This is My Story Part II: The story behind the book
Back to business this week. Serious business. This post was intimidating to write, and I’m still struggling with the vulnerability of it. Women can be so critical of each other, yet for every critical woman, I know there are three supportive, graceful and compassionate cheerleaders, and even some women who might relate to something I’ve said. So that’s giving me some solace. I’m also in a Bible study right now covering the topic of insecurity (shout to my Wednesday group!), and I have to start applying some of these confidence skillz at some point. These next words are an important part of my story. To leave out how the book came to be would be leaving out a crucial chapter in this journey.
Nina started daycare full-time in April of 2016. To say it was a season of adjustment for our family would be a kind description. From changed relationships to new priorities to completely redefining who I was as an individual, everything transformed quickly.
Nina and I had twelve extraordinary weeks of an irreplaceable maternity-leave together. Not saying it was this blissful, heavenly and idyllic three months of cuddling and swooning over each other (because, come on. We are still questioning why the hospital even let us come home with a baby. And there’s too much poop, spit up and not enough sleep for the word ‘bliss’) but man, that time that’s dedicated solely to getting to know your baby, and finally knowing what it means and feels like to be a mom… words are incompetent in describing what that time reflects. Many mothers can relate to the challenges of coming off of maternity-leave. What a blow!
The transition meant spending much, much more time away from Nina than with her. I no longer was the face that she saw the most. Her daycare teachers fed her more, changed more diapers, and held her more than I did. It felt crushing at times knowing that my time with her boiled down to three hours a day, and only two whole days a week. Many weeks less time than that. Our two hours together after work were literally like precious gold to me; you couldn’t even pry me away from her to change out of my work clothes. At this point, she was still waking up multiple times throughout the night, and I was pumping twice a night, but I was EXCITED to see her at 2AM. I desperately wanted every second with her, and I wanted every second to be amazing. Oh, we played so hard, we talked and sang constantly, always exploring… I so badly wanted to give her every ounce of me, and the best version of me. Every (happy) atom in my body was poured into her. Our time together was so short, so when we were together, my priority was to be the mother she deserved. Yet I still always thought she deserved better. I always felt like I was falling short.
I was unwilling to give up any time with her unless it was mandatory for work, so friendships suffered for a bit. With the little free time I had, I needed to make choices and somehow prioritize. After Nina went to bed, I often had piles of laundry, dishes, housework or errands to do. If I did meet up with a girlfriend, it was always after Nina went to bed, and not much longer than an hour. Meeting up with a girlfriend went from a regular, expected occurrence to now a luxury.
And forget about “me-time”. And working out. Putting on make-up, doing my hair, or heck, sometimes even showering (even on work days… sometimes it just doesn’t happen!) Even the basic human function of eating, I somehow couldn’t find time for or it was simply forgotten so everything else could function. If doing something for myself meant less time with Nina, then my goodness, I was not going to do it! The list goes on and on (as all moms know). Ashley was on the bottom of the list, always, in every way. And I accepted it because I felt SO DANG GUILTY. Constant, overpowering guilt. I felt like I deserved to be on the bottom of the list; not in a self-punishing way, but in an over-compensating way, if that makes sense. I was a hot mess, but it didn’t matter to me as long as I gave my all to Nina. I was happy to do it, and I felt like it was what I needed to do.
CLEARLY, I had some balance issues. Looking back, I wish I could give Summer ’16 Ashley a hug (well, and maybe Fall ‘08, Spring ’09, Spring ’17, Summer ’17, too…ha!) and help that sister out. Isolating is best word that would describe that season of life. Isolation comes walking hand-in-hand with anxiety on the left, and guilt on the right. I don’t want to generalize, so please don’t be mad at this next statement if it doesn’t apply to you. In my particular case, and in some other cases I know of, working moms tend to try to make it look like they have it all together. There’s quite a bit of added pressure and fear of failure because there are literally so many freaking balls up in the air at all times. Statistically, there’s a bigger chance of a ball dropping when there are more flying around. Trying to manage a career, be successful and grow within that career, run a household and all that comes along with it, be the mother you have always dreamed of being, and be the wife you’ve promised your spouse you’d be… big balls here, people. Big balls. But also big ambition, right? You are committed to do all of those things well! If you don’t have it together, or at least fake it ‘til you make it, well… Big balls fall hard.
Have you ever found that it’s hard to talk about things that make you feel guilty? It’s like you’re admitting out loud that you’re wrong for something bad that you’ve done. You normally only feel guilt after you’ve done something bad or something you regret. Guilt = shame, and who wants to talk out loud about things they are ashamed of? Not me. So if you admit out loud that you feel guilty about being a working mother, does that make it a reality that you’re a bad mom? Does it mean you’re a bad employee? You feel guilty about it, so you must be doing something wrong! This thought was always in my head, and it took me a long time to push it out.
Between the anxiety, the guilt and the lack of balance, I was lost in isolation. I often thought, “SO many people are working moms. Why do I feel so awful and why can’t I figure out how to make this work? I’m not the first person in the world to do this.” I was embarrassed too, to top it all off. Little did I know, many people felt the same way I did.
It was during this season the idea of my book came to me. I wrote My Favorite Job is You in August of 2016. Up to that point, my poems were either short, silly little blurbs or they documented Nina Rose’s current baby stage. This was different. This was something I felt like God was specifically putting on my heart. I sat down, and using the back of an envelope and the voice memo app on my phone, words just gushed out of me. Everything I had been trying to keep inside and trying to control released, and it miraculously rhymed. Praise the Lord! I wrote the entire book except for three stanzas within twenty minutes. I finished the last three stanzas on the drive home using my voice memo app. To God be the glory, because woof. Only our Father could give me such clarity in that difficult season and bring good and purpose out of pain.
The book simply encompasses the daily life of being a working mother, but also pulls out those feelings in our hearts we are afraid to voice. Our hectic mornings, getting through a stressful day at work, coming home to more chaos, all while dealing with this emotional roller-coaster of endless feelings. It’s very child-friendly though, I promise ;-) My hope is that other working mothers can relate to this poem. I want to alleviate those feelings of isolation for women going through what I was feeling. I want this book to support working moms, to let them know that they aren't alone. They are not isolated.
We have a faithful, compassionate, powerful Father through whom all things are possible. He doesn’t want to leave you alone to fend for yourself. He doesn’t want you to walk through life dragging your feet in the mud.
In Bible study on Wednesday, we read Psalm 40:1-3. It speaks perfectly to all of the difficult seasons we endure through motherhood:
“I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in Him.”
He has a much greater plan for you, and although you may not see what the big picture is now, I promise you that if you’re asking Him, He is working in your life. Seek Him.
“If I told you my story
You would hear victory over the enemy
If told you my story
You would hear freedom that was won for me”
--My Story, Big Daddy Weave