I was 17 years old when I realised that my passion in life was to help others. I wanted to help people on an emotional and mental level, help them to make sense of their own lives, help them feel less alone. This led me to my decision to study psychology. Then, as I was studying my degree, I met my now-husband and we settled down.
For the past eight years, I've been a stay-at-home mother to three girls. For the past three years, I have also worked from home as a writer. But this year I made the decision to start studying from home. It's been one of the best decisions of my life.
With the birth of our first child, my husband and I were met with many challenges. Our daughter was born premature and stayed in the NICU for 11 days. She was later diagnosed with a speech and language delay. For the next five years, she would see a paediatrician and dietitian on a regular basis. She would also go on to have speech therapy.
I wanted so badly to be the parent that my daughter deserved. Most of my days were spent rushing her off to appointments. I didn't have much time for friends. I didn't even have time for myself.
All three of my girls have gone on to have speech and language delays. They've also struggled in other developmental areas. I've gone to hundreds of specialist appointments. I've spent so much of my energy worrying about how my girls are doing and what I can be doing to help them.
And I really lost myself along the way.
I thought that that in order to be a good mother, I could only worry about my children. That I had to devote all my time, all my energy to their needs. That I was selfish for thinking of anything else.
Now I've realised that none of that is true.
A turning point
I first discovered my love for writing four years ago. I started a blog and I realised that my passion for psychology had never actually faded. I specifically entered the blogosphere wanting to help others. I was writing about personal development because I was hoping my experiences would help other people.
But I still knew something was still missing. After all those years of being at home, I decided I was going to do what I always planned to do: I was going to help people on an emotional and mental level. I decided to return to study - this time, doing a diploma of youth work.
I now study from home, pack school lunches, do school runs, and juggle my writing as well.
Going back to study as a 26-year-old mum of three, I am more determined and passionate than ever. Having young children myself has shown me how important our role is in shaping the future generations of adults. How absolutely essential our role is in helping the children and youth of today have the best start in life.
When it's late at night and I'm working on a youth work assignment or reading through course notes, I feel like the same person I was when I was studying at 17.
I feel like I'm that same ambitious person that has always wanted to make a positive difference in this world. I feel like I'm that same passionate person who believes that prevention is key.
I finally feel like I'm me again.
Last month, I worked incredibly hard on my first assignment. After 10 hours of writing in one day, I submitted it. I scored 100%.
My teacher later congratulated me on my result and said that many people struggle with that unit, and I have never done as happy a dance as I did in that moment.
For almost a decade, I have given so much of myself to my children. I have put all my dreams on hold to be there for my girls. And I don't regret a thing. But in that moment, I jumped up and down knowing that I had finally done something for me.
Making my children proud
In less than three years I will receive my diploma and will proudly show it to my husband and my girls. I will be able to tell my daughters, "Mummy did it!"
I want my girls to know that no matter what happens in life, you can still be who it is that you've always wanted to be.
That parenthood does change you for the better – it gives you children that teach you the meaning of unconditional love. It gives you kids whose beautiful smiles you get to see every day, whose arms you get to feel wrapped around you, whose bodies you love to tuck into bed at night.
But being a parent doesn't have to change who you are. You're allowed to think about yourself sometimes. In fact, you need to think about yourself.
If you want to partake in a hobby or interest you had before kids, don't feel guilty.
If you want to juggle parenthood with a job and/or study, do what feels right for you.
You don't have to give up on your hopes and dreams because you've had kids.
You don't have to change who you are to be a good parent.
You just have to love your kids. Be attentive and listen to their needs. But don't forget to listen to your own as well.
I'm so glad that I listened to mine, and I'm so glad that I haven't forgotten that I'm important too.
I'm so glad that I'm following my dreams.