November 19


Leaning Back

By Jessica Allen

November 19, 2018

leaning back, new baby, parenting, priorities

I’m back. Well, I never really left, but life got a little wild. We’re all here and we’re all doing great with a new little baby in our home. But contrary to popular belief (delusion), we really can’t do it all. Not all at the same time and to our desired performance level, anyway.

If you’re bristling at that idea, come join me here on our recovery couch. Breathe in and breathe out.

Simone Biles is now the first American in history to medal in every event in her sport. Phenomenal. She’s inspiring to watch, a true master of her craft.

I am not Simone Biles.

God gave me different gifts, and a different purpose. I was not meant to push my physical limits as an athlete. I’m meant to fulfill my capacity as a battle-scarred faithful servant.

“Bouncing back” after having a baby was a lot easier 9 and even 7 years ago. I had the energy to tread water and keep my head just above the surface. Every extremity working in sync to keep myself from slipping under.

It’s different this time. Slower.

I recently read a piece on the idea of “leaning back.” Where we lean in to our top priorities, it’s not that we’re leaning out of others. Rather, we’re leaning back, choosing to refocus our time and efforts based on our perceived priorities and needs in the moment. Check out the full article here.

Every person gets our own choice of priorities, judgment-free. That means we even have freedom from self-judgment, which is the harshest punishment we can inflict on ourselves. Our priorities can shift in an instant, whether spurred on by a major life event or milestone or because we simply make a decision to redirect them.

You were given a mind so you could make it up – and change it too.

So for the last 6 weeks I’ve leaned back from many of the hats I like to wear, and I’m leaning into this new season, which has brought new life in many ways. There’s a tiny human completely dependent upon us for survival. So there’s that. But this new baby life has waved in with it fresh perspective, candid lessons about my own physical and emotional capabilities, and the sweet warmth of our village wrapping us up in their unshakable arms.

9 years ago, I am positive I did not embrace any of new-motherhood with the same slow, deep breath of gratitude. At this third (fourth) time around the baby block, at an older stage of my life, it just looks a lot different.   Asking for and accepting help feels a little easier. Mostly, probably, because I’m trying to learn the art of unceremoniously waving my ego out the back door. I am not good at this yet. But I am learning. I don’t have to do it all. Not just because my body and strength have limitations (there, I admit it), but because I am coming to realize I don’t need to wave around a trophy or gold star sticker chart to prove my worth. To myself or anyone else.

Perhaps if I repeat that 100 times daily I will begin to fully believe and accept it.

Harry Truman said “it is amazing what you can accomplish if you don’t care who gets the credit.” This is super hard for me to embrace. You see, I want all the credit. Honest. I actually remember shrieking at someone several years ago who solved a problem the exact way I had tried to solve it and failed: Why do YOU get to be the hero?   She looked at me like I had lost my mind. Pardon me, my narcissism is showing. I want the credit for brains, beauty, thoughtfulness, cooking, getting my body back, professional success, spirituality, parenting, my marriage, and my impeccable hold-it-all-together-ness. That’s not too much to ask, right?

The truth is, nobody is that superhuman. Even the most remarkable humans have a secret – either some of those things are outsourced, or abandoned altogether, or more likely they’ve become experts at boundaries and expectations.

In that case, then we all really do wear superhero capes. So can we just agree to acknowledge that they have some freeing fine print on the tags? Wonder Woman (took a nap instead of folding laundry)! Supergal (aided by her nanny and housekeeper)! Amazelady (put the kids in front of a movie so she can exercise)! Fantastigirl (orders takeout and hates Pinterest)!

What is most important to you? List your top 3 priorities (ex. family, service, professional success, creativity, leadership, fitness, friendships, a hobby or pastime, etc.) and evaluate the way you’re spending your time and energy and finances in relation to those priorities. Bonus points if you list your actual top 3 priorities and not the ones you think everyone around you will approve of or be impressed by.

Because we’re all killing it, you and me. Drop the self-judgment, buy your balance, delegate the lesser priorities, and let the little things go. Unencumbered self-love is a lot more fun. And it keeps wrinkles and migraines at bay.

If I am a success at anything, it is completely because of my amazing collection of people who love and care for me in spite of myself. And yes, it doesn’t matter who gets the credit. But because credit is due, giant claps to my sister and mom for prepping weeks’ worth of slow-cooker meals (that were delicious and healthy), grandparents and aunts and uncles for fun outings for the big kids while we hibernated with little-bitty brother, neighbors for watching our house and dog, friends for checking in on me – like ME as a human being, and our church community for providing meals and love and covering our leadership roles while we’re out. My husband has freed my hands and head and heart in every way so I can simply love our little people.

Having this new baby in our home has been a whole different experience this time around.  I’m so grateful for the sweet peace he’s brought us.  I could write an entire trite essay on savoring the moments because they pass so quickly, and how a messy home means it’s filled with love and all those other things people say about having a baby. But mostly it’s just been the loveliest season of pausing and hibernating and living in this exact moment. Not worrying about even the very next moment that’s coming. Because I will be present in that exact moment too when it arrives.

So rather than treading water all by myself, breathing hard to keep my head just above the surface, I’ve decided to lean back and just float, grateful for the support of every gentle wave underneath me.



Jessica Allen

About the author

Jessica is a writer, musician, entrepreneur, wife, and mom. Jessica's mission is to write "real" - shining light into the dark places of the tough stuff we all experience. She and her husband Jack live in Houston, Texas and have weathered the storms of grief, infant loss, adoption, and a marriage that almost fell apart. Jessica and Jack have four children: LJ in heaven, Grace, Jackson, and Elisha.

  1. Thank you Jessica ❤️ Judging myself was the hardest thing not to do, but there came a time in my life last year that made me realize what was truly important. It wasn’t trying to do everything or worrying about what others think of me or what I’m doing & if I’m doing it right. It was doing what brought me joy even if it was the simplest thing or just being with the ones I cherish. I can think of my top 2: my family & my health ❤️

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