Hey mama, let me ask you a question…
In those dark moments of motherhood, have you ever wished there was a non-judgmental, objective and open-minded person that could tell you that everything is going to be ok?
I certainly did and still do.
After all those years in school, two engineering degrees and an MBA with a concentration in finance and economics, I seriously thought I could not only ace anything and everything I decided to do in my life, but I was sure I’d be the absolute best at it. But my plan had a little tiny fault on it… nobody told me that motherhood wouldn’t fit that mold.
I was blessed to become a mom the Spring of 2007. I was 31 years young with a thriving career and climbing the corporate ladder fast and furiously. Before I had my first baby, I had it all figured out: daycare, schedules, commute…you name it. I had read all the books and I had done all the research. I was ready to be a “world class mom”. After all, before becoming a mom I honestly never knew what failing at something felt like. Not because things were handed to me, or my life was easy, but because I learned that hard work and education would take me anywhere I could imagine. There was no doubt in my mind that motherhood was going to be the most blissful experience of my life: from conception and beyond. Because even if I wasn’t always good at everything I did the very first time I tried something, I had a system to get there: I studied success, I modeled success and I became successful. It was rather a simple concept for me.
However, motherhood isn’t like that. Being a mom doesn’t fit into my old strategy for success. It didn’t fit almost 14 years ago, and it doesn’t fit now. And to be completely honest (and so hopefully if you are feeling like this, you don’t feel alone anymore) at times it feels like I’m living in a different dimension, almost like twilight zone, a parallel universe or almost like I’m constantly falling in a never-ending black hole of despair, because every time I think I figure some aspects of motherhood out, boom! Everything changes again right in front of my eyes. And yes, I have six kids so lots of room for feeling this way; maybe what some people call self-inflicted pain, but on the contrary and despite how it all started, today my life is more like a self-inflicted glory. But let’s be completely honest. It wasn’t always like this.
My Motherhood Story
My first pregnancy was relatively easy. I literally worked until the last minute, and I even got promoted a month before I had my son. I had no complications and I had a healthy 12-pound baby boy. One thing was for sure, I had no idea what love meant before this baby boy entered my world.
What a scary feeling that was… realizing that for the first time I loved someone this deep, this real, and what’s even better: he loved me back. It was pure unconditional love…
And then it hit me. What if something happened to him? What if I can’t keep this love forever? I had to protect him at all cost. And in my mind, there was absolutely no single person on this Earth qualified to take care of my most precious treasure: not his dad, not my mom or his other grandma, and
definitely not a daycare. It had to be me. In my mind I was the only person qualified to protect and nurture this angel I was given to love me. That’s how my four-year “stay at home mom” adventure began. With lots of guilt, anxiety, fear, and a made-up story that didn’t serve me. Deep inside I didn’t want to stay home, because I love working. I love people. I love solving problems, making an impact, and making my own money – being independent. But out of desperation to save this love story that I had made up in my mind, I was willing to sacrifice it all. I just didn’t realize how much it was going to cost me at the time. Stefan, my first born, and I became inseparable. We moved to Alaska so we could afford living comfortably without my salary. Even though we didn’t know anybody here in Alaska, and yes, it’s really really cold, and dark, and far away from everything. The truth is that I had one objective and one objective only: to be able to stay at home with my baby and so I didn’t care what I had to do. Alaska? Sure… why not? And so, we did. The cold and dark winters and the lack of a support system really started to take a toll on me, so why not get pregnant again? Maybe it’ll be better the next time around, I thought to myself.
It Can’t Possibly Be Any Worse, Right?
Late 2008 I had my daughter Sofia. This pregnancy was not easy. I hated every minute of it, and I was feeling horrible because of that. I was already going crazy for staying at home, and I really had no help of any form at all. From nobody. This time it hit me hard, really hard. You know, the thing that nobody talks about: Postpartum Depression. Seriously, why hadn’t I heard about this before? Why didn’t I know anyone who had experienced this
besides the crazy lady in Texas that killed her kids in the bathtub? Maybe it’s because unless you have experience it, you can’t understand it. It’s simply heartbreaking. When you look at your newborn baby girl, who’s precious and perfect and you can’t connect with her at all. When you look at your son who’s only 20-months old and he is devastated because he has to share his mom with the new kid on the block, all this while you barely have enough energy to get out of bed and feed your kids… that’s just the surface of postpartum depression. I guess I did have postpartum depression the first time around too, but it wasn’t so severe, so it went undiagnosed. But the second time? Oh, the second time was not a kid play. What a roller-coaster of feelings: one minute I was sad, and the next one I was having a panic attack, then I was feeling guilty for being so weak and not being able to pull it together. I remember telling myself in the mirror over and over and over: Carmen you’ve got to get it together…only to find myself crying for hours again.
Getting It Together
It took time, but I eventually got better. I opted for not taking meds, so maybe it took me longer, I don’t really know. Learning to love myself was my saving grace and that’s why I’m such an advocate for mom’s self-love and self-care. I studied meditation and found immediate peace with it and so even today it is one of the forces that helps me keep going with confidence. That time in my life was for sure rock bottom, but one thing is for sure: life hasn’t gotten any easier. One might argue I’ve had harder events in my life since then: divorce, almost bankruptcy, an ectopic pregnancy, my youngest one diagnosed with severe autism, just to mention a few things. And even though things have not been smooth sailing I approach life in a different way now.
- I now know that if I love myself, I’ll always be loved, but also that when you love yourself you have so much more love to give to those around you.
- I also know that there is no failure in life. There are successes and there are lessons, and if you are learning something, you are succeeding.
- I recognize that every challenge is an opportunity to be great, to do something amazing and to spread love in the world. This is my motto as a stepmom of three.
- I believe that planning for your career, your business and your finances is not enough, because there are other areas in your life, like motherhood, health and self-love, that are arguably more important, and these areas deserve as much attention, if not more, from you.
- I learned that balance is unique to everyone and you can’t achieve it unless you have defined it for yourself. Yet another reason I preach to working moms how important it is to have a plan for every area of your life so you can define what balance means to you.
- I have experience that living in gratitude brings abundance into your life instantaneously, and forgiveness is a gift so much more valuable to the one forgiving.
- I believe we are here in this life to be happy and if you aren’t happy right now, you need to do something about it, because at the end all you want is happiness.
Today I not only have 3 amazing biological children, but also three (+ two in college) wonderful stepchildren while I work as a Corporate Executive and Entrepreneur. Yes, life isn’t easier, but it’s great and I love every second of it. This is true only because I figured out my balance. My motherhood journey has been hard. I’m not going to sugar coat it. Somedays I’ve felt I’m barely surviving it. I spent oh so many nights awake, frustrated, and crying trying to figure it all out and again, I just wish there was an objective, non-judgmental, experienced and open-minded person to tell me that everything was going to be ok, because at the end… everything is more than ok. Motherhood is the greatest gift life has given me. Worth every sleepless night, every tear, every moment where I felt like I was failing. At the end, all those moments just made me a better and stronger
mom. I just wish I knew this was how it was going to turn out. This is why I do what I do in social media @theconfidentworkingmom: to inspire and empower other working moms like you and me, to keep going, to keep trying, to never give up. To go after their dreams and crush their goals with confidence and ease, without the fear and the guilt that inevitably comes with motherhood.
Carmen Benton is a Corporate Executive in the Telecommunications Industry, Working Mother of 6 and a lifelong Entrepreneur. Her mission is to empower working moms to pursue their dreams and crush their goals with confidence and ease. She is the host of The Confident Working Mom Podcast available in Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts and Anchor.fm Carmen loves to dance, and you can always catch a glimpse of that in her Instagram reels @theconfidentworkingmom She is currently writing a book for working moms and planning her next entrepreneurial adventure.