My life had become unbearable. Ok, maybe that’s a bit of hyperbole. I mean, I was bearing it. I was alive. But I certainly wasn’t thriving.
I was supposed to be happy! I had just finished an enormous accomplishment that I had been struggling with for years. I was now Sarah Jacobi, PhD. But I wasn’t happy. I was actually feeling downright terrible. I felt self-critical, confused, uncertain of my strengths, and in the middle of internal conflict between what I was good at and whether I liked that or not.
I took the logical next step. I had a baby. That should solve all my problems, obviously! And, it actually did in a way. Not immediately, or at all how I expected, but motherhood was like the striking of the match that would go on to light the fire under me.
Nearly 9 years ago, I was completely unprepared for how much my daughter, Maia’s birth would change my life. I had always imagined myself as a career woman, and had been taught by my own mother the importance of working to support yourself.
When I had Maia, I had a deep yearning to be with her, to nurture her, and to care for her. It became so clear at that point, that I didn’t have a passion for my career. This came as quite a shock, as I had pursued a PhD that took me more than seven years to finish. I didn’t know at the time how my interest and expertise in decision science would come back in a profound way – that when I found a way to apply it to helping parents, it would become something truly meaningful.
When Maia was born, I finally allowed myself to really investigate what I wanted. Somehow, having a child paradoxically called my attention to the importance of caring for and understanding myself. How I lived would influence how I was able to show up for her. I felt such a natural propensity for mothering that I was completely unprepared for. I found myself desperately torn between returning to my career as I had expected to do all along, and fighting the very natural urge to solely care for my daughter at such a young age.
Although I began exploring these thoughts and feelings, I was too fearful at that time to fully uncover what it is that I wanted. I still carried all the baggage of self-doubt and insecurities that resulted from my own difficult childhood. In the end, I ignored the piece of me that wanted so badly to spend all my free time with my child, and returned to my career, though the longing of being with her while I was at work never disappeared.
As my daughter grew older, she revealed herself to be a very spirited, emotionally intense, and high needs child. The confidence I felt mothering her as an infant quickly eroded when I was faced with her strong personality around the age of three. I felt like I had no roadmap. I was confused about how to raise her. At the time, I thought the most important thing was to raise her to be an obedient child.
At the same time, this felt reminiscent of how I was raised and how damaging that had been for me. I knew I wanted something different, but I had no idea what that looked like. I began reading countless parenting books. None of them had advice that seemed to make any impact on my daughter’s behavior. Mostly, I read them and felt inadequate as a parent. Nothing ever seemed to go the way the book suggested it would.
All that changed when I finally read the book, “Raising your Spirited Child.” I finally had a book that spoke directly to me. I finally felt understood. It was a monumental moment to my parenting because I no longer blamed myself for all the difficulties I had parenting Maia. Just having this sense of understanding was such a huge relief. But a single book wasn’t enough. I still struggled, we still struggled.
Throughout these challenges with parenting our first, we also struggled to have a second child. Secondary infertility crushed me. I felt my dreams of more children fading away. But, i’m persistent and I don’t give up easily. I was relentless in my quest and after a grueling journey, we welcomed Sasha into our hearts in 2013.
I felt so incredibly grateful to have our family of four. This gratitude was also accompanied by challenges as we learned more about Maia’s needs and her intensity continued. At the same time, I still struggled with figuring out how to be happy in my career.
At the urging of my husband, I finally met with a career coach to gain clarity on what it is I actually wanted to be doing with my life. This was my lightning bolt moment. With the help of my coach Amy, I uncovered my true passion. I worked hard to shed my negative self-image, to truly embrace all the gifts that I have and to love myself deeply. This was an intense, incredibly meaningful and fulfilling Journey.
During the coaching process it became clear to me that my true passion was being of service to others. This was the major piece of myself that I had excluded from my career up until this point. I hadn’t realized how valuable my strengths of compassion and empathy are to the world. I also knew in that moment that I wanted to guide other parents facing similar challenges – challenging childhoods without positive role models, raising spirited children, and figuring out a fulfilling career after children.
I took an enormous risk to end my career as a PhD researcher and embark on the journey of becoming a parent coach. Looking back, the passion for helping others facing challenging choices really was what my PhD was all about. I have expertise in uncovering what matters to people and how to make the best decisions based on those values. I was just applying it to the wrong group of people. Instead of environmentalists, the group I feel passionately about helping is parents.