MADAMENOIRE talks to Denene Millner about leaving the workplace and betting on yourself
Courtesy of Denene Millner
A sudden challenge in Denene Millner’s health was the wake-up call she needed to turn her life around – immediately.
“One day I took the train to work and I couldn’t walk,” recalls the New York Times bestselling author of 31 books and publisher of the eponymous Simon and Schuster story-centric imprint. for black children. “My whole right leg seized up on me and I was literally dragging my leg like I had a stroke.”
Later that day, a doctor attributed his convulsive leg and cramps to stress. She was also diagnosed as pre-diabetic, which she has since learned can be brought on not only by food choices but also by stress.
Millner’s stress around her work-life balance is an experience that black women go through in large numbers. According to Bend overBlack women face more day-to-day discrimination at work and a wider range of microaggressions, as well as receive fewer opportunities to manage people and projects. the National Center for Women’s Rights reports that black women earn 37% less than white men and 20% less than white women.
These factors can certainly lead to the kind of stress that leads to health crises like the one Millner experienced when she was editor-in-chief of Parenting magazine, where she was one of two black people on the staff. She worked crazy hours, arriving home after 8 p.m. every night just in time to just kiss her young daughters before going to bed.
She states that parenthood “made me check myself at the door and just think about white women and how they’re raising their kids,” she said. “Besides, I was squeezing my whole life on the weekends, trying to be a good mother, a good wife, a good housekeeper. And it was driving me absolutely crazy.
Source: Courtesy of Denene Millner / D. Millner
Millner kept herself busy and changed her life, eventually becoming a full-time entrepreneur where she could control her environment, prioritize what was important to her, and significantly reduce her stress.
What surprised her the most about her transition was that she could make more money as a boss. The first evidence was when she became a freelance writer for a column she had edited as a full-time, in-person employee of Parenting. Writing the column remotely as a freelancer was more profitable for her than writing as an office worker, as she benefited from the savings in transportation costs and lunches she didn’t have to buy as a than a full-time employee.
“By becoming my own boss, I made a lot more money depending on myself than walking into anybody’s office,” said Millner, who started his career as a political journalist. and entertainment at the Associated Press and the New York Daily News. “I thought I would struggle to earn three-quarters or the same amount. In fact, I was making double.
While she feels her transition to full-time entrepreneurship was natural and successful, she still had to be intentional and courageous to move away from the understandable practices and career prospects common in communities that have been marginalized for hundreds. of years. “We are the children of a generation of black people who believed in keeping a job, earning lots of money and having benefits,” said Millner, who now creates opportunities for others through her signature imprint. black stories.
Work smarter, not harder
As she grew her business, Millner realized she didn’t want working to exhaustion as part of her new life. Working smarter would require him to be more discerning and not accept every opportunity presented to him, especially those that were not representative of his worth.
The challenge was to keep up the pace. “Just because I wrote a story today and handed in a book today doesn’t mean I could take a break,” said Millner, who has written a book every year from 2005 to 2020 except in 2011, when she helped her family stay. afloat through My Brown Baby, her successful website for black parents.
“When you’re a freelancer and an entrepreneur, you have to keep the gears running at all times, so the checks are always waiting to come in…It’s no different than anyone else who has to pay their bills monthly . Some people get up in the morning and have to show up at an office and answer to a boss. I have to respond to Denene.
But she no longer works at this pace. “I’m finally at the point where I can work smarter rather than harder. I was a hustler. I said yes to everything,” said Millner, who a generous supervisor told she was paid $20,000 from. less than all the men around her, and that she was not getting the vacation bonuses given to her co-workers. Millner received pay raises until that supervisor was fired six months after their enlightening conversation.
These days, though she still admits to having a hard time asking for compensation that matches her expertise and experience, Millner is thriving because, not only are her book deals now lucrative, but she also has changed his mindset and put his new perspective into action.
“Conditioning and society makes women feel like we should be grateful for what we get instead of coming in and saying, ‘This is what you should pay me because this is the sum of money it takes. That’s the amount of expertise that comes with my 35 years of experience. You can’t find me for pennies,” she said. “I learned to put I can say yes to a trial, but you know that if I say yes, it’s because I get paid what I’m worth, not what you think I’m worth.
Pay attention and plan ahead
Not sure if or when you should make a move? Millner recommends paying close attention to how you feel at the start of each day and listening to your body. “I would say if you wake up in the morning and you absolutely hate what you’re doing, and you have to have pep talks with yourself to get to the office, that’s probably not something you’re doing anymore. should do – especially if you see it manifesting in your mental and physical health,” she said, noting that stress can cause or exacerbate conditions common in the black community, including diabetes, thyroid problems , hypercholesterolemia and hypertension.
Millner’s health issue led her to consider a new life for herself and her family. During a major change, she advises to plan ahead. “It’s not possible, today is Monday, someone got on my nerves, so I’m going to stop Tuesday. You must be the one using your connections and settings get ready for success.
When she decided to leave New York for the more affordable metro Atlanta, her family relied in part on the job held by her now ex-husband. And she warned her network very early. “I let them know months in advance that I would be going full-time as a freelance writer. “I’m writing these freelance stories for you while I have this full-time job and I’m writing books at night, because I want you to remember that I’m a go-to person for reporting and essays,” she recalled to her editors.
“I used my relationships that I had built over time in my full-time jobs for the work I needed to support myself as a freelancer. Whether you were a stock trader, architect, or secretary , it’s always about setting yourself up for success. What do you want to do? How can you get there and who in your professional and personal circles can help you? Now we all have enemies who won’t see the vision. You can’t let that stop you. It’s literally about planning and executing – and creating those connections in advance, so that when it’s time for you to bring this change, you can. And it can be transparent.