Know what you are entitled to when it is all over. Mentally put yourself in the mindset of this is happening and what do I want at the end. Research divorce laws in you state and know what percentage you deserve. If you were a stay at home mom so Chuck could go to work every day, well guess what you contributed to the childcare bills, so you did not have to pay daycare. You allowed Chuck to be able to earn money. Therefore, you deserve pay as stay at home mom. Do not settle. You were in this marriage too and at one point it was ‘Death Do Us Part’.
As part of our series about the “5 Things You Need To Know To Survive And Thrive After A Divorce Or Breakup”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ashley Harkrader.
Owner of Pretty Clean CLT, former beauty queen, professional model, and entrepreneur, Ashley Harkrader has risen like a Phoenix from the ashes after a painful & abusive marriage. She’s created one of Charlotte’s most demanding concierge businesses, offering cleaning, laundry, errand and meal prep services throughout Charlotte and surrounding areas, truly a business of “mom’s helping mom”. She currently resides in Charlotte, with her pre-teen daughter trying to navigate virtual learning.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to ‘get to know you’. Can you tell us a bit about how you grew up?
I grew up in a household where both parents are still married, still very much in love and still creating a life together. My mother and father both worked very demanding jobs, so naturally, I fell into the role of caregiver to my sibling.
I have one brother and even though we are not super close, we were still a very connected and unified family. We lived in a small town and everyone knew everyone (and everyone’s life stories). My childhood shaped who I am today with values and work ethic.
Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
The career path chose me, I didn’t choose it. You could say it was Heaven sent. I needed my company during a time that I could not rub 2 pennies together to help take care of myself and my daughter. I was always told by my ex-husband that I could never do anything on my own. You really don’t know your inner strength till you are put against a wall; I broke down my wall.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?
I could write a book on this one! However, short and sweet version would be the pandemic that we are currently facing. In my mind this was the end of my business as I knew it. Really?? Who is going to let strangers come into their homes and clean with this virus going around? Boy, was I wrong!! This pandemic has taught me the loyalty and the support of my clients is overwhelming and showing that they want to see my business succeed. We are completely word of mouth. I have the most amazing clients.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
The funniest mistake I made was do NOT ever put bleach into an enclosed shower. I did this and didn’t realize I was high as a kite. My helper at the time was in there with me and we just sat in someone’s shower and laughed and giggled. We were obviously on cloud 9.
Rule of thumb: Shower door open, dilute product, and always always turn a fan on.
Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?
The quote I tell myself daily is from a little children’s book called “The Little Engine That Could”. It goes something like “Can’t never could because couldn’t didn’t try” Anytime I am having a rough day or trying to sort out madness, I remind myself of this and think years ago I was the Little Engine and look how far I’ve come. You lay your own foundation, so pave it with good intentions and gold.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I am an “Ashley” so in that regard I am always busy in the mind. I am currently working on adding meal prep and personal cooking to my portfolio. There are so many parents out there that are struggling mentally with virtual learning and juggling a full-time job at home. I want them to know it’s okay to ask for help and we want to be that problem solver of “What’s for dinner tonight?” There is no greater pleasure as a parent of having your stuff together, but it’s even sweeter when you have another parent totally get where you are coming from and be your superhero so you get those extra 30–45 mins with your kids rather than slaving over a hot stove.
Ok. Thank you for that. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Can you tell us a bit about your experience going through a divorce, or helping someone who was going through a divorce? What did you learn about yourself during and after the experience? Do you feel comfortable sharing a story?
My divorce is still an ongoing divorce. Where we are divorced, we still have some loose ends to tie up. We also share a daughter together. Sharing is loosely added as well. My pain was mental and my abuse was raw. Words stick with you forever. However, glass half full he is my motivation to build a Fortune 500 company. I can still hear his daggers echoing in my mind from time to time and it reminds me I am so much stronger than I ever thought. I learned that your strength comes from within and I know we all have different situations or circumstances that led us to where we are now but there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Do not burn your bridges until you get what you deserve then you light that match with gasoline and watch it burn.
In your opinion, what are the most common mistakes people make after they go through a divorce? What can be done to avoid that?
I would say the most common thing is starting to think they can’t do it and they stay because they are scared of the unknown. Yes, I will admit it’s scary as hell to be on your own. However, it goes back to my quote “Can’t never could because couldn’t didn’t try”. There are not a lot of resources out there for single moms, but there are A LOT of single moms that are amazing resources. Lean on your tribe and build your village. Don’t go jump into another relationship… learn to love you first and the rest will follow.
People generally label “divorce” as being “negative”. And yes, while there are downsides, there can also be a lot of positive that comes out of it as well. What would you say that they are? Can you share an example or share a story?
I am happily divorced and loving life. I think the negative connotation of “divorce” is long gone. Mental abuse is real and no one should ever feel like they have to stay in a marriage just because of society’s views. You learn to do things on your own, you learn your independence, and then when the time is right you learn there are amazing people out there that make you see how happily divorced you really are.
Some people are scared to ‘get back out there’ and date again after being with their former spouse for many years and hearing dating horror stories. What would you say to motivate someone to get back out there and start a new beginning?
I would say do not relationship jump. You are more than likely to go after the same person (personality) wise that you just left. Give yourself time. Divorce starts with a D for a reason; you go through the exact feelings of a Death. You are losing someone where it is mutual or not. No one gets married to look forward to divorcing. It is an absolute roller coaster of emotions. Grieve that loss, grow into the butterfly, and then find your person. Ride the rollercoaster first and get the T-shirt at the end. It’s a badge of honor.
What is the one thing people going through a divorce should be open to changing?
You should be open to change. It is inevitable and it’s a journey. I started journaling during my divorce and writing my thoughts. I can go back and read these today to see where I was 5 years ago, 3 years ago, 6 months ago. The progression in myself is unbelievable. You just must be willing to let go and live free.
Ok, here is the main question of our discussion. If you had a close friend come to you for advice after a divorce, what are 5 things you would advise to survive and thrive after the divorce? Can you please give a story or example for each?
I have had this happen and here was my advice:
- Know your finances. Go open your own account and start stacking cash to the side. This is going to be crucial as many places require you to have a down payment or show you have income.
- How to keep the lights on: Very carefully start documenting your utility bills. Start taking note how much the power was this month? What is the monthly phone bill? What is the billing cycle for your bills and write them all out on paper so you can see it? This will help you mentally get into the habit of knowing how much of your income needs to be dedicated to bills. Also, if you go the lawyer route this will be something that will be factored in during your initial conversation. You WILL want to know the answers to this.
3. Find your tribe: Social media can be evil, but it can also be a steppingstone for finding others that went through what you did. Do not be scared to ask for help. There are plenty of moms out there that made it through, and they will help you too.
4. Document EVERYTHING: This is huge because as you are going through the process you have a cloudy mind. Writing down things and dates will help you go back and be able to recall certain events, things that were said, and feelings. Now, biggest mistake is leaving it somewhere to be found. Keep it safe and treat is as that… it will save you in the end, but it can be destroyed faster than you think.
5. Know what you are entitled to when it is all over. Mentally put yourself in the mindset of this is happening and what do I want at the end. Research divorce laws in you state and know what percentage you deserve. If you were a stay at home mom so Chuck could go to work every day, well guess what you contributed to the childcare bills, so you did not have to pay daycare. You allowed Chuck to be able to earn money. Therefore, you deserve pay as stay at home mom. Do not settle. You were in this marriage too and at one point it was ‘Death Do Us Part’.
The stress of a divorce can take a toll on both one’s mental and emotional health. In your opinion or experience, what are a few things people going through a divorce can do to alleviate this pain and anguish?
Being in the moment is the biggest thing. Take the hike to the top of the mountain. Take a trip somewhere and breathe new air, try something different just for you… find you!! You will see your entire mental state start to change, and you will become someone who appreciates things more because you see them as they are and not as someone told you they should be seen.
Do you have any favorite books, podcasts, or resources related to this topic that you would recommend to our readers?
I don’t have a favorite. However, I fell madly in love with Bravo’s show: A Girlfriend’s Guide to Divorce. It is a pretty accurate portrayal of how crazy things can be, can get, and the journey you go on. If anything, it will make you laugh.
Because of the position that you are in, you are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I would love to take the judging out of the term “divorce”. Just being there for another mom/woman on her journey. It is hard enough realizing your marriage is over we don’t need another female looking down on us when guess what her grass isn’t as green as she makes it out to be. I would love to have a commercial space where stay-at-home moms that are going though divorces have a place to drop their kids while they go interview for jobs, or a coffee spot in my space where we have support groups that work together to just talk through feelings. Movements come from experiences, let us share them!
We are very blessed that very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
I am probably going to shock you by saying this, but I would say myself 10 years ago. I would love to be able to tell my 24-year-old self… everything is going to be okay. The light is there, and you just have to put your head down and grind it out. I think she would appreciate that!
Thank you for these great insights and for the time you spent with this interview. We wish you only continued success!