Single Mother by Choice

Single Mother by Choice

In life, there are people who sit back and wait for things to happen. Conversely, there are those who act. Utilizing their own agency. Furthermore, feeling at choice when others may not see a path. Julie had enough of waiting for all the “right” things to fall into place to start her family. Instead, knowing her desire to be a mother, she chose single mother by choice.

As a result, she utilized a donor to bring her perfect little boy Ben into the world.

Everyone has a story to share. This is no different in Julie’s case. Ironically, I’ve known her for years and knew she had a child. However, in passing one day she mentioned the journey into motherhood for her involved a donor. I was hooked and wanted to share her story!

I hope you enjoy hearing Julie’s journey into motherhood and her words of wisdom for anyone hesitating to take action in their own life.

Single Mother by Choice - young boy on front porch in front of door posing with a big smile for first day of school picture

Julie’s amazing little boy Ben

BACKGROUND

Julie grew up in Indiana and is a very humble basketball star from Twin Lakes High School. Standing 6 feet 2 inches tall, her calm demeanor is inviting. In fact, quite a contrast from the woman on the court who recently earned a spot on the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame’s Women’s Silver Anniversary team.

After playing basketball and immediately upon graduating from Butler University, Julie married and put her career on hold as a trailing Army spouse. After three years and realizing her husband was struggling with addiction and not ready to seek help, she knew that starting a family was not the answer. They divorced, and she moved back to Indianapolis to start over.

Upon returning to Indy, Julie made her way back to Butler University working in the Office of Career and Professional Success. Simultaneously, she went back into the dating scene.

I dated good guys, but the spark just wasn’t there.

In truth, there was one spark. Even though they dated for 2.5 years and had a great relationship, they were in different places in their lives and decided it best to part ways.

He had a daughter and was done having kids. I knew I wanted a family. It was a tough break-up because we loved each other, we were just in different places in our lives and knew this was best for both of us.

In turn, Julie returned to the dating scene hopeful.

SINGLE MOTHER BY CHOICE

As the years went by and Julie’s motherhood desire continued to grow, single mother by choice came into view.

Two of my friends utilized a donor and this intrigued me. The process involves many consultations and then a lot of planning. It’s a PROCESS. I also met with my financial advisor who told me – if this is what you want to do, you need to get your s**t together! So, I did.

Julie describes herself as not being a risk-taker. Others would challenge this knowing her story.

After her financial planner gave the stern advice coupled with encouragement and support, she created a plan to set herself up for success. Putting money aside for a few IUI attempts as well as having a reserve for herself and her growing family.

In other words, a calculated risk. While she was taking a risk at having a family on her own, she knew financial stability and her amazingly supportive family made this feel much less risky and more like a dream come true.

SINGLE MOTHER BY CHOICE PROCESS

The process of artificial insemination took four tries over the course of a year. After the third try did not take, a disappointed Julie decided this next attempt might be the last.

The doctor upped her meds and shared that the chance of multiples could increase 20-30%. At the ultrasound there were three mature follicles.

To put this in perspective… this meant as a result, there was a chance she could have triplets. This was NOT part of her plan personally or financially. However, Julie dug into her faith and knew she and her support network would figure out whatever came to be.

At the viability of life ultrasound, there was one little gummy bear in there!

Julie shared this with the same enthusiasm as I’m sure she had the day she found out.

She described having a great pregnancy. Even made the decision to utilize a doula through Indianapolis Doulas for labor. Something she swears by to this day as being a great part of the process for her.

Two weeks before Ben’s due date, Julie’s water broke. Through laughter, she described putting a trash bag on the car seat and driving herself to the hospital as calm as could be (it was only five minutes away).

It was uneventful yet still very exciting!

POSTPARTUM SINGLE MOTHER BY CHOICE

About 7 hours after entering the hospital, Julie met her perfect little boy, Ben. Reveling in how amazed she was by him…

His hands were so big. And he didn’t really cry. Honestly, I was just amazed by this little boy.

Lots of people were a part of the process as she returned home from the hospital. Co-workers, friends, and family supporting and checking in on her. Creating a meal train. Ensuring she felt loved and supported. Julie’s mom came and stayed for 10 days too.

Julie also shared that she decided to pursue the option of having her placenta encapsulated.

I went through a process where the doula saves the placenta and cleans it. Then it is cooked, dehydrated, and blended into a powder, which is encapsulated for consumption. I do think this helped me feel better through my postpartum experience.

DATING, MARRIAGE, LIFE

Julie then shared she is in a relationship. Remember back to the great relationship she had but they were in different places? Well guess what, she and Jeff reconnected while she was going through the artificial insemination process and began dating again.

Julie and Jeff tried their separate lives, but ultimately reunited and realized they could each have what they wanted. At this point, the official ceremony being the only thing not making them married.

Single Mother by Choice- man and woman posing with teenage daughter and toddler son. All smiling and casual.

Julie & Jeff’s family


However, it wasn’t until Ben was 3 that Julie and Jeff moved in together. And while Jeff is not Ben’s biological father, he has been present and involved in his life since birth.

The donor is an open donor. Meaning at 18, Ben can contact the donor. We will be very open and honest with Ben about this. He calls Jeff- Jeff but refers to him as Daddy. It’s very sweet.

RELEASING EXPECTATIONS

People will often say to Julie – I don’t know how you do it. Her response:

I didn’t know any different.

Furthermore, this releasing of expectation is Julie’s approach on most things in life. Conflict exists when there is a difference of expectations, whether a spouse, partner, co-workers, friends.

I’m in a relationship now and it’s really good. I made the choice to be a mother and I have no expectation of anyone else doing things for me. We’ve gotten good at communicating versus expecting.

Julie likes routine and organization, but motherhood has also taught her adaptability. Being okay with a plan B.

Single Mother by Choice- man and woman posing at a wedding reception smiling

Julie and Jeff enjoying a night out

MOTHERHOOD ADVICE

I asked Julie what advice she would give to other moms.

Whatever you do, DON’T USE DR. GOOGLE! It’s so scary!

Said through laughter…

In addition to Dr. Google, she also reminds everyone that babies milestone differently. Do your best not to get caught up in the comparison game.

SUMMARY – SINGLE MOTHER BY CHOICE

Julie describes herself as risk averse, but in action it feels much different. In fact, she took a chance on herself and created a life she always dreamed of. Being a mom.

Although it’s easy to want certain things for our kids and try to plan it all out, she’s also recognizing the adaptability necessary. Including allowing him to have his own aspirations.

When I really think about it, I just want him to be happy and himself. Whatever that is. Of course, if he could be a star basketball player like his mom that would be great (giggles), but I really do want him to find and pick his thing. Really challenging myself to keep this in mind as he gets older.

She also acknowledged the challenges of finding a good day care, the upkeep of nursing and cleaning ALL THE PARTS when he was a baby, and then the reality of losing time with friends. But she went on to share that even with the feeling of that loss of freedom and flexibility…

It is worth it. Yes, 100% worth it.

Thank you, Julie (and Ben and Jeff), for sharing your story with The Mom Huddle!

 

Comparison is the thief of joy. 

– Theodore Roosevelt

 

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Mental Health in Motherhood

Mental Health in Motherhood

I’m always appreciative of stories, tips, and experiences in mental health shared from moms who have kids, sons more specifically, a bit older than my own. It’s fascinating to hear their family focal points. What they tried. And yes, even what didn’t work. This was no exception in my recent conversation with Nancy Polsky.

Nancy is certified through the same coaching program as me, but a few years prior. We were paired up in coaching bartering and I have the privilege of hearing pieces of her story through our coaching together.

Her sons are now 16 and 22. In passing, she mentioned her own focus on emotional health with a teenage son and frankly, I was hooked. Feeling the relevance of this for not only my own family, but also many of our readers more than likely.

I hope you find supportive tidbits for yourself in hearing Nancy’s story.

EMOTIONAL & MENTAL HEALTH COACHING

Nancy is a senior leader in the learning and leadership development space. However, the focus on emotional health in her two sons wasn’t initially an intentional focus.

We always talked and listened to the boys. Getting on their level. They’ve been very engaged since a young age. In fact, one pre-school teacher commented to us – she liked to sit with Caleb at lunch because he always had a lot to say!

As women, there is a tendency in families for the mom to develop the social-emotional side not only in their kids, but also with friends and even mates. This was no different in Nancy’s family.

Males tend to connect through doing things. Going to games, throwing around a ball, in other words, activities. Females connect more through conversation. Social-emotional.

EVOLUTION OF CONNECTION- IMPACT ON MENTAL HEALTH

At the beginning of 2020, Nancy noticed a change in Ben, her now 16-year-old son. They had always talked and connected, but something was off.

The first signal was the academic implosion. He changed schools during the pandemic and experienced a hard time meeting people with everything via Zoom. As a result, his grades suffered. The second signal was the obsession with his phone. Which now makes sense knowing his social emotional health was not great… it was a lifeline to his friends.

Nancy even shared a story we both agreed is funny now, but I’m sure was not at the time. He snuck into her room at night to get his phone but made her think she dreamt it while she was sick with COVID and very groggy.

Said through laughter, “that dude is gas lighting me!!!” reflecting on the moment she realized he was lying.

They began therapy to talk through what was happening. Nancy realized something very profound through talking out the experiences they were both having.

Even though Ben and I talk a lot, I began to realize our connection points through discussion were all heavy. Dialogue about politics, what’s happening in the world, even his own mental health. We didn’t have activities to do together. He shoots hoops with his dad. He goes and does things with his friends. He and I talk, but we were at a loss of activities to do together. Everything was heavy. The foundation was heavy.

This lightbulb moment was a switch for them both to be intentional and redefine their relationship.

They are still exploring activities they both enjoy, but a few they have implemented already include watching film, sharing music, and traveling. In fact, as I type this, they are exploring Yellowstone together.

How cool is that?

Mental Health- woman and her teenage son posing for a selfie with big smiles

WORKING MOM

Nancy has always been a working mom. In fact, she was the bread winner while her now ex-husband worked on his PhD.

My boys saw it as a norm for mom to have a meaningful career. This was important to me, as my mom was also a single working mom. She came of age professionally when women were just getting into the workforce and always felt dismayed that she had a series of jobs that supported us but didn’t have a meaningful career for herself. She delighted in seeing me develop in my career, crafting it the way I wanted.

One key for Nancy has always been for life to be meaningful.

I tell the boys all the time… What impact do you want to have? You have an opportunity to show up and make a difference.

In fact, she hates it when people ask her sons what they want to be professionally. Instead, she prefers to think the following:

Find a shared meaning or a common purpose with others and have fun. Play all in doing it.  No matter what it is.

Ben, in particular, has taken this to heart.

For example, as a high school sophomore he created MindFULL Me with a teacher at his school. Teaching the art of being focused and intentional to teens.

He recognized the need in his fellow students to understand the value in a pause. Even as an active student athlete with several extracurricular activities, Ben understands the importance of being mindful and intentional for mental health.

This was a very proud moment for Nancy.

MindFULL Me strengthened his ability to find something that works for him. Growth in his own interests. Furthermore, using his autonomy and impacting change.

MOM’S IMPACT ON MENTAL HEALTH

Nancy’s life hasn’t been all positive experiences. She shared some of the challenges such as chronic illness, family transitions in a divorce, and reinventing herself through four layoffs throughout her career, to name a few.

However, it’s the lessons within each of these experiences and how she used her own energy and action where she can stand proud.

My mom taught me to always be all in. She never expected anything but that. Put your energy and action into whatever you are doing. In fact, this created a belief in my own agency. In other words, why NOT me?

It was this ability to overcome adversity as well as deep belief in self that has led Nancy and her boys to, as she puts it, “try on different hats and see what fits.” She encourages them to be open and curious.

Nancy shares in her mom’s life philosophy…

When I was a kid, our family didn’t have much money. My mom had to make her paycheck last all month long. But she used to tell me: Nancy, I don’t want it to just say on my tombstone, I paid my bills. So, my mom lived her life. I try to live by that too – and raise my sons to do the same: Show up, play all in, play well with others, passionately – wring this life out. We’re here to make a difference and have fun doing it.

Mental Health- woman in a cow Halloween costume with two kids dressed as milk and cookies

VALUES

When her boys were 12 and 18, Nancy did a really interesting exercise with them. For the record, I’m totally going to take my boys through this here soon too!

She noticed they were arguing and the older one was teasing his little brother too often. Nancy decided to take them through a values exercise to create awareness of what is important to each of them. However, it went much deeper than even she anticipated.

First, she gave them each a list of values and asked them to pick 5 that stuck out to them personally. Then they identified the top two. Finally, the three of them each shared which values they selected and why those were important to them.

As each one shared their top values and the story behind them, the other two got excited. Instinctively pointing out specific moments where they saw (or spotted) these values in action in their family life.

In this heightened state, with them all feeling really elevated – they took a few minutes to go around again. Each saying where there might be further opportunity to lean into their values in action. For her oldest, this meant more kindness towards his little brother. And just like that, he stopped teasing his brother.

Nancy was blown away with how powerful this activity was for her family. They each learned a lot about not only each other, but also themselves. The keys were to self-identify values (intrinsic motivation), elevate one another through ‘strength spotting’ (external validation and celebration), and to seek out opportunities for even more elevation by more consistently bringing their best self to one another.

CONCLUSION- FAMILY MENTAL HEALTH

Nancy shared with great pride the emotional learning journey she and her boys not only have been on but also continue to navigate. Definitely not easy and she didn’t sugar coat the tough stuff. But it’s in this honesty I think there are a few key things I’ll take forward in my own family.

First, Nancy was brave enough to call out what she was feeling and seeing in her son. Knowing there was something off but not just waiting to see what would happen. When talking didn’t work, she sought out professional support for not only her son, but also for them as a family.

And the result? A renewed desire for the two of them to create fun and enjoyment TOGETHER.

Second, expectations can be so high from parents to kids. Whether it’s wanting them to follow a particular career path, sports path, academic path, or “fill in the blank” path… it’s pressure. And while some pressure can be good for growth and learning, her approach took a step back from specific expectation.  In other words, “Show up. Ring this life out. We’re here to make a difference and have fun doing it.”

Immediate pressure release!

Finally, understanding what your kids value and allowing them the autonomy to decide and share with you is a truly empowering experience.

My goal is not to get them to live in my values but rather to live in their key values.

Thank you, Nancy, for sharing your story with The Mom Huddle!

 

Our life is shaped by our mind, for we become what we think. 

– Buddha

 

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Empowered Mother Through Faith

Empowered Mother Through Faith

Kristen is first and foremost a Christian. Then a wife to Noah and mother to Max. Additionally, she works as a Director for EDGE Mentoring, a Christian-based organization providing whole-person development through mentorship. 

One quick conversation with Kristen and it’s amazing to witness her deep faithfulness. Admittedly, sometimes I hear people talk about religion and there is a part of me who questions if it’s as deep to them as they claim.

Are they saying this to convince me or themselves? Do they TRULY believe with such a deep faith in the tough times as well as the good?

Unequivocally, Kristen does. It’s not just her words, but also the conviction with which she shares. Deep strength, for instance. And a general sense of knowing. It’s both comforting while simultaneously inspiring.

Her son, Max, will be two next month. For certain, the journey into motherhood for Kristen was one she dreamed and prayed about for years, with heartbreak and disappointment prevalent in the form of a battle with infertility.

Not only does she share her beautiful story, but also describes how unconscious bias exists for young mothers even with the best of intentions. Additionally, the chaos of having a baby during a pandemic, loneliness of maternity leave during quarantine, and the juggle of returning to work without full-time childcare.

Enjoy Kristen’s inspiring story.

KRISTEN’S CAREER PATH

A volleyball player and Sports Medicine major from Depauw, Kristen thought a career in physical therapy was her calling. 

I had shoulder surgery and was going through rehab. It felt natural to go ahead and intern there too since I was a Sports Med major. That’s where I met Noah (her now husband). I now realize it was God’s plan for me to go on this journey in PT to lead me to him, not for a career as a physical therapist.


Empowered Mother Through Faith- Caucasian man and woman posing together smiling in front of pine trees

Kristen and Noah


 

She continued. 

After graduating, I worked in physical therapy for a little bit, but I didn’t sense that this was what I was supposed to do long-term. Through some fortunate connections, I landed at the Colts, working with their cheerleaders. Working with women who are held to such a public high standard really opened my eyes to the need for all women to feel supported. I formed meaningful relationships with these women and loved supporting and empowering them.

With this newfound passion focused on mentorship and coaching, Kristen pivoted after 2.5 years with the Colts and spent the next 7 years working as a health coach and mental health contributor.

Shortly after Kristen joined the team at First Person Advisors, she met now friend and mentor, Todd Richardson, CEO of EDGE.

Todd came in and gave a talk to our executive team. For the record, I have no idea why I was even in the meeting, nevertheless he described what EDGE Mentoring was doing and the whole-person development concept really spoke to me. Consequently, I had been looking for a female mentor for almost 10 years. I raised my hand in sort of an out-of-body experience and said – can I volunteer to go through this?

And so began Kristen’s involvement with EDGE.

EDGE|Groups pairs seasoned leaders with early to mid-career individuals looking for whole-person development, including career, personal, and spiritual mentorship.

For Kristen, this meant impact. Moreover, she wanted to make an impact, but also felt she was in a space of needing this mentorship and guidance herself.

PANDEMIC BABY

Kristen and Noah married in 2013. They spent years praying for a baby with the hope of growing their family. Undoubtedly, three years of infertility was a dark and lonely journey for Kristen. The strange dichotomy of wanting something so badly while also leaning into her faith and God’s plan for their lives.

Then in 2019, their prayers were answered. Max was due in May of 2020.

I was 7-months pregnant when the pandemic started. As an expectant mother, I think we all have the expectations of what the birth will be like. There is definitely some grieving when it doesn’t go according to the plan you have built up in your head. I went through that period, but then also realized – how you respond is up to you.

Noah was able to be in the room with her for Max’s arrival and they utilized FaceTime to involve the rest of the family. It was a special bonding time for the now family of three.

Coming home was another story. Noah, also a physical therapist, is an essential worker. So, after a short time at home with the newborn, he was back to work. Kristen’s mom quarantined to come stay for a couple of weeks of support.

Then Kristen and Max were on their own.

Maternity leave was something entirely different than I had imagined. Frankly, it was super lonely. We were trying to keep Max from getting sick, which you do with any infant, but it was absolutely amplified with COVID.

BACK TO WORK

After her 3-month leave, Kristen returned to work at First Person Advisors only this time with a newborn baby in tow.

We were really nervous to put Max in daycare at this point (August of 2020), so made the decision to keep him home with me. While it was nice to have the additional time with him and be a mom, the juggle was stressful. I was anxious all the time. Not feeling like I was giving my best self to anything due to the guilt of split attention.

Over time, Kristen also felt the grace once being given for parents juggling work with children at home starting to wane.

Fall 2020 was hard. We had been in the pandemic for six months and many, rightfully so, were frustrated and ready to get back to “normal”. I too wanted to change because the pace at which I was running was not sustainable, but I didn’t know how long I would need to sustain it. That’s when I began to talk to HR about what my options were to get myself to the space of being the healthiest wife and mom I could be.

This is where EDGE came in again. Routinely checking in to see how the new family of 3 was doing, Todd approached her at the beginning of 2021 with a position he was creating to reimagine the faith-based mentoring program.

Suddenly the guilt Kristen felt was removed. She could work on projects she found deeply meaningful and had participated in as a mentee, while the part time role allowed her flexibility and grace.

She left First Person Advisors and began her role with EDGE in early 2021.

EDGE Mentorship Logo

UNCONSCIOUS BIAS EXISTS

Kristen describes one of the surprises to motherhood being the pull mom guilt has on her.

Am I doing what’s best for him? On one shoulder I have the mom guilt about decisions for him – like if someone should watch him during a pandemic. Then on the other shoulder the thoughts of – am I being present in my own life? The intensity of these feelings and lack of confidence I have in my decision making took me by surprise! But I also began to realize it was the devil messing with my head in those moments of doubt and mom guilt.

Another surprise came in the form of what she called unconscious bias wrapped in support.

I don’t think one of my husband’s patients have asked him who is watching Max while he is at work! There have been moments throughout these past 2 years where comments have been made that appeared to be supportive, but really were bias towards working moms. Any time someone goes through a disruptive life event – birth of a child, divorce, death of a family member, pandemic, etc. – involve them in the decision-making process of what’s best for them. Because chances are, your unconscious bias towards their situation will come through.

Kristen felt empowered enough to bring this up. Sharing with colleagues:

I don’t want the fact I’m a mom and mom of a young child to hinder my growth, especially if growth is what I’ve asked for. The bias exists. Even when people are being kind and looking out for my best interest.

She encourages other moms feeling this unconscious bias, even from a place of love, to bring it up.

It’s natural for people’s own experiences to cloud their thoughts of what they perceive you are experiencing. Be conscious of the labels you put on yourself and what others may be putting on you. Bias, even when wrapped in support, is still bias. Furthermore, if it bothers you, share.

EMPOWERED MOTHER

Another surprise to Kristen comes in the form of the silly things people say. For instance, how does one respond to an elderly person saying, “I’m so glad I don’t have to raise a child in these times.”

We laughed about this one. Is a “no kidding” or “me too” response appropriate?!? How do you even come back when you literally have a child?

But then Kristen shared her empowered thoughts. 

God chose this timing for me and there is a reason. He could have chosen any time for Max to be born and for us to become parents, and He picked right now. I don’t have answers, but I know we’ll figure it out. I feel empowered. In fact, I feel strength in the power the Lord is equipping me with. It makes me excited! Not fearless, but I stand on the belief we’re here for this.

I told you at the beginning, her deep knowing is what sets her apart. The quote above was said with the strongest conviction and she believes it to her core. It was contagious!

Empowered Mother Through Faith- Man and Woman with a toddler sun posing for a picture with fall trees in the backdrop all smiling.

Happy Family!

SUMMARY

Parenthood is hard. We all know this. Kristen’s approach though could inspire you to embrace it.

The very thing the devil could use to discourage, isolate, scare you (like a pandemic), the Lord could use to bless you. It’s on you to decide which voice you listen to.

She leans in to recognizing each life situation for what it is and finds His purpose and His glory in it. Leaving her feeling empowered.

Her goal for Max is to have his own faith journey.

I want him to know of God’s love and kindness despite what he may hear and see in the world. My hope is he looks at faith not from a lens of it being ‘mom & dad’s religion’ but rather understanding this – the way I’m loved from my mom and dad, there’s a God who loves me even more.

Keep the faith. Feel empowered. Find your community through intention.

Thank you, Kristen, for being a beacon of empowerment and faith. And for sharing your story with The Mom Huddle!

 

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. BUT TAKE HEART! I have overcome the world. 

-John 16:33

 

Let's stay connected!

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Authentically speaking, crossing the threshold into motherhood is an amazing while simultaneously terrifying moment in time. Jill experienced this firsthand, but in a slightly different manner than you may be envisioning. During a successful sales career, she also became a stepmother to triplets. She and her husband, Matthew, are the proud parents of triplets, Henry, Hannah, and Ella, as well as the daughter they share, Lexi.

In awe of this abrupt jolt into motherhood (I feel like that’s putting it lightly!), Jill’s next comment seemed to sum up the experience.

We need to normalize things aren’t easy in motherhood. Whether they call you Mom or Stepmom, it doesn’t matter. It’s not easy and it’s okay to admit it.

As the youngest, Lexi, approached kindergarten, Jill stepped out of her career in sales to not only shift priorities, but also pursue something for herself. Enjoy reading Jill’s reflection on this experience as well as tips for any mom or stepmom feeling overwhelmed and frustrated.

You aren’t alone. Keep going.

Being Authentic- Father with teenage son, two teenage daughters, and a pre-teen daughter smiling posing for a picture in a kitchen

Jill’s family

AUTHENTICITY OF A STEPMOM

The triplets are now 16 (17 in May), but Jill has been a part of their lives since they were almost 4. Jill summarized the experience.

There were no books about being a stepparent at the time. Okay, well maybe there were, and I didn’t find them. [laughter] But here’s the thing, even if there are books, who’s going to be there with you in the moment. Telling you what to say and how to handle very specific situations, for example. We’re in a week on, week off rotation with the kids. Routines and values were and are different in each household. As a result, we found ourselves retraining on the rules at the beginning of a week. Then they’d be in a good place by the end of the week only to have to start over a week later.

One particularly touching moment came when the triplets were 13. Of the three, one of the girls had been particularly resistant over the years to Jill. Not knowing anything different, Jill just continued to be there for her. Showing up with love, care, and consistency.  

In the pantry one day looking for a particular box of cereal, she looked at Jill earnestly and said, “Why are you so nice to me when I was awful to you growing up.”

Jill’s response was a simple yet powerful one. 

Because I love you.

(Take a moment and wipe those welled up tears away… I had to!!)

This defining moment validated Jill. Furthermore, understanding the importance of simply continuing to show up. Kids crave structure. Ultimately, they will come into their own realizations, but it must be on their time. And unfortunately, all we can do is the next right thing as we see it.

MOTHERHOOD & BUSINESS

Lexi was born when the triplets were 6. Jill described Lexi’s entrance to the family as a pulling everyone together moment.

Lexi’s nickname from birth has been Happy Heart. She is extremely compassionate, and relationships are so very important to her. Additionally, she is strong willed and has her own sense of style and confidence that is incredible to witness.

The growing family settled into a new routine. Jill working in sales fulfilled one side of her, however, she acknowledges even with Lexi in pre-school she felt off.

You’re always guilty no matter where you are. It’s frustrating to enjoy your job but then have the nagging guilt because your daughter has separation anxiety at pre-school. Then you are home and feeling the guilt of not doing your job.

She went on.

I used to be so good (at my job). Always on the leader board and at the top. Then I got average. Not being the best was new to me. Furthermore, I didn’t like it. Divided attention is really tough.

As Lexi approached the start of kindergarten, Jill realized the grind of corporate sales was not going to be conducive for her dream of getting Lexi off the bus each day. As a result, two weeks before kindergarten started, Jill quit her corporate role. 

I was excited to do all the things I felt I was missing being a working mom. About two weeks in, I had the realization – I don’t know how people do this! – It was tougher than anything I had experienced!

TWO KEY QUESTIONS TO AUTHENTICITY

There are two key reasons people reach out to Jill on social media.

People reach out to find out about my hair or to ask how I left a corporate role.

For the record, this was said through laughter.

Now with a bit of a blank slate in front of her, Jill contemplated her next move. Social Elevator reappeared.

Here’s the back story.

In 2010, I was working in radio and saw this thing on the horizon. Social media. Instagram wasn’t created yet. Facebook was going but nothing like it is today. Same with LinkedIn. There was something to it and I knew there were opportunities for companies to obtain clients and generate sales through these platforms.

And as they say, the rest is history. Actually, that makes it sound easy. Rather, it’s been anything but easy.

From 2010 to 2017, this vision faded. Then in 2017 as Jill worked in consulting as a bridge, she dusted off the boxes in the attic containing what is now her business, Social Elevator. After updating the old materials, she began meeting with people who either didn’t have time to do their social media or those who didn’t want to deal with it.

Through the encouragement of her husband, she decided to end the consulting gig and go all in.

Being Authentic: Social Elevator logo

SOCIAL MEDIA & AUTHENTICITY

First Jill worked to bank content for herself for a majority of 2017. Then at the start of 2018, she began with four small to medium size clients.

People and companies found out about me through either word of mouth or LinkedIn.

Jill is very intentional about who she takes on as clients not only for herself, but also for them.

I think it’s key to be in tune with yourself and be you. I’m not for everyone and that’s okay. In fact, that has shifted as I’ve gotten older. I genuinely like people and learned to trust my gut.

While she pushes clients out of their comfort zone, HER people gravitate to this type of authenticity.

FUN FACT: It’s funny, even as I type this, I remember back to when I met Jill. It was the start of the pandemic and through LinkedIn, she created virtual networking opportunities for entrepreneurs. Completely free, no ulterior motive events to bring business leaders together in a difficult time. Her authentic – I need connection and I know others do too right now – spoke to me.

Her ideal clients range from one person to 400-person companies, but all with one thing in common.

They either don’t have time or don’t know how to put effort in social media marketing but understand the importance of it. They want to be in front of their ideal client and eventually convert sales.

AUTHENTIC IDEA PERSON

Jill describes herself as an idea person with a deep passion for others, which can be a blessing and a curse.

Even when a client start as just that… a client, they inevitably become friends.

I love supporting and connecting. Especially when we get to the point where I can honestly say – You have everything you need, go fly little bird! – I know I over index with my clients, but I don’t care. I like it.

With social media, Jill admits there is always something new. It’s easy to jump on the new, but she acknowledges not wanting to be everything to everyone. In turn, keeping this in mind for herself is key.

For example, one new area of focus is a company’s utilization of employees as advocates.

There are so many opportunities for companies to enable and empower their employees. Employee advocacy is a growing way to advertise a company’s services as well as find good talent in the time of the Great Resignation. However, the employees need to know what to post. In addition, utilizing thought leadership by a company’s leaders is a great morale and pride booster.

Her key advice to social media presence and ultimately leading to conversion is this.

Put in the time. Be real. And create connection.

AUTHENTIC ADVICE TO MOMS

I then asked Jill a series of advice tips she would provide from a few different lenses.

To mothers in general. 

Don’t expect your kids to be like you. My daughter is afraid of things and I’m doing my best to allow her to be her own person. Working to let go of my own expectations of her and be open to everything. This is easier said than done and can be frustrating at times.

To stepmothers.

Your stepchildren will see things for themselves. You just have to give them time. Keep going.

Additionally, Jill shared how she reaches out to other stepparents on social media if they are struggling. Even if she doesn’t know them. Creating and fostering support in a sometimes-overlooked space.

To mothers with young kids.

I let my kid get messy. Have the friends over. Do the art projects. You can’t make up for trauma you may have had in your own life, but you can be the parent you wish you had. Stop repeating the stuff you don’t want to see. Be the change.

Being Authentic: Blonde woman with glasses posing for a selfie with adolescent daughter both smiling

Jill and youngest daughter Lexi

SUMMARY

To summarize, Jill is a bright light. Additionally, her business reflects this because she is first and foremost authentic to herself.

Know your talents and lean into them. As a person, as a mom, and as a business owner.

She laughed about PTO, saying:

You don’t have to be good at all the things. Everyone has their talents. Crafting is NOT mine. I’ll look at the PTO P&L, but don’t make me do crafts.

As a business owner AND mother, Jill admits there are tough days.

You can’t do it all without putting in grueling time. Not as rose-colored glasses as they made motherhood look like when we were in our 20s. However, I think it’s important for our kids to see the example of us working to do it all and letting them know it’s not easy. This example is not a bad thing.

Jill uses this lens to show all four kids the importance of hard work, the value of money, and how those integrate in life.

Real. Just like her business.

Check out Social Elevator at www.elevateyourstatus.com and make sure to follow Jill on LinkedIn

Also, thank you Jill for sharing your story with The Mom Huddle!

 

Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are.

-Brene Brown

 

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The ripple effect of Crystalynn’s shift in identity and self-confidence led to paying it forward. Supporting moms to put themselves ON and AT THE TOP of their to do lists.  

INTRO TO CRYSTALYNN’S IDENTITY AND SELF-CONFIDENCE

What happens when you finally achieve the “look Mom, I made it moment,” only to discover you are actually miserable?

When Crystalynn found herself in this spot, she first harnessed the incredible resiliency she’d built through life’s curveballs. Next, she connected to her why focusing on identity. And finally, she chose to pay it forward by supporting moms. Advocating moms confidently put themselves on and at the top of their to do list through her business Heart Over Head Coaching. 

While Crystalynn’s career didn’t begin with identity and self-confidence at the core, each experience led her to the discovery of fulfillment. She also grew in her self-confidence, leaving a toxic relationship and embraced raising her oldest son, Drake, as her calling. 

Her story is filled with resiliency, shifting of identities, and how paying it forward feels aligned with her values.

As a retail manager turned HR professional and eventually coach, Crystalynn uses her journey to show women they can do hard things. In fact, the reward on the other side is well worth the journey. 

She has battled for a relationship only to realize it affected her self-worth and well-being. Discovered herself after years of leaning into ONLY the identities of mother and employee. Additionally, cares deeply about supporting women to discover their self-confidence even when they feel lost. 

Enjoy the words of wisdom and incredible journey of Crystalynn Godek.  

EARLY CAREER IDENTITY

After graduating from Indiana State University, Crystalynn’s career began. She loved the retail management space and was offered a position right out of college with Target. Eventually, she was recruited over to Kohls

While infant son, Drake, was home sick with RSV, she was called away from work to get him to the hospital. Instead of being able to drop everything and get to her son, she found herself trying to find coverage at the store in order to leave. After a few unsuccessful attempts, she eventually authorized overtime for another manager to come back to the store so she could get to the hospital with her son. 

Upon returning to work, she was reprimanded for leaving. Recognizing this value conflict and the work over family approach she felt, Crystalynn made a bold move. She left the familiar and comfortable space AND her identity as a retail manager, moving into a start-up. 

Bluefish Wireless, a tech start-up now known as MOBI Wireless, became her new home away from home. Ironically, on day one, a snowstorm closed down Drake’s daycare causing her to miss her first day. 

I thought for sure I was going to be fired. Their phone system wasn’t working, and I couldn’t get ahold of anyone until 4 in the afternoon. Can you imagine? I just kept thinking – great, I haven’t even started and I’m already going to be fired.

Quite the opposite occurred though. She was met with understanding and hit the ground running (on day 2) in her new role and identity. 

LOOK MOM I MADE IT

Crystalynn quickly acclimated to the start-up. The founders immediately noticed her potential, giving her additional projects and responsibilities. All of which she grew successfully. 

In start-ups, founders see potential in others before they see it in themselves. Ironically, it feels very similar to coaching.

She rose the ranks and took on her first Vice President role. Six months into the VP role, she had a strange realization. 

I actually hated it. I enjoy supporting people in getting where they want to be. Building programs. Navigating relationships. I felt like in my time as the VP, all I did was review and create RFPs (request for proposal). Not feeling passionate about it, I realized I was in the wrong space.

Instead of suffering in silence and hanging on to the title, Crystalynn voiced how she was feeling to her leadership team. In what she refers to as a flip of the white board moment, the company was ironically looking into a new position. One capturing performance management, building out programs, training, onboarding, development plans, leadership cohorts, and employee appreciation. 

Bingo.

She shifted into the Talent Development Director role and thrived in a space more suited to her natural talents. 

It is more powerful to speak up than to silently resent.

– The Client Courtship Coach

 

SETBACKS TO IDENTITY AND SELF-CONFIDENCE

In total, Crystalynn was with BlueFish/MOBI for 10 years. During this time, she raised her son Drake as a single mom. Simultaneously gaining self-confidence and recognizing her independence as a blessing. 

She eventually met and married her husband, Michael. 

A lot of pivotal life moments occurred during her time with the start-up. Further resulting in her identity being very tied up in the organization and her role as a people leader.

As investors made their way into the company, the culture began shifting. Crystalynn was laid off as a result of some internal changes. 

Absolutely a blow to her, her family, and all she knew about her current identity. 

Alternatively, she began to think about this quote: 

“Maybe your life is falling apart because you prayed for something better.” 

This shift in mindset led her to invest time and energy into herself. She landed an HR Project Manager role really leaning into her strengths and values. She was also presented the opportunity to go through a coaching program to become a Certified Professional Coach through a program at iPEC – Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching

Identity and Self-Confidence- Woman smiling for a professional picture with white shirt and tan blazer with white curtain background

HEART OVER HEAD COACHING- A SHIFT IN IDENTITY

She began the coaching program at iPEC while 8 months pregnant with her second child. A nine-month program, she finished her coaching certifications with a baby and a desire to provide one-on-one coaching to women. 

Heart Over Head Coaching means initially, our ideas start in the heart. Then move to the head where we become overwhelmed by the how. In turn, we allow the dream to fizzle. She counsels women to pay more attention to the heart.  

Crystalynn works with moms to put themselves on and at the top of their to do list. This is done through three key steps. 

First, self-care is mindset work.

Shifting their beliefs on what they need to feel re-focused and re-energized. Also realizing the importance of showing your children, especially daughters, what self-love looks like.

Time is our most valuable asset, in turn, being intentional with time. 

Next, confidence in not only their abilities but also in the resiliency of making it through hard seasons.

Crystalynn envisions when a mom stops judging herself, this leads to their ability to stop judging others. Shifting to a place of curiosity and causing a positive ripple effect. 

Expectations are a tough thing. My mom had expectations that I would do things in the “right” order. Marriage, then house, then kids, etc. My own confidence grew in my personal relationship with myself when I realized – just because it didn’t happen in that order, doesn’t make it any less beautiful.

I thought this was such a beautiful and impactful statement. I wrote last month about expectations, and Crystalynn articulated this point so well. 

Finally, understanding as well as re-claiming identity. Understanding who you are and what you want to be. 

The return on this work resulting in you getting to be yourself. Often achieved by shutting down the internal judge. 

MOTHERHOOD TAKES SELF-CONFIDENCE

When Crystalynn and Michael began to discuss having another child, Crystalynn admits being scared. 

I was terrified of losing myself again. Drake was and is my life. For a lot of years, it was about Drake and work. I’d spent a lot of time reflecting and doing the inner work to find myself again in all of this. The thought of losing myself again was overwhelming. How am I going to hold onto me in this?

She then remembered back to her own resiliency in getting out of her first relationship. During that time, she had to overcome the thoughts she couldn’t be by herself. In fact, she had created a wonderful family and environment for Drake. The key was believing in herself. Understanding identity and self-confidence.

Whatever life throws at me, I can figure it out.

With the clarity of her identity and self-confidence, she, Michael, and Drake welcomed Art into their family the summer of 2019. 

Crystalynn loves being a mom and talked with passion about raising kids with such a large age gap. She also shared her own shift of less judgment of self. Even a renewed focus on joy this time around. 

Identity and Self-Confidence- Man and woman posing in front of wood wall with a teenage boy and toddler boy

SUMMARY- IDENTITY AND SELF-CONFIDENCE

Crystalynn finds great joy in being a mom, wife, and supporting other moms in finding their identity and self-confidence. 

Moms need to understand and believe they can be other things and that is okay. When talking about identities, it’s not OR, but rather AND. Your children reap the benefits of this approach too.

While she calls the decision to have another child a defining moment, there were definitely a number of those in her life. She has an amazing way of looking at those moments as points of growth versus through a lens of self-judgment. 

Couldn’t we all use a little more of that in our own lens? 

When’s the last time you checked in on your own identity and self-confidence?

Check out Heart Over Head Coaching and connect with Crystalynn on LinkedIn

And Crystalynn, thank you for sharing your story with The Mom Huddle!

 

Motherhood is the noblest of causes, but it’s not necessary to lose ourselves in the process. 

-Amy M. Brinton

 

Let's stay connected!

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Careers, Motherhood, and the Burden of Expectations

Careers, Motherhood, and the Burden of Expectations

The burden of expectations tends to fill our lives.

For example, we walk into motherhood thinking – I’LL be the different one.

I can handle it all.

In fact, because we see other women around us caving to the burden of expectations, we now know the prescription to make our own experience different. Cracked the code, so to speak.

To be fair, you probably are different. Furthermore, you set your life up to address or even avoid the struggle you see others face. Good. This means you are observing, learning, and evolving. 

However, the crux of the problem is this. The internal burden of expectation always exists.

Did you notice I haven’t even mentioned career yet and all of the mom guilt and juggling of schedules? And the super irony of this – we’ve touched so far only on motherhood and career. How many other identities are layered on top of these two in our expectation of self?

Which then makes it understandable how we are plagued with the burden of expectations despite our best efforts. Not only from those around us either, but also our own incredibly pressuring expectations.  

While this may sound a bit hopeless, I’m convinced we do have the ability to face those expectations head on and put them in their place. Eradicate the feelings entirely, probably not. But get them in check through a few relatively simple steps? Sure.

Let’s discuss.

THE PERFECT FAMILY DOESN’T EXIST

It doesn’t. I mean, even Full House eventually found Aunt Becky in jail.

All kidding aside though, if perfection is what you are going for, then I guess I will be the one to break it to you… YOU ARE SETTING YOURSELF UP FOR FAILURE. 

We fail forward. In all aspects of life. Family is no exception.

Even as recent as two years ago, I probably would have disagreed with this sentiment.

However, in talking to more and more women and getting a glimpse of their life experiences, there is a common thread. Even in the women who seem to have it all together consequently there comes a tipping point where she shares a burden from family life.

FAMILY- BURDEN OF EXPECTATIONS

At first, I didn’t recognize the trend. Then slowly, an awareness of this universal trait in women emerged.

The problems vary as great as the Indiana weather in the spring. But just as sure as a 50-degree temperature swing in 24-hours, family issues arise.

“There it is,” I think to myself. 

To clarify, I mean this from a place of ZERO judgment. It’s just very freeing to finally recognize perfection doesn’t exist.

Instead of a crazy pursuit of this vision of excellence, there is now an opportunity to allow grace. Additionally, breakdown our thoughts in the burden of expectation and understand them in a more powerful way.

My friend, Stevie Cromer, shared a beautiful story in her newsletter recently about her own expectation of family after her divorce.

I’ve found for me, it’s no longer about the end goal or the happily ever after. It’s about the journey. It’s about all of the steps I have to take along the way that get me to the finish line. Sure, the finish line is important, and I want to earn that sense of accomplishment, but if I don’t remember or treasure the work I put in to get there, I find it is far less meaningful.

The journey. What would it look like to shift focus from the end goal of perfection to the micro moments happening in the here and now? Furthermore, what does this do for your own sense of joy to dial down your burden of expectation?

Burden of Expectation- woman balanced on a bridge with arms in the air and mountains in the distance

HAVE FRIENDS WHO CALL YOU OUT

Comparison-itis, as I like to call it, sure can do a number on our well-being.

One way to break this comparison cycle is to ensure you have friends who will call you out on your ridiculousness. 

In addition, if you find yourself in a room of friends and everyone constantly agrees with you, it’s maybe time for a self-check. Despite the validation you are receiving, you actually might be in the wrong room.

Find people who will call you out on your sh*t.

Call you out when comparison-itis is getting the better of you on a particularly low self-esteem day. In particular, tell you when you’ve gone from your normal borderline crazy self to full on coo-coo town in your own expectations.

CALLING OUT THE BURDEN OF EXPECTATIONS

For example, I love to entertain. No, I’m not necessarily a fancy host with charcuterie boards and fine china appetizer plates.

However, I do enjoy my own level of perfection for the event itself. In fact, I’ve been known to go into overdrive with re-painting a room, cleaning all base boards, making ridiculous portions of food, studying guest nuances to make what they like, ensuring all food groups are covered for a meal, shall I continue?

I have several friends who will call me out when I’m headed into overdrive with my own expectations. In particular, my sister is great for a dose of reality in my ridiculous pursuit of perfection.

And I appreciate it. The burden of expectation for a perfect Thanksgiving meal can get ridiculous (read: borderline psychotic).

She’ll give me a knowing look of where this is headed and say something along the lines of, “I think it’s fine Heather” to my complete freak out moment.

“I can assure you no one is looking at your baseboards, will you fricking chill out?!” 

While she has stopped short of a good movie scene two smacks across the face – “get – it – together – woman!”, I’m certain it has crossed her mind on more than one occasion.

Left to our own accord though, it’s natural to be unaware of the hole we’re in. In the confines of that hole, all the evidence we see continues to feed into our need for perfection.

On the other hand, having someone to call you out on your sh*t gives you new perspective. Who are your people?

FIND WHAT YOU LOVE TO DO AND PURSUE IT

Life is short. We don’t necessarily think that in our 20s. In our 30s, we’re too caught up in surviving to realize. Then in our 40s, we have an urge to do something else, but life gets in the way (ironic right?).

While I’m being very general here, my point is – with each decade we come up with excuses for not doing the thing. For not pursuing whatever it is tugging at our heart.

Think for a moment about all the things you would do if you had more time. In fact, jot it down now.

Next, instead of reading the list as “I don’t have time for…” read it as “I’m not prioritizing…”

Ouch.

Last summer, we were getting ready to head out on vacation in two weeks. Completely caught up in wrapping up work stuff, getting us organized, making the pet boarding reservations, ALL THE THINGS.

A new car was on the horizon for me. The infamous Biscuit car was acting up and on the verge of a breakdown. Definitely zeroing in on her retirement.

However, I said “after vacation and summer, we’ll figure this out. Absolutely no time for that right now.” The Universe had other ideas. Driving on the interstate 10 days before leaving on vacation, the Ford Edge called my bluff.

Suddenly, the thing I didn’t have time for became THE biggest priority. We had to find a car in a couple of days. Low and behold, my calendar moved around to prioritize for the car search and buying a new car.

Time is an excuse. Switch the phrase “don’t have TIME” to “I’m not going to PRIORITIZE” and see what changes for you.

Burden of Expectation- life is now neon signage

IT’S HARD TO JUGGLE CAREER AND MOTHERHOOD

DUH! Of course it is!

I mean this in a respectful way, but are you wallowing in the “this is hard” and “I’m a victim” mindset here?

If so, I’m now your friend who is going to call you on your sh*t. It sounds like you need a self-check.

Betty Friedan said it best. “You can have it all, just not all at the same time.”

Our burden of expectations can force us into the hole of thinking all our identities need to be done to perfection simultaneously. Nope. 

I’m venturing to guess you plan 26 hours’ worth of activities for yourself in a 24-hour period. Hmmm.

Pick your things. Think of life in seasons. In fact, the things for your season RIGHT NOW, very likely won’t be the things for you in a year, three years, maybe 5. Cool. We change. We evolve. In other words, get over yourself (respectfully, of course) and look through the eyes of grace in the mirror.

Jen Hatmaker’s book For the Love has a reference I love about life as a balance beam. YOU get to decide what’s ON THE BEAM and what’s OFF THE BEAM for you right now.

If it feels off for you in your heart, KNOCK IT OFF THE BEAM. Stop “should-ing” all over yourself with the burden of expectations and get clear on what you want. Life is short, remember?

SUMMARY- BURDEN OF EXPECTATIONS

If the burden of expectations around career, motherhood, volunteering, being social media worthy… all the things are getting the best of you, PAUSE.

It’s time for a self-check of the load on your balance beam. What identities and values are key for you right now? Where are those being fulfilled? And where are they in direct conflict daily?

Shifting from thinking we will outrun our burden of expectations to instead working with them is pretty darn powerful.

First, what happens to you mentally when you finally admit to yourself the perfect family doesn’t exist? 

Second, who are your people that are going to support by calling you out on your sh*t?

Next, what are you going to re-prioritize and stop with the excuse of time? 

Finally, what’s ON THE BEAM for you and what are you going to shove OFF THAT BEAM with a big ole’ grin on your face? Take THAT expectations!

You’ve got this.

 

 

It’s a good place when all you have is hope and not expectations. 

-Danny Boyle

 

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