This past week has been a long and eye-opening one for me. It started with Henry and my first trip back to Illinois since our move out to the farm in Ohio. I crammed every second with people I love to work with. I couldn’t even walk into our old sitter’s home, now a dear friend, without crying because I miss her so much. But that’s the good stuff right there. Loving someone so much your heart explodes when you see them. I’m so lucky to have such wonderful women in my life and a work team that accepts me as I am. I think they’re lucky to have me… but I’m even luckier to have them. It’s reciprocal.
During my time away from home, I was able to take a deep dive into my emotions. Remember, our feelings are messengers. I wrote to you all a few weeks ago that I haven’t been feeling like myself for awhile at home. I thought self-care would fix it; it didn’t. During the trip back to Illinois I spent time reflecting on the “why.” A very good therapy session later it was loud and clear; I’m not being authentic at home.
Guys! This is tough stuff. One of my content buckets is authenticity. I show up at work each and every day with my whole heart. To have it pointed about that I’m authentic at work and holding back my true self at home was hard to hear. It was also necessary. A lightbulb went off in my head that indicated I needed to feel like myself again. I’m not joking–as soon as I saw it for what it was I felt like myself again. This reminded me about “A Course in Miracles,” that a miracle is shifting back to love. That’s it. What more is authentic than loving ourselves?
Let’s dive in.
Over the last five years, I’ve slowly shifted away from living authentically at home, which corresponds directly to becoming a wife. I somehow got this tiny, mad idea that I was responsible for how everyone was feeling (gender norms anyone?). Day after day, year after year, I started giving away pieces of myself to keep the peace. Now, while I did and still do activities I love, I still wasn’t showing up as myself. I was overwhelmed by the idea of making my husband uncomfortable because of the way he responds to my preferences. Holy crap, what total bullshit.
It’s not that my husband said, “hey you need to make me happy all the time!” but he sure didn’t and doesn’t stop me when I make concessions for myself if it benefits him. For me, this looks like giving up the things I hold to be true for myself that come across and bossy or uptight. I have a very specific way I like to do things based on my values. I love my values (they’re mine!) and yet I hate being labeled as a perfectionist, overbearing, and the like. I know that this is because I am a woman. If I was a man who was detail-oriented, confident and organized I would be labeled as sexy. Dare I say women can be labeled as bitches for this characteristic?
So I held back, pushed through, and fought. This looked like giving up on arguments surrounding how we eat, how I clean the home, how I organize bills, activities I like for the boys, not using shame, screen time, and so on. Sometimes I would fight the fight and sometimes I would concede because I was tired. On and on it went. This is how I lost my authenticity. Because I don’t want to be called bossy. Seriously Jess? Girl, it’s time to stop that bullshit.
You see, I actually am bossy. I employ over 75 people and run a multimillion-dollar organization built from my own heart and with an amazing team. I have to protect my company, employees, and clients which calls for being precise, protective, and loving. I hold the line on quality and values at Instructional ABA Consultants. I love what I do and love my team. Ask any one of them if my directness means they are not heard? That will be a resounding no because even though I’m holding the line, it’s my job to listen to my team. I honor their skills, they honor mine.
Learning to Be Yourself (Again)
So why is it that when I became a wife I adopted this story? That to be assertive at home isn’t Okay? I’m guessing I’m standing beside millions of women who may be asking themselves the same damn question. My idea? Society benefits from keeping women small and in their homes. Period. So even if my husband doesn’t outwardly say, “I need less of your personality,” he doesn’t have to. I stepped into a female role and while I fought sometimes it wasn’t always the case. I still found myself doing the laundry if no one else did it or wiping counters at 10:00 PM because crumbs bother me.
After I realized this is not self-love and to keeping myself small doesn’t serve my heart or the world, I did something radical. Ready for it? I woke up and embraced myself and told my husband I would never compromise my worth again, not ever. That ladies will be the daily practice of my life.
You see, a love warrior, as I’ve written, is someone who knows they are good, whole, and true despite what the world is saying about them. Sometimes that world is as small as our own homes. I’m committed to living this life authentically. Will my fellow love warriors join me? What a gift that might be.
In putting down what I felt my role was and the title of “bossy/uptight,” given to me by my husband, I am standing fully in my power through my heart. I poured a glass of wine last Thursday night and made charts for my home. How the boys and I eat, love charts for myself and the kids (for connection styles), labeled my pantry, wrote our values, wrote my boy’s daily schedule (the littles). Then you know what I did? I folded Martin and Dametrius’s laundry one last time and left a note, “You both need to clean up after yourselves, this is so not my job,” and left it on the stairs for when they got home.
Because you know what? It’s not my job to take care of the whole house, it’s my job to live authentically so my boys can live with their whole hearts. The cleaning crew comes tomorrow. I’ve got other things to do.