From Food Stamps to Financial Success -- Without Burn Out

When my daughter was 14-months-old, her father left us, leaving me with a hefty mortgage, a physically taxing waitress job, a baby who clung to me all her waking hours, and a body, heart and mind that was steps away from a complete breakdown. My discomfort led to a moment of clarity: I could make a decision about how we wanted to live.
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When my daughter was 14-months-old, her father left us for another woman, leaving me with a hefty mortgage on a house I hated, a physically taxing waitress job, a baby who clung to me all her waking hours, and a body, heart and mind that was steps away from a complete breakdown.

I was sleeping a few hours a night, holding my baby all day, and working most evenings... and still barely making ends meet. No part of my life felt like it was working, and it was completely unsustainable.

The way I was living did not work for me -- or my baby.

My discomfort led to a moment of clarity (possibly a hallucination from the sleep deprivation and stress!): I could make a decision about how we wanted to live.

Because I'm a list-person, I made a list of what I wanted in our life. Some of the items were as follows:

oFinancial security and abundance

oFlexible work I love that gives me ample time for my kid, myself and for our life

oThe ability to travel with my kid, and home school her

oA deeply involved community

oA home we love that I don't have to struggle to pay for

oSelf-care that feeds my body and soul and makes me better at everything else I do

And because my baby's father just walked away leaving me sole custody, the sky was my limit. I had the power to decide how I wanted to live.

The first thing I did was to move back to my mother's house, which allowed me to pay less rent, get live-in help (a second parent, really), and move closer to my restaurant job. Our living arrangement had its fair share of bumps but it fed my top priorities of more support and less expenses -- and I was able to keep reminding myself that it was temporary.

The second action I took was to just begin to take care of myself -- it had been so long since I had been able to even have the luxury of thinking about what I needed, so I started small. I slept. I cried. I spent time with friends. I took long walks by the water. And gradually I began to heal.

As I healed I thought about other women who have been in my shoes. Who had lost themselves. Lost their healthy boundaries. Lost their connection to their inner wisdom, and were living life like it was some out of control, painfully lonely endurance test.

And I thought that by sharing some of the work I'd used to climb from the bottom of my own personal depths, I could help other women.

In Arms Coaching was born to support mothers. My intention was that this would be work I loved, work that felt like it offered deep value to other women, and I vowed to really follow my passion and joy as I built it. I worked a few hours a day at first, then as my daughter got older and attended nursery school, then a local school, I added on more hours.

Clients referred clients. I followed my joy and moved from coaching mothers to general life coaching.

I quit my restaurant job. It was scary but I knew I could always go back if I needed to, and I set my mind on never needing to.

And through all of this, I listened to and cared for myself.

It was more important to me that I stayed balanced and grounded and had time for everything I love than it was that In Arms Coaching became an overnight success. I was in for the long haul and it wasn't enough to just make money -- I wanted to feel valued and happy while I did it. It wasn't enough to me to just build a successful business -- it was equally important for me to build it without stress or burnout.

Another huge piece of what worked for me was getting crystal-clear about what was important to me.

I realized we couldn't live In NYC in a way that made us happy, so over a six-week period of crippling self-doubt and anxiety, I pulled up stakes and moved away from my mother and our friends to Portland, Maine -- where I had wanted to move for years.

Now we live by the beach (always a dream of mine) in an amazing house. We home school. I work four days a week, spending afternoons with my kid. We travel, have learned to ski, kayak, ice skate, ride horses. I found a new relationship. We have a rugged, newish, perfectly-Maine car that we can depend on. I get to exercise. Our free time is filled with community and friends.

So, if this is resonating for you here are some take-away tips to apply to your own journey. ☺

1.Get crystal-clear about what's important: is it paying off debt so you're financially free? Spending time with your kids while they're young and still want to be around you? ☺ Building work you love that also brings home the bacon? Choose it, or it will choose you.

2.Build your life with that important piece first- knowing that anything that you're doing now should feed your goal listed above.

3.Take consistent and persistent steps forward that are action- oriented and sustainable and contribute to your goal.

4.Last but absolutely not least: Take care of yourself. This is foundational. It doesn't have to take up a lot of time- it can be a morning meditation practice. Prayers or journaling before bed. A monthly massage. Exercise. Coffee or lunch with a friend once a week. A date night every week. It can be cheap (or free) and only take a few minutes a day -- what's important is that it happens regularly and consistently.


For more from Britt Bolnick, please visit her at

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