A few weeks ago, I attended a beautiful wedding of two of our (newer) friends. My husband was part of the wedding party, and for this introvert, I was very nervous about being by myself with all these wedding guests whom I had never met. But, in the spirit of pushing myself out of my comfort zone, I went — and encouraged myself to go up to people I didn’t know and introduce myself, start conversations.
There was a repeating question that kept coming my way, over and over and OVER again.
“What do you do?”
“What do you do for a living?”
“Where do you work?”
And, I didn’t really know how to answer.
I’ve consistently had a job since I was old enough to start working. I got my first job at 14, bagging groceries at our local grocery store. It’s just in my genes — a workhorse to the extreme. There was a time when I was in college, taking the maximum number of credit hours I could, but I was still working 40 hours a week at my retail job. I had bills to pay, so I had to work. I’ve worked 4 jobs at a time before. I’ve logged in over 80 hours of work in ONE work week. It’s just my nature — working is what I DO.
When Raux and I started talking about having a family, I told him that in a dream world, I would love to be a stay at home mom. It is my dream job — just to be home with our little one, raise them right, teach them, watch them grow, document it all. My mom was a single mother, who had to work really REALLY hard to give us kids everything — and she would always say she regretted “missing out” on things when we were little. I, of course, never thought she missed out on anything, because she was a supermom who really did it all, and then some. But hearing this over and over as I grew up, I knew that I wanted to be there for EVERYTHING.. I never wanted my job to keep me from seeing Ella take her first step or say her first word.
After having Ella, I had a six week maternity leave from my job. Do you know when I returned to work? Two weeks. Two weeks after having Ella, I was back at work, attending a meeting and picking up order books so I could start tackling the mountain of work that was piling up from me being gone… for two weeks. I worked the entire time I was on maternity leave. I didn’t allow myself to have a break. And when that “six week” time frame was up, I was back in the office everyday, sometimes pulling more than 50+ hour weeks. But something had changed… my heart and mind weren’t there. My heart and my mind were at home, thinking of my little girl, worrying about all the things I was missing. And this continued — these feelings of worry and regret grew stronger — for the next year and a half.
It’s amazing how much can change in a year and a half, and having a little one really helps you see how fast time goes by. It’s like, one day she’s so little — she just lays in one spot, can barely hold her head up, and sleeps most of the day — and the next, she’s grown up — running around, babbling your ear off, and holds your hand as you pick flowers (weeds) in the backyard.
We were presented with the opportunity of a lifetime with my husband’s work, an opportunity that meant a move — physically, mentally, and emotionally — and it was going to afford me the chance to live my dream. I was going to be able to stay at home with Ella. It was here! My time! And, at first, I almost started to talk myself out of it — thinking, “what? I’ve worked my whole life” — “I need to be able to provide for my family” — I even started looking for work before we moved. Then, I had to take a step back and realize providing for my family meant so much more than money. It was my time to provide my family with me. My full attention. My love. My happiness.
I’ve been super lucky to be a full time stay at home mom for almost 6 months — and I can’t believe it took me this long to choose this path. I remember when we told close friends we were moving and that I was going to stay at home with Ella, they laughed saying I wouldn’t make it two weeks until I was looking for a job. Because that’s how they knew me — workhorse. I still am that person, except now it’s all about that sweet girl, inventing new activities and fun things for us to do rather than spreadsheets and countless emails.
There are some days that are a challenge, but everyday is beautiful with her. For the first time in my life, I LOVE going to work everyday. I may have one of the hardest jobs, but it is one of the best jobs ever.
“So, Ashley.. what do you do?”
What do I NOT do, is really the question.
I’m a wife. Mother. Personal chef. Police officer. Housekeeper. Lawmaker. A (stuffed animal) veterinarian. Nutritionist. Park explorer. Personal trainer. Artist. Medic. Baker. Chauffeur. An event planner. Dancing queen. Professional colorer. A personal stylist and shopper. Playground champion. Homemaker. Teacher. Creative enthusiast. A professional flower(weed) picker.
My parachute is every color of the rainbow, and I can show you with all the fingerpaint left on my kitchen table.
But more importantly — MOST importantly — I’m someone’s hero.
I’m more than what I do — and my “job” can’t really be summed up with “stay at home mom.” But what I do know is… every morning when I “go in to work,” I receive huge smiles, big hugs, and the sweetest kisses that remind me I’m exactly where I need to be.