I Became a Mom—And it Made Me Question My Value
I thought when I had a baby, nothing would change.
Not in the literal sense; I knew I would have a whole other person to care for, that there would be more things in my house that were necessary for a baby: car seat, strollers, toys and books. That time out of my day would be spent feeding her, bathing her, rocking her to sleep. But I didn't think I would change. I had spent so much time lovingly crafting this person who didn't take any shit, had it all together, could do and balance everything. I found it a point of pride to be asked, "How do you do it all?" I was a strong woman. I couldn't be taken down by petty things like time. I would balance it all, and without bags under my eyes.
I still feel that way deep down; I still feel compelled to be the person we all wish we could be, if only we had the time, the patience, the drive. Even though I recognize in my mind it's an unhealthy behavior, I can't shake that motivator—the drive that pushes me to do something when people say I can't. I can’t say my daughter changed all of that. After 30 years of working toward being a certain type of person, it isn’t easy to shut off the parts of your brain that tell you people don't think you’re good enough unless you are doing the impossible. My daughter forced me to change—to be better in some ways—but I still struggle with the aftereffects a year and a half after her birth.
When you become a parent, you realize you have to teach your children everything. It's one of the most rewarding things about being a parent—watching your child learn—because you get to see these small, everyday things through new eyes, and you know a small part of their learning experience is inspired and guided by you. What you don't realize or fully appreciate until you're in it, is they teach you things you didn't even know you needed to learn. The best and worst parts of me arrived at the surface of this journey, and ultimately, inspired me to revisit the person I was building with fresh eyes and re-examine what I consider important and real. Who was I trying to be? What was I trying to shy away from? The constant need to be there for others didn't give me any time to be present with myself or the ones who are closest to me. I took advantage of the fact that those closest to me would always be there to the extent that, now, they never count on me to be.
Ten years ago, I was traveling to Washington, D.C. from Baltimore twice a week to cover Georgetown's basketball team for my side hustle, while working a full-time job at a sports newspaper. For 10 years, I spent almost every weekend morning at a third job. From the time I was 20, I never had fewer than three jobs at one time. I was a workhorse. I derived my value and self-worth from my activities. A wise friend told me I was a human doer, not a human being. When I found out I was pregnant, I continued to maintain this level of dogged tenacity, but when she was born—bam! My priorities changed.
I wanted them to change. I wanted to be a mom—and quite honestly, I think I’m good at it. I wanted to be home in the afternoons and evenings to play with her and put her to bed. I didn't want to share that precious time. But what didn't occur to me—and what seems quite obvious in hindsight—is that I would have to give up time with other things in order to make that happen. When I gave up the side hustles, scaled down the volunteer gigs and started to pick and choose my networking and social events, my self-worth seemed to dwindle and disappear with it. I went from feeling needed by everyone to needed by one. And who was I if I wasn't the person everyone relied on?
That person never stopped to question the significance of her actions. Did it mean more for that leadership program for me to show up to the alumni happy hour? Or meet the program manager for coffee to share ideas on how to improve the program? Sure, that third job I had for 10 years allowed me to save up to buy a house, but could they just as easily train someone else so I can make pancakes with my kid on the weekends? Yes. I could still provide value, I just had to be smart and thoughtful in how I did it. At times, it was somewhat hurtful to accept change was necessary. But at the same time, change allowed me to reflect and grow. Now, because of that growth, I am a better volunteer, employee and friend.
It might not seem like much has changed on paper. I still work that third job—though now only once a month. I work a second job because I can do it from home after bedtime. I don’t stay late at work anymore, because I have learned to be more efficient during working hours. I am on two nonprofit boards, but I chose one because the executive director has young kids and allows me to bring my daughter to meetings or listen in on conference call. I don’t meet people for drinks, but I have tried a lot of new coffee places in the city.
It’s been a struggle figuring out how to make that all work, and there are days when I still don’t feel confident in this new role. It has taken a lot of self-reflection, a lot of journaling a lot of discussions with friends—moms and not—to get me to a place where I feel I can start to become comfortable with my new priority shift and actually accept a new sense of self-worth.
Now, my value comes from me. It’s so much harder that way, but it’s necessary. I don’t want to rely on others to make me feel a certain way about myself. It’s easy to make a list of contributions and recite them like a resume, but what does any of it actually mean? If I didn’t look inward for self-worth and validation, I’d spend my whole life running, trying to find it in other places.
Becoming a mom forced me to face this reality, but all women can benefit from this type of self-reflection. Ask yourself: Where does your self-worth come from? Do you bring value to the things you are involved in? Do you bring value to you? Thanks to my daughter, I’m closer to finding out.
Krystina spends her days in donor engagement and communication for a healthcare organization in Baltimore, which she considers the best job in fundraising, and she is also deeply committed to social justice issues in Baltimore City, working to build relationships and make connections that spur change. But her favorite roles are wife and mom. When she is not adventuring with her almost 2-year-old and waiting for No. 2 to appear, she is in perpetual search of a really good cup (read: pot) of coffee or mastering her life goal of crafting the perfect charcuterie board.