Q: I'm a young African-American mother of 1-year-old twin girls. I'm a single parent. I have been a hair stylist for years, and now its time for me to have a stable life for my girls. I'm in school for culinary arts because I want to open a soul food restaurant. My long-term goal is to open a training salon, which I tried and the deal didn't go through. Now I just want stability. I don't like the regular 9-to-5 jobs, but I'm starting to feel like that's what I have to do. I want to know, should I keep investing time and money into this culinary school with hopes of opening a restaurant or just go get a job? I'm confused and stressed out; I need some guidance.

— Deresa, age 28

A: Deresa, the question to start with is this: What does stability really mean for you? Although you may equate stability with a rigid 9-to-5 job, the truth is that it comes in many forms. Stability is whatever allows you to create the life you want for you and your children. As I mentioned in Find Your Strongest Life, a recent national survey of 3rd- through 12th-graders yielded some surprising results when it asked kids what they would choose if they were granted one wish to change how their mothers' work affected their lives. Only 10 percent of children wished for more time with their mothers; but 34 percent of children wanted their moms to be less stressed and tired. In and of itself, this data doesn't answer your question of whether you should continue pursuing your culinary career, hairdressing or something altogether different, but it should point you in the right direction. Which decision will make you feel the least stress? Which decision will provide you with a career that energizes you, makes you feel strong and gives you a sense of accomplishment? As your girls grow up, seeing you as their mother modeling the kind of strength-filled life you want for them will be one of the best gifts you can give them.


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