I vividly remember being in the hospital after having my first-born. I labored twenty-five hours with him, had the hardest time progressing in dilation, endured back labor the entire time, and spent much of the active labor, moaning, and puking. He was born at 11:11 am on a Friday before Father’s Day. I was rolled into a room, with him in my arms, and I vaguely remember my mom being at my side. I had been awake, also, for twenty + hours, and my mind was so fuzzy, my body so tired. I couldn’t coherently answer nurse’s questions; and after I woke from a short nap, I was so shocked and horrified that I was still having contractions!!

Through all the books I read, the other moms I talked to – why the heck did no one ever mention the contractions?! I suppose there’s a possibility they did, and I just didn’t have a clue what they were talking about because I didn’t yet have a baby! But oh the pain, of learning how to nurse a baby for the very first time and at the same time, trying to get through those tight tortures of my uterus shrinking back to normal.

But there are a lot of things people don’t tell you, isn’t there?

Like how badly you may blister from learning how to breastfeed. Or the medical side effects (ahem, Thyroiditis). People don’t tell you how drastically things will change: your emotions, your hormones, your ability to think straight and rationally for the next ____________ (still waiting!) years. But most of all, do you know what I was the least prepared for? Do you know what I still am shocked to hear or understand, after being a mother for three and a half years? 

The comments and the lack of understanding from so many people. 

Shortly after my son was born, I noticed that my friendships began changing drastically. I had after all, never been ‘held down’ before and had always been free to make plans when I wanted, where I wanted, and how late I wanted. The fact that we put our son on a schedule from the day he was born, also made friendships challenging. Nap times were important to me, breastfeeding was important to me, and it was no longer as simple as arranging lunch or dinner plans without having a time limit on them.

There were a lot of adjustments to be made, my feelings were easily hurt (sensitive, first time Mom problems? You bet!) and many friends I had, just couldn’t understand. The phrase ‘Mommy Ashley’ pops into my head often. And I heard, ‘If you’re just going to be a mom…” A friend once confided in me that she missed Ashley, and didn’t know what to do with ‘Mommy Ashley.’ Well, at 11:11 am that Friday morning, ‘Mommy Ashley’ was the new me.

Just a mom.

What mom is ‘just a mom?’ I don’t need to sing my praises here because honestly, I don’t think I’m an A+ Mother. But I love my children well and deeply. I would never have planned to have two children so close together in age, but God did, so I sucked it up and decided that I would be the best mom of two that I can be. There were (and still are) many sleepless nights. There are tears to wipe, life-lessons to teach, diapers to change, mouths to feed, laughter to create, and cuddles to be had. There are two tiny humans who rely on me for everything. And there are people who want to venture with me through it, and those who don’t. And I’m learning how to let this be okay.

When I shared my decision to take some time next year to stay home with the kids, I was once told, ‘That’s just lazy!” I was mortified. Lazy, being used as an adjective to describe someone who ‘just wants to be a Mom.’ After walking away, I had to take a breath and remind myself that people make different choices. And I get it: I made the choice to have a baby (and was surprised with two), the one to get married and to live the current life that we live. But when I take days “off” to be with sick kids, my mornings do NOT look like me peacefully sipping coffee, starting slow, or really, me sitting at ALL. There is structured chaos, from seven-thirty in the morning until nap and then from the afternoon until eight at night. And nap time for them, includes laundry and dishes for me, editing photos for clients, searching ways to write a book and then if there’s any time left at all, writing the thoughts jumbling in my head, such as this one.

Just a mom.

I’m a referee for sibling squabbles, a teacher as they learn how to read, draw and imagine. I’m a nurse when something hurts, a counselor when they need to talk. I’m a house cleaner as I dust and sort and pick up toys. And don’t forget the titles: worrier, planner, cook, and friend. If you don’t already know this, I’m a full-time teacher to fourth and fifth-grade students who have emotional and behavioral disorders. From 7:30-2:30, Monday through Friday, I’m in my classroom, playing many of these roles for other peoples’ children. I also run a professional photography business and, AND, I am working my darnedest to go big with this blog.

Maybe to some, this isn’t a high-status job, but to me, there is no higher calling. If you are a mom reading this, please don’t ever refer to yourself as ‘just a mom,’ because you are so much more. And if you’ve created a life different from the ones that consist of diapers and little mouths to feed, great! But can’t we join arms around each other and love the heck out of other women, regardless of these titles?

You’re not just a mom.

And you’re not just a woman.

You’re a soul that was created for a purpose and whatever purpose that may be, let’s celebrate together.