What I believe has changed since I had my first child eight years ago. It was a painful process of losing what I thought was my identity and reestablishing a connection with myself on different terms. Like many others, I always measured myself by those achievements recognized in our society, notably academic and career success and always competing against others and wanting to “win”.
I believed that if I was single-minded, competitive and ambitious I would be successful and that I would be deserving of all the good things in my life. Likewise, those that weren’t as driven didn’t deserve the same things I did. I was a tough manager, unsympathetic to working parents and judgmental of their lack of career ambition and patterns of leaving the office at 5pm while I would just be settling in for the night.
After the birth of my children, I began questioning what was important in my life. The answer before had always been easy, work and when I would get my next promotion. I guarded my independence fiercely and although I was married, would claim that I didn’t “need” anybody. Now I was at a crossroads. I had never before felt the feelings I had for my children and I finally understood what everyone was talking about when they said your priorities change after having kids. My loyalties were divided and for the first time ever I was very confused and didn’t know what to do.
How I suffered when I couldn’t be the best at both jobs because there simply was not enough of me to be the perfect worker I used to be and the perfect mother I wanted to be. It was humbling when I realized I couldn’t perform as well at work because I refused to work as long or as hard. It was heartbreaking when I dropped my daughter off at daycare and she cried as I left.
Eventually I quit. I won’t lie and say I have never looked back. It is hard reestablishing a firmly held identity. I have agonized over the choice I made and often wondered if it was the right one, but each time I cast my mind back to what led to my decision, I never regret what I did. It is only now I realize how mixed up my values were, that I valued things over relationships, that my career success was not for any worthy purpose other than my own self inflated ego. Rebuilding my identity has been a difficult process but one that I see now I could not have avoided and I know I am better for it.
So now I have come to learn that how I treat others is a reflection of how I treat myself. Similarly how I judge others is a reflection of how I judge myself. What a relief it is to unload the burden I carried the burden of unbridled self promotion.
What I believe now is that my identity does not rest with what I do for a living or where I earned my degree; it rests with more simple goals like showing compassion and consideration towards others and nothing has taught me more about those values than becoming a mother.
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