It’s day 17 of the series 31 Days of Lessons Learned from My 20’s. If you want to read all the posts in this series, you can find every post listed here. If you want to have all the posts delivered to your email inbox, subscribe here.
You’ve heard the age-old debate answering the question “Can women have it all?” It’s nothing new, and probably one that will continue on forever.
My mom definitely grappled with it some because she made sure to pass her conclusion on to me. And it’s become the most poignant piece of advice I remember her giving me.
“Women can have it all. But we can’t have it all at once.”
~ The Wisest Words My Mom Ever Said
My mom grew up in the 60’s – the height of the sexual revolution and women’s liberation movement. She had me at the young age of 22 right smack-dab in the middle of the seventies. As the story’s been told to me she worked for the telephone company before she had me. When I was born she decided to be a full-time homemaker. She didn’t go to college, but there’s no doubt that a entry-level job at the telephone company could have taken her far over the years to come. Even still, she traded it all in. For me.
Recently I watched Mad Men on Netflix. Now, I’m not going to try to justify my watching it. It’s definitely not wholesome T.V., and not something I should be watching. But after the first episode I was so deeply intrigued. Not because of the adultery or twisted story plot. But because of the time period in which it’s set and how much it taught me about women during that time period.
Mad Men is set in the 60’s. The woman characters are completely treated like dumb, desperate dogs who just sit around wagging their tails and hanging their tongues waiting for their next treat. A classic line from the first episode is, “Now try not be overwhelmed by all this technology. It looks complicated, but the men who designed it made it simply enough for a woman to use.” That says it all.
You see, I’ve never really understood this debate about women having it all because I’ve never been a woman to want it all. I went to college. I wanted to go to college and not going was never a question. But in the back of my mind it was for my own personal education, for security, and for being a good steward of my abilities and resources. My sincere dream was to be a hard-working, book-reading, industrious manager-of-the-home. I wanted children – several children – and I dreamed about raising them well and teaching them much.
Then I watched Mad Men.
I realized how far women have come in just having simple respect. How far we’ve come in being valued – even though we have so much further to go. And how far we’ve come in overcoming oppression. You see, those things were real in the world and to the women living during that time. And they wanted out. Rightfully so.
However . . .
In getting out, we’ve taken our desire for choice and “having it all” and gone so much in the opposite direction that we’re back to having no choices – feeling oppressed under all the demands and responsibilities.
My mom was right. Women can have it all. But we can’t have it all at once.
Does it even seem logical that we could have it all at once? After all, there’s only 24 hours in a day.
In our major categories of life – faith, marriage, children, career, health, home, social, ministry – whatever we are focused on leaves the other areas unfocused.
In my 20’s, social, career, health, and ministry were where I spent the most of my time. Now that I’m in my 30’s, married, faith, marriage, children, and home get their chance to be first. There’s no way I can “have it all” in all of these areas. I’m just not that good.
This world, and many women in it, want to try to convince you that having it all at once is possible. Don’t believe them. It’s not even logical. Instead, focus on what God wants your “all” to be for each season that you’re in. Then, even though you don’t literally have it all, you will have all that’s meant to be yours.
Where are you in this “women can have it all” debate?