Updated: Oct 1, 2021
Over the last decade, I have experienced more change in my life than I have at any other point in time. I have gotten married, started a business and had 2 children. Individually, those events can dramatically change a person’s life. When all three are combined, you find yourself on a journey of self-discovery trying to adapt and connect with your new identity. My story is not unique. In fact, many people go through the same life changes in the same amount of time. However, we all adapt to that change differently. I want to share with you the story of who I am and why I focus so heavily on self-care.
Who am I? I am my mother.
Honestly, I am very proud to be so much like my mother. My mom is creative, smart, resourceful, handy and can basically do anything! She is my superhero. If I had to pinpoint the most prominent feature I inherited from her, it is the instinct to always be moving and doing things for others. She was 100% devoted to being a wife and a mother. There is nothing she couldn’t or wouldn’t do for her family.
When I was a kid my mom was able to stay home with my brother and me, and looking back I can see where I developed my pattern of putting others first. To this day my mom doesn’t sit down very often. There is always something to be done. Whether it’s routine household chores or a project she dives into, she is always occupied with something. Following her example, I once managed my household the same way. In order to tell you more about that, allow me to share some details about my marriage.
I have known my husband for 18 years.
Since the day I met him, he has always worked third shift. I always joke with him saying we’ll be married forever because we never see each other. On the one hand, that is true. We see each other for a few minutes each weeknight, and by the weekend we catch up on recent events and just enjoy each other’s company. There is no time to sweat the small stuff because the time we have together is so limited and precious. My husband is the most loving person I know and he would do anything for me and our children. That became crystal clear when I decided to start my business.
When I started my financial advisory practice in 2008, I went from a salaried position at a large bank to be completely self-employed. I had no income. My husband was and still is, incredibly supportive of anything I want to do in my career. I was so appreciative of his support, both emotionally and financially, I felt it was my responsibility to make sure everything in the house was taken care of. I would cook, clean, pack lunches, do the laundry, pay the bills…you get the idea. All he had to do was wake up, go to work, come home and go to bed. That system worked well for us. I still had plenty of time for me and my business.
That even continued to work well after I had my first daughter in 2011, but looking back I can see how I started to change. I still managed to get my work done in my office and at home, but I developed a new obsession. I obsessed with making sure my daughter was constantly being entertained and stimulated. I would sing her songs, read books, show her black and white flash cards (because I read somewhere that it was integral for eye development). Every time my husband would take over the childcare so that I could work on something else, I would get upset if he just put her in the swing. I felt like he should play with her the way I did! I wanted to tell him to do things my way!
In August of 2013, my family grew by one more when my second daughter arrived.
I thought that one more child wouldn’t be too bad. I was able to handle the first one, right? Not so much. Almost immediately after coming home from the hospital I began to fall behind. Within 2 months, I was drowning. I couldn’t continue to do it all and I felt like a failure!
Here is a short list of the things I hated myself for:
Not keeping up with the housework
Not cooking spectacular meals
Not being able to breastfeed
Not pumping enough breast milk when I could breastfeed
Finding it difficult to connect with my children
Crying constantly. I felt like it showed my weakness
To add to the stress, in January of 2014, when my youngest was 4 months old, I decided to enroll in a course at Boston University so I could become a Certified Financial Planner. That was the last thing I needed on my plate, but my thought was if I didn’t do it at that very moment, I never would. Throughout 2014 I was overworked, overstressed, overtired and felt completely alone. I would cry and talk to my husband all the time, but he didn’t know what to do or say. He would give me a hug, but honestly, the hugs made my skin crawl. I knew he didn’t know what else to do, so I just let him hug me. What a realization! I was so programmed to put everyone else before myself that I would let my husband hug me because I knew it would help HIM feel better.
But I digress. From the outside looking in, I was a caring and attentive mother and wife.
From the inside, I was constantly sad, angry and tired. It took me until the summer of 2014, when my youngest was nearly one year old, to finally realize I was doing more harm than good. I needed to treat myself better so that I could be well for my family. Coming to that realization and getting help is a story unto itself that I will share in future posts.
I am sharing this story today to illustrate who I was when I began my journey into marriage and motherhood. I will continue to share my stories with the hope that others will find comfort in knowing they aren’t alone and things can get better. Who is your Me Next Year? Let’s find out together.
Christina Gatteri, CFP
Certified Financial Planner
Warwick, Rhode Island 02886