At bebo mia inc. we believe that our success is inextricably linked to the success of our students and community; when someone in our community succeeds, we all succeed. That’s why we want to put the spotlight on our alumni as often as we can. Our wonderful friend, Laura Gillian, has started sharing her story and her journey and we’re thrilled to be sharing Part 1 with you now, too!
I was going to share a blog about my new business, but in discussion with bebo mia’s Marketing Director, Alana Nugent, she asked if I would share my story instead and reminded me that the business part will emerge on its own! One of the reasons for her asking this of me is because I don’t represent the usual bebo mia client – I am much older than most of you; even my children are older than most of you! My reason for sharing is because many women travel in silence and isolation, particularly as mothers. We tend to struggle through our daily lives in ways that impact our entire life.
We think that we don’t have what we need to make a change, when, in reality, it’s possible that an inner seed of hope and strength could be one encouragement away from blossoming.
My story is rather long but I hope that you find one thing in this one woman’s story that can nurture your inner seed of hope and strength.
The Lead Up.
A number of years ago, I lived in Western Australia in a small town on the south coast. Esperance was an eight-hour drive to Perth, the nearest city, and sometimes we had to make that drive with our four little ones for things that we couldn’t take care of in our hometown.
We found the best way to travel was to start at bedtime, so the little ones could sleep most of the way. Parts of the road were boringly and hypnotically straight – for an hour at a time.
Other parts were full of twists and bends. Straight or bendy, there was always the possibility of outrunning our headlights or a kangaroo jumping into our path. Eight hours of boredom and anxiety taking their turn.
Our lives are like that drive, don’t you think?
So much of our own story can feel boring and mundane, uninteresting to anyone. And the boredom is suddenly punctured with a dramatic, “AND THEN…fill in the blank”. The unexpected. It comes in many forms: a job loss, illness, a great opportunity, someone leaving our lives, or someone joining our lives.
Those are the most obvious, but there are so many smaller matters; moments that change the direction of our day, week, month, year, and sometimes, something seemingly insignificant can lead our lives in a direction that we never in a million years would have expected.
Unexpected things happen to all of us.
Case in point: I had occasion to be with a group of people in their forties when we asked the question: “Are we where we imagined ourselves being 20 years ago?” Not one person was. Some were even on the “wrong” continent. Even those whose lives had gone quite well had secret significant aspects that were not what they expected. Their lives were not what they anticipated.
Most of us start out with some expectation of making our lives out to be exactly what we want. And for many of us, life with little ones, FOR THE FIRST TIME, is firmly facing so many unexpected things that are beyond our control: the love, the anger, the fatigue, the frustration, and, thankfully, when we look at our sleeping babe, the love all over again. The big picture of, “don’t worry, it will be ok, one day…” is hard to see when days and nights are full of those long moments with a crying baby or defiant toddler (or both!). On those days, the “journey” feels more like one long, bad, painful, or challenging moment with not enough breaks in between.
Then there are those older women in our lives who say to us, “Enjoy it while it lasts – these years go so fast.”
Are you crazy??? I would think.
And then I would think, Have you forgotten how hard this is???
I know that they meant well, but often, I was just too overwhelmed to enjoy the journey in the way that I would have liked, however, those women were right: the moments were long, but the years were short.
A Twist Of Fate.
One day, I wept without solace because it actually happened. I put my eldest on a plane for boot camp, with no promises from him about being able to call, or even come home for Thanksgiving or Christmas; he just didn’t know what was ahead of him.
“It’s OVER!” I cried and cried as I realized that I didn’t really believe it would end. It was such a rollercoaster of profound love and hard work, and the part of my life as his at-home mother was over.
And, that was not all that happened.
Six weeks later, my second child moved to Japan for a year. A highly independent being, she dutifully left a phone message to tell me that she had arrived safely; I wasn’t home. Her message? “Hi Mom, I’m in Japan. Thought you’d like to know. Bye.” Thankfully, I had two more still at home to love – although somewhat from a distance as they were also teens. And I hadn’t even planned to have any kids. This was a journey that I had NEVER imagined in my youth.
After a change of mind that led to four little ones, a significant “unexpected” in my life happened… and that was my marriage ending. I assumed that we would stick together and work it out. I hadn’t planned on solo parenting four little ones. We had planned that I would be a stay-at-home mom forever, and now I was on my own with no strong income-earning skills.
So, for work, I did daycare, some admin stuff, worked part-time at my kids’ school – nothing confidence building or resume enhancing; nothing that felt even remotely satisfying to my creative inner being; and nothing that genuinely soothed the constant financial angst that kept me awake at night and my stomach in knots during the day.
I worked hard to protect my parenting goals. I desperately wanted to avoid my kids’ lives being shipwrecked by their parents’ problems. The one good, no – really great thing: my children. I loved them with my whole being and loved being their mom. As for me, I felt like I was “just a mom.”
Eventually, my third and fourth child also bravely stepped into their adult lives, and now with my “little ones” big and gone, my admin job didn’t feel to be much more than a means to pay the rent. In addition, without daily mothering, all of the things that I struggled with in the background, things that were emerging from a difficult childhood, suddenly came to the surface and I landed in a huge pit of profound depression for a very long time.
I had no idea what to do with my life and no genuine hope of being able to do anything well. My job depressed me, finances depressed me, and I could only see a future of making just enough to survive. Even more ghosts from those painful early years surfaced, affirming my ever-increasing sense of hopelessness and uselessness. I wasn’t even “just a mom” anymore.
I would read stories about women who made big and satisfying changes in their lives and feel jealous because I didn’t really believe that such a change was possible for me. Nevertheless, I was desperate for a change. Any change. I even imagined someone knocking at my door with a plan for a better life. It’s funny to think about, but seriously, I would have welcomed it if it happened!
It wasn’t a knock on the door, but a desperate prayer for help (again) that led to an unexpected sequence of thoughts, thoughts that brought hope in a most unexpected way. I was on the King streetcar in Toronto, somewhere between Queen and Sherbourne, asking myself: What’s next in my life?
A daily question. Unanswerable. The norm seems to be to “save for a house or an occasional vacation”. I didn’t want either. They had no value to me, to my inner being. So, what’s missing? And how can I assess that?
Fill in the blanks:
If I were to face death today, what would I think, “Oh no! But I haven’t ____________!!! I wish I had ____________!”
Amazingly, I knew immediately what it was. I wanted to go to university. My kids were the first in my family to go and I was painfully aware that their critical thinking was exceeding mine – all four of them. It was a bit intimidating, not to mention another contribution to depression.
But I can’t afford to go to school.
What’s worse: doing what I’m doing now (in despair, day after day?) until I retire or acquiring student debt?
That was an easy answer, even for debt-averse me.
I stepped off the streetcar into a whole new world. My whole inner self was changed, and it didn’t feel possible to not follow through with these new thoughts. I felt committed, even if only to myself, but somehow, it wasn’t a part of myself that I could say no to.
One magna cum laude BA in Sociology and 100 (I counted) unsuccessful job applications later, I took yet another admin job. It seemed so defeating and I still felt so very lost in terms of satisfying professional expression, not to mention that my kids were all more mature than me financially.
A Chance Meeting.
I have always been interested in all things pre- and postnatal, even considering midwifery when it was a newly devised degree (all those thoughts ended with the demise of my marriage). I always wanted to bring hope and joy, peace and normalcy to expecting and new parents, if only because I knew how shattering it was to not have those things. I taught prenatal classes, and later considered doula work, but the need to earn a survival income always squashed the journey…until I ran into someone who encouraged me, “you really should do this!”
After a time of soul-searching and exploration, I found bebo mia and their online Maternal Support Practitioner Course (MSP aka doula training).
The training was unlike a doula course that I had previously taken – one that I wasn’t able to draw courage from; this MSP course provided concrete and detailed information that I could take to clients with confidence.
Nearing the end of the course there was the session that I almost skipped because it focused on business, and I have to confess, there was a strong fault line still living quietly in my brain that told me that I was just a mom, just a woman without useful experience, just…just… just…not really good at much outside of the home and I’d rather not listen to something that was going to make me feel depressed.
Thankfully, I picked myself up and watched it anyway and I’m so glad I did!
Who knew that it could light a fire of “I CAN DO THIS!” that would slowly burn away the wimpy feelings of soft-skill work being limited to an emotional “I just want to help others and hopefully make a bit of money”?!
I still have to fight off the old stories within myself, but now I feel confident that I can do work that I like and that satisfies my inner being AND it can actually BE A BUSINESS. A business with a heart, but also a solid, viable, income-earning enterprise. Amazing and what a concept – lol!
The Last Bend In The Road.
The MSP instructors put out a call for students to identify their personal gift or strength and send them a note. Even more than labour, birth, and postpartum work, I have always wanted to help parents who are feeling like they have lost their way, that they have fallen off the path that they had planned or expected, or who feel just overwhelmed with the whole experience. I have wanted to support parents for years and years. But…the old voices persist, “I’m not very business-y, I don’t know how to market myself.…” Blah… blah…blah.
I wrote an email, attached a summary of a parenting program, took a deep breath, and
Up Next: How Strength Can Emerge from Weakness
How my personal journey turns into a most amazing and exciting direction!
Laura Gillian is passionate about all things related to parenting as well as infant (and parental!) mental health. Recognizing that raising children can bring anywhere from moderate to severe challenges, including sometimes the re-surfacing of a difficult history for the parent, Laura is highly motivated to help parents find their own unique path to both parenting and enjoying the journey. She loves to see kiddos and their grown-ups happy, healthy, and whole and living well together.
Laura lives in Kingston Ontario, and enjoys spending time with her four kids, four kids-in-law, eight grandkids, and her parents whenever she can. She loves to knit, grow food, cook, eat and read.
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