I have one of those magnets on my refrigerator; you know, the inspirational ones that you never actually look at as routinely as you thought you would when you placed it so prominently on the refrigerator. Well, mine features a quote attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt: "Do one thing every day that scares you.”

These words once inspired me to think about running a marathon, learning how to snowboard, or writing something to publish. Last week, they spurred me to pack up my toddler and head to the library for play group.

Despite the usual toddler antics which often prevent us from leaving the house in any reasonable amount of time, we made it. After forty-five minutes of watching my toddler play with many of the same toys we have at home and second-guessing my plan, play group ended. We decided to stick around and pick out some books for home. As we made our choices, another mom and her toddler joined us. While our kids played, we figured out that our families had both recently moved into the area, we have toddlers only two weeks apart, and we’re equally anxious to find playmates for them. We clicked! At the end of the impromptu library adventure, I came home with a new mom friend and plans to get our toddlers together again soon.

For me, being a mom is reinforcing balance in deeper ways than I ever thought possible and helping me see courage in the big moments as well as the small.

Before becoming a mom, I was intellectually aware of the notion that kids turn your life upside down. I had heard that finding balance between work and life, and everything in between, would be really hard if not impossible. And, indeed, I soon found out that being a working mom is incredibly demanding. But, at the same time, I’m learning things from being a mom to a toddler that I never expected.

The first lesson my toddler taught me was that maybe you don’t have to balance it all. It was only after giving birth that I made the decision to take the sabbatical from work that I had long been contemplating. This big event in my life gave me the courage to look at the big picture. Stepping back gave me new perspective on the pursuits I had been dreaming about and allowed me to explore a different career path.

But it’s not just the big picture that has changed—being a mom has brought a sharp focus to the day-to-day. In the process of simply getting out of the house to breathe some fresh air and play at the library, we gained so much more. Our tiny adventure that day—that “do one thing every day that scares you”—resulted in me finally connecting with another mom, something far richer and more meaningful than working on endless amounts of homework for graduate school, cooking, cleaning, and everything and anything else crowding my to-do list.

These days doing something scary looks a lot different than it once did, but I'm completely okay with it, because the things I am doing are bringing me an incredible amount of joy, peace, and sense of self. Eleanor Roosevelt and my toddler have taught me that it’s worth doing the things that scare you, from the big to the small.