My mind was blown. I was sitting at my computer watching some random Ted Talk when Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, asked the men in the audience this: “How many of you have ever been asked ‘How do you do it all?'”
Not one man raised his hand.
She went on to point out that even in today’s seemingly progressively culture, it is ASSUMED that men can do it all. No one questions whether a man can have a career and a family and be good fathers and good husbands and be good businessman and employees–all at the same daggone time.
Yet, our culture doesn’t always apply that same assumption to women. In fact, our young girls still are often taught early on that they will likely have to sacrifice, dumb down, or outright hide some of their gifts if they want to be a “good” woman for a man or a “good” mother to their future children.
And here’s the thing: I believe there are God-ordained specific roles for men and women in the family. (I know some of my womanist friends will balk at that language but hopefully you can get over it enough to hear my heart. Yes?) As a woman who has a career (several, in fact) and is a wife and mother, I’m constantly wrestling with the extremes. On one end of the spectrum, there’s a value system that defines a woman’s role in the family as first and foremost about taking care of the husband and children. On the other end, there’s this pressing desire to walk out purpose and use my talents, gifts and skills in this world. Oh, the little conflicts that can arise between the two.
I’ve had one too many women, mostly of a certain age, and definitely with a more traditional viewpoint, castigate me because I’ve chosen to have what can be a very busy career while still being a wife and mother.
“You need to stay home with that baby.”
“You’re going to wish you made a different choice.”
“How long are you going to be away from your daughter? Hmph.”
Oh and my favorite (said to me in anger by a person I thought was a friend): “You neeeeed to stop seeking your own glory and take care of your family!”
“You can’t have it all, you know.”
Geesh! I wonder if they packed me a bag for that guilt trip they’re sending me on.
What many of these women don’t know (or don’t care to find out) is their words are like stabs in an already open wound. Because Lord knows, I’d carry my baby on my back to every book signing if I thought she’d sit still long enough. In fact, I’ve had speaking engagements where my toddler was waddling around the venue with her Daddy until I finished.
On those days…yes, I have it all.
But there are certainly other days. Days when “ALL” is nowhere in sight. When I have to spend 10 days away from my family in order to complete a writing residency and by day seven my baby girl won’t even talk to me on Skype because she’s fed up with me not being there (Yes, I cried myself to sleep that night.) And sure, I have some serious dissonance going on when, during my writing time, Baby Girl brings her toy laptop and sits next to me and pretends like she’s typing. Just to be close to her Mommy.
But you know what? I gotta believe what my Granny used to say: “Where there’s a will there’s a way.”
And better yet, I know I believe what my heart says: “Where there’s HIS will, the way will find you.”
And that’s really been the case for me.
As much as I believe in those God-ordained roles for men and women, I’m also certain that there is no “one size fit all” way of doing family (Even in the bible, check out Deborah, the judge, in the Old Testament or Priscilla, the tentmaker in the New Testament).
My call to write, teach, and serve humanity beyond the four walls of my home and my family is such a great burden God has given me. My desire to be a good wife for my ever-supportive husband also weighs heavy on my heart. And more than anything, being the kind of mother to my daughter that is both loving and learned, both present and purpose-driven, and both compassionate and competent, is something I know God wants.
So if every single solitary moment is filled with my pursuit of God and His will when it comes to these things—I’m good.
Hmm. Maybe those women should consider praying for me instead of giving voice to their unsolicited opinions. Pray that I maintain balance in these many areas of my life. Pray that I rest when I need to. Pray that I know when a season for something in my career needs to end in order to give my family extra attention and vice versa. Pray that I will keep my ears close to the heart of God when it comes to all of it.
No, now that I think of it, it’s not about having it all—at least not in that very cliche’ “I buy and fry the bacon” way. Maybe it’s just about doing what you can, when you can, for all you can. And doing it with love and grace.
What do you think? Can a woman really have it all? What does “all” look like to you?
This post is the latest in Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts’ “Faith & Motherhood” series.
Tracey Michae'l is a writer and educator based out of the Philadelphia area. She is a wife to William and a mother to a beautiful two-year old little girl. You can find her on the web at www.traceymlewis.com.