Catia Hernandez Holm talks with moms. A lot. She gives speeches to mom groups, makes appearances at bookstore events and will deliver her first TED talk in Austin on May 2. The Austinite and author of The Courage to Become, released last summer, spoke with us about recognizing your worth, navigating life’s ups and downs and finding hope.
AFM: Tell us about your family.
Holm: I’m married. Love him. Anthony Holm. We have a 3-year-old daughter and a 1-year-old daughter, Alexandra and Luciana.
AFM: Where did you grow up?
Holm: In the Rio Grande Valley. My parents started a business when they were newly married, so they’ve been working every day of their lives. I was raised a Mexican Catholic. I’m the oldest; I’m the only girl. I gave great reverence to my parents and my elders. I gave them some trouble, but not too much. [laughs] I had a great childhood.
AFM: When did you start writing?
Holm: I was engaged when I was 24, and we had a bad breakup. It was mutual, but still very, very painful. In healing, I needed to get things out so I started a blog, and I just wrote and wrote and wrote. People sent me emails saying, “That happened to me, too. Thank you for sharing.” And I thought, there’s something here.
Growing up, people thought I had a perfect life. I dressed nicely. I grew up in a safe home. My parents were married. But it doesn’t mean somebody doesn’t have inner turmoil, fear, insecurities. When I started sharing, people said, “I would’ve never known, because you carry yourself so well.” And that’s fair. But there are a ton of people who “carry themselves well” and still have hurt or stress or fear. So, I don’t think “carrying yourself well” is a marker of anything except carrying yourself well.
AFM: What inspired you to write this book?
Holm: I wanted to let women know they weren’t alone. I talk about in the book that my husband and I hadn’t had sex for a long time. I was really pregnant, and it freaked him out. I was going crazy. Was my marriage going to be OK? Back then, I had a body image problem. Big time. I finally got the guts to tell my friend, and she said, “Don’t worry about it. We went through that, too. You’ll be fine; just give it time.” And I’d been working this up in my head for months. Once I heard, “You’ll be fine,” that gave me hope. My husband and I started talking and laughing, instead of taking it so serious. We released the pressure valve. And it was fine, eventually. We survived.
AFM: Why do you think nobody talks about these things?
Holm: Shame. Embarrassment. But it’s an illusion. Everybody poops. It’s OK. And there hasn’t been one time that I’ve said something out loud that someone else hasn’t said, “Thanks, because I’m going through that also.” Never. Nobody’s ever left me hanging.
AFM: What are some things you’ve learned in being a mother?
Holm: I learned how awesome my mom was. I gained a much bigger respect for moms in general all over the world. I learned how to let loose more. I’m definitely more relaxed now. It’s even changed my relationship with my husband. We can laugh about things that were serious in the moment. And on the flip side, how to take it more seriously — how to be intentional about my time and my energy. I want to be present when I’m with my daughters.
AFM: How do you recharge your batteries?
Holm: I like to walk in nature, be alone, listen to a podcast. I love people. I try to be so present with them and hear their stories and hug them. I get a lot of people who cry; to be present for that requires focus. I try to give them my best, because they’re honoring me with their trust. They’re sharing some deep hurts. When I leave, I need time alone. And then I can do that for the next crowd. It’s an honor. When people are sharing their hurt and their insecurity, that requires a special caring.
AFM: What’s your background?
Holm: [laughs] Marketing! I went to UT. The first 10 years of my career, I ran restaurants and bars. I worked for my parents for a while, for their chain of liquor stores. Then I ran the bars at ACL Live at the Moody Theater. And then I started writing. So, my background is booze. That’s where I learned about hospitality and people. I like to create a space for somebody, whether it’s with food or wine or writing.
AFM: What will readers get out of your book?
Holm: It’s for all women. Every chapter has a focus, whether it’s pain, change, body image, redesigning your life or financial change. Each chapter is broken up into a few sections. My story is the most unimportant part. The important part is the “Hope for Navigating” section. I bring in experts — authors, luminaries, clergy, whoever — and say, “This is what experts say about this subject.” The last section is introspective questions the readers can ask themselves. And there are some resources you can use to help you pivot.
The book is about hope through transition. The bottom line is that no matter what is going on, you’re worthy and you are more than enough — plenty. And I truly, truly, truly believe that — no matter what we look like, no matter what our job is, marital status, whatever. So many things we do to ourselves are because we don’t think we’re good enough. We don’t take the job. We don’t apply for the job. We don’t ask that guy on a date. We don’t wear that dress. The list goes on and on. We don’t value ourselves fully. I’ve met so many women; their hearts are the same. There’s always a tender little spot that needs a hug and to feel safe and to be reminded that we’re good.
By Sherida Mock