I padded into our bedroom, a towel wrapped (too) snuggly across my pregnant belly and sat down across from my husband on our bed. As I applied lotion to my freshly-shaven legs, I looked at him and said, “We need to talk.” He looked confused for a minute, but listened as I explained some of my fears about welcoming our fourth baby in a few short weeks.
“I’m going to need help,” I said. “I’m working a lot of hours, and I just can’t do it all anymore … not with a newborn in the mix.” He nodded and offered up some possible solutions (taking the older kids to a sitter while I recovered from birth, bringing in someone to help me at the house), but his words fell on hollow ears. Because I realized, even as the words left my mouth, that my question was in the words that I wasn’t saying.
What I really wanted from him was to recognize that my time and my worth as an employee, woman, mother, and wife is just as valuable as his.
It sounds a bit silly, and maybe it is, but over my past six years as a mother, I have struggled with finding myself, re-defining myself, believing in myself, and even feeling like I need to prove myself.
When my husband comes home and the house is a mess and the dishwasher is unloaded, I feel the need to explain myself, even when he could care less.
When someone tells me how lucky I am to stay at home, I want to explain that it’s not really what it looks like — I work for you know, money, too.
When I wanted to quit my job as a nurse, I did it quietly, because who on earth gives up a job like working as an OB nurse? The pay? The benefits? The babies? I wasn’t ready for the judgment, thanks.
When I spend hours setting up childcare for work that will probably take me less time, I feel defeated — and wonder why I always act like the kids are 100 percent my responsibility.
When I walk through the grocery store at nine months pregnant, my other three young children in tow, I feel like I need a sign that says, “Yes, they’re mine and yes, I’m ok with this many kids, and yes, I am quite capable of affording them, thanks!”
I have looked at other mothers, the supermoms who do the #whole30 on Instagram, the ones who make crafting look effortless, the traditional wives who never fail to get a fresh, home-cooked meal on the table and exercise every morning, and I have compared and contrasted. I have wondered what’s wrong with me, justified why I seem to fall short, and let myself feel inadequate at the mother I hoped to be.
But looking across the bed at my husband on a typical Monday night, I finally realized that my journey as a wife and mother of four is about to change. It’s time to realize that I don’t need validation from anyone else.
My career, my abilities (and failures) as a mother, my relationship with my husband, even my childcare arrangements or feeding choices (because you know we all wonder who’s breastfeeding and who’s not) are not up for discussion. If I’m going to find myself as a mother, it’s time for me to stop looking for that outside validation to tell me that I’m doing a good job. Michelle Obama herself could pat me on the back for being a good mom, but in the next breath, I could get a comment from a stranger at the grocery store that would bring me to tears.
What anyone else thinks really doesn’t matter. Every woman, wife, and mother is magical and different and her day-to-day life is (surprise) up to her to decide.
So it’s time to stop looking for outside validation — and find our own worth as women and mothers.