I was writing my 2014 Creative Achievement wrap up when this crazily relevant post sort of popped out of nowhere, lol! So I realized that this needed to be written as both a testament to the truth of my 2014 and, hopefully, as a lamppost in the darkness for other women and new mothers walking a similar path.
Here it is!
Going from selfish to selfless is always hard, and man, do I miss being selfish sometimes. Selfishness would have seen me updating this blog waaay more often in the past couple of months than I did, that’s for sure, lol.
Becoming a mom pretty much slapped the taste of out my mouth, forcing me to drop the “me” for “we” literally overnight. And yet after a major identity crisis, a difficult baby delivery, a massive schedule shake up, and a few well placed soul searches, I’ve come to make some important decisions about my career and my role as a mother.
To be true, 2014 has been a rough year for me. There have been some significant spots of sunshine of course, one of which is my amazing little girl. (Love you, boo! You constantly remind me to always keep sight of my blessings.) Still, although I made a lot of creative and professional progress, I felt hampered this year. Limited.
Real talk? This pregnancy took me by TOTAL surprise. My baby was not in my “dominate Hollywood like a G” plan, at least not for another seven years, lol. So when I found out I had a bun in the oven this past January, my world shifted on all levels.
Little did I know, the little pink line and the temporary shock were just the tip of the iceberg for me. I would go through one of the hardest and most emotional changes I’ve ever experienced in my entire life.
I know how hard I work– how hard I have worked– when it’s been just me, where I’ve had responsibility to no one else but myself. Snapshot of 2013 as a very happily-single woman: 16 hour days, eating Chinese and sushi on the go, doing whatever I please, hanging with friends, doctoral student, teacher, producer, novelist, and more with at least five projects in the air all at once, and I kicked ass on all of them. I got SO much done, and I was SO on my grind. It was ALL about Colby, and it felt damned good.
But this year, I’ve had to take into deep consideration the time, energy, and emotions that one must invest when building a family. More importantly, I’ve had to invest most of my time in learning how to be an awesome mom. Yes, while I do have my female and motherly intuition, motherhood still had to be learned to a degree. Even with the basic stuff like how to put on a onesie, figuring out nap schedules, and how to breastfeed, new moms have to dig in and hone our mommy-skills, getting stronger and better and faster and wiser. For about two months, all I was was a mom. Not a writer. Not a producer. Not an entrepreneur or creative. Just a mom. So this obviously kicked off an emotional meltdown as I realized that “Career-Chick” Colby was being consumed by “New-Mom-Slash-Will-I-Ever-Be-My-Own-Person-Again” Colby.
It was fucking HARD.
I resisted the changes in my life like no other. I even began to resent motherhood (not the baby, but motherhood), feeling as though it were “stealing” my career dreams away from me and diminishing my power. While my love for my baby kept growing, it still couldn’t extinguish my feelings of anxiety and loss. I was terrified that I was going to get left behind in my career or that opportunities to live my dreams would run out. I wanted to rewind the clock back to 2013 and choose a different path that’d allow me to be all about Colby, all day every day, rather than “just a mom”.
Then, one day, my baby smiled at me. And while my heart soared, I also took a good look at her. She was chunky (in a healthy way) and steadily growing and gaining weight. She was lifting and holding her head up and turning it side to side. She was babbling, and she only did so when she and I were talking to each other. When she missed me, she would stare at me from across the room, even when in her beloved father’s arms. She looked to me for love, food, and comfort, and many times, no one else would do in her eyes. She gave me big toothless grins every morning that we’d wake up next to each other, even if she’d had a horrible sleep filled with gas and tummy aches just the night before.
In short, I realized that my daughter was amazing. And I was a big part of that. The fact that she was growing to be healthy, happy, and strong? It was because of me. It was because I chose her. And best of all, she knew this. Except she’d known it all along, whereas stupid me had just figured this out.
Moreover, you know what else I had figured out?
That I needed her just as much as she needed me.
I didn’t understand this until, one day, in my self-pitying stupor, I asked myself a whole slew of questions like:
“Could I live without my baby’s beauty and cheerfulness? Could I live without her light filling me up every day?”
“Could I live with myself if I were successful in my career, but a terrible mother? A terrible wife?”
“Do I feel right if I’ve had a jam-packed and successful work day, but I’ve barely had time to spend with my baby?”
For me, the answer to all of these questions was an unequivocal NO. This, I think, is where I redesigned my idea of success. This is where I realized that my daughter had changed everything, and that my “success” had just as much to do with her as it did my career.
(And this is not me telling you how you should feel about your family and career, dear Mama. I’m just talking about the changes that occurred naturally to me as I spent more and more time with my sweetie.)
I realized what I truly need to feel successful. I need my daughter to be okay. I need her to feel safe and loved. I need her to smile and laugh and be happy. I need her to know that Mommy will always be there for her, that when she cries, Mommy is just a few steps away. I need her just as much as she needs me, and because of this, she is the most important choice I can make right now for the both of us.
Once I understood this, I reevaluated the way I worked. I also reconfigured some of my timelines. Lo and behold, all of my goals are still achievable (surprise, surprise); I just have to be more flexible in certain areas, especially in my deadlines and word count expectations.
This is where I also had to redefine what I considered “progress”.
Maybe instead of juggling five projects, I just focus on one or two at a time.
Maybe instead of pushing myself to finish a novel in two months, I give myself four.
Maybe instead of trying to complete six scripts, I just aim for three.
It’s all progress, just on different schedules.
It took me a while to get used to not working at a “high-octane” level, but I’m happier and more comfortable for it. Now it’s more important to me to work on my novel and then read to my baby, than work on writing all day and not see her at all. I realized that I could have it all, but I just had to be patient and enjoy the moment. Every moment. And I had to stop beating myself up for what I didn’t get done for that day.
I feel as though this inner transition really helped me to shift my perspective and is allowing me to enjoy motherhood– and life– so much more. I think I’ve finally got the hang of stuff. Now, with my new definitions of success and progress, and now more emotionally mature, I’m closing the books on 2014 and am ready to kick ass in 2015.
And to my daughter, I love you so much. You are my inspiration every day, and your sweet nature, innocence, and warmth give me all the reasons in the world to keep reaching for the dream. I hope that one day you will draw as much inspiration from me as I do from you, baby girl. You’ve made me a better writer, better creative, and a better woman, just by being you.
This is a beautiful post! As a new dad, I believe one of the coolest gifts we can give our children is demonstrating that we don’t have to choose between family and career–there will be some give and take, but we can do both. You are an inspiration.
DaVaun, your comments mean a lot to me and resonate deeply. Thanks so much! You are obviously an inspiration to me too! I, of course, agree with you 100%. As a woman especially, I always feel this larger societal pressure to *choose* one or the other, because I feel as though chicks are still seen as selfish if we have love for our careers as well as love for our family. But I’m steadily fighting the good fight both within and without myself to make my dreams– family- and career-related– come true! Thanks for your comments! WRITER PARENTS UNITE!