My daughter turns two very soon. The classic “the days are long, but the years are short” is probably the truest parenting cliché of them all. The hours before bedtime often feel like an eternity (especially during nights like last night where she decided the tub was a fantastic place to poop), but these years have gone by in an instant.
I was reflecting on this time in my coaching session this week with my amazing coach, Betsy Westhoff, and I was struggling to articulate how I’ve been feeling. It came out as, “I feel like a squishy, insecure version of myself, both inside and out.”
I really felt like I was going into parenting with my eyes wide open. I had heard it all: the delivery stories, the sleepless nights, the teething. One of the benefits of having kids later than many of my friends was collecting a ton of information. I knew it would be hard. I knew I would be exhausted. I thought I had managed my expectations as well as anyone could.
I was sort of right… and a lot wrong. I was focused so much on the physicality of it all. How my body might feel. How tired I might be. The challenges breastfeeding could present. And I handled those all fairly happily (well, as happy as someone can be pumping in the office for the 3rd time that day).
What I completely failed to ask about and prepare myself for was how I would be rocked emotionally. What it’s truly like to go from booking trips on a whim to not being able to go to CVS on my own. How badly it hurts when the person you grew, delivered and fed from your body wants Daddy instead of you. The disgust you feel when your ass looks terrible in every pair of jeans because you haven’t figured out how the heck moms find time to exercise. The helplessness you experience when you can’t catch up at work and you’re questioning yourself and your skill set in ways you never have.
The last two years have been incredible. And they’ve also been really, really hard.
Betsy helped me articulate my challenge in a new way. While I’ve gained so much beauty and fulfillment in my life, I’ve lost a bit of my power. And I am ready to get it back. To not long for the person I once was, but to become a newer, stronger version of myself. To accept that pieces of me will be squishy at times and also to strengthen those I’d been neglecting.
So what now?
Betsy walked me through some reflections to help me identify what’s been missing.
- When do I feel powerful?
- When do I feel energized?
- When do I feel valuable?
- When do I find joy in the midst of challenges?
A few themes emerged from our discussion.
I like creating stuff.
I often say what attracted me to entrepreneurship is building something from nothing. Be it a business, an art project, a blog post or a new design for my home, I like to make things. How can I build this into my routine?
I need to move my body.
We talked about how for 15 years, I was a serious competitive dancer. For anyone who has a former life as a competitive athlete or performer, you know it often leaves a big hole in your life, difficult to fill in your current world. Becoming a parent expanded this gap for me, as I stopped exercising all together. What’s the smallest thing I can commit to to get moving?
I find joy in doing stuff that only I can do to build the business.
I love writing. I love sharing my journey with others. And yet these things are never the priority when I open my computer in the morning. I’m sucked into the needs of the business that day, and the stuff I love gets put on the back burner. Forever. What if I started to prioritize contributing to the business in ways I love and that only I can?
I don’t feel guilt for being away from my child or work, but I want to feel like I’m doing something valuable in each place.
I have a special flavor of mom guilt where I don’t feel bad for the time I spend away from my child or my business. Instead I feel bad for feeling like I’m doing each one shittily. Less time is okay. More impactful is necessary. What does that look like for me?
These are not nice to have.
As parents we are told constantly to “put our oxygen masks on first” and that you “can’t pour from an empty cup.” These have become major eye-rolls for me – I’m so sick of hearing them. And yet… what I need to do is listen, not just hear. I keep postponing rejoining Classpass. I keep accompanying my husband and daughter to swim class to make his life easier when it’s the perfect opportunity for me time. I keep prioritizing everyone else’s Slack pings over my own goals. Who could I be if I made these non-negotiables?
So to summarize the process and to give you a checklist because who doesn’t love a checklist:
- Get back in touch with who you are at your most powerful
- Find versions of those feelings and activities that are feasible for you now
- Commit to tiny ways to start
- Put. Yourself. First.
The in-betweens are the hardest. When you have the awareness that you’re no longer happy to stay where you were, but you’re not quite sure where you’re headed just yet. These in-betweens pop up in your career, your business, your relationships and yourself. And they are all-consuming.
I’m in one now. I’m not the confident 20-something who’d strike up a conversation with anyone at a bar and who quit her corporate job to start a business. I’m not the wise mother who knows the right thing to say and always gets her laundry into the dryer on the first try without having to rewash it. I’m in a messy middle, painfully growing into the person, mother and leader I’ll soon become. But thanks to my coach and the incredible support system I’m lucky enough to have around me, I’m finding my way through it.