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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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