Maybe It's Not About Having It All
Guest post by Katherine Reid
Did you see the Atlantic cover story titled "Why Women Still Can’t Have it All"? It popped up on my Facebook feed a few times over the last two weeks. Anne Marie Slaughter, a high-up official at the State Department, wrote the article admitting as a woman at the “top” that women still can’t have it all. To the chagrin of some feminist bloggers, Slaughter admitted what many women already knew: that even when she was at the pinnacle of her career, she wanted to be home with her kids as well.
Then I saw a well-balanced response, also via Facebook, from the Gospel Coalition written by Jennifer A. Marshall. She writes,
“Today's young Christian woman gets lots of competing cues about what she should do with her life. Some signals say she should develop her marketable talents, seize professional opportunities, and strive for career satisfaction. Other messages suggest her highest priority is to marry and have children. Confronted by these rival perspectives, a young woman may feel not only personally conflicted but also pushed like a pawn in an old cultural chess game about whether women's worth should be measured by Betty Crocker or Betty Friedan.”
Stay-at-home-mom has always been somewhat of a foreign concept to me. When I was very young, my mom worked in my dad’s office, at his request. They split up when I was seven and after that she worked to support us. And she worked really hard. She came home every day, after a forty-minute commute, and made us a healthy dinner (always including vegetables). Then she helped us with our homework and ironed our school uniforms for the next day. Weekends consisted of cleaning the house, mowing the lawn, and getting groceries for the next week. Then it all started over again. She didn’t have many hobbies or much time for leisurely reading. She worked really hard and she loved us well. She took care of us.
I didn’t grow up in church culture. After college, when I became more immersed in Christian culture, I realized for the first time that some people looked down on women who work outside the home. I heard young women my age say with an edge of pride in their voice how they planned to stay home with their kids. They “didn’t need” a career.
For a long time, I couldn’t figure out why those statements hurt me. Finally I realized that I felt like they were judging my mom. And I wanted to defend her.
My family wasn’t ideal. But I did learn many things. I learned that life doesn’t always go as planned and you have to adjust. I learned work ethic from my mom. I watched her stay up late to finish paying the bills because it had to be done. I saw her put herself last, over and over again.
When I hear my peers (single women in their twenties) confidently plan out their futures, it gives me pause. I wonder what God thinks of our assumptions.
God never promised us marriage, children, and healthy husbands to support our families. Even when he gives us those things, they are not our ultimate calling. Many women have received those gifts and still felt empty. God also never promised us our dream careers. And as women have discovered in the last fifty years, the workplace also left them unfulfilled.
I think the reason for this emptiness is that our “role,” whatever it may be, can never fulfill us. Our identity cannot be wrapped up in what we do. Our identity has to be firmly rooted in Christ. Only in Christ can we find our worth. And whether we spend our days in the highest offices of political power or changing hundreds of dirty diapers, we do it for his glory. He uses whatever circumstance he has placed us in to shape and mold our character. Because he has never been very concerned with our accomplishments (or our immediate sense of fulfillment for that matter). But he is deeply concerned with our souls. With our relationship with him and our relationships with others.
I don’t think there is a black and white answer to this old and tired debate. Every woman and her family face different scenarios. God will guide in each unique situation. He promises to walk with us, whether we are running a home or running a corporation.
In her article in the Gospel Coalition, Marshal described young Christian women as, “Pushed like a pawn in an old cultural chess game.” Yup. That about sums up how I’ve felt at times.
At this point, if I were to get married and have children, ideally, I would like to stay home with them, at least until they were in school. But until then, I’ll be finishing my master’s degree. Because that is what God has called me to be faithful to right now. And I’ll try not to worry about the “What if’s” down the road. Because he’s got it worked out.
Katherine is a California girl living in Texas. She spends most of her time at Dallas Theological Seminary while working on a Masters of Theology. She has an undergraduate in English and film studies. After college, Katherine promised herself she'd never take another foreign language class . . . but . . . God proved His sense of humor and asked her to learn Greek and Hebrew. When she's not doing homework, you can find her trying out a new recipe in her itty-bitty kitchen or playing with her two crazy dogs.