How I Became My Own Boss
I’m an unlikely entrepreneur. I went to an alternative education high school that didn’t have things like proms or yearbooks, but if they had it’s much more likely that I would been voted “most awesome dance moves” than “most likely to become their own boss”. It didn’t even occur to me that I might be kind of smart until four years into my first university degree, never mind starting a business at 30.
I have a maternal health practice, and like so many business owners, my career trajectory was dramatically shaped by my personal experiences. Shortly after high school I became a single mother who survived off of social assistance, OSAP cheques, family support, and caffeine. While I was pregnant, I envisioned my life with a baby would be one long episode of The Gilmore Girls, where I would be a hilariously hip mom and my career would fall into place like it does on TV. But after a long, traumatic birth, I quickly I realized the reality of motherhood didn’t match my previous expectations. The fun, loving relationship between parent and child I had witnessed on television dramas had obscured all the exhaustive work required to care for a baby. Instead I found myself drowning in an unsatisfying, disappointing and devastatingly lonely transition into motherhood. I lived in a fog of sadness and shame, convinced my poor parenting would ruin this young child’s life, and blamed myself not being able to cope as a mother.
I started university nine weeks after my first son was born, partially because I needed the OSAP and partially because the idea of being able to pee alone sounded magical. I focused on gender and family sociology and what I learned helped me and make sense of my feelings about motherhood and understand that my experiences were not isolated. The social pressures and cultural expectations put on all mothers are not only unrealistic and largely unattainable, but also deeply problematic. I loved studying family dynamics so much that I spent the next ten years researching motherhood, advocating for parental social supports, and learning how to counsel women having a tough time adjusting to motherhood. After years of feeling like I was failing as a parent, I became obsessed with understanding why so many mothers are plagued with these feelings of not being good enough – as well as how to fight back against the dichotomous label or ‘good mom’ vs ‘bad mom’.
I now work as a family counselor, doula, and adult educator. In my private practice, I specialize in helping mothers overcome birth trauma, develop tools to help them get through tough times, and let go of guilt, shame and insecurity. I work with women one on one and in groups, and support them as they become the parent they want to be – instead of trying to be the parent they think they are supposed to be. In my research and academic work, I work tirelessly to eliminate the stigma of postpartum mood disorders and create safe spaces for parents to talk about the darker sides of parenting. I am committed to dismantling our current cultural construction of motherhood that tries to tell us that being a good mother means giving in to the intensive, overwhelming, and all-consuming mothering models that currently dominate.
Although it took a second round of postpartum depression with baby number two and lots of trial and error, I was able to find the fun in parenting that I had been looking for. My kids are now seven and eleven, and I find myself in the sweet spot of family life. We love to spend time together and I truly enjoy their company, but I no longer feel like an indentured servant to my children because they can make their own meals, clean up after themselves, and play at the park outside our house with minimal adult supervision. While I certainly didn’t get here on my own – there are countless people who supported me – this a pretty good place to be.
And in case you were wondering, I still have epic dance moves would still totally be voted most awesome dancer.
Olivia Scobie is a family coach/counselor, doula, and founder of Postpartum Support Toronto.