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Kate.

Past

My past life was what you might call ‘typically corporate’. I lived in downtown Toronto, worked a full-time brand management job, which I spent two hours commuting to every day. I worked hard, long hours, brought my dog to work with me, skated on a synchronized skating team in my spare time and was dating my husband.

My days were long, but I enjoyed the challenge. I felt like I was putting my education to good use and was succeeding. My identity and my formula for success were very much tied to my job. And I was okay with that!

I was fully invested in climbing the corporate ladder, loved the challenge, and felt that my career was a really great fit.

Until it wasn’t.

Present

Four years ago, I had my son. I left on my maternity leave, super pregnant, and feeling like I would enjoy the year off and come back to the job I enjoyed. Like I always planned. 

But then I actually had my son. I lived through the long days and nights with a small child and felt how deeply needed I was at home. My husband and I talked, A LOT, about what our new normal looked like, and how that would look when I went back to work. Long days, split schedules, daycare hand-offs or nanny schedules… it could all work. We’d seen it work before.

But I couldn’t shake the feeling that it wasn’t right for us. 

That what was best for our family was for me to stay at home. 

I had tough conversations. I battled intense feelings of guilt. I was worried that I was letting people down. That somehow by saying ‘this isn’t right for me right now’ I was saying no forever. That I was closing doors for good. 

But here’s what I know: Putting your family first is never wrong.

I knew that I could live with the consequences, if walking away from my traditional, corporate job meant that I’d never be able to go back. But I couldn’t live with the consequences for my family, if I lost time with them that I couldn’t get back. And once I understood that, my decision was clear.

And you know what? That decision changed me. I now feel like I’m rooted in my own values. I feel like I let my talents, goals and values dictate the work that I do. And that work? It’s more creative and flexible than I could have imagined.

I didn’t know what ‘work’ would look like for me when I left my full-time job. But I followed my instincts and pushed ahead with things that I enjoyed and that felt important. I started a blog that connected me with other moms at a time when I felt we needed connection. And then a couple years later, I started a small non-profit focused on serving children – again something that felt important for me, and our family. 

I won’t sugar coat things. My decision absolutely had a financial impact, and we’ve made sacrifices to make it work. Luxurious family vacations are on hold at the moment, and we spend wisely.

But I feel stronger, more capable, and more myself in motherhood and in the life I’m living. 

I feel like my children see me living a life that I believe in and that fits our family. And that’s a gift.

Future

In all honesty, I have no idea what my life will look like in five years. And I’m comfortably uncomfortable with that.

But the beauty of what I’m doing right now is that it can move and change and evolve right alongside my life.

As the demands on my time evolve, so too can the time I devote to my work. As my interests change. My work does too. 

It means that we’ll grow together. My work and me.

I anticipate as my kids transition into school full time, my workday will shift with them, and I’ll say ‘yes’ to opportunities that might not be the right fit right now. And that feels magical.

So, what advice would I give to you if you’re not sure where you’re headed in life? Or maybe you’re sure where you’re headed, but just not sure that’s where you want to end up?

I’d say, spend 30 days. Make a list of everything that makes you smile. Brings you joy. Or stirs up passion. And then in a month, look back at that list. Is what you’re doing now aligned to those passions and that joy? And if not, what is?

I promise, you’ll never feel ready. You’ll never feel 100% prepared. But you can do tough things. And you owe it to yourself to try.

xo
Kate

You can follow Kate and her adorable little ones on Instagram @emmettsabcs


Women’s Stories is going to be an ongoing project that shares true stories written by women who are questioning who they are and the lives they want to live. You can follow along on Instagram @thesearchfor_self

past. present. future.


inspired by the format of interviews in Flow magazine (past, present, future with photo collages), I wanted to try creating one my own.

5 years ago, I would have written a very different story. But after lots of revisiting of the past and reflection, I’m in a very different place. a hopeful one.

Shannon.

How are you?” friends would ask and I’d inevitably answer “busy.” Sorry I’m so late getting back to you, sorry we haven’t made plans for coffee yet. Things are hectic. Ugh, I forgot about whatever theme day it is at school. Yikes, I’m late again! Busy is the new normal right?

This is a story about how I dove headfirst into the perfect storm and in the process saved myself from drowning. It’s a story about how life taught me (and I finally learned) what it means to take care of myself first. I didn’t gracefully fall into self-awareness. I had a big, fat fall into failure (gulp, yup, I said it) and I have slowly put back the pieces to find a stronger version of me.

As a spouse of a soldier, when I learned we were moving from New Brunswick (NB) to Toronto after having only been there for two years, I focussed on how I could continue to achieve my goals despite the upheaval. I’d worked in university student services for the better part of fifteen years, had somehow found myself in my dream job while in NB and I wasn’t ready to let moving derail my career. I applied for a masters. Oh and was pregnant with our second son. 

My husband had been offered a spot on a 10-month course that would set him up to be selected to a significant leadership role a few years down the line. This was his dream and what he was working towards. But ten months in one city meant another move at the end of that. And then yet another when and if he was given a command position.

I consider myself a feminist and appreciate all that women have done before me to make it possible for women to experience equality in a number of realms including in work and pursuit of their goals. One of the most difficult parts of being a military spouse is feeling I have very little control over my own life. And in reality, coming second to my partner’s career. As a woman, I find that especially difficult to reconcile with my belief that we should be equals in partnership. How can we be equals if I play second fiddle to the wishes of the Canadian Forces and their plans for my husband?

I’ve always been competitive and driven. Defying the odds to work hard to achieve goals. I love being part of a team and want that team to be the best it can be. I like to make an impact. And by gosh, I wasn’t going to let the Canadian Forces or my husband’s job or five moves in six years get in the way of my goals! I started the masters, I had our beautiful second baby, our then three-year old stopped napping that same day (or at least it felt like it…sleep deprivation, am I right?), and we moved again ten months later. This time to my hometown – Ottawa.

I’d always dreamed of moving home, settling down, reconnecting with my friends and life before being married. Maybe what I was longing for was the hope that I’d reconnect with myself once I got back to my home. We bought a fixer-upper in a neighbourhood we loved and imagined ourselves growing into our “forever house”. I started a big job at one of the Universities (a job I never imagined would be open when we moved back) and continued to work away at my masters, while balancing shuttling two kids to school/daycare and trying to find time to have fun, play, carve out time for relationships with my spouse, friends and family.

Yup. Hindsight being what it is, I think if I had to do it all over again I would do things differently. My baby was just nine months old when I went back to work. My oldest little guy was heading off to kindergarten. And my hubby, bless his soul, took a three month leave as we all settled in (and while we frantically searched for daycare).

Fast forward a year later, I found myself crying most days on my way to work. I wasn’t sure I liked my job. I wasn’t sure I was actually very good at my job. I felt like I was failing the people who mattered to me. And did I mention I was crying every day? I cried listening to a panel discussion on leadership in higher education. Yes, kind of a dark scenario these days, but not worthy of tears!

I was out west presenting my masters research and took the chance to connect with some women mentors. Both mothers and both with great careers. Both of them told me that you never get time with your kids back. Both told me no job is more important than health and family. Both told me of their own search for meaning and balance when they were at a similar stage in life. I felt less alone and I had decided.

While pursuing my goals was one thing, for me, family was the reason I’m here and I needed to play the long game when it came to thinking about career. My mental health was suffering and if I didn’t choose me now when I needed me most, would I ever choose me? Had I ever really chosen me or had I just chosen things I thought I should do?

I chose me (well, actually a doctor told me I had to take time off work, so effectively I was forced to choose me). But I did. And as I unwound from the complex web I had spun myself I began to find joy again. In tiny things. Like being outside at 10:00am, watching the bees gathering pollen from the flowers I’d planted, planting more flowers so I could watch more bees, cooking healthy food, resting, watching my kids play in the park, singing. And making time for those friends and family I’d been too busy to see before.

It was scary (is scary) to decide that I couldn’t go back to that work, that pace of life, without there being sacrifices for our family. But the greatest sacrifice in this pattern of unhealthy striving was to myself. Choosing me meant finding me, remembering how to laugh, play, be silly, practice gratitude, read books, put my phone down, be in community, and realizing I love to watch bees. 

We live in Edmonton now. My husband got his command position and we are here for two years. I’m home with my now three-year old (that wee babe from earlier in the story is now three) and my curious and clever six-year old. I’ve been present as we helped them navigate saying goodbye to friends and the fear that comes along with moving and being the new kid.

We have explored new trails and seen animals and birds we have never seen before. We are nestling into long winter nights in a more northern place. I make meals and eat with my kids (for what seems like a lifetime at the table…three year olds, am I right?!), do school drop-offs and pick-ups, go sledding and skating or play board games and referee brother squabbles. I get to do groceries when there are no line-ups. No one needs to navigate who stays home when a kid is sick. And I make and keep plans to reconnect with friends we knew when we lived here before.

I might not be “doing” anything right now and I’m certainly still searching for how this new Shannon can share her gifts with the world. But when someone asks me how I am, I can now happily say that I’m good. And I mean it.



You can follow Shannon on her journey @love_this_minute on Instagram.


Women’s Stories is going to be an ongoing project that shares true stories written by women who are questioning who they are and the lives they want to live. You can follow along on Instagram @thesearchfor_self