The birth of my daughter, Chloe, woke me up.
I’d been working in the advertising industry for a decade, clambering up the corporate ladder to build the life that I thought I needed to finally be happy and to feel full. For Chloe’s first year of life, I clumsily stumbled my way through life as a working mom, waiting for the “new normal” to feel normal.
I was almost a year in, and I didn’t feel anything close to normal. Quite the opposite. I felt like I was hanging on by a thread, failing at every role I held. I didn’t feel like a great mom. I didn’t feel like a great wife. I didn’t feel like a great employee. And I surely didn’t feel like a great daughter, sister, or friend. And I didn’t know it at the time, but I was suffering from postpartum anxiety.
At the same time, like a little undercurrent, I felt something changing inside of me. It felt like a snake shedding its skin. The old world that I had worked blood, sweat and tears to create wasn’t fitting me anymore. And it was becoming super uncomfortable for me to live in it.
Lots of tears and panic attacks later, I did what I never thought I would do and decided to quit my job. It was one of those decisions that I couldn’t believe I was actually making, but that I knew in my heart I had to do. Had I lost my mind?! Letting go of something that I worked so hard to build, something that I enjoyed, something that I was good at — to go do something that was filled with unknowns and learning curves?
I knew the decision was important at the time, but now I see it as life-saving. Becoming a mother to Chloe brought me back to something I had been ignoring for far too long: myself. I’d been so distracted by all the things I needed to be and do to be deemed successful that I completely overlooked “me”. The irony of this timing is that, as a mother, I had almost zero time and space to call my own. So, I had to get creative. I declared 2017 as the year of self-care and set out to find myself. It was my official commitment to myself and started what I now see as my healing journey.
In the last year, I’ve questioned everything about myself and the life I had built. I’ve felt more joy and pain in this short time than I could have imagined. There are moments where I feel on top of the world and moments where I feel isolated and burned out. Moments where I feel like super mom and moments where I feel like I should be fired. Moments where I feel so at peace with where I am and moments where I feel like I am not enough. Moments where I feel scared of the unknown and moments where I feel excited about who I am becoming.
These moments are fluid and fleeting — just like all the emotions and challenges that come with being a mother. And I’m learning to be more fluid with them. And to accept that I don’t have to do it all to be successful. That I just have to do and be in alignment with who I am and what makes me happy. And in turn, I’ll not only be better for my family and the world, I’ll be better for me. I’ll teach my sweet Chloe how important it is to believe in yourself enough to put yourself first. In many ways, it’s ironic that in putting yourself first, those you love benefit the most.
The act of believing in myself enough to prioritize myself and my needs and desires has changed my life. Through this, I’ve realized that true strength, happiness, and fulfillment comes from within. Where I used to seek self-worth from the outside world, I now start from a place of knowing myself well enough to know that I’m good enough as I am.
Living life from this more centered place where I’m connected to who I am and what I’m feeling has given me the courage to speak my truth more freely, the curiosity to explore what lights me up and to reject the things that don’t, and the self-love to connect to myself and the world with more compassion and empathy.
I’m slowly (and sometimes painfully) rebuilding myself and my life to reflect what I now feel on the inside. This has required me to face the darker parts of me and my life and to tap into and listen to my intuition. Where I used to shoot my own ideas or opinions down before they saw the light of day, I now listen to them, and if they feel right, I act on them.
Chloe saved my life. If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t have seen how much I needed to start healing myself, to start loving myself, and to start nourishing myself. Not just for me but for the betterment of our family.
In all of this, one of the most exciting things that has started unfolding is my ability to face fear and choose faith in order to express myself. This creativity that I’ve tapped into has been an amazing outlet for me. It’s opened up worlds of possibilities that I never thought I was good enough for. My new rule is, if it feels right, say yes and take action.
Motherhood can be a powerful conduit to healing yourself, but it doesn’t take becoming a mother to start this journey. No matter where you are on yours, I encourage you to believe in yourself. Believe in yourself enough to heal yourself. Enough to truly love yourself. Enough to know that you are enough. Today as you are.
Give yourself permission and space to do some self-reflection and ask yourself whether or not you’re living a life that feels in alignment with who you truly are. You might not like the answers at first, and you may travel a bumpier road, but the self- fulfillment you will feel knowing that you’re living for you is worth everything.
More About Kaley
Kaley Decker worked in the advertising industry for 10 years. After having her first daughter, Chloe, she decided to take some away from working full-time and has since founded Merci Chloe, a resource that supports moms through the postpartum experience. Merci Chloe is a manifestation of all the self-healing work she’s done since becoming a mother, and she hopes to offer relief and solidarity to other moms who are going through similar things.
Kaley lives in Atlanta with her husband, daughter, and two boston terriers and has another baby girl on the way. When she isn’t spending time with her family or writing, she enjoys yoga, being outside, and making jewelry.