Leaning In

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I posted on Instagram on Mother’s Day about my own battling with entitlement as a mother. How for one day, I just want it to be about me. I want the spa day and the breakfast in bed and the jewelry. I want it all. I want something to validate that the work I do is seen and noticed and appreciated. And I want that from my husband and kids. I’m like the girl in “Willy Wonka:” “…and I want it now!!” And then I pause and look at my heart full of “me, me, me” and realize that I’m no better than my kids, and I’ve got several decades of life on them. And I’m learning that even on Mother’s Day, it’s not about me. If I’m honest, really I treat every day like it’s about me. My kids are being too loud for my ears; they are not respecting my quiet time; they ask for food all.the.time. Give, give, give, take, take, take. And I wonder, surely if I don’t take care of me, if I don’t demand the whole Mother’s Day spiel, than who will notice? Who will care? Who will prevent me from slipping into nothingness? A woman who the kids don’t listen to, who just does the laundry and provides food. A role, no longer a woman.

I wonder if other women are afraid of slipping into nothingness and so rack up debt, or hours at the gym, or passive aggressive comments to be noticed. We all resort to different ways to get attention, to be heard and seen or cared about. Now, I’m trying to lean in. To tell the voices in my head that clamor for attention and validation, to quiet down. To practice the grace I’ve been given through intentional decisions. Waking up and breathing and being thankful for another day, instead of breathing out a sigh of disgust about the lack of sleep I’ve had.

Leaning in means breathing. It means putting my needs in the background. It’s a glorious form of love. It doesn’t mean that my needs aren’t important or worth prioritizing or worth pursuing. But it does mean that I can’t lead with them. If my mantra is “I need” than I’m only going to be using my family to get love or admiration or validation. If I lean into the hard, the crazy, the tiring, I am beginning to learn how these “hardships” shape and change me and ultimately grow me. “For Christ did not count equality with God as something to be grasped but emptied himself…” (Philippians 2). Can I say that I did not count equality (with my working husband, with my friends, with the skinny models, with the Pinterest moms, ad infinitum) as something to be grasped but emptied herself? Do I lean in to the hard?

I saw one of those videos everyone posts on Facebook where a groom and mother-of-the-groom broke into a choreographed dance after beginning their slow dance. It was fun and silly and just great. But the first thing that I noticed was how much fun the son and mom were having in each other’s presence. The mom wasn’t trying to upstage the bride; she was dressed age-appropriately, not trying to relive her glory days by wearing something too tight or short that she’d only achieved through a fad diet. And they were just having fun. Only a woman who has practiced leaning in can look and smile and dance like that. Leaning in means grabbing a boy who has yelled in your face that you love him and you understand his anger really means he’s hurt; he just doesn’t have the words and self-control to express it. (Hey, we’re all guilty of this whatever our age: using anger to hide hurt). Leaning in means putting down your book or your phone to hear the stories from your kindergartener. Leaning in means playing trains when you’d rather be productive and wash the dishes. Ultimately leaning in is of no value if it’s not rooted in the reason for leaning in — because Christ didn’t just lean, he emptied himself. For me. For my kids. For my husband. For my community. And that somehow, even if I buck against it, even when everything inside me clamors for *my* needs, I know deep down that sacrifice is truly what makes someone beautiful and makes a life worthwhile. And I want that. I want that more than my immediate needs of the moment.

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