The Power of Boundaries

The Power of Boundaries

Forgiveness, Empathy, Self-Care, and the Power of Boundaries.

To meet Sarah is to feel kindness. Deep within her eyes, you get an immediate sense of empathy and understanding. In fact, she has the keen ability to pick up on the signs of someone struggling. Sarah’s approach is simple yet impactful.

Tell me what’s really going on and there’s no judgement.

Even with this incredible ability to empathize, which she credits to her mom and step dad as well as a ton of life experiences, Sarah admits the empathy pendulum swings too far sometimes. She has had to learn what it looks like to be empathetic and still find the power of boundaries.

To hear Sarah is an executive at Adobe, founded Linking Indy Women, has four amazing kids, and owns an awesome house in Brownsburg, IN, it would be easy to think life has been a series of good fortune. On the contrary, Sarah has walked through darkness, learned-pivoted-found the joy, walked through more darkness, learned-pivoted-found the joy, and so on.

Even through this, her warm smile says it all. You can do it too.

My hope is you take away a supportive nugget for yourself in Sarah sharing her story of forgiveness, empathy, self-care, and the power of boundaries.

Power of Boundaries- selfie image of woman with blonde wavy hair, big smile, kind eyes

BACKGROUND

Sarah comes from a big family including two sisters from her mom and biological father as well as two half sisters and a half brother from her father and stepmother. Sarah discussed her father:

I don’t take mental health for granted. There were signs for sure of something off with him even when I was a child. For instance, keeping a steady job was a struggle. He had to spend time in a mental hospital after he and my stepmom got together. In truth, his struggles with mental health continued throughout his life, even including homelessness in the later part until his death a few years ago. As heartbreaking as parts of this journey have been, it also gave me the keen ability to pick up on when people are struggling.

Sarah’s compassion for the situation was evident. Additionally, she shared her mom and step dad always taught them to look deeper than someone’s actions. This ultimately led her to be able to forgive her father and his situation, and approach through the lens of – you don’t know the struggle anyone is going through.

Sarah talks with so much love about her step dad.

My mom was a psychiatric nurse and my step dad is just an incredible person. Both of them take an approach with care to people. My step dad quickly became dad to not only my older sisters and I, but also to all of our friends. They taught us to look deeper than someone’s actions. 

For Sarah, mental health is a spiritual thing. Furthermore, believing the spirit can be disconnected from the mind. Feeling as though a person’s character doesn’t always reflect who they are inside.

As her biological father’s mental health continued to decline in Sarah’s adolescent and college years, Sarah and her sisters became closer to their two half sisters and half brother.

It was so foreign at first to go on camping trips with my dad where we were getting to know my siblings in Ohio we didn’t see much. But over time, we’ve bonded and are all now really close. We just had a big Halloween party together which was something my mom and stepdad did for years. I’m now trying to make sure we continue this tradition.

Sarah’s mom passed away in September of 2020.

Power of Boundaries- woman with her four children all dressed in black for funeral. Smiling and posing for picture.

MARRIAGE, DIVORCE, AND FINDING SELF

Sarah shared about her first marriage.

We were very young and frankly, he was controlling of me. Down to things such as not allowing me to have my own money. I knew the situation was not healthy.

Sarah left the situation and started over, but admits to not taking enough time to find herself first. Getting in a quick relationship, consequently they married and eventually parted ways.

She describes her own growth over the last 9 years since the divorce.

I stepped back and finally took the time to figure out what I wanted. Who I am. First off, it was key to learn the power of boundaries. Boundaries have been a journey and still continue to be, but I’m in a much different place now than I was then.

A big part of the learning and growth was realizing how co-dependent she had become, in particular through the years of marriage. After starting with a therapist, she also began to lean on friends and family to call out behaviors of co-dependency if they saw them.

While this sounds like a great idea, she reminds anyone reading this that in order for it to work, you have to be OPEN TO HEARING IT.

I did not always receive that feedback great (said through laughter), but eventually I did. It continues to be an ongoing conversation, not only with boundaries, but also other areas I’m actively working on myself.

POWER OF BOUNDARIES

As she worked on boundaries and co-dependency, she is happy to say she doesn’t see the co-dependency behaviors really any more.

Additionally…

A yes is a yes that I WANT to do.

Sarah described life before boundaries feeling a bit like playing a part in a movie. Furthermore, a feeling of not being over her own agency.

To suddenly step out of living life in a movie and instead live on her own terms she describes as very freeing.

Of course, as you exercise the power of boundaries, it gets easier to recognize and adjust.

However, she continues to learn, grow, and evolve. Even as recent as the Halloween party this year, she realized her boundaries and especially expectation setting weren’t where she wanted them to be.

I should have set better expectations with everyone and put people in charge of various parts of the party. Someone on trash duty, someone in charge of the bonfire, another running the costume contest, someone on food re-fill, etc. I felt very overwhelmed at one point and realized it was because I hadn’t asked for help or told people where they could step in. Trying to do it all. All of my family will have roles next year to help. I was so busy running around, I even forgot to put out the additional lasagna I had ordered from  Send a Friend Lasagna!

My take-away from this though was Sarah’s ability to not get angry or upset with the lack of help. Rather she took inventory of the situation, realized what was off for her, and spoke to her family about it. Creating a plan through expectation setting. In fact, all are now on board for next year.

LIFE LESSONS TO HER KIDS

As mentioned, Sarah has four amazing kids. Evan is 24, a scientist working in a local lab. Emma is 22 and works for a tech company. Additionally, she made Sarah a grandma! Sarah’s eyes sparkle as she speaks about grandson Emmett. Luke is 20 and attends UIndy studying finance. And then there is Noah, who is 13.

Noah was recently diagnosed with aspergers. Sarah described the discovery of this diagnosis as being one of those situations where you truly don’t understand what someone is going through. What’s going on internally. In addition, not to judge their actions.

Noah, up to this point, wasn’t particularly a high performer in school. Upon this diagnosis though, they realized he is high ability and has a really high IQ. He’s been moved to honors courses and is now thriving. His acting out in class before related to being bored with the content, not intentionally disruptive to be rude. They are still adjusting to what the diagnosis means for them but are thrilled to be headed in what feels like the right direction.

She described the Lacey family as “a therapy family.”

We’ve talked about mental health as a family since the kids were little. And it’s continued conversation. Each generation learns from the previous and evolves. I was taught to look deeper than someone’s actions. Lead with empathy. Then I added in the power of boundaries for my kids.

Sarah went on to describe some situations in her youth where her own mom could have benefitted from some boundaries coupled with her empathy. With the benefit of hindsight, Sarah uses this as a teaching moment that you can still show empathy but have boundaries. Keep an eye on how far the pendulum is swinging.

You can help someone but you don’t have to let them into your home… or marry them (said through laughter).


Power of Boundaries- family picture of woman with two grown sons, one grown daughter, and a teenage son. All smiling with a wreath in the background

Luke, Emma, Sarah, Noah, and Evan.


 

SELF-CARE

With the holidays coming up and the hustle and bustle of ALL THE THINGS, I asked Sarah for advice on self-care and sanity in this busy time.

It’s important to remember it’s your holiday too! It’s your magic season too so don’t forget that. We get so caught up that it has to be perfect. Frankly, it’s liberating while simultaneously challenging to say – I’m a part of this too.

Dr. Ina Wilson shared at the September Linking Indy Women event, “None of this matters if I’m crazy!”

Dr. Ina was speaking in reference to life and entrepreneurship. Meaning, she can’t provide for her family and do the things she needs to/wants to if she’s not mentally healthy.

Sarah and I laughed about how that was perfect for everyone to hear as we head into the holiday season.

Additionally, self-care means so many things to so many people. For Sarah, it’s rooted in therapy and talking to others who will challenge her awareness. She naturally gravitates to people she learns from. However, this again takes being open to those opportunities for growth.

Find your version of self-care and embrace it.

SUMMARY – FORGIVENESS, EMPATHY, SELF-CARE, AND THE POWER OF BOUNDARIES

I could sit and talk to Sarah for hours. We didn’t even get into her passion for Linking Indy Women… the networking event she started over 12 years ago to bring women together monthly and share their inspiring stories. Make sure to check that out!

Sarah’s approach in life, whether business or personal, is one of empathy, forgiveness, and grace.

If I go into every conversation with people believing they have the best intent, it makes me happier.

This approach now coupled with understanding the power of boundaries supports her in keeping the pendulum from swinging too far.

Don’t take mental health for granted.

Couple your empathy with boundaries for your own well-being.

Surround yourself with people who will call out behaviors you are working on adapting.

You can do it too.

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

 

When you say ‘yes’ to others, make sure you’re not saying ‘no’ to yourself. 

– Paul Coelho

 

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Single Mother by Choice

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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

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

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

 

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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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Woman, Mother, Breast Cancer Survivor Admittedly, it’s taken me about 40 years to recognize, but there are individuals who view life as a victim of circumstance. Conversely, there are the resilient. Those with an innate ability to rise. In fact, use their circumstance...

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...

A Guide to Identity and Self-Confidence

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...