As the middle child of seven, I was often quiet. My parents both worked hard just to make ends meet, so you can imagine what a disappointment I felt myself to be when I found out I was pregnant at 15, shortly after my mother had been diagnosed with breast cancer and was going through chemotherapy. I felt like an embarrassment to my family, although they lovingly supported me. I tried to see the bright side of the situation – a baby – but the rest of my life (looking ahead from the ripe age of 15) seemed like an impossible road to navigate. The road was extremely difficult, involving a failed marriage, four more children, and severe depression. Depression is a beast and came without warning. I did my best to keep it at bay and sometimes I was successful. I would look at my children, (15, 11, 5, and 2-year-old twins) and muster up a smile. I made up my mind that I would not let them see me fall apart.
How did it affect your life and work?
Over the course of 10 years, I worked two and three jobs at a time to support myself and my children, painfully trying to keep a smile on my face. Many people told me how strong I was; inside I felt weak and scared. I always felt like if I stopped, it would all fall apart. As I earned both my BA and MBA in Human Resource Management and began climbing the professional ladder, I chose to hide the fact that I had so many children and the age at which I had them. I always felt judged when people found out that I had a baby at 16, and I felt defined by having children instead of by my professional accomplishments. I hid my kids, and I hid my depression.
What was it like still having to perform as a high-level executive?
Sometimes I missed important events for my children because I did not want to risk not being available because I had so many children and was single. I was always trying to break away from the stigma of being a single mom. I was embarrassed when people knew I was divorced. I feel like I sacrificed a lot. It was not until I met my husband, who is also my best friend, that I realized I don’t have to be everything to everybody and that I needed to learn to be my own friend. He helped me see that I am first and foremost a mother, and that I should never hide that. I still have moments where I am frustrated, angry, depressed and overwhelmed; those moments happen less and less as time goes on. Learning how to react and when to walk away has made a world of difference.
How did The Truth Behind Our Titles™ impact you?
The Truth Behind Our Titles™ impacted me because I saw that I was not alone. My story may be different, but how I felt – the struggle, disappointment, happiness, accomplishment – was the common thread that connected me to others. I reflect over the past 14 years and think about arriving on my sister’s doorstep with five children and five suitcases, living in her spare room. Now I have six children, a wonderful husband, two degrees, a career, a house and so much love in my life. I want other women to know that they can do it.
What are you reading right now?
What makes you smile?
My children and husband, of course. Baking and gardening.
Audry’s #ShareYourTruth Advice
Sharing your truth only makes a difference if you also share what you’ve learned from the experience. We asked Audry to share her advice on thriving as an executive professional.
- Say it. If people are uncomfortable with it, then so be it.
- Own it. Your journey and experience make you who you are – embrace it.
- Reflect on it. What is it that is making you feel the way that you do? Be open and accepting with what you are experiencing, and if you are struggling with it, ask for help. Odds are, someone else is feeling the same way you are.
- Take time for yourself. You are your best friend and your worst enemy.