What I Learned from the Craziest Email I Received
Last year I made the conscious choice to be more open about my business and my motherhood. My goal in sharing my unique stay at home mom by day and work at home mom with the hours of 7 PM - 11PM was to show other moms they could do it too. The hours aren’t ideal and right now sleep is short, but by choosing to run a business when my children are asleep I get to raise them and provide income. My husband is a teacher and we need a second income. Sharing who I am and the most important parts of me also came with some scrutiny from customers.
Here’s the thing, people are always going to have an opinion. Our society pits women against each other so that we keep playing small and never see how powerful we are together. And I think it hits hard when we become moms. “Don’t breastfeed in public, but don’t give them formula. Don’t hold them too much, too much affection will spoil them.” Helloooooo!!! Let’s make moms as confused as possible when it comes to parenting. Let’s tear down every single thing they do, offer no help, better support, or solutions. Just criticism. That is the daily scrutiny of a mom. The Christmas rush amplified what I was already feeling and also brought some of the most intense criticism I’ve experienced about being a mom, and a mom with a business.
Some of the emails told me things I’m sure every business owner hears. They were things like “you ruined Christmas because the post office took seven days to deliver this,” or “this is a very special gift and your turnaround time is too long, please hurry it up.” I even received an email from a customer stating she knew what was required to be a mom and a small business owner and I wasn’t living up to her standards. Ouch.
But the one I received in early December gifted me the biggest learning experience I’ve ever had in my few short years of business. The email from Carol (name has been changed), came a couple of days after her purchase. This particular item was for a custom order and she needed the instructions to send in her information. My system is automated to send out the instructions 24 hours, 48 hours, and one week after purchase.
She sent me an email late afternoon asking to have the instructions email sent to her. A couple minutes later she sent me this email…
“When I purchased the product it indicated that my instructional email would be sent out within 24 hours. Also, the fact your have spelled guaranteed incorrectly on your email gives me great pause. For the sake of your customers and these children you’re raising as a stay at home mom, pay attention to spelling and pay attention to your integrity as a person and a business owner. Being a mom is not an excuse for tardiness. It’s an obligation to keep your word.”
My stomach sunk and I felt like crying. How dare this woman make an assumption that by spelling a word incorrectly I wasn’t a good mom. I felt hot and embarrassed and ashamed. I hated that I let someone down and now I had to wrestle with what she said. I was feeling really incapable of being a mom and a business owner at the time, and her words were proving me right. I wasn’t cut out for it.
I called my mom, partly sobbing and partly yelling. I couldn’t believe that without an explanation or graciousness from Carol, she would hit so low. I checked my automated system and her email had been sent out, not only had she received the email...she had OPENED it and still sent me that email.
I contacted my coach, Katie, to ask her what I needed to do. I was feeling angry and embarrassed still and again - she had confirmed everything I had been feeling about myself. I was a crappy mom. Katie asked me to share my feelings and gave me some amazing advice. She said Carol’s words are not a reflection of me, but were a reflection of her and where she is in life. No person in their right mind lashes out like that. She asked me to explore a bit more knowing the truth about Carol’s words. I had spent most of December convincing myself I wasn’t a good mom, and when someone else told me I wasn’t a good mom, I felt that those things were confirmed. What hurt the most wasn’t how angry she was, it was feeling like the negative self talk I had been playing over in my mind was actual truth (spoiler alert: it wasn’t the truth).
Katie gave me a grounding exercise to help protect my energy and release emotions. During that time I realized the email I was crying about an hour before, was really one of the greatest gifts I could have received.
Just because someone says it, doesn’t make it true.
It can feel easy to let someone else dictate your self worth, especially when it lines up with the negative self talk story you’ve been telling. Your negative self talk is not true. Anything negative someone says about you is not true. We are all flawed people with expansive pasts of hurts, having flaws does not make you a bad person. Someone pointing out those flaws or making up flaws about you does not mean you are those things. You get to choose which words stick to you. If it doesn’t help you, build you up, or make you feel good - throw it out. That is your right. You do not have to hold onto anything that does not bring joy, love, and peace.
When people lash out, it’s because they are going through something heavy.
Hurting other people is often a defense mechanism. It’s crazy and wonderful to see the systems our bodies and brains have in place to protect ourselves, but hurting others serves no productive purpose. It’s important to remember this when you find yourself in a situation where someone lashes out like Carol lashed out at me. Remembering the other person deeply hurting spins a new perspective and cultivates compassion for them.
When someone is in a state of peace, their motive is different than when someone is in a state of turmoil. I found myself in a state of turmoil for most of my early twenties. I was deeply hurt and unable to process my emotions. In turn, I did and said some really horrible things in the efforts to make me feel better. It didn’t work, and to this day, while I am thankful for the growth, I wish I could take back the mean things I said. I am thankful for the forgiveness and love that was given to me by the other person in this situation, and for her ability to see the distress I was in.
If you want to move forward, you have to lighten your emotional bags.
You aren’t going to go anywhere if you are carrying around what your Carol said three months ago. Think about how heavy it feels to carry around every bad thing said or done to you. I highly doubt you go for a walk while carrying around one hundred pound bags, so don’t do it with your emotions either. Do what you need to feel your feelings and then let that shit go.
You can find purpose behind every hard situation.
I was so ashamed and embarrassed after reading her email, I didn’t stop to think what I could learn from it. After I de-escalated and processed the situation, I was able to find all these tidbits of wisdom. I even felt I developed a larger sense of self worth and confidence. I knew I was ready for the next level of success, I was shying away from because I was scared about what people might say. Well Carol said what I was afraid of and I survived. You can too.
No one cares about your dreams.
I mean this in the nicest way, but no one is going to care about your dreams like you do. Carol did not care that I was a stay at home mom/work at home mom working my butt off to make ends meet all while navigating motherhood. Carol didn’t know I was exhausted from raising two children, trying to cultivate a meaningful marriage, or that I had a small support system. Carol had no idea I wanted to serve moms, to provide the education and resources I had to uncover for myself. Carol didn’t know I struggled with anxiety or feeling good enough for my husband and children. Carol didn’t care about me let alone my dreams. And that is okay. Your dreams were sewn into your heart, and your heart alone. People don’t need to care about your dreams for you to care about them. People don’t need to care about your dreams for you to make them a reality.
This story ends with me responding to Carol later that evening, when I knew I wasn’t going to be speaking through emotions or hurtful baggage. It was important to me to respond to her, because I don’t often stand up for myself. I want Charlie to be a kind, strong woman and it’s important to me to model what that looks like.
I understand your frustration and expectation to receive a prompt email from me concerning your purchase on December 2nd. Especially at such a wonderfully busy and festive time of year! I checked our system and saw the email had been sent the evening of December 2nd and it was opened from your email address the morning of December 3rd. I have attached a photograph of our system for you to review. While the email, on my end, appears to have all the listed instructions as well as a handy button to send in your photographs - I know emails sometimes register as spam and may not download the information fully.
Technology can be fickle and sometimes emails come across harsher than intended, but a boundary was crossed in your second email concerning how I am raising my children. You are correct that motherhood is an obligation to keep your word and I will continue to keep my word. To raise my children to forgive themselves over spelling mistakes and missed expectations. I will hold them to a standard of grace, realizing perfection is far overrated. I will help them to see everyone is doing their best and that jumping to conclusions robs them of the chance to build a relationship.
I don’t know your intentions of your second email. If it was to let me know I spelled guaranteed incorrectly - thank you for letting me know. I will change that this evening. If it was to tell me you felt I had not fulfilled a promise, I hope you see on my end it showed the email was sent promptly. It even showed it had been opened, which without you telling me, I would have assumed you read it and were waiting to get a good photograph. If it’s purpose was to make myself question my motherhood and value - I’ve spent so many years questioning if I was good enough, that I decided to stop. Trading letting others dictate my worth for believing that the honor of being alive is enough and makes us all beyond valuable.
Life is hard and even though this season is full of joy, it can be really hard on us too. I sincerely appreciate the chance you gave my business to serve you, but do not feel I am the best fit to complete this project for you. I ask, respectfully, that we cancel this order. I have listed a few links below of people who create watercolors of homes at a reasonable price and with good reviews.
I look forward to hearing from you and wish you the best.
Before hitting send, I prepared myself for the possible outcomes. Carol was going to not respond at all, respond with the same vitriol, or apologize. I worked through how I could handle each situation. As it happened, Carol didn’t respond at all, and that is okay. When you become so sure of your contributions and your innate value, it’s so much easier to let everything that doesn’t serve those purposes fall away.
There will always be Carols, even if you were to be absolutely perfect. If you take away anything from this story, I want you to know that some people will criticize you for standing in your truth and claiming your power, don’t stop. Do not stop. For every Carol out there, there are one hundred people needing your story, your strength. They need to see someone like them, with the same complicated, messy past reaching and growing. They need to see what they can be when they heal, find their purpose, and start serving. I believe in you and I know you will do great things.