As my story goes, I never wanted to be married with children. I wanted the big career. I wanted to explore the world. I wanted success; although as a child I had no idea how to measure that aside from money. In our home, finances were discussed often and passionately. I remember being around 10 years old and sitting on the stairs listening to my parents worry about money. I remember clearly how this became my worry too.
My father would say, repeatedly, go to school, get a good job and depend on no one. I took these words to heart. I was terrified of money. My education was all that mattered. I was in enriched programs, an A-student and I achieved without much effort. I knew by 14 I wanted to be an accountant, how exciting? Academics for me were always the easy part of the equation, romance and motherhood not so much. Needless to say, married with children was the inevitable. Fortunately, I was still intent on my accounting career and earned my CPA designation.
What I didn’t expect was how motherhood, more so than marriage, sidelined my ambitions.
My first born was a dream, the textbook child. I knew I wanted my kids to be born close in age, by the time she was 7 months old I was pregnant again. PERFECT, I thought.
I quit my job, as I knew before my first was born that I wanted to stay home with them until they went to school fulltime. So there I was, 29 with a 16-month-old and a newborn doing the things that mothers do. I love experience, so I filled their lives with as much experience as possible. A few years in I started working part time in consulting, I thought I had balance, but internally I struggled a great deal with the ideals around me.
Great mothers don’t work fulltime.
Great mothers don’t send their kids to daycare.
Great mothers don’t put their career desires before their children.
Great mothers don’t have successful careers.
I believed this hysteria to be true.
Add to this my second child was struggling, struggling a great deal. It wasn’t until he was nearly 3 and not speaking that I knew he had moderate hearing loss. How does a mother, a stay at home mother not know this? He took control of my life, my time, my only dreams were to hear him speak, to know he could hear and to know he would read.
On the outside I put on the brave face that I didn’t care that I was leaving my kids but inside I struggled. I couldn’t handle how being tired affected him, wondering if he was excelling in school, if daycare was necessary. My mind was all over the place. By 2014 I was home again, focused on him, but still looking for my fit outside the home.
I did not enjoy staying home while they were in school all day. I cooked and cleaned, a 34-year-old CPA? I couldn’t accept it. I was somewhat depressed; I could see the toll it was taking on my emotional state and physical as well. I took on a full-time job later that year, I didn’t particularly enjoy it, it wasn’t the right fit for me but I still believed at that time that money equated success and I wanted to contribute.
I took all the things I wanted for myself and buried them deep, his success was all that mattered. I told myself it wasn’t important how I felt as long as he was thriving and I was doing my part.
At the end of 2014, I was offered a job as a Professor at a local college and the opportunity to work on curriculum development, I had a feeling this experience would be of great value.
Me, a woman with a crippling fear of public speaking, I accepted the job without hesitation. When I think of the nerves I felt that first day, I could have cried immediately but I pushed through. I always do.
Instead of trying to sell the persona of the scholarly professor, I gave them who I was naturally; Stefanie the storyteller. Making this mindset change made all the difference; I was able to connect with my students semester after semester. I didn’t need to convince them of my worth standing at the podium, I knew my experience. I needed to show them how to create their experience and success, that was my job.
The greatest gift this experience brought me was recognition. I finally recognized where my passion lay. It was in being able to share my story in business and life to help others. Being able to challenge others to push themselves out of their comfort zones and ask the questions needed to move forward in their journey to success created such a rewarding feeling I never imagined.
Then the moment that I had waited years for came. My son’s developmental pediatrician performed a bi-annual assessment on him. He looked up from his scoring index and said “whatever you are doing, don’t stop doing it” and I knew the worst had passed.
Then I encountered a gap that I had no expected. I had spent eight long years trying to create his success and being a mother, shutting out anyone who didn’t support, understand or seem genuine towards him.
But now what do I do? I could have never imagined how empty I would feel when this beast of burden was lifted from my shoulders.
I realized through my son’s journey that to me fulfillment came by watching others succeed.
Being a Professor & Financial Literacy Advocate and connecting with people who want to achieve more and by providing my experience and stories has allowed me to be a mentor. Being called someone’s mentor is the greatest feeling I could imagine and something I knew I would not experience in corporate accounting.
Being able to offer this insight widespread through my book, Beyond the Numbers, is a proud moment and one I hope will allow many individuals to step into their leadership, find their fulfillment and create their happiness. Developing my 5-I’s™ framework to facilitate this path to success and delivering it to individuals is nothing short of a dream come true. To hear that my history is creating a positive impact in the future of others, makes all the pain and suffering worthwhile.
For women like me, I always say holding yourself back because of stigmas or other peoples ideologies is like putting a firefly in a jar and still expecting it to light up the space around it. The light dims.
I am happiest when I am free to be myself and shine, not when I have to spend the majority of my day containing who I truly am like there is something wrong with me. You may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but you need to make sure you love who you are and find your community.
Don’t change who you are, change how you apply yourself in the environment that best supports you and then you will be able to create success and happiness.
Author: Stefanie Ricchio
Author Bio: CPA, Professor, Instructional Designer, Author & Financial Literacy Advocate; these are the roles that have created the opportunities that provided me with the ability to learn in great detail the needs of individuals searching for success. I have harnessed this experience into a book and my 5-I’s framework allow readers to create their path to leadership and happiness by their terms. The greatest gift anyone who has struggled can give to the world is to share their story so that others know they are not alone and that there are solutions available to find your peace and happiness.
Link to social media: Instagram @balancethefive