Do You Know How to Want?


abby norman -do you know how to want-3

A few years ago I was asked what I want. It was through an email on a list I had subscribed to. I stared at it for a long time. I shut it. I kept on with my day but it would not leave me alone. It was following me. What do I want?

I took a deep breath and opened up my laptop that night after the kids went to bed. I closed my eyes and clicked it open. What do I want? I stared at the computer screen, frozen. Then I started crying. Big ugly tears streaming down my face. My nose was running. I sounded like a small animal dying.

I had no idea what I wanted. Absolutely no idea. And I was ashamed. How could a 30 year old person who had a job and a house and two kids and a husband who loved me not know what I want?

Was there something wrong with me? There must be something horribly broken. I had no idea what I wanted.

I know what I needed. I had two kids in diapers, a full-time job as a high school teacher, and a husband in graduate school. Needs were rampant in my life. I needed to change diapers, grade papers, and cook dinner. I needed more sleep and I needed to stop running out of gas because I was running too far behind to get it before work. I needed to go grocery shopping during my planning period so I could make dinner, then I needed to grade papers when the kids were in bed because I had spent my planning at the grocery store.

With all of those needs, who has time for wants?

I thought at the time it was a young-mom-thing, that when the kids were out of diapers I would have more time for wants. I’m realizing now that it is a woman thing. By the time we have become women, we have forgotten how to want.

My children have not forgotten how to want. We walk through the grocery store, one girl with one hand on each side of the cart and they ask, “Mom. Can we have cereal? Can we have pudding? How about granola bars? Lunchables? Ice cream? Kid Cuisine? Can we have Oreos? Can we have them in the car before we even get home? Can we play when we get home? Can you make us popcorn? Can we eat it in the living room with our Oreos while we watch television and not do our homework? Can we mom? I really want to.”

My children want with abandon and despite my “lots of no’s” and “only a few yeses” they traipse through the grocery store and want, want, want.

My girls are not much worried about needs. I still cover all of those. They do not have to think about what they need, or I need, or the dog needs. They don’t need to worry about needs.

Women carry so many needs. We know the needs of our family and friends. We know our dad needs to go to the doctor and our husband needs new undershirts. We know our best friend needs to dump that guy and our roommate needs to eat something in the morning or she gets ill. Mother or not, women are trained by our society to be caregivers and we carry the needs, so many needs. We have so many needs we are holding, we have no more room for wants.

We convince ourselves that wanting is for other people. We tell ourselves we will think about what we want later. We become afraid of wanting, and admitting we want because we know how many needs there are on this earth.

Y’all, there is enough room in this world for our wants. We are allowed to want things. Yes, there are needs, and yes, we carry a lot of them. But we are allowed to want, too. We are allowed to want things; in fact I think we need to want things.

Wanting things is scary. What if we bother someone else? What if I tell people and then I don’t get what I want? What if I DO get what I want and it turns out I don’t want that? Wanting is risky and who has any time for wanting when there are so many needs all around? Needs are about what is, wanting is about what could be.

I think the world needs women who want. I think the world would be a better place if we wanted with abandon. If we walked around the world asking for things the way my girls walk around the grocery store. Can we have make up that isn’t toxic? Can we have education for all of our kids? Can we have clean lakes and rivers and skies and rain? Can we have really delicious ethically sourced chocolate? Can we have more naps?

I think our wants are holy even, that God has crafted us to look around this world and imagine what it might be if only … if only we were nicer, kinder, things tasted better. The world beats the wants out of us, convinces us there is not enough time for them because your wants are a powerful force.

What is it that you want? What could that wanting do for this world?

Abby Norman
Abby Norman lives, and loves in the city of Atlanta. She lives with her two hilarious children and a husband that doubles as her biggest fan. When not mothering, teaching, parenting or “wifeing”, she blogs at Abby loves to make up words and is excited by the idea that Miriam Webster says you can verb things.
Abby Norman

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  1. I grew up caring the needs of my family and friends and playing a role of keeping everyone else happy. It is kind of terrifying thinking about what I want because all I can picture is the obstacles and conflicts. Thanks for the encouragement.

  2. Andrea Christiansen says:

    I simply delighted in this piece. Coming out of the mother of *young* children phase, I’m starting to want more, as you put it, and it is exhilarating, but also soberly tempered with responsibility etc, as being a mother still. A great reminder to embrace the worthy passions.

  3. I can bear witness to the truth of this. Wanting IS scary and risky.
    When a woman knows what she wants, she is often seen as disruptive or threatening. Some men especially seem to be afraid of the wants of women.
    I’m examining my own relationship with longing, hoping to get to the point where I can articulate my wants in a way that serves as more of an invitation than a threat.
    Thanks for this important discussion, Abby.

  4. “How could a 30 year old person who had a job and a house and two kids and a husband who loved me not know what I want?”

    “By the time we have become women, we have forgotten how to want.”

    This really speaks to me, Abby.

    It’s my turn to ugly cry.


  5. sandyhay says:

    Oh Abby…I want more women like you in my life Sheloves has helped me see beyond the needs but I still default there. I’ve watched my mother-in-law deny herself wants all her life. She sees herself as not worthy (depression childhood). I don’t plan to land there. Lead on girl:)

    • Sandy, I think the older we get, the more important this is, because we do have more control over our time and resources (theoretically, anyway) as our kids leave the nest. I don’t want to squander those moments, and I want to pursue God-shaped wants that will fill up my soul. My mum wanted nothing more than the t.v. remote and a steady supply of junk food in her final years. Oh, Lord, have mercy . . .

      • sandyhay says:

        Oh yes Michele…God shaped wants. I totally agree. I’m so thankful for this space. My mom hid Klondike bars in her freezer. I remember visiting in the last months of her life (she lived in FL. I lived in NJ). I sadly couldn’t engage her in anything but the TV.

  6. Stacey Pardoe says:

    I love this, Abby. It made me think of the annual struggle when Christmas arrives, and I can’t find a thing in the world to write on my list! Aren’t we experts at teaching ourselves not to want – teaching ourselves that it’s needy, bothersome, or somehow ungodly to have wants? Your words felt like an invitation to freedom today! Thanks for the reminder that it’s ok to want a nap, a chocolate bar, or an hour without someone under age 8 asking me questions! Maybe being real about our wants on the most basic level will actually open our hearts to things of God on deeper levels as well!

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