In networking, there’s something called an “elevator speech.” If you had to define yourself in 30 to 60 seconds, what would you say? In business, it’s important to articulate what you do professionally – what service or product you can offer and who your target audience is. I’m Danielle Voit, and I’m the Director of HEROES Academy. I provide accelerated academic programming for gifted and talented students. Until recently, this isn’t just how I defined myself professionally, it’s how I defined myself all of the time. My work defined me, and it was difficult if not impossible for me to separate myself from my work. And then, almost three months ago, I became a new person. I’m still Danielle Voit, Director of HEROES Academy. I still provide accelerated academic programming for gifted and talented students.
But, now I’m Noah’s Mommy too. I’m also a Single Mom by Choice (SMBC), a to-be homeschool parent, a cloth-diapering mommy, a holistic mom, a working mom, and a nursing mom. I’m still an educator, a business owner, and a blogger too. Depending upon who you are, I’m Miss Danielle, Auntie Danielle, or Mommy.
They say that having children changes you in ways you’d never imagine . Three months in, and I think that’s wildly inaccurate. I think that having children exposes your truest self. It’s how we deal with sleepless nights, the constant worrying that comes with parenthood, and the constant need to multi-task at levels never before imagined that tell us who we are . It’s the decisions as to who we want to raise our children to be, the decision we make as to how we’re going to raise our children, that expose our true values and moral compass. And, in the end, it’s our children who live on beyond us to remind the world of who we were. So, who am I?
I’m Noah’s mommy. This is my favorite identity. Having him is the best thing I’ve done in my entire life. He has a smile that can melt anyone’s heart. I can’t wait for the day that he calls me mommy for the first time.
I’m a SMBC. I never saw myself having the fairy tale wedding – the husband – the nuclear family per-se. I always envisioned me and my kids. There’s an entire community of like minded women out there that want the same thing.
Having a child as an SMBC forces you to face decisions that, I believe, parents who become parents in a more traditional manner, rarely consciously consider. Browsing for a donor forces you to consider how much you truly believe nature[genetics] impacts the “outcome,” what qualities or characteristics you “want’ in a child, and to what degree these different things are important to you.
You can get lost in the decision making process, but in the end, you realize that you just want to be a mom. Your child could come out with antlers and a bright red nose like Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, and you’d love them just the same.
I’m a holistic mom. I grow most of my own food, seek out homeopathic remedies first, and do my best to respect the world and ground around me. I’m not spiritual, but I do believe that our lifestyle choices have a significant impact on our overall health. And, I plan to share these values with my child.
I’m a cloth-diapering mom. This is often a conversation starter. While cloth diapers were the norm once-upon-a-time, disposable diapers are now the norm, but I love my cloth diapers. They’re nothing like the cloth diapers of previous generations; they’re cute, easy to use, and work almost like disposables. I’ve come to realize that cloth diapers are a lifestyle choice as much as a clothing choice. It means a much bigger diaper bag, more frequent diaper changes, and lots of laundry. Cloth diapers make me actually enjoy changing my child’s diaper 12 or more times per day.
I’m a nursing mom. This means that I smell like spoiled milk most of the time and have a fairly limited wardrobe of nursing friendly attire. My child eats every 1.5 to 2 hours, which means that some days it feels like all I do is deal with feeding related tasks – feeding, burping, and changing diapers. It also means that there are countless times each day that I’m forced to take a step back and do nothing but gaze into my child’s milk drunk eyes. These are some of my favorite moments.
I’m a to-be homeschool parent. As someone who has worked with other parents to come up with homeschool plans and works with homeschool kids, I thought this one would be easy. I have also been surprised at the number of people that know me and didn’t know this already. The notion of going to public school “just because that’s what you do” is deeply embedded in our society, and it’s difficult for some people to imagine doing anything else. But, I ask them, if the point of going to school is to learn and socialize, and my child can do that outside of the public school environment, why would they also need to go to public school?
I’ve spent fifteen years building a facility that allows children to learn and to socialize outside of public school – that allows them to learn more and to move at a faster pace in fewer hours per week. Many of my students attend my programs in addition to school too, and for those children, doors are opened for them. They can explore higher level topics earlier, gain exposure to a wider breadth of studies and professions younger, and thus, make more informed decisions about their future. For some, accelerating their academics allows them to get college credits during high-school through APs or the local community College, and they’re able to reduce their credit load at university and/or take more classes just because they’re interesting. For others, they’re able to leave high school early for a first job or internship. And yet, for most, none of this matters as much as the simple ability to learn in an environment with like minded peers – to challenge their minds – and to relish in the simple joy of learning for the sake of learning itself.
I’m a working mom, and this one is perhaps the most challenging role. It means that most of the time I feel as if I’m not fulfilling either of these roles enough. If I’m working, I’m not paying enough attention to my child. If I’m solely focused on my child, I’m not paying enough attention to my work. Balancing these two roles is tough, but I love that my child not only sees me work but will eventually be involved in my work. I’m also grateful for the flexibility I have to bring my child to work and to work from home most days.
So, who am I? I’m all of these things and none of these things. I’m a teacher, a business owner, a blogger, and a mommy. It’s all of these roles, all of my experiences, and all of my relationships that make me who I am today.