I was born in Toronto, Ont. 38 years ago. At eight-years-old, my family moved to Sarnia, Ont. I never really felt like I belonged. I was bullied for most of my school career which left me feeling worthless and never good enough.
This feeling followed me into adulthood where I made decisions based on fear, instead of love for myself. These choices led me to choose jobs and relationships that did more harm than good to my well being.
I found myself in a nine year long abusive relationship. And perhaps I felt that’s all I deserved and all I was ever going to get. So I stayed. For nine years. Almost a decade.
During that time, I was in university earning my Bachelor of Education. I experienced more bullying from a group of women in my class. Turns out that you don’t leave bullying behind when you leave high school. It has taken me years to realize that happy people don’t tear other people down. Just because I was the target of bullying doesn't mean there is somethings wrong with me. And dimming my light to make others feel comfortable is not an option for me anymore. I sincerely hope that those women have found their happiness and can use their energy to build others up instead.
I was slowly becoming a shell of the person I once was. I began avoiding social commitments and gaining weight. The only thing that brought me pleasure was shopping, so I began accumulating credit card debt. But the happiness the shiny things I bought gave me only lasted a short while. They were just a band-aid to cover what was really going on inside.
One day, and I can’t put my finger on why it was that particular day, something in my head said to me that I needed to get out. That my life was worth more than this misery. I made plans and told a few close people what I was going to do. I packed whatever would fit in my car, and I left. I left the beautiful five-bedroom house. I left the lakeside community. I was in my mid thirties and back living with my folks.
It was terrifying starting over.
It was during this time that I met Mike. He wasn’t like anyone I’d ever been with, but I took a chance. And we moved to London, Ont. with no jobs—but we had a plan. It was the craziest thing I’ve ever done.
My plan was to go back to get a masters degree in something I loved—telling stories.
I applied to the Master of Media program at Western University. I was accepted on a Monday and the very next day, I found out I was pregnant. Being Type A, I thought I could do both. I mean, how hard could motherhood be? Ha.
After speaking to women who have experienced life with a newborn, I ended up deferring for a year and gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. My Isla.
Like everything else in my life, I had imposter syndrome. I thought I was missing the mom gene. That I would never be a good enough mom. At least not as good as the moms I saw on social media.
One of the first thoughts I had when I found out I was pregnant was that I wished it was a boy. And only for the reason that life is so hard for girls. At that moment I knew I had to change the way I thought.
I wanted to be the example that Isla would look to, so I couldn’t behave the way I had in the past. I had to start believing that I was worth more. And I had to start loving my body. And loving myself.
Throughout the year-long program to earn my master's degree, I struggled with hypothyroidism. I didn’t know it at the time, though I suspected it. I had crippling fatigue, brain fog to the point of forgetting words and names and sleepless nights. And this was way beyond mom brain. My skin was flaking off, my hair falling out. I had anxiety attacks on the regular. I was a mess while trying to be a mom and a successful masters student. I don’t know how I did it. I guess you just survive in the moment. Looking back, that feels very synonymous with so many aspects of motherhood—you face challenge after challenge, but you do your best to get through and come out on the other side so much stronger.
It was during the stressful time of job hunting upon completion of my degree that the idea of eMpower came to me. I had applied for a thousand jobs and only landed one interview for a job I didn’t even want. I had taken up the practice of meditation to quiet my over-stressed mind. These moments of calm bring me so much clarity and allow my naturally creative mind to do what it does best—create. With eMpower magazine, I could carve my own career path. And do something I’m passionate about.
Usually, I will come up with an idea and immediately start to second guess myself. But with eMpower, it was different. I didn't give myself a chance to doubt. I got to work right away and began contacting a few mothers I knew who all enthusiastically agreed to help. Piece by piece, the digital magazine took shape.
eMpower magazine is about giving moms a voice. Helping them find a voice. I felt so alone sometimes—like I was on an island. And it’s just so freeing to talk about whatever I’m struggling with. It’s like as soon as I say my fear out loud, I’m not imprisoned by it anymore. I want to give that to other moms too.
I don’t know what the future for eMpower holds. I’m going to continue working on it and growing it, one story at a time. Maybe it won’t change the world. But hopefully it changes the world for at least one mother.
Author: Shannon Robinson