Tanai Bernard was famous for her blog Four Deep Around the World, in which she chronicled living in the Middle East with her three kids, teaching school, and traveling the globe. Today she is stateside, teaching and raising her kids in Houston. When Hurricane Harvey struck, she and her family took refuge at her mother's Dallas home. But news of devestation in her hometown of Beaumont, Texas brought back memories of her own loss during Hurricane Rita in 2005. “To watch people you knew (on TV) being evacuated by helicopter put a fire in me,” she said in this Like a Mother episode. “I didn't even know what was going on with my own home. I just knew I had to help these people.”
Pulling on her Facebook community, Tanai put out a call to action, and within 16 hours, friends and strangers from around the globe had made donations through Walmart's ‘Ship-to-Store' feature. Tanai loaded up a rented cargo van and drove through scary flood waters and barricaded roads the blankets, diapers and bottled water to a church in Beaumont. That run inspired more donations, and eventually Tanai rented and hauled a half-dozen 26-foot trucks and an 18-wheeler to Harvey victims in Houston. Today, she continues her work, posting requests and updates on Facebook, focusing on supporting displaced families and getting kids back to school — all while working fulltime and taking care of her own three kids, whom, thankfully, have a safe and dry house.
In this episode Tanai and I discuss:
- Why moving across the globe in the middle of her divorce was the best thing for her and her kids.
- Her favorite moment when traveling internationally.
- What it was like to date in a Middle Eastern country.
- What she thought and felt when she delivered supplies to stranded Harvey families.
- The magic that transpired to support her efforts
- What keeps her motivated to keep supporting and serving Harvey families.
- How her global travel prepared Tanai for the service she does now.
To support Tanai Benard's Hurricane Harvey efforts:
Contribute to the two schools with students affected by Harvey that you can sponsor through our Amazon Wish lists.
Your purchase will go directly to the campus and point of contact:
Guess Elementary School Amazon Wish List
8055 Old Voth Rd
Jefferson Middle School Amazon Wish List
2200 Jefferson Dr
Port Arthur, TX 77642
Other Kickass Single Mom Grant recipients:
Shawnta Creech went from homeless to culinary school graduate with a salad dressing business in the works.
Sheri Hopkins started Black San Diego. “I wanted my daughters to grow up seeing strong leaders who looked like them.”
A doula for low-income new mothers. “I wasn’t going to let a corporation tell me what my dream was.”
ARE YOU A KICKASS SINGLE MOM? ABOUT THE $1,000 MONTHLY GRANT:
Every month I give $1,000 to a single mom committed to building a positive life for herself, her family and contributing to the world in a productive way.
The Kickass Single Mom Grant supports endeavors that show promise for success — whether it is a career, business, nonprofit, charitable, creative or family project that is already underway and could use a financial boost.
This might include paying for formal education that will advance your career (or launch a new career!) that makes you happy and proud, propels you to financial independence and makes you a great role model for your children and others whose lives you touch.
You might seek to use this money to build your dream business — one that lights your passion, contributes to the world in a positive way.
Maybe you have a volunteer or nonprofit project that is blossoming.
Perhaps it is a personal project that you want to describe to me.
One part of this grant is to support incredible single women doing amazing things.
The other part is to highlight incredible single moms to inspire and uplift others who may not see in themselves what is possible.
No income maximum (or requirement). All nationalities welcome. Winners are announced the first of every month.
Transcript of Like a Mother with Emma Johnson Interview with Kickass Single Mom Grant Winner Tanai Benard
Emma: Today’s guest is Tanai Benard, and Tanai has been on my radar for a long time because she is a globally traveling mom. For a number of years she lived in the Middle East and she and her kids went all over the world. I just asked her how many, and she couldn’t even remember. It’s like 25/30, she lost count because they are just trotting all over the world. Her brand was 4 Deep Around the World, and I love that. She and her three kids. She has since gotten back on my radar because she is now a Houston resident and a single mom of three. She has devoted a ton of her time, energy, and personal money to helping the Hurricane Harvey victims. This was my goal for this October month grant is to support the efforts of a single mom in the storms.
Thank you so much for being here. I’m so happy to meet you.
Tanai: I’m glad we were able to connect. I’m happy we could actually talk.
Emma: I know, I think we have a friend in common, Monica Leftwich at The Washington Post?
Emma: I saw that she wrote a story about you too. First of all, we want to know all about you traveling with your kids. Talk to me about that. You’re a school teacher?
Tanai: I am. I was able to get a job overseas, in the middle east, in Abu Dhabi. Most people are familiar with Dubai, it’s right down the street. I moved there with my three children, and my first day there was kind of like my first day as a single mom.
Emma: Because your marriage was ending at the same time, right?
Tanai: Exactly. My marriage did not make it onto the plane. We packed our eight suitcases and we started a fresh, literally a fresh life in a new country and started over. That’s kind of how I got into the traveling thing because I realized I needed to live. I really needed to live and I needed to find myself and explore life, so why not travel?
Emma: Talk to me about that, because most women when they go through a divorce or big break up, it’s like their instinct, and I think my instinct, was to hunker down. You want to know what’s familiar, and you want your people around you, and your stuff around you. You did the opposite. Like you said, you wanted a free and a new life. What was that? Tell me what you were going from and what you ended up going to? Internally? Externally? What was that journey?
“I got on the plane and I was able to build this relationship with my children that I may not have been able to if I was depending on other people to be my support system back home.”
Tanai: I was leaving from a place where I had support. I had a support system in America. Of course, when you’re getting divorced everyone is like, “Yes, stay close to your support system.” But I needed to challenge myself as well, and I needed to find peace. I felt like staying complacent where I was, wasn’t going to get me that peace. So, I just got on the plane. I got on the plane and I was able to build this relationship with my children that I may not have been able to if I was depending on other people to be my support system back home.
Emma: That’s interesting.
Tanai: We were all we had for the first few weeks, first few months. We had to depend on each other. My children had to become a little bit more mature in the process because it’s just us at that point.
Emma: How old were they at the time?
Tanai: Five, six, and seven.
Emma: And you were a young mom. You were like 30 years old, right?
Tanai: At the time I think I was 29 or 30.
Emma: So, you were 29 years old. Talk to me about this. It was teaching abroad. I know that I’ve read a lot about you, this gave you some financial cushion? You were making more money and the financial situation was different?
Emma: Talk about that, because that is always women’s number one concern when they’re coming out of a marriage. I don’t care if you’re filthy rich, you’re going to have less money coming out of a marriage than when you were in it.
Tanai: Right. Well, technically the money was the same. I was making the same amount of money that I was back in the states, but the difference was the overhead. I didn’t have as much to pay because my employer was paying for the housing, so that’s a big cost. My employer was paying for the medical insurance, full coverage, 100 percent paid, and then it was tax-free. That’s three of your biggest expenses, your taxes, your housing and your medical.
Emma: Give me one example of a trip that you took with your kids, maybe it was the first one, or maybe it was a really challenging trip somewhere very adventurous, where you felt like you were very scared, or nervous, or it was just very challenging but you did it anyway.
“Going on that trip alone opened up so many doors for me. Realizing I can do this, and we need to do this more.”
Tanai: I think after we moved abroad, the first trip we took as a family to Sri Lanka was the most challenging because it was just myself and the kids and we were wondering on foreign territory. Sri Lanka doesn’t have mass transportation, where you can catch the subway, so we’re kind of venturing on our own. It was new for me. This was new. You’re going to a country where English is not the first language. Most people don’t speak English there, so just going on that trip alone opened up so many doors for me. Realizing I can do this, and we need to do this more.
Emma: That was your first trip. First of all, you’re in the middle east which to most Americans seems insane, it doesn’t to me, but I think that’s very challenging for most Americans to wonder why a single mom would just get up and move to the middle east. Then Sri Lanka you said is your first big international trip and that is a third world country and you just went for it. You didn’t dip your toe in a resort in Cancun.
Tanai: No. No, no, no. This was definitely an adventure. It wasn’t a resort at all. We trekked over 400 miles through Sri Lanka, so it was definitely something different.
Emma: What was your fear going into it? Did you worry about catching a disease, or dying? What was the fears?
Tanai: I was kind of new to the whole travel thing, so I didn’t know about vaccines. I was kind of overwhelmed. I didn’t know about the vaccines, the visas, should we drink the water? Don’t drink the water? What should we eat? Don’t eat this, don’t eat that. It was a little bit overwhelming on the research process because I didn’t know what to expect because we hadn’t traveled as a family before.
Emma: What was the highlight? What was the most awesome moment on that trip?
Tanai: I think going into the neighborhoods and being invited by one of the families into the homes to cook with them, and just to see that they didn’t have a stove. This was basically your old school, match, and brick, type stove. To have my children watch them cook, with another family, from another country, for me as a single mother knowing where we had to come from, it was just so amazing. To see that my children were appreciative of where we were because they saw the other kids running around barefoot in Sri Lanka, on the side of the roads. It was a third world country like you said. To allow my children to be able to see what they should be appreciative of was pretty awesome.
Emma: Okay, awesome. Then after you do one trip, that’s it. The world is your oyster.
Tanai: It lit a fire. It definitely lit a fire. We have to do this more, and I’m going to make sure we do this more.
Emma: Talk to me about the money. You had this had this huge differential now because now you’re in this situation where you had a lot more free income, but you had some awesome travel deals. You were getting these $200 deals around the world. Can people do that anymore?
Tanai: Yes. Actually, we went to New Zealand from America for $225 per person. We flew. It’s definitely possible. There are websites that kind of give you the deals each day. For instance, there’s Flight Deals, theflighdeal.com is one. I check it almost every day. Something may pop up, and they have these error fares sometimes, where if you catch it in time you might be able to catch onto it. Sometimes it’s just a sale. We were able to get from Dubai to the Philippines for $40 round trip, because that particular airline had a birthday sale and anniversary sale, and they had so many tickets they were giving away for $40.
Emma: What? Oh, my God. Okay. How long were you in the middle east, living this awesome life?
Tanai: Almost four years.
Emma: Talk about being a single woman in a predominantly Muslim country.
Tanai: Oh my gosh, at the beginning it was kind of tough, because everything that I did, they wanted a male to back me. If I wanted to sponsor my children, I had to have paperwork from the father. Anything I wanted to do, they wanted to know where was my husband. I’m like, “I don’t have one. So, what now?” It was kind of a struggle at the beginning because I’m a very independent person even before I was divorced, and to continuously be asked where’s my husband, I need my husband, you need to bring your husband to the office. Well, I don’t have one. That kind of was something I had to get used to.
Emma: What was the answer? The answer is just like, we need to work around this?
Tanai: You learn. First, you learn patience. That’s the first thing. Sometimes you learn when you go to one person they’ll tell you no, but then you go back to the second person and it so happens to be someone who is a little more open to the procedure of a single woman, and they’ll do it for you.
Emma: Did you date while you were there? Did you ever date?
Tanai: Yeah, I did. I tried. I tried to spread my wings and date a little bit. I date Americans as well as I did date someone Emirati, who was from the UAE as well. I dated a little bit. I dipped my toe here and there.
Emma: You were there for three years, and then why did you come home to Houston?
Tanai: It was about four years and during that four-year process the relationship with my children’s father had become strained I felt. With them. Because in the four-year time period that we had been there, they had only seen him maybe 10 days over a four-year period. Even though we were home every summer, one thing led to another thing, I guess, and it just wasn’t time, or his work schedule didn’t allow. I guess, it kind of started to affect my daughter and she wanted to move home. She was kind of pushing, “I need to go home. I need to be closer to my dad.” As a parent, even though everything is perfect, your money is good, you’re at peace, you still have to see what’s the best thing for your children. So, I made that decision as a mother that it would be best if they had a relationship with their father. In order to do that, we needed to be a little bit closer.
Emma: I love that. That’s a big passion of time, shared parenting and promoting relationships with both parents. I so appreciate that of you. So, you’re back in Houston. My ex-husband is from Houston, so I’ve been to Houston lots and lots of times. I know Houston.
Talk about what you’re doing now. You got a teaching job. Do you feel like you’re kind of back to your old life a little bit?
Tanai: I’m back to my American life, which is a little different than my middle east life, but yes I am back I guess. This is as back as I’m going to get.
Emma: I think of Houston as a very American place. It’s big, and you need lots of big cars, and they’re Texans, it’s like the ultimate American place.
Emma: I want to talk about Hurricane Harvey and what your family’s experience was and how we came to connect now, today. Was your family directly affected? Was your house?
Tanai: My particular house wasn’t, thankfully. We evacuated the Friday before Harvey initially hit Houston. So we evacuated to Dallas/Ft. Worth, for a very long time we didn’t know the condition of our home. When we initially evacuated, all the neighborhoods around us unfortunately flooded, but my neighborhood was pretty good.
Emma: Wow. Now, a whole bunch of women reached out to me and they’re like, “You’ve got to know about her. She is hustling and taking care of all these families.” So, tell me, and this is not the time to be humble. We need to tell a good story for people listening. I want you to tell me all the things that you have done. What was the very first thing you did to support people that were displaced?
Tanai: When the hurricane initially hit Houston, like I said before, I was in Dallas/Ft. Worth area, and so I put out a call to action for all of my friends and family who was in Dallas to come out and volunteer with me. So, I did go out and volunteer in Dallas initially. That’s when it affected Houston. Then a few days later, I guess you guys probably watched it, it hit Beaumont, Texas, which is my hometown. It brought back so many memories because I was there during Rita, and I was displaced during Rita, right after Katrina. To watch things that you’re familiar with under water, and to watch people that you actually knew being lifted out by helicopters, it kind of put in some type of fire in me. Like, I have to help my hometown. I didn’t even know what was going on in my own home, I just knew that I needed to help the people that I knew. These were my family.
Emma: You grew up in Beaumont?
Tanai: I grew up in Beaumont, yes.
Emma: You saw something on the news? You saw places on the news, and people on the news that you knew? What was the one thing that really got you?
Tanai: Just to see neighborhoods where I went to school under water. To see that those same areas 12 years ago were completely destroyed. It was pretty bad 12 years ago, and it just brought back so many memories. I saw this on CNN, and just watching from the comforts of a home in Dallas even though I was evacuated, I was in a good place with my mother. I made a phone call to a pastor in Beaumont and I said, “What do you need?” He said, “Well, right now we need blankets, and we need diapers.” This was within the first 24 hours of the storm after it had passed. I said, “Give me a day and I’ll somehow get in from Dallas to Beaumont.” Even though everyone said there is no way in. There is absolutely all roads flooded in every direction. We can’t get in, you can’t get out, nothing can happen.
“Within 14 hours Walmart had gathered all of my donations from online and I was able to fill a cargo van with diapers and blankets.”
I went into a Walmart, and I went on Facebook Live and I put out a call of action to all my friends and said Beaumont needs help right now, and we really need you. Within 16 hours of me doing this, I told everyone to send stuff to Walmart.com ship to store, using the ship to store feature, to ship it to the exact store that I was standing in. Within 14 hours, I was able to rent out a van and fill that entire van with so many donations. I walked into Walmart, I didn’t know what to expect. Within 14 hours Walmart had gathered all of my donations from online and I was able to fill a cargo van with diapers and blankets. I want to cry just thinking about what happened in 14 hours, just using online shopping.
Emma: That is amazing. And these were people that you knew or friends? Did you even know most these people?
Tanai: Most of my Facebook friends I don’t know. I don’t know them, and this was pretty global. Six different countries participated. I had Facebook friends from over six different countries that was able to either send in money or purchase things from Walmart.com and send it in overnight through that feature. We had people from Vietnam, from China, from the UAE, Ethiopia, all of those, they pitched in a bought something online or used PayPal to help me.
Emma: You delivered it then to the church?
Tanai: We took, I think about seven to nine hours. When I told the pastor, “Give me 24 hours.” We reached the 24-hour mark and we were driving in on that 24-hour mark.
Emma: You said it was seven to nine hours to get in there; how long would it normally take, if the roads were cleared?
Tanai: About four and a half or five.
Emma: What was that drive like?
Tanai: Going in we had to take back routes because Houston was also shut down. To get from Dallas to Beaumont, sometimes you have to go through Houston, depending on what route you take. We took a lot of back routes. Going closer into Beaumont was very nerve-wracking because we did hit flood waters. It was basically you’re praying the whole way through. Literally, the waters are up over the doors of some of these buildings. You’re just hoping that you’re on high ground and that you stay on high ground. I have video and you could just see the water. We got in though. Everyone said you can’t.
Emma: Who was in that car with you? Who was in this van?
Tanai: I had a good friend. I had a guy friend with me. I’ve known him for over 12 years and he volunteered because his family was also evacuated in Dallas at the time because he’s in Houston. He didn’t know the status of his home either. His wife said, “You have to go. You have to go protect her.” So he came with me.
Emma: Where were your kids at the time?
Tanai: Kids were still in Dallas, they stayed back with my mom.
Emma: They were watching you do this? They are seeing their mom pull this thing together.
Tanai: Yep. They saw us, they watched all my Facebook Lives, they would comment, “Mommy, we love you.” That was just the first run. After I did the first run, I came back like a day later and I said, “Okay, we did a cargo van, let’s see if we can do a 26’ moving truck and see if I can get that to work.” I went back on Facebook Live and I said, “By the next morning, let’s load up a 26’ truck, let’s use Walmart.com, let’s use PayPal, let’s get water out there. They need water and all of this.” And we did it. We did it.
Emma: That’s incredible. Do you know what the monetary value of all that stuff was? Was there a way to tally that?
Tanai: I have no idea.
Emma: You told people what they needed, and they gave it. That’s awesome.
Tanai: Yeah, I said what they needed and then they went on walmart.com and they bought exactly that and they did the ship to store feature. So, it was no money necessarily in my hands unless they did the PayPal for the gas or the truck.
Emma: That’s so good because I remember Katrina people gave, but they gave stuff and it was before we were all doing this online shopping so it didn’t work. Their hearts were in the right place, but what happened was, they had these warehouses full of perfectly good stuff that nobody wanted, and they didn’t have mechanisms for moving it around. But this seems like the perfect mix of technology, and generosity, and your hustle, and it just worked.
Tanai: It did. It was just amazing. It kind of restored my faith in humanity just to see people who I didn’t know that was willing to trust me enough, to send their items to me, not knowing if I was really going to get it to anyone who really needed it. Not even questioning me at the same time of, “How are you going to make this happen?” They just believed enough to send it.
Emma: Well, it’s a gift that you give people to help them give. You know? We know it’s a science. The best thing we can do as humans, the thing that makes us the happiest is giving, and you were the vehicle to help them give. At a time when they wanted to give and they didn’t know how. That was a gift that you gave to all the donors.
Tanai: Thank you for that. Thank you.
Emma: It is. When you pulled up in the van were you able to connect with some of the people that were stranded?
Tanai: The first time around when I pulled up with the van, I wasn’t. I went straight to the church because it was late at night, and we unloaded at the church. That was the first time. The second time, we went into the neighborhoods, because the water had receded by this point and we were able to hand people diapers, or water, or whatever they needed.
Emma: How did that feel?
Tanai: Emotionally overwhelming. It was very emotionally overwhelming. It’s easy to drop something off at a donation center, but when you make that one to one contact with another person, who looks like you, or you see them with a baby, and all they ask for is diapers. They don’t need anything else, “My baby just needs diapers.” It hits you. You lost everything, and all you’re asking me for is a bottle of water and diapers for your child? It becomes extremely overwhelming.
Emma: How many trips have you made so far?
Tanai: Ooh goodness, as far as with trucks, I started off with the cargo van, then I did one 26’ truck, and then I did another 26’ truck, and then I realized I needed more. So then, I rented out three and did three 26’. Then I ended up with a semi truck.
Tanai: Yeah, so this was all in a one-week time span. I was able, with the help of the donations, and then eventually I had a whole warehouse that said, “Come and get what you needed.” So I was able, in Houston, a warehouse opened up and they had all kinds of water and diapers, so I loaded up the 18 wheeler and the 26 footers full of supplies from them as well.
Emma: How is word getting out? How does everyone learn about you?
Tanai: Facebook. It’s all social media. That’s it. Everything has been via social media, even my connection with the warehouse that kind of gave me anything that I wanted, was from someone tagging me in a post and me making the contact. Everything has been through social media.
Emma: Magical. Oh, my God. What’s next for this project, for the Harvey project?
Tanai: Currently we’re working with families and schools. We’ve adopted Roy Guess Elementary, which is in Beaumont. Over 90 percent of their students lost everything. They’re flooded out. We still have students, one of the teachers told me, that’s still sleeping in tents on the property in front of their homes, because their homes are uninhabitable and FEMA has not kicked in yet, unfortunately. That’s the sad part about it all. It’s just a wait process. We’re adopting families, and adopting schools. Now I’m working with Amazon. I’m doing Amazon wishlists, based on what the families tell me that they need or the schools need. People can just go and buy, and then if you buy for the school it’s going to go directly to the school, it’s not even going to come to me.
Emma: Are you spending money out of your own pocket?
Tanai: Of course. You have to, to make it happen. What happens is, when things like this happen everyone is gungho at the beginning about giving. It doesn’t stop. When the PayPal stops and the donations stop coming in, but your heart says that you still need to do something, of course, you have to dip into your own pocket to make it happen.
Emma: How much have you spent? Just in the money.
Tanai: Probably at least $1,000-$1,500 of my own money in the last two to three weeks.
Emma: And how many hours?
Tanai: I stopped counting long ago. I wound up having to go back to work. My own school and my students were affected as well, so I did go back to work. Now I’m working back full time, but then on the weekends and at night, I try to do as much as possible.
Emma: What’s driving this? You said people are enthusiastic at the beginning of these crises, but then they poop out and it’s just human. Are you close to your breaking point? You must be getting tired, and that’s okay.
Tanai: I am. I am tired. I can’t even lie to you. I’m tired right now. I still have to play mommy at the same time. Today I had a phone call saying, “Hey your kid, I think he broke his ankle. Come and get him from school.” But I can’t stop because I know what it feels like. Like I said, I was displaced by Rita. We literally had to move from Beaumont to another town. That kind of pushes me because I know what it’s like when people stop giving and you still need to rebuild, and you still need the help. At this point, I can’t stop right now. I can’t stop until I know that some people are at least made whole out of the whole situation.
Emma: Whatever is going on in the universe, you have something really special where you are the connector. All this magical stuff is happening to you to make this happen. It’s like you have a superpower right now, and it’s like a gift that you have to use.
Tanai: I definitely have a fabulous Facebook network. Over the years, after the story of myself and my family was in Washington Post, and Huffington Post, I built these great followers who were, they’re amazing. This goes to show I have a great circle, I have a great tribe of people around me, even if I don’t know them. I had one guy who I never met, his name is Mike, he messaged me right after the storm he said, “I’m coming out there to help you. I’m coming from LA.” Of course, you’re like, “Oh, yeah. I bet you will. I’ll see you when you get here. Sure. Tell me when.” And he showed up. Mike showed up. I had never met him. He’s such a sweetheart. He stayed out here the last week helping rebuild people’s homes. He’s been doing the demolition. I’d never met the guy. Never met him.
Emma: You’re inspiring, you’re bringing people together. You have this skill and this is what you’re supposed to be doing right now. Whatever it is, and you know that.
Tanai: I’ve kind of concluded that’s why I needed to be back in America. At the end of the day, my life was good in the UAE, but someone told me that if you want to live in a good life stay in the UAE, but if you want to do something with purpose come home. I think that’s why I’m home.
Emma: And it’s home for you, it’s your hometown, right?
Emma: It’s really home for you. I’m really touched by this. Do you want to talk about, do you have a spiritual life that you align all this with?
Tanai: I’m a Christian, so of course I’m praying daily. God, continue to give me the strength, continue to allow people to come into my life that’s able to help this mission. Meditating daily just to kind of clear my head. In all of this, like I said, I’m still a mom, and I’m still a teacher and an educator. It’s a lot. It can be a lot so I have to make sure that I stay grounded in this whole process.
Emma: What I’m hearing you say is that you aren’t trying to do it all yourself. You had your mom when you guys were displaced, she was helping. You have your network there, when some random dude named Mike from LA calls, you said yes. When people offer help you said yes. I see women so often, we want to try to do it ourselves, or we feel like people expect us just to do it ourselves and we cannot. We’re so much more than ourselves and that’s part of what’s making you so successful.
Tanai: I think that’s part of the lesson that I learned, I think all the journey that I’ve been through is for a situation like this.
Me going over to the middle east, I had to learn how to stop saying, “I don’t need help.”
Because I was raising my children, so I had to learn to allow people to come into my life and become my support system and support me. People would say, “Do you need help?” Yes, I need help. I need you to watch my kids. I learned how to say yes. I learned that it’s okay to not be okay. These are lessons that I learned along the way that’s helping me through this process. It’s okay for me to say, “Yes, I’m tired.” I’m tired. It’s okay for that. It’s okay for me to say, “I accept your help.”
Emma: I really want you to think about what you want to tell single moms listening to this because I really do believe the greatest joy that we can have is serving and giving to others. Whether through our motherhood, in our communities, whatever. Everybody has their own way. So often when we’re doing it all, it’s like, I don’t have any more to give. I feel like that all the time. What do you say to those moms who say, “I love what she’s doing, I want to give too, but I already feel so strapped and exhausted.”
Tanai: Start small. I’d say, start small. If it’s not monetary, do something else. I take my children to the food bank. We may take a Saturday and we may volunteer at the food bank. It may not seem like a big deal to you at the particular moment, but it’s a need, and you’re helping. Always start small. Even when people travel. “Oh, I want to go to different countries, but I just can’t.” Okay, start small. Just take a weekend vacation 50 miles away with your children. Start there. So, I would say start small.
Emma: I remember when I was first Mom, and I was becoming a mom as a single mom at the same time and literally, just sometimes going across town to a park seemed overwhelming. But you do that and you’re like, “Okay, that was a big deal.” Now I travel internationally with my kids too. So, I think that’s excellent advice.
If people want to support you, how can they find you?
Tanai: You can either go to my web page which is tanaibenard.com or it’s probably just best to follow me on Facebook or find me on Facebook under Tanai Benard. I have all the links if you want to donate, you can pick either a school or a family, and donate directly to them.
Emma: Do you feel like you’re going to do this, for a month and then I’m done? Or do you even think that far ahead?
Tanai: I’m taking it day by day, but I know that I’m not ready to tap out yet. This is just starting. It’s to the point where FEMA hasn’t even kicked in yet. I know if FEMA hasn’t kicked in, the need for me to still be there and still make those connections is there. No, I’m not tapping out right now.
Emma: Because you know the system. You know because you’ve been through it.
Tanai: Yeah, I definitely know what it is and how long it’s going to take.
Emma: Alright. I love you. Thank you so much. I’m going to send you money, just hold on here. Tanai Benard, all the links are below in the post, but it’s tanaibenard.com Facebook is ground zero for her, you can find her and support what she’s doing. I’m so glad we connected. You’re wonderful.
Tanai: Same. I appreciate you.
Emma Johnson is a veteran money journalist, noted blogger, bestselling author and an host of the award-winning podcast, Like a Mother with Emma Johnson. A former Associated Press Financial Wire reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Glamour, Oprah.com, U.S. News, Parenting, USA Today and others. Her #1 bestseller, The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin), was named to the New York Post's ‘Must Read” list.
Emma regularly comments on issues of modern families, gender equality, divorce, sex and motherhood for outlets like CNN, Headline News, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fox & Friends, CNBC, NPR, TIME, MONEY, O, The Oprah Magazine and The Doctors. She was named Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web,” “Top 15 Personal Finance Podcasts” by U.S. News, and a “Most Eligible New Yorker” by New York Observer.