Amanda Benson struggled and triumphed on her own
Amanda Benson, associate publisher of élite Magazine—Interactive Media, has a personality as enchanting as her red hair. Tasked with increasing the profile of the Santa Clarita Valley, California, magazine via interactive media, creative marketing, community outreach, and social media, her ultimate goal is to drive business to the community. So far, it’s working.
But her most successful endeavor has been raising her children—Miles and Audrey, aged 15 and 11, respectively, at the time of this interview—as a Solo Mom.
Q: What do you do?
A: I’m associate publisher of élite Magazine, a high-end glossy geared toward the higher-end market—with fashion, home decor, events, etc. Our circulation is around 50,000, and our readers’ average age is 45.
Something I brought to the magazine is taking it digital, so we are also online. We changed our name to élite Magazine—Interactive Media. Now we do things other magazines can’t, like video, slideshows, and social media to support advertisers.
We are also starting a bridal magazine that I’m super excited about.
Q: Tell me be about your career journey.
A: Way back, I had a flower shop. I thought I would be a florist. But they kept raising the rent, and I was pregnant, so we closed it.
I was a stay-at-home mom for a while. When my kids started school, I got a job as an event planner for Hyatt. (I had the floral and wedding-planner background.) Two years later, I got laid off. My ex left a year after that. The layoff was kind of a blessing because had I been working, I wouldn’t have been able to care for my kids the way they needed when their dad left.
After the divorce I was desperate for work, so the lender who helped us buy our house gave me a job. He was great and worked with my schedule.
Then my ex lost his job and just stopped paying child support. When I took my daughter to get her eyes checked, they sent me away because our health insurance had been canceled!
It was such a hard time. I really needed a better job. And I didn’t have my spouse, my best friend, to help me make decisions, so I grew independent very quickly.
That’s when Hyatt called with a travel manager position. They wanted me back at the company. My salary doubled, and I got full benefits. From that point on, everything I did for my kids and me, I did completely on my own.
Q: How did you grow your career?
A: I needed to earn more money to give my children a better life. But growth meant moving to another hotel far from home, so I rewrote my job description and added social media to my title. I took my boss to lunch and told her this is what I want to do and I want to get paid for it. Since the hotel didn’t have social media, and it was something I could build for them, they added Social Media Ambassador to my title.
I created an “Amanda Benson Hyatt” Facebook page, and my reputation blossomed. Anyone needing anything with Hyatt went to my page and came to me.
I started getting involved with a lot of nonprofits in our community and going to fundraising events. I was invited to join a private women’s networking group called the Brainstormers, and this is where I met Moe and Linda, my current bosses. When I was ready to leave Hyatt, I brought it up at a meeting. The next day, [Moe and Linda] called and offered me my current job. They wanted me to do everything for the magazine that I did for Hyatt—to be the personality behind the pages.
Q: How did you become a Solo Mom?
A: The kids were young. I thought everything was fine, then noticed my husband was in his office a lot, quietly on the phone. (Turns out he was talking to another woman.)
One day he came home from work early, put the kids in their rooms, sat me down, and told me he didn’t love me anymore and was leaving the marriage. There had to be a more practical way to do this!
Then he left.
Without trying to discount their dad, I told my kids this is an example of who not to be like. And had I known things would turn out like this, I wouldn’t have chosen him for you.
Q: Did being a Solo Mom impact your career?
A: I became even more driven. Finding a career where I could grow and not be reliant on a man was the most important thing.
Q: How did you manage?
A: I put the kids in an after-school program at the YMCA. I relied on three good friends and my sister-in-law. We had a schedule. Between the four of them, they picked up my kids after school every day. I just got by.
But I did start dating right away. That’s what I did for me. As soon as my ex said he didn’t love me anymore, I was done. My brother and sister-in-law helped a lot and took the kids every Friday so I could go out.
Q: When you divorced, did you feel a shift in your community?
A: Not really. Everyone was shocked, but I didn’t talk about it much. I have a strong community, and our core friends stayed the same—because he left.
Q: Was there a defining moment that drove home you were raising children alone?
A: When my kids came home from school with lice! And getting my hair cut for the first time after the divorce: scheduling it, affording it, and taking the kids [with me].
Q: What are you most proud of as a Solo Mom?
A: That I’m doing it—and doing it well. I support them; I’m stable; I have a good career; and I’m raising healthy, well-mannered, respectful, good people.
Q: Any advice for women trying to break into your industry?
A: Find your niche, and be really good at it. I learned to be a problem solver. People want that. Study and know your distinctive place in the market.
Q: What’s your favorite single-parenting tip?
A: I developed something called “prep and praise.”
I would prep the kids: For example, that first hair appointment, I patiently explained, “Listen, Mom really needs a haircut. See how mom looks? I’m going to come out pretty. And I promise we won’t do this again for a long time. So I need you to sit here and behave.” I gave them some toys, and they sat there! They were great.
When we got into the car, I cried but then I praised them: “Thank you so much!” They were totally cool with it: “Sure, Mom—no problem!”
Follow Benson on Twitter (@benson_elite) and Facebook (amandabenson.elitemag).
If you’re inspired by Amanda Benson’s journey, Sister Chat is a great opportunity to ask other Solo Moms how they juggle work and family.
Kathleen Laccinole, ESME’s Dating Resource Guide, has penned numerous films and parenting books but is best known for producing the highly lauded Greta, age 20, and William, age 16.
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