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Unapologetically Ambitious: How I Became The Exception

As mothers, we tend to brag about our children, but nag about ourselves, or, our so called ‘mom fails’. So, when the Today Show Parenting Team asked me to brag about myself, I was stumped. They want to know what makes me a great mom! And in this piece, I am not allowed to include any ‘buts’ – for example, “I am great at exposing my children to countless activities and opportunities to get a pulse on where their heart’s leading them, but being a momager can be exhausting!” Well, anyone that knows me, knows that I’m always up for a good challenge, so here it is. Real, raw and rad Danielle – aka CityGirlGoneMom exposed!

5 Reasons Why I Am a Great Mom:

What Doesn’t Kill Me, Makes Me Stronger

No one would know about the past that no longer haunts me, because I have chosen to learn from it, use it as my ammunition for a better life, and let it go. And for that reason, I haven’t shared much or elaborated. Here it goes.

As a child, I grew up on welfare. My mother was a single mom who battled many addictions. When she was well, she was wonderful, and when she relapsed, it was ugly. During that time, I was exposed to things no child should ever experience. I was shuffled around from my grandmother’s house to my cousin’s house, and was blessed beyond belief to have a grandmother who provided the survival skills and the love a young lost girl needed.

I knew at the early age of three years old that I didn’t want the life I was living. I dreamt of more. I dreamt of the fairy tale life, the husband, the house, a table full of kids creating joyous noise. I wanted my children to have bedrooms, not the living room couch. And when it came to their high school years, I wanted my kids to be proud of their home, not picked up on the corner of the block for a date out of sheer embarrassment. I wanted them to be proud of where they came from.

In my earlier years, my biological father wasn’t much in the picture. Let’s just say he was a very bad man, who eventually became a penpal. I visited my first jail cell when I was just six. Luckily for me, my mother’s boyfriend at the time stepped in as a father figure, and still is a Godsend to this day. My kids adore him, and call him Papu. I learned at a very early age that I wanted and deserved more than I was dealt, and I was smart enough to know that with enough grit, determination and ambition running through my veins, that I could make it happen.

I Can Achieve Anything I Want In This World

I did it! When I turned 17, I escaped the chaos and moved into my own place. I worked three jobs, put myself through college and a Master’s Degree, all while paying my own rent. I can remember those days like it was yesterday. I think that’s really when I acquired my now nickname ‘queen of hustle’ (with the exception of that time in 8th grade when I would sell candy in class, making far more money than any kid should in a week’s time).

It wasn’t easy going to school full-time, having to pay my own rent and bills at such an early age. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t envious of my friends who were away at school enjoying a true college experience with lots of time to spare for things like sororities, socializing and studying. But at the end of the day, my reality was my reality. Life handed me lemons. Many of them were bruised and imperfect. And instead of throwing them out, I made lemonade. And boy, could I sell lemonade! My zest for life and all of its possibilities trumped any negative thought that would get in my way, and I marched on.

I went through seven years of schooling, and eventually earned 70 credits above a Master’s Degree.

Overcoming Obstacles: My New Outlook after Surviving Multiple Pregnancy Losses 

I endured a few pregnancy losses during my child-bearing years. My third child, Roman, was a twin, and sadly, his twin did not make it early on. And then there was the baby just before Roman. Losing a pregnancy is no easy feat.  No matter how optimistic I was, with every loss I would lose my zest to carry on.  It’s a heart wrenching experience that sadly I experienced more than once.  You can read about it here.  As time went on, I slowly got up and a little each day I got stronger. Through it all I still yearned for a big family. Determination enabled me to go on and get pregnant again. I am really proud to have overcome some of life’s most challenging obstacles, ultimately staying on the course of fulfilling my dreams.

Looking back on my three losses, I can wholeheartedly say that I have gained a new appreciation for the fragility of life having experienced them. Empathy and compassion are two of life’s greatest gifts, and I am a better mother, wife, sister and friend for having gone through what I have. Nothing can produce the broad range of feelings like motherhood can. Highs, lows, happiness and fear. All of it gives my life direction and purpose.

This Mom Who Goes the Distance

Anyone who knows me, knows that I go the distance for my kids. Growing up, there were so many things I wanted to do in life, but because I had to work at such an early age, didn’t get to experience them. My kids love the entertainment world. And with my love for film and photography, they became comfortable in front of the camera at an early age. They have budding little Hollywood careers, and I couldn’t be more proud. Is it challenging for me? Of course it is! I put my life on hold day in and day out to expose them to everything the industry has to offer. They have achieved some fun successes, national campaigns as well as editorials in magazines and even commercials. And it doesn’t end there. They’re still kids and love to do not one, but several after school activities and sports. My oldest is on a traveling Lacrosse team and we all travel to support his love for the sport. One child at a time, I will hone in on what makes them happiest, and what they want to accomplish. And I will hustle to find the ways to make it happen! What I have learned, is that all things are possible when you have a great support system and you chase your dreams with determination. 

I Am Committed To My Unit

Just like a staff sergeant with his marines, I am with my unit. My family always comes first. They come before any girls’ night, any social, any premier, anything. Of course I make some time for me, my husband and friends, but my family comes first. I enjoy being the matriarch of my crew. I feel this commitment ultimately makes me a better mother. We line up the best weekends for our family with countless activities, friends and social outlets, and really do live life to its fullest.

Thirty years ago, I dreamt of this life while standing in the hot lunch line waiting for cold, mushy tater tots. Every day since then, I’ve convinced myself that I can do anything I want in this world. And I am damn proud of who I’ve become. Thank you Today Show Parenting Team for allowing and encouraging me to tell my story. This wasn’t easy to do, but it wouldn’t be in my nature to think it was impossible.

How are you carving out your role as mom? I am living proof you can be and do whatever you want in this life. With a little ambition and determination, it’s all achievable. Happy Mother’s Day to all of the amazing women we call Mom. 

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19 comments

  1. Oh honey, that was beautiful in so many ways. I have tears in my eyes. I’m in Staten Island as you know for the last time and I’m sitting here thinking of how much determination you always had to get to where you are today. I’m so very proud of you and very proud to call you my friend! Love ya girl!

    1. Danielle Lucia Schaffer

      awe yes thank you girl… you were there… especially during the time in my jeep… so so much I forget…

  2. So great to read your story Danielle!! Inspiring. Even for us non-mommies!

    1. Danielle Lucia Schaffer

      thanks lauren for all your support

  3. This is just beautiful! I love the person you are, the fire in your soul and all that “Danielle magic”. Keep feeding your dreams girl, you deserve it!

    1. Danielle Lucia Schaffer

      danielle magic…. love you

  4. What an inspiration. It’s not what life throws at you but what you throw back into life! Love your determination. Great story!

    1. Danielle Lucia Schaffer

      Thanks so so much…. xoxoxo

  5. Just when I thought you couldn’t possibly get any more amazing!! You are a beautiful person inside and out! Loved reading this
    G

    1. Danielle Lucia Schaffer

      awe love you bunches… I swear I still wish we were neighbors

  6. Brought tears to my eyes!!! All of the above is what makes you amazing and irresistible!!! Love you sweet friend!!

    1. Danielle Lucia Schaffer

      you are too kind what amazing words love you

  7. Wowwwwww……. my amazement comes at not only the content of your words but the sheer courage that it took in order to utter them, and in part give us all strength to draw upon. You’re like the Italian Maya Angelou Girl!! Lol. But no seriously, what an inspiring piece I think we can all relate to the fact that our finest hours are not always the ones that yield us the best character– it’s the challenges that makes us stronger. Your kids are so damn lucky to have such a smart and vivacious role model to look up to and emulate. Cheers to you Mama! And on this day, Mother’s Day– you can especially be thankful for that hand you were dealt, the love that God placed in your life to get you where you are today. Faith and fear can not coexist for long. Thanks so much again for sharing and for giving permission to celebrate how far we’ve all come- and to dream as big as we want for the future. What a blessing and a gift indeed!!!

    1. Danielle Lucia Schaffer

      damn your words always get me… thank you for reading… thank you for inspiring me and thank you for the friendship… Happy Mother’s Day to You!!!!!!!

  8. Thanks so much for sharing your story. We have a lot in common and I admire you greatly for rising above. It’s been important to me to avoid becoming “addicted to my story” because it keeps me mired in the past, instead of enjoying my amazing present. It sounds like you have discovered this too.

    1. Danielle Lucia Schaffer

      Oh wow, yes I have…. I love staying in the present and never using my past to be a martyr of some sort. We all have choices and it sounds like you too choose to rise above! Thanks for sharing this with me xoxoxoxo

  9. Thanks for sharing your story Danielle. I love the transparency and I am in admiration of your desire and perseverance to have and continue to make it through the hard times. It is beyond REFRESHING to read a real, raw post. xoxo

    1. Danielle Lucia Schaffer

      Thanks So Much Diana…. It was hard to be transparent, but I felt if I am going to put myself out there, then I need to tell a little bit about where I come from. Then people would understand me more. Why I have so much drive… I am fueled everyday and wouldn’t change a thing about where I come from! It truly makes me who I am! xoxox

  10. I love the above comment—Italian Maya Angelou. Yes that’s what you are! I loved reading this story and learning more about you. Your courage and strength are inspiring. Keep being you! So glad we connected on our motherhood journey.

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