I can remember feeling so conflicted when I headed back to work following my first maternity leave. I was out of sorts… I felt like the old me, and the new me were not the same person, especially with regards to my career. Don’t misunderstand. I love what I do. Did then. Do now. At that time though, I felt like an imposter, trying to squeeze into a skin that used to fit. I went through a sort of re-evaluation of my priorities. A professional existential crisis if you will. Examining choices I’d made, and what direction I wanted to take, I grappled with things like: Is this really what I want do? Is this all there is for me? And if so, is “this” enough? After all, now my time was divided. Everything felt more precious, more important. I kept waiting for some clarity, as though there would be a sign that I was on the right path. The harder I tried to figure things out, the more confused I grew. Then it hit me… What I was really asking was: Am I enough? And do I still matter (am I relevant)? After all, I was no longer really an “I”. I grew another human being in my body, in this skin! I birthed a baby. Part of me, literally, was now walking around in the world, separate from me, yet still so strongly connected. I, as an individual person, moved to the very bottom of my “to do” list. Taking any time to invest in myself, and carve out some space for self-actualization seemed, well… selfish. Yet I couldn’t escape my questions.
I was lost. Lost in a world I used to feel so adept in. My brain was foggy, my energy was low, and no matter how hard I tried, I simply could not give as much of myself as I once had. Worse yet, I felt guilty that I missed the old me. I was searching for my very own missing person- the person I was before I became a mom. Until one day, I sat telling a friend about a parent session I’d just given at work, and she said something that changed my whole perspective. “I used to love giving talks”, I told her. “I used to be so good at it.” I explained how I’d fumbled through my speech, lamented that I’d kept losing my train of thought, and concluded that I’d surely disappointed my audience. I was convinced that I was less than I once was. Her response shook me to my core. She said, “Well congratulations! You’ve done it. You’ve made yourself more relatable…more human. Humans aren’t perfect. Your audience was relieved. They see now that you are just like them.” I stared at her blankly, trying to assimilate what she had just told me. Her words echoed in my mind, until the weight of my realization pulled me back into the room. I’d missed the silver lining! Now, I could be me. Not just the polished, professional me, orphaning off all of the messy, creative, flawed and tender parts, but rather a complete me. New skin just meant new beginnings.
My kids have stretched me in ways not measured on a scale. This stretching has transformed every area of my life, from the personal to the professional, starting with the lens through which I saw myself. While at first I felt like an imposter, I now know that I am more me than I ever was. The glow of this silver lining has lit the path to this moment, and to my sharing a piece of me with you. Our stories, and the lessons we learn, complete with the highlights and the lowlights, are what connects us.