I have always been driven.
I was that kid that had the mantra of ‘Dream, Believe, Create, Succeed’ on my bedroom wall. I set goals and then smash them. I was the Primary School Captain, School Sports Captain, SRC President, Netball Captain – you get the drift! My life goal is to ‘travel more countries than my age’ and I am currently sitting on 54 countries, so that one is on track!
So when my partner and I started discussing children and family it seemed like my new life goal was to get PREGNANT. And well, whilst that was fun (!), once that was achieved I hadn’t really considered what would happen next.
Whilst I was pregnant with my daughter I continued with my usual crazy busy schedule of working full-time for a brilliant organisation, I started my masters in International Development, I bought a house, socialised with friends and somehow did ‘preggi-bellies’ classes three nights a week! I exhausted myself, already determined that my life wouldn’t change with motherhood – I would continue on in my over-achieving ways!
Kristi at the Run for the Kids run in Melbourne with her two children, Rafaella and Roman.
And then Rafaella was born. I cried. A lot. I cried, because here with this perfect new life that needed me. She needed me in ways that I had never considered. I cried because I desperately wanted to breastfeed and very nearly lost my right nipple in the process. I cried at changing up to ten nappies a day. I cried through the sleep deprivation. I cried because I couldn’t walk properly. Or sit properly. I cried because I couldn’t run, like I always had.
I cried because I was inside a house all day, and that had NEVER happened in my previous 32 years! I cried because I had a winter baby and every time we were set to go outside it bucketed down with rain! I cried because she cried in her car seat. I cried because I wasn’t using my brain. I cried because I missed work and conversations and stimulation. I cried because it hurt to be cuddled. I cried because I couldn’t have the conversations I so desperately needed to have on the phone with friends and family. I cried because my Maternal and Child Health Nurse asked me about twenty times if I was OK?!
For the first time in my life I didn’t know what my next goal was! What the big picture looked like!
Kristi and Rafaella in the Whitsundays, Queensland
And it all seems quite obvious now that my baby is in school and she has a little brother. I realise now that the goal was to keep her alive, boob or bottle! The goal was to love her and cherish her! To enjoy her whilst she was tiny! The goal was to recover from the trauma of childbirth. The goal was to be there for her milestones. The goal was to immunise her. To stimulate her. To bathe her. To read to her. To remind her that she was safe. And to share my life with her. To get the foundations solid for her future.
And then something happened that I didn’t see coming. My rock, my best friend, my Mum, passed away. Writing my mum’s eulogy and then delivering it at her funeral made me think deeply and consider the commitment and sacrifices that my mum had made for my sister and I. People quite often say that you don’t appreciate your parents until you become one, I would challenge this and say that you don’t fully appreciate and respect your parents until they are no longer here on earth.
She was no longer here as an advice line. To answer any question that you have day or night. No longer here for the SOS messages at 2am. To come and help when your baby is refusing solids or your second born is admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit. No longer there to support and guide and unconditionally love you in a way that no-one else ever will again.
It was at this point that I had to reflect not only on myself and my life – but how I was as a mother to my two small children.
Kristi and Rafaella on the day her son Roman was born
On burying my Mum, I made a commitment to strive to be the mother that she was to me and more. To be involved, to be on the committees, to know all of their friends, to be friends with the friends, to discuss, to debate, to challenge. To know my children intimately. To let them know that they can be anything they put their minds to. To educate. To inspire.
And so now, after my six short years as a mother, I have the goal to be the best possible mother to my two phenomenal children. To raise decent human beings who are kind and courageous. And to have goals – and smash them!
Kristi O’Connell now lives and works by the sea in Melbourne with her two children and life-partner Paul. She is committed to creating an existence where her family is at the core of her world, and is surrounded by light, laughter and colour. Whilst using her communications, marketing and strategy experience to benefit like-minded people and businesses, Kristi works as a highly flexible consultant. She is still running, travelling and setting goals! You can find her on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/kristioconnell/