As a stay-at-home mom, Carrie felt pressure to prove herself to the world. Nurturing her inner life became her survival strategy.
“Our work toward equal human rights for women globally begins right here in our homes, in our hearts.”
He used to come home interrogating me on my level of mom-productivity, like a boss coming down from his top-floor suite to check on my numbers. I really, really wanted to give my husband a spreadsheet of what I’d done all day, the minutes I’d spent feeding, rocking, holding the baby.
While my husband spent his days chasing quotas, I spent mine confused and awed by a new life that would not be quantified, and most definitely would not follow rules. Yet, my life as a stay-at-home mother was framed within a script of knowns. I had been schooled to follow the rules, and my good girl role had transferred to being a good woman, mother, and wife.
At the day’s end after doing housework and simply being with my daughter, I couldn’t collect absolutes. I began to question my contribution: Did it even exist? Do I even exist within this thing I call my life?
Combine my terror of these questions with an extreme lack of sleep and you get something that looks like a breakdown: an identity in flames despite its fireproof attire, an ache that doesn’t belong at the breakfast table with the banana pancakes. It was an epic juncture in my life as my suffering so tenderly and so harshly asked me, “Will I save myself or won’t I?”
I wanted to save myself but I was scared to face failure, of being considered selfish. Mostly I was scared of never being truly, fully me.
I had grown up in a world that celebrated masculine ideals like the ability to focus and fix, even when it comes to one’s feelings. This mindset had ignored my more creative and receptive ways of being. So I turned my traditional approach on its head.
Instead of comprehending and controlling my feelings, I simply showed up for them.I sat with them without trying to fix them (not easy for a solution-izing mind). Carving out a time and space to spend with myself, to care for and to love myself, I realized my true nature is to live connected to my inmost sense of self, and to attune my life to its wisdom.
Using the tools of poetry and paradox, nature, conversation, and writing, my trust and patience deepened within the spaciousness growing inside of me. I shared space with wise women. I devoted myself to routines of daily journaling, contemplating, meditating. Each day, at the very least, I put my feet on the ground and took a conscious breath. And somehow, I cannot tell you how exactly, taking nearly imperceptible steps moved me grand canyons from where I once was.
Giving to myself, I had more to give to others and I felt more alive in my skin. I felt a part of a great creative process, which had no rules, no attachment to a certain outcome. Our lifestyle began to mirror this strong inner life, and my husband joined me in quitting the race toward solutions and quotas.
I can look back and see how serving myself was serving my family and the world in the greatest way possible.
Still, though, even today, many years later, I can diminish the inner work. I will forget how priceless and precious this work of the heart is for me and for everyone around me. And I constantly come back to remembering.
I cannot talk about equality in the world, about equal pay and equal rights for women, if I cannot find equality right here within myself. If I cannot recognize how nurturing myself and my connection to Life (God, Spirit, whatever term you choose) guides and informs my life and work, how will I ever value the unpaid work as equal to paid work? How will I ever accelerate change in the world if I’m using the old, masculine-dominated ways? If I’m not guided from and speaking from my heart?
I cannot care for the world if I am not caring for myself. I know that for sure.
Our work toward equal human rights for women globally begins right here in our homes, in our hearts. It begins with connecting our inner being-ness with our out-in-the-world doing-ness, and our hearts with our minds. I once had to convince myself that the work of the family was powerful, but now I feel it, I know it in my bones—I am a vessel for creative change as I build a potent force of love here.
No spreadsheet needed; at day's end, I know what I’ve done—I have contributed to building a new paradigm, a new social framework based in love and equality.
This story was published as part of the World Pulse Story Awards program. We believe everyone has a story to share,and that the world will be a better place when women are heard. Share your story with us, and you could be our next Featured Storyteller!Learn more.