling 26.2 miles.
The second grit building part in this race was precisely at the 22 mile marker. I hit a wall like I have never hit before. Every muscle in my body raged at me. I cried. It hurt so much to stop and walk that I just kept running. (I assure you not wanting to STOP running has never happened before.)
I wanted to quit.
But I didn't.
I put one foot in front of the other, taking one step at a time. I did not allow myself to stop. And I have never regretted it a day in my life.
You are faced with the half way or the 22 mile summit right now. You've come so far that to quit will be a bigger problem then the stress of finishing.
Look at it this way. Life would have happened anyway even if you weren't chasing your dream. Your mom would have passed. You would have lost that job. And you would have had that baby.
The difference is that even though life is slinging mud at you, you are pursuing your goals and a better life for you and your children.
As much as it is tempting to quit, I think deep down inside you know YOU are not a quitter. Quitters would have never started this college journey. At the beginning 3 years ago, I suspect you knew it would be challenging, but that didn't stop you from taking that first class.
I am not going to lie to you. It isn't going to be easy and sleep will be fleeting. This is why having a counselor to support you is recommended. He or she will encourage you, remind you to practice self-care, and re-frame negative thoughts that could stall your success. Likewise, surround yourself with loved ones, family and cohort who will cheer (maybe even drag) you over that finish line. It's absolutely necessary to reach out and rely on the help of others.
That 22 mile catches up with us at one point or another in our lives.
You can let the race slip through your fingers.
Or you can fight for your dream with all you have inside of you.
It is worth it.
You are worth it.