inspiring joy filled living

Take Up Space

June 1, 2022

When it comes to math and science, the studies show that on average girls don’t participate in class the same way as their male counterparts.  They won’t raise their hands as often to answer a problem or to even ask a question.  As they get older, the numbers continue to fall.  Digging a bit deeper, we can start to uncover the stereotypes and biases that swirl around these issues, throw in adolescence, puberty, and self-consciousness, and there becomes a recipe that seems to affect many of our girls in their formative years.  The momentum is starting to take place as more light is being shed on these discrepancies through the emergence of STEM programs that invite girls to be hands-on and all-in.  The pendulum has begun to swing, and as more women become role models, it is our job as a society to normalize smart girls who are not afraid to raise their hands to solve a problem (even if they get it wrong!), ask questions and do it again.

I used to be a people pleaser.  I wanted to be a fixer.  With my words and actions, I wanted to make people feel better, even if it meant making myself smaller so they could be bigger.  Making my ideas less than as to not rock the boat, even if I knew the boat needed to capsize.  Wearing a smile, listening to someone share about their big accomplishments for the tenth time, and wondering why they never asked about mine. Taking the road of a peacemaker, a smoother, a magician who could drop the temperature of a room back to neutral.  And I was good at it.  I knew the questions to ask and the balmy words to soothe.  At some point, the role became me.  The lines blurred.  I love people and I love helping them and maybe that is why I would leap at the chance.  But somewhere along the way, a little bit of resentment would rear its head.  The feeling of ick from somewhere deep inside would start to bubble to the surface.  The nagging thought of, I have stepped into the darkness so someone else could stand in the light.  I have no feelings of blame, instead, it became a realization of boundaries that I needed to create. A balance of loving others and loving myself.  The knowledge that just because I wanted the best for someone, did not mean I had to sacrifice myself in the process and vice versa.

I think as women we do this.  We put the kids first.  Their sports, school activities, dance lessons, and bedtimes.  The food they eat, the clothes they wear, the friends they have.  We do this with work.  The deadlines to be met, the people to meet, the contacts to make.  We do this with our friends and family, and when we volunteer.  We nix our own desires first in order to do something for someone else.  Sometimes it is intentional and sometimes we’re on autopilot.  

As I started looking at my own life, I began to see how many ways I minimized myself and I was shocked.  From healthy eating and exercise to putting my ambitions on hold, to asking for help; I seemed to check every box.  And as I began to ask friends, I realized I was not alone.  The breakthrough moment came as I was listening to the podcast Risen Motherhood, (it is fantastic if you haven’t heard it before), which reminded me at the exact moment I needed to hear it, that I’m raising adults, not kids.  I’m raising women who will someday be out in the world and making their own choices.  Of course, I’ve heard this before, but you know when something hits you like you’re hearing it for the first time?  In the early morning, quiet hours, stretching in my living room, I had the Aha! moment.  Like so much of parenting, more is caught than taught, and if I were going to make a real impact in my three girls’ lives I needed to live my life as an example.  Woah.  It sounds heavy.  And sometimes it feels that way.  Ok, a lot of the time it feels like a really tall order. But it was at that moment I made the decision to show up the best I can to try and be the example of what I dream, hope, and pray my girls will grow up to be.  

Out of that moment came the idea that saying yes to my needs was actually a very good thing–for them, my family, and me.  Taking time to exercise, cooking healthier meals, asking them to help with chores, letting them see Dad and I hash out the details of our schedule, and saying no to “good things” because they aren’t the best use of our time, are clear examples of decisions they will someday make for themselves.  Letting them help each other with homework and hair brushing so I can take a client call or return an email (or even shower!), is showing them that my work and time are important too.  Learning to tackle chores is not just benefiting them right now by having clean laundry in their drawers, but it serves as a framework for life skills.  By asking my hubby to partner with me on everything from sports schedules to brushing the five years old’s teeth, the kids see that we are a team and maybe it will be stored somewhere in their subconscious that asking their spouse for help someday is very normal. 

Taken one step further, when we speak our mind, say yes to fun, play the piano because it makes our heart happy, or drive to the beach at sunset just to see the sun dip into the sea, then we show the world we matter and our joy matters.  With each step of courage, we prove to ourselves that we are worthy of being heard and loved right where we are.  We belong here.  The space is ours to take.

Our girls are watching us.  They are hearing what we talk about and they are taking it in.  The way they see themselves is oftentimes through the lens we see ourselves.  That used to almost break me.  The pressure to get it right.  Having three girls who will someday seek to discover the world for themselves.  How in the world am I supposed to not mess this up?!  Those stakes feel high.  If the answer were simple, I’d spell it out right now.  But the truth is, it’s not simple and this topic sits very close to my heart as I navigate raising kiddos alongside you.  I’m a mom walking through the reeds too.  

But when I feel lost in my motherhood, the best people to talk to are seasoned mamas who have graduated to incredible Gramma’s, Grammie’s, and Mimi’s.  Through conversations filled with some tears and a lot of laughter, their best pieces of advice always rise to the surface.  My takeaways? Putting Jesus first in my life will be the best example I can give them.  If they see me love Him, they will have a template that will be within them forever.  Their second gem of wisdom is to love who they are right now not who I want them to be and do my best to love them without conditions. To teach, guide, and raise them without shaming them. And lastly, to have the courage to take up my space so that it isn’t even a question in their minds to take up theirs.