A while back, one of the Coffee + Crumbs writers linked to a viral post featuring a photo of a woman lying down on the sidelines of a soccer field. She had a sweatshirt draped over her head and appeared to be taking a nap while her son played his game just a few feet away.
The caption read, “Meet my new hero.”
We all laughed, but I also felt a familiar twinge of something else.
They say admitting you have a problem is the first step, so I’d like to do that here and now.
Hi, my name is Ashlee and I’m a workaholic.
I don’t like being a workaholic, but this tendency to work-work-work, perform-perform-perform, achieve-achieve-achieve is so ingrained in my personality that willing myself out of it feels as likely as willing my green eyes to turn blue.
For the past year or so, I’ve been dipping my toes in the Enneagram waters. If you don’t know what the Enneagram is, you should Google it, but please be warned: you might fall down a rabbit hole so deep you’ll have to climb your way out. To be honest, I used to roll my eyes at people talking about the Enneagram. It seemed like the personality trend du joir, probably as overrated as nitro coffee and nut-milk yogurt.
Eventually, though, curiosity got the better of me.
Do you know how creepy it is to read entire chapters of books that describe the inner workings of your brain, for better and for worse? The more I read, the more naked, vulnerable, and totally exposed I felt, as if someone had installed a nanny cam in my own brain.
Spoiler alert: I am a type 3, an Achiever. In a nutshell—I find the majority of my worth in my accomplishments. In The Road Back To You it says, “Threes grow up believing the world only values people for what they do rather than who they are.”
I did grow up believing that.
It’s hard to unlearn things at age 32.
If you’ve been here since the beginning, you know I grew this website alongside a baby bump. I taught myself how to use Squarespace while inhaling Cheetos like they were going out of business and feeling the baby in my belly kick against my laptop.
Back then there was no podcast, no newsletter, no book, no writing courses, no bells, no whistles. There was just a blog, with two new essays each week. The funny thing about that? It felt like a lot at the time. So much so that the day after Carson was born, I sat in my hospital bed editing an essay. The worst part about that? I didn’t think it was weird. I had a one-day-old baby in a rollaway crib next to me while I proofread, my body still bleeding.
I did not take a maternity leave, and everything grew from there. Two essays a week became three, and then we added a shop, a podcast, and a newsletter. Fifteen months in, two publishers came knocking at the door asking if we’d ever be interested in writing a book. The hours increased, along with the monthly expenses, so we launched Patreon and online writing courses. More ideas followed … Mother-to-Mother, The Year of Creativity, Exhale, the Mother’s Day brunch.
It all happened so fast, I barely remember saying yes to all of these things, even though half of them were my ideas. They felt natural, exciting, a normal progression and growth for a community like ours. With every new opportunity presented, I asked myself: will this encourage mothers? When the answer was yes, I jumped in with both feet, hardly thinking about the cost or sacrifice.
(That’s what Threes do.)
As the work increased, my childcare did not. One day I woke up and realized I practically had a full-time job on my hands—our simple two-essay-a-week blog had turned into a fully-fledged business, one with invoices and paychecks, contracts and editorial calendars.
I started working more and more and more. I stayed up late and woke up early and kept to-do lists on both my phone and laptop. I brought work on vacation, to the park, to the carwash, to the doctor’s office. Isn’t that the ultimate mother’s dream? To be able to stay at home with her kids and work from anywhere? Anytime?
Threes take it up a notch. I work everywhere. I work all the time.
Here’s a confession: Sometimes I feel like the world’s biggest hypocrite for running an online community for mothers while ignoring my children to do it.
While my husband and I split most of the chores around our household, I—like most women—still carry the majority of the invisible labor.
I am the one who remembers where the brown sandals are, whether or not someone has applied sunscreen, whose birthday party is this weekend and who has a dentist appointment next Thursday. I buy and wrap all the gifts for every occasion. I send all the cards. I make all the appointments. I order all the photo books and remember to get cash back at the grocery store so we can send $3 to school for bug day. I know what size every single person in my family wears in both clothes and shoes. I move the kids’ sweatshirts to a bin under the bed when it’s 90 degrees and vice versa with the shorts come wintertime. I plan every vacation. I research every summer camp.
My brain is the walking almanac to everyone in this house. I am the family researcher, scheduler, shopper, item-finder, vacation-planner and memory-keeper.
I don’t love folding laundry, but there is something to be said about chores you can do with an episode of the Real Housewives running in the background. I also don’t mind washing dishes or scrubbing countertops or really any monotonous task you can complete with a podcast streaming through your earbuds.
Folding a mountain of t-shirts isn’t the thing pushing me over the edge in this house; it’s keeping track of all of the people and all of their needs and all of their things, seven days a week, 365 days a year.
That kind of labor gets heavy after a while, you know?
From the moment my feet hit the floor in the morning, I am thinking about Coffee + Crumbs. I am thinking about what we are doing today, how we are serving you today, what words of ours are going out into the world and what implications they hold. When we write about pregnancy, I am thinking of the mothers who just had a miscarriage. When we write about miscarriage, I am thinking of the mothers who are newly pregnant. When we write about marriage, I am thinking of the single mothers. When we write about sleep deprivation, I am thinking of the women who would give anything to be that tired, the ones in a perpetual state of waiting. When people send me feedback (good and bad), I listen. I internalize. I say thank you. I apologize.
Every day, throughout the day, I think of the mothers around the world who are reading our stories and listening to our podcast. Did they feel encouraged by us today? Did we lift them up? Make them smile? Did they feel less alone after spending time with our art?
Every day, throughout the day, I think of the mothers on this team. Do they know how much I adore them? What other opportunities can I create here? How can I make more money for us? How can I be a better leader?
When my head hits the pillow at night, I start dreaming of all the other things I want to make. I start dreaming of a second book. I think about the doodles I scribbled in a soft pink notebook two years ago for an app that would connect C+C readers in real life. I think about doing a live show for the podcast, a creative retreat for the Exhale members.
In essence, I wake up thinking about this work and I fall asleep thinking about this work. Caring for this space is one and the same with caring for myself, my children, my own family, my home. I am thinking and dreaming and praying over this work every single day, and have been for four years now.
Keeping up with five inboxes isn’t the thing pushing me over the edge. It’s the act of caring deeply about this blog, this podcast, this newsletter, this book, these readers, these listeners, this team, seven days a week, 365 days a year.
That kind of labor gets heavy after a while, you know?
“This is my dream job,” is something I say often. It’s the truth, which is why I’m having a hard time writing these words because I wouldn’t want anyone to ever think I am ungrateful for this space, or for all of the incredible opportunities that have come our way.
Readers of this blog know we often write about the tension of both/and in regards to motherhood. We know it’s possible to be happy and sad at the same time. We know it’s possible to celebrate the new baby in our arms while grieving the one who never made it past the twelve week ultrasound. We know it’s possible to be excited and terrified all at once. We know how it feels to usher our children into kindergarten with a smile on our face and then wipe a tear from our cheek in the parking lot five minutes later.
We’re mothers. We’re human. We know all about both/and.
Which is why, dear readers, I hope you’ll understand me when I say: running Coffee + Crumbs is, undoubtedly, my dream job, and it’s also swallowing me whole. My heart beats for this work, for this space, and I also desperately need a break from it right now.
They say you cannot pour from an empty cup, and if I am being honest with you, my cup has been empty for a while.
And so, after much thought and prayer, for the first time ever, Coffee + Crumbs will be taking a company-wide sabbatical in the month of August. We will not have any new essays on the blog, no new podcasts, no August newsletter, and no Instagram content during that time.
I want us to be women who rest when we’re tired. Who am I to encourage mothers to take care of themselves when I have denied myself the same permission? Who am I to tell you to rest while I work myself into the ground? If the Creator of the universe Himself rested on the seventh day, who am I to pretend I don’t need the same?
It’s been four years since I launched this space. I had a baby kicking in my belly on the day this site went live, and I’m happy to announce I have another baby kicking in my belly as I write these words. It's hard to believe all that's happened in the time between those baby kicks.
Our August sabbatical is the first step I am taking to find a better work-life balance. The second will be planning a real maternity leave come February. I’m saying that out loud because I want you to hold me accountable. (If anyone sees me in a hospital bed with a laptop, please confiscate it immediately.)
Words will never be able to express the pure love and gratitude I feel for this work, for this art, for this team, for all of you. Thank you for loving us in both our presence and our temporary absence. We’ll be back after Labor Day, refreshed and recharged.
Until then, this is Coffee + Crumbs signing off for the rest of the summer.
“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer's day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.” - John Lubbock, The Use Of Life