When I was in the fifth grade I made it to the finals in both a public speaking contest and spelling bee—both were in front of the entire school. My tiny body strutted to the podium. The ocean of bobbing, grinning parents and siblings didn't scare me. No nerves entered my body, instead, self-reliance fired into the audience. I puffed my chest out. My voice didn't rattle—it rang clear.

I didn't win first place in either contest. But I remember the poise and self-assurance I felt in front of all those people. At age 11, my confidence climbed.

But it only soared a little longer.


In the sixth grade, I excelled in drama even as a brand new middle schooler. I was invited to be in a local commercial promoting the arts in school. I stood tall—petite—but tall. My voice boomed louder in the middle school hallways. The teachers didn't like it. I heard it all. "Angela, you need to be quiet." "Lower your voice!" and worse, "Stop talking."

Something else started happening, too. My hips widened and small hills appeared on my chest a little earlier than my classmates. I no longer stood tall. I quieted. Just like I was told to do.

We shot that commercial at the end of the school year. It took far too many takes because of my jitters and newfound insecurity. My drama teacher was annoyed. Instead of encouragement, I heard, "Your mother is going to be here soon, you need to get this right. Come on."

From then on, I would remain talkative in social settings, but academically, I sat tensely at my desk. I didn't want my opinions heard—because the adults didn't want to hear them. And I never took another drama class. Today, at age 36, and earning my second grad degree, my voice still quakes when I have to give a speech behind the podium.

But now I have a daughter, and she's only three, but she's mighty. Like me. And I won't let anyone dim her light. Even if she's a little loud in the hallways I'll always remind her, "Your voice is important." I will always encourage her to let her light shine.

This past week my daughter and I sat in the bleachers during her big brother's indoor soccer game. Well, I sat—she jumped around—electric. She captivated everyone. A father was sitting behind us and my daughter kept throwing him the soccer ball—and a spontaneous game of catch ensued. Her pigtails bounced when she pranced down the bleachers, running to get the ball. When he'd miss a catch, she'd march up to him and say, "You need to catch it!" Then she'd squeal. I didn't stop her.

She has a fire inside her, and I never want it to go away. I never want her to feel like she has lost it. I never want her to feel like she has to be submissive or meek. Or like she is being hushed. She doesn't have to smile if she doesn't want to. She can be loud. She can take up space. She can be feisty. She should feel empowered.

I remember, like it was yesterday, the teachers who fired their scorn at my vivacity—until it dwindled to just a flicker. Today, I feel cheated by those teachers. They made me feel inadequate as a developing young woman. And now, as a mother, I wonder—what could have been?

But I won't let my daughter wonder that same thing. Today, if we're in a doctor's waiting room, restaurant, or sporting event, she chats with everyone. Life shoots out of her. Enthusiasm radiates from her body. And sometimes, I can tell—people become a little put off. I've seen eyes roll. Heads turn away. But I don't care. I won't stop her. As long as she's not being rude or disrespectful, she's harmless. She's being a kid. She's enjoying her life. She's discovering who she is.

I want her to always feel that confidence like she does today. I won't silence her. I won't let her feel cheated.

And when she's older, I want her to confidently speak up in a class discussion, to fearlessly tell a joke at a party, to flawlessly give a speech in front of a crowd. To have courage when she needs to speak out about an injustice and to have poise when she needs to articulate her feelings. To feel comfortable using her words, as I remind her now—and for the rest of her life.

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Jalyssa says she learned to embrace agility throughout her motherhood journey. Here's more from this incredible mama of five boys.

What is the most challenging part of your day as a mom of five?

Time management! I want to meet each of the boys' individual needs—plus show up for myself—but I often feel like someone gets overlooked.

What's the best part of being a mom of five?

The little moments of love. The hugs, the kisses, the cuddles, the smiles... they all serve as little reminders that I am blessed and I'm doing okay.

Are there misconceptions about raising boys?

There are so many misconceptions about raising boys. I think the biggest one is that boys don't have many emotions and they're just so active all the time. My boys display many emotions and they also love to be sweet and cuddly a lot of the time.

What do you think would surprise people the most about being a mom of five?

How much I enjoy it. I never knew I wanted to be a mom until I was pregnant with my first. My desire only grew and the numbers did! I am surprised with every single baby as my capacity to love and nurture grows. It's incredible.

How do you create balance and make time for yourself?

Balance for me looks like intentional planning and scheduling because I never want my boys to feel like they aren't my first priority, but it is extremely difficult. What I try to do is not fit it all into one day. I have work days because motherhood is my first priority. I fit in segments of self-care after the kids' bedtime so I don't grow weary.

What's the biggest lesson you have learned from motherhood?

I have learned that sacrifice is actually beautiful. I was terrified of the selflessness motherhood would require, but I've grown so much through the sacrifice. There is nothing better than living for something bigger than myself.

When did you first feel like a mom? How has your motherhood evolved?

I first felt like a mom when I was pregnant with my first son and I intentionally chose to change my eating habits so my body could be strong and healthy for him. I didn't have to think twice—I just did what I thought would be best for him. That decision being so effortless made me realize I was made for motherhood.

My perspective has changed with each baby as I've realized motherhood doesn't have to be one-size-fits-all. With my first son, I was a by-the-book mama and it was so stressful. With each baby, I have felt more freedom and it has made motherhood so much more beautiful. I have evolved into the mother that they need, I am perfect for these boys.

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