labels, dreams, fears, and fuel.

where my heart resides

{ photo by Sarah Thornhill }

One of the weirdest things that has plagued me since becoming a mother is figuring out my label. I’m not even into labels, but it seems like every time I meet a new person or start chatting with another mom at the park, this question inevitably comes up:

So, do you stay home or…..?

Shortly after Everett was born, and my steady contract gig ended, I got into the habit of saying I was a stay-at-home mom. I don’t know why I started saying that, since I was also running a photography business on the side, but it just seemed like an easy thing to say. After all, I was staying at home most of the time (see: wearing yoga pants covered in spit-up and eating cheetos like a boss).

Fast forward two years and I find myself still struggling with that question and those ridiculous labels. Stay-at-home mom. Work-at-home mom. Working mom. Part-time-working mom.

Two months ago, I started Coffee + Crumbs with high hopes and low expectations. I hoped it would be well received and that it would grow steadily into the place I dreamed it would be: an online community built on storytelling and me too’s. I had tiny numbers in my head, small goals for us to reach by Christmastime.

And then we reached all of them in the first six weeks.

So I celebrated! I danced in my kitchen! I clinked my glass of iced tea to Everett’s sippy cup in the backyard, saying “cheers” half a dozen times.

And then, being the hormonal pregnant mess that I am, I cried. Sobbed. Had a nervous breakdown. Had a second nervous breakdown. I scared Brett with all the crying, all the Freaking Out, all the incessant worrying.

While all of our numbers and goals were being met and surpassed, I started receiving an overwhelming amount of validation. E-mails. Texts. In-real-life conversations. Everyone was generous and forthcoming with compliments and feedback, affirming the idea and concept and all of the hard work behind the scenes.

I reveled in that validation for exactly five minutes before the panic set in.

That panic turned into fear and that fear turned into anxiety and that anxiety turned into a two hour cry-fest on my couch.

I was struggling. Drowning in e-mails and submissions and to-do lists that were never finished. I couldn’t keep up with everything and felt like I was failing everyone. The higher our numbers climbed, the more pressure I felt to make it perfect. I was losing myself in perfectionism, and it wasn’t pretty.

Something had to change, something had to give, and there weren’t any easy answers. It’s easy to talk about things like boundaries and delegating, but actually doing them is a whole other story.

And yet.

Smack in the middle of my nervous breakdown on the couch, I realized something.

My dreams for Coffee + Crumbs were only getting bigger.

The fear wasn’t paralyzing me; in a way, it was fueling me. 

A podcast.
An online shop.
A beautiful hardcover book filled with our stories.

I can see all of it.

And while I have no idea where to start or how to get there, I know one thing for sure: I love what I see.

So I guess you can label me whatever you want. Right now I’m home with a toddler and another baby on the way, working my ass off during naptime and during twenty minute spurts while Curious George plays in the background. Nothing is easy; guilt follows me around like a puppy dog all day long. There’s never enough time, nothing is ever finished, but nervous breakdowns aside…..I’m starting to believe this is right where I am supposed to be. Taking care of a toddler, bringing another sweet baby boy into the world, and attempting to create something meaningful for other mothers in the process.

In this season of life, this place of in-between and All The Big Dreams, motherhood fuels the content of my work, and the content of my work fuels the mother I am becoming. The lines are often blurred and while that feels impossibly hard on most days, I’m grateful I don’t have to choose one or the other. I love being a mom, and I love the work that I’m doing. I’m making it all up as I go along, creating a dream job in between poopy diapers and cracker bribes. 

To hell with the labels; there is no label adequate for that.

It will not be easy, but this is only the beginning.

Cheers to leaning in.

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27 Responses to labels, dreams, fears, and fuel.

  1. Mariah says:

    I love it! Press into that fear, don’t run from it. When you face it, when you use it rather than be used by it, its conquered!
    Mariah´s last blog post ..Finding My People

  2. Kelly says:

    Love your dress and nail polish!! Where is the dress from? and nail polish color? love love!

  3. Vanessa says:

    Right there along with you – a SAHM to a 1 yr old, trying to start my own business at home (during nap times) and freaking out with the possibilities/the fear of failure. It’s tough. Being a mother is a full time job, even if it’s unpaid (in the US)!

  4. Vanessa says:

    Continue to let that fear fuel you because you’re doing an amazing job! Keep kickin’ butt. <3
    Vanessa´s last blog post ..Dribbble Favorites

  5. Tamar says:

    Scrambling to get my writing done between poopy diapers sounds all too familiar! Keep up the good work. Us mommies are so thankful we can come to a place and read stories by moms who aren’t afraid to tell the truth.

  6. Jessica says:

    THANK YOU for leaning in. I’m not a mother, not even close, but I love reading Coffee + Crumbs. I recommended it to my cousin, who IS a mother and loves reading honest stories from other mothers. You are an inspiration, in the way that you write and the way that you share your soul with all of us and the way that you work so hard and are always so grateful and generous with your time and gift. I truly believe that you are right where you are supposed to be because you are doing amazing. <3
    Jessica´s last blog post ..Lessons from a Half-Marathon

  7. You will get there, you’ll find a way. Your writing speaks volumes in itself, to the masses. Even me, a 24 year old Irish girl living in outback Oz, childless (for at least another 4 years) and working on my dreams after my day job. I read every single post! I can’t wait to buy that beautiful hardback book. XO
    Sarah-Louise B.´s last blog post ..Goal Talk – Shifting Focus

  8. casie says:

    Ashlee,
    So SO well said!!! You are doing an amazing job and I could only imagine how the succees of C+C would be overwhelming, especially with a new little one on the way! Know that C+C is touching so many mamas and letting them know they are not alone in this game of becoming a mother. Keep up the amazing work!
    Casie

  9. Holly says:

    Cheers to leaning in!! I love Coffee + Crumbs and have recommended it to all of my friends who are moms or soon-to-be moms. It’s refreshing to hear real stories from real moms about the messy moments and the less than perfect days. Because we all have them. You’re doing an amazing job!

    And I can’t wait for the podast and book 🙂
    Holly´s last blog post ..Summer Photo Dump

  10. I so dislike labels. I struggle with that too and I work , have went back to school, and I am home for my kids. It’s still tough on me and I have been doing this thing for over 14 years. Labels I think are very unnecessary because every family is different along with the struggles. Cheers on so many good things in your life so far 🙂
    julie@m5monkeys´s last blog post ..The Caller Book Review

  11. jen says:

    You are an inspiration, not just to me, but to the many moms (and sisters, wives, friends) out there. Thank you! Keep writing, sharing and inspiring, no matter the title – or lack thereof – attached. 🙂
    jen´s last blog post ..round up

  12. Callie says:

    How is it that all your stories like this make me want to cry and say “me too!!”?? 🙂 I don’t blame you for feeling overwhelmed! C+ C has been such a massive starting point, it would be utterly daunting! More ice cream and just keep letting motherhood guide you! You’re doing an amazing job xxx

  13. michelle says:

    Great post – as usual 🙂
    michelle´s last blog post ..San Francisco Weekend in a Nutshell

  14. I love this…your words fuel ME! To hell with labels…and yes, we are all doing what we can. I’m so happy for your success! My Dad always says, “don’t look at the forest, focus on one tree at a time”, and that always helps me when I’m feeling overwhelmed. xo
    susan // fleurishing´s last blog post ..the new fleurishing

  15. Susan M says:

    I am so grateful to you for starting the C+C blog as it very much speaks to me and many other mamas. Just breathe and keep going. You are doing amazing things and whatever happens happens. Good luck and I look very forward to the possible podcast, book, etc…
    Susan M´s last blog post ..Fall Reading List

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