Making Her Own Way

Making Her Own Way

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Thanks Mom

Making Her Own Way

When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.
~Viktor Frankl

When my mother set out to rule the world, it was not the most popular or likely road for a woman, much less a single mother, to travel. She had been a stay-at-home mom for my sister and me until her divorce, so when she struck out on her own, she didn’t have any experience.

She got a job as a secretary for an insurance agency and worked very long hours to make ends meet. She had been at the agency for a while when she started to notice something. Her boss referred to her as a secretary only and didn’t allow her to do any more than answer the phones. She would speak to customers and have the answers to their questions right in front of her, but was not allowed to give them. Any and all calls had to be forwarded to her boss when he was in the office, which wasn’t often, as he liked to play golf. Consequently, she took messages and told the customers that he would call them back, all the while knowing that she could just as easily have helped them. She begged him to allow her to study to get her insurance license but he denied her the time off and, again, made it clear that she was only a secretary, only a woman, and should know her place.

One morning, my mother went into her boss’s office to ask him a favor. She wanted to see if she could get an early lunch. I had been named to the honor roll in school and an assembly was being held to honor me and five other students. She desperately wanted to attend, but her boss pointedly refused her. My mother quit right then and there. She said she could take him talking down to her, she could take him mismanaging the place, but she could not take him keeping her from her family.

She went back to school, got her license to sell insurance and started her own agency. She went around taking employees from the most bizarre places. One was a door-to-door copier saleswoman, another a night manager at a local pharmacy. She hired two new employees with zero experience in the insurance industry and began training them. She wanted them each to get a license to sell insurance. She encouraged them to speak to the customers, so that she was no more important than any of her employees. She got her master’s degree online and hers became one of the top agencies in the state. Her employees (mostly women) are now all required to have their licenses. She instills in them the confidence that they know as much as she does and are just as important to the business.

Both of her original employees have been with her for more than ten years. Of the ten employees she now has, only two have been with her for less than five years. She allows them time off for family events whenever they need. She has just published her first book, which was a labor of love for her for more than eight years. My mother showed me, from an early age, the value of family, of working for what you believe in, and knowing above all else that you are important and that you can make a difference.

~Kara Townsend

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