If someone had told me I would be reevaluating my self-worth a year after having my first child, I would have told him or her to disembark the crazy train. Before my daughter was born, I was the queen of confidence—a possessor of aplomb and fearlessness. Heck, I've built my entire life-coaching program around the idea of promoting inner and outer confidence.
But here I find myself, seventeen months after the little one's arrival, lost, a little broken, slightly more defeated and realizing an internal step back is very necessary for a productive move forward.
Before baby, my idea of success was measured by my professional accomplishments.
Not necessarily how big my salary was but by the fact that I had a cool job I enjoyed and was at least contributing to the household's overall income. Even though before my maternity leave I was making less than my husband, I still held a management position with significant responsibilities and associates looking to me for guidance. I was good at it. I liked being in charge and seeing my team flourish.
I knew I would take a few months off to get used to being a first-time mom but I always assumed that I would go back to work soon after that. Even though I knew I would not be returning to the same job I left (due crazy hours and a lower paying salary), I figured I would just find a job in the field I used to work in years ago.
Give me a minute to pick myself up from the floor while I laugh-cry about this now.
Yes, I had the audacity to make plans. I even had a set timeline with a specific salary I just knew I would get and looked forward to everything falling into place. And yet, it's been over a year and save for a few coaching clients, I have been out of work. And I've been searching for the “new me" ever since.
Let's get real.
I know that being a parent and raising a child is one of the most important things someone can do. I know that by being a stay at home mom, I am saving my family thousands of dollars in childcare fees. I know that it is ridiculous to feel guilty about not having a job while I spend 24-7 caring for my child. I know that I am putting all of this guilt and pressure on myself while my husband and family and friends reassure me that being a mom is hard no matter what the circumstances and that I'm being silly allowing my own thoughts to fuel my guilt.
I know all of this in my brain but not my heart.
Or maybe it's the other way around?
But I'm here to tell you, as a self-proclaimed control freak, not having something tangible to show for all my work—like a paycheck, or a growing savings account, or a non-stop workday that leaves me feeling exhausted—is really difficult for me. I am the type of person who needs evidence that I have done a good job.
I can look at my daughter—a beautiful, smart, vivacious young girl—and know that I had something to do with that. But honestly, I struggle with how much is really me and how much was already in that dazzling brain of hers.
I have been constantly thinking about, reevaluating and wrestling with who I am these last few months.
And I am no closer to finding out any more than I was when my daughter turned a year old. I find myself in a constant battle of wills with myself. I have an awesome idea for a new coaching program I want to offer but for some reason, I have not made the move to start networking for clients. I keep applying to full-time positions that pop up in my LinkedIn profile but do so half-heartedly because I have not found a job that gets my blood boiling. I have looked at work from home options so that I can keep the freedom of being a SAHM and start bringing in some cash flow.
Why have I been so intent on bringing in steady income when I really should be focusing on this brilliant time I have to spend with my daughter? Raising a self-aware strong female is what the world needs now more than ever.
So why am I so afraid of just settling into the role of stay at home mom?
I realized I'm terrified of the non-tangible.
I now have to base the majority of my self-worth on fluidity. I had a friend (OK, a therapist) once tell me that I thought my feelings, I didn't really feel my feelings. It was a gut punch of truth and something I'm now constantly working to improve.
Becoming an unexpected stay at home parent has forced me to look inward way more than I ever have before. They say becoming a parent is one of the best ways to learn selflessness. But I have found that mothering a daughter has allowed me to really delve into who I am as a person.
It's no longer only about what I do for work or how many hours I spend at the office. Hard facts and numbers have lost their significance. My self-worth is now based on whether I show up every minute of every hour of every day for my daughter. Is she happy? Growing? Learning? Laughing?
The struggle is real and every day for me.
But I'm learning to slow down and enjoy the smaller moments. I'm not constantly on the lookout for the next thing that will help define who I am now. I am learning to accept that ultimately I define myself.