Lisa A. Flam
Holly Cromer is dreaming big, and putting in long hours of hard work to help reach her goals.
Cromer, a single mom to 8-year-old Auden, spends most of every day working or thinking about work. She rarely sits still and has forgotten how to chill out.
Cromer, 33, holds a full-time job, owns a wedding photography business and works a food delivery gig on occasion, all to cover her bills, pay down credit card debt and save for the future.
“It helps me stay busy and it makes me feel like I’m making a better future and making my son more secure in the future,” she says.
Through the “controlled chaos” of her life, this single working mom wants to serve as a role model to her son. “I hope he has the work ethic to be willing to work this hard if he needs to, but I also hope that he doesn’t have to,” said Cromer, of Blacksburg, Virginia.
Her days are “chaotic, exhausting, but fulfilling.”
“I am a workaholic,” Cromer says, “but at the end of the day, I’m ready to collapse.”
Weekdays begin when Cromer helps her son get ready for school, where she drops the third-grader off early for before-school care. Then, she heads to her job at Virginia Tech, where she works as an administrative assistant from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
She usually devotes her lunch break to her photography business. After work, she picks up her son from after-care and they go home to let the dog out.
Cromer checks her DoorDash app and may decide to work delivering restaurant meals if the peak pay incentive is being offered. She sometimes delivers two or three nights a week, and is always picking up odd jobs.
She and Auden have dinner, something simple like sandwiches, and he does homework. Her only “me time” is after he falls asleep, sometimes not until 10 p.m. Assuming she hasn’t fallen asleep herself, Cromer gets back to her photography, often not putting her head on the pillow until midnight or 1 a.m.
On weekends, she tries to slow down a bit, though she might shoot a wedding or have a photo shoot. Although she’s been a photographer for a decade, she still gets anxious before a wedding, and will often spend a few hours “stress cleaning” beforehand to burn off nervous energy and make a dent in the chores that have piled up all week. Her father, who lives with them, usually watches Auden.
Her full-time job provides health insurance and a salary that covers her mortgage and child care, and the other jobs pay for the rest of her expenses. She saves when she can.
She’s thankful for her photography business, which is her passion but provides an unreliable income, and for the delivery job, which she started early this year to make quick money after taking on about $10,000 in credit card debt last year when her business was slow.
“It was a huge relief the first time I did DoorDash,” she says, because she didn’t have to find another job with a set schedule.
Her goals are to open a wedding venue she wants to build from the ground up, and to make enough money so she feels financially stable and could handle an emergency.
“I have big dreams of things in the future that I want to save money up for, so working all the time makes me feel like I’m making progress toward that,” Cromer says. “I feel like it would just be a better life for my son. I’m trying to improve both of our circumstances.”
Her responsibilities are significant: working, running her household, caring for and supporting her son.
“But I know it’s got to get done,” she says, “so I try not to dwell on what’s really resting on my shoulders. I just keep going.”
She has a great life with her son, and when she takes him hiking or to the pool, she’s in the moment, not focused on work.
To keep moving forward, she never looks back.
“I try to stay optimistic for the future,” Cromer says. “This is just part of the journey to better things.”