A young woman in her twenties recently asked me and several other women of my generation, Is it possible for a woman to have it all?
I wish I had asked her to clarify what having it all means to her today.
Back in my day, the commercial below epitomized the cultural expectation to have it all. The choices seemed to be: Full time career along with full-time motherhood or just full-time motherhood. (There is no such thing as part-time motherhood.)
This quote from a 2012 blog post suggests that not much has changed, in fact, having it all is perhaps more daunting than ever.
The message screamed at moms from this issue of Time, from television, Facebook, blogs, and Pinterest is: unless you are fit to run marathons, breastfeed into the preschool years, own a spotless and creatively decorated home, tend a flourishing garden, prepare three home-cooked meals per day, work a high-powered job, and give your husband expert, sensual massages before bed, you are not mom enough.
Let’s take a deep breath.
For me and most of my cohorts, the reality has not been a caricature of super-mom but a succession of carefully considered choices.
Many of my friends have built impressive careers while raising well-adjusted children and maintaining, by all appearances, strong marriages. Others found great fulfillment in full-time parenting. And everything in between. I applaud them all.
Personally, I straddled the divergent pathways for a while, working part-time while my children were very young and then transitioning from my job into community/school/church volunteer roles during their school years. My goal was always to use my time and skills productively, with or without a paycheck. I now serve as the volunteer teaching director of a Community Bible Study class. It is skilled and satisfying work.
It all felt like pressure when I was young, but from my vantage point today it looks more like opportunity for creative living.
I appreciate the unique beauty of each life journey, every one a personal expression of passion, skill, perseverance, success, failure and love.
I didn’t understand, when I was younger, that there would be a time to work, a season to raise children, and opportunities to serve. Sometimes they would occur simultaneously; sometimes linearly. I may not have had it all, but I’ve had quite a lot. I am thankful that I still have time to add color, texture and experience to my life’s canvas.
There is a time for everything.
If you are a woman in your twenties or thirties, how would you define having it all? What kinds of pressure do you perceive as you consider your future plans?
If you are a woman in your forties, fifties or beyond, do you feel that you have it all? What would your advice be to young women today?
If you are a man, what is your definition of having it all?
“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven…” Ecclesiastes 3:1