Listen, its 2020. Enough with the games and the niceties: women can't have it all. We might as well come to this conclusion. Read on to find out why.
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I was raised by a generation of strong women. I don't know about West Africa but in East Africa our mothers were tired of being oppressed by the men. I grew up with aunts who supported their husbands financially but still had to act like the men owned them. I grew up around women who didn't fully have the liberty to say what they wanted to say to the men.
So they raised us radically. Knowing that it may be too late for them but that there was yet hope for us. So we were raised with the mantra:
Your career is your first husband.
I was probably around 16 when I first heard this expression. They said don't waste your time looking for a husband, get an education, become independent because your career is your first husband.
Now this might come as shock to my West African pentecostals whose religious upbringing would probably leave little room for such "woke" mothers. But this is what we were raised with.
I went through my 20s with this in mind so marriage was not something I was looking to jump into. I had friends who got married quite early in our twenties, and while I was happy for them it wasn't exactly the path I was looking to follow. Towards my late 20s we had an entire wave of babies - pretty much everyone I knew had a baby and then I was like hmmm I might want to take this whole starting a family thing a little more seriously. I opened up to the idea of marriage BUT was quite clear on wanting a husband who would be willing to take me and my radical upbringing as a package. He found me, and he too was raised by a wonderful independent mama so he reassured me that he wasn't intimidated by anything. I caved and said yes. And brought this up several times: I was after all a women's studies major doing a PhD already when he met me. I remember less "woke" aunties telling me I would not find a husband if I was doing a PhD - that's a story for another day.
We got married, it was all bliss. We shared the household workload. Feminism had won.
Then the children came. And motherhood happened. And shifted the equilibrium.
See up until this point, I had come to believe that you could have your career and your family.
What nobody took the time to impart was the constant struggle there is between motherhood, wifehood, and careerhood. And this is where I blame feminism and the "woke" mama's who raised us because we were set up with this neat expectation that if we find the guy who will partner with you and you find your passion you can have "it" all - follow your dreams, have a great home life as a wife and as a mother.
The reality is that a lot of child care and house work still falls on women and mothers. And even when when you do have that supportive partner, there is the mental load that is quite burdensome as you find yourself with an entire household waiting for you to figure out what they need to do so they can do it. There is also the not so little thing called mom guilt that men don't actually feel - correction after the Fatherhood episode of BeyondAThought podcast although men definitely feel far less guilt than women feel both from ourselves and from society.
Every waking moment you spend on anything other than your children and your family is laced with layers of sticky gooey guilt. - Career Slay Mama
One of my greatest disappointments in feminism was that I have felt a major case of buyers remorse. I read Becoming last year and watched it on Netflix and something that Michelle Obama mentioned in both the documentary and the book was this realization that she had to somewhat choose between her career and motherhood. This is a constant struggle and it resonated with me.
Why can't we have it all?
Something always gives
In the constant struggle between career, motherhood and wifehood - something always suffers. There are still 24 hours in a day and you need to sleep for at least 5-8 of those hours. For whatever you prioritize - something always gets dropped off the bandwagon. Either the kids, the husband or the work or God. We constantly have the opportunity to choose what gets dropped or conversely what gets picked. We had a great conversation about this with my sister friends on the motherhood edition of BeyondAThought podcast.
"Having it all" does not equate happiness
One of the fallacies about feminism is that having it all will make you happy. The truth is having it all will probably drive you crazy or cause you to burn out before it makes you happy in and of itself. Joy and happiness are actually not a reward for checking boxes. I know a lot of miserable people who "have it all" - heck, I have been one of those miserable people. Check out my previous post on box-checking. Contentment has more to do with being happy with who you are rather, and whose you are than trying to get all you can get. For me my deepest contentment is when my heart is at peace and I am resting and trusting in God - regardless of the circumstances.
You may not want it all - at once
I remember asking on my Instagram if women can have it all and I was really fascinated by the responses. A lot of the answers were along the lines of not everyone wants to have it all. You get to decide what all means for you. Perhaps we want it all because we were told we can and should have it. Truth is life is about seasons. Mothering toddlers is not the same as mothering preschoolers or school-age kids or pre-teens or teens. To everything there is a season. And so what you can do work-wise will also vary with season - when you are in the deep trenches of mothering small children, you may choose to steer your career in a different direction compared to when you have college-aged children nest
Nobody can have it all: No-one has it all!
I was sharing this post with the Husbae and he said to me: nobody can have it all. Here: Canada - we are all partnering, we are hustling and bustling together and parenting together. Men can't have it all EITHER. And as I think back on the Fatherhood BeyondAThought Podcast, a lot of the time because as mothers we carry babies and give birth, we forget that our supportive and well-meaning partners also make sacrifices and also have certain limitations upon them. I am speaking about supportive partners - NOT about those aren't down in the trenches with their spouses.
When one "has it all", it is almost always at the expense of another. In traditionally gendered dynamics, the man "has it all" at the expense of the wife who sacrifices her dreams/goals so that he could achieve his. When White feminists told us we could have it all, they neglected to mention that women of colour were being paid less than them AND their childcare was often done by other women of colour who weren't having it all. When I have seen women "have it all" it is often a role reversal of the gender norms - a stay at home husband who has now taken on the same roles that would typically be done by the woman - in this case, he isn't having it all.
Even in the more or less equal partnership, something still often gives.
So what is the solution?
So how do we do it? How do we have it all. I want it ALL! I want to believe that God created us for more. God wouldn't put desires in our hearts just to snatch the possibility of fulfilling them.
We were not meant to have it all, and we were not meant to have it all at once. - Career Slay Mama
God in His infinite mercy knows that we can't handle it all at once. So we take our power in choosing. God has given us the gift of choice. And choice is a privilege - I am definitely NOT blind to the fact that having a choice is a privilege that opressive systems have not accorded to everyone and we must fight daily for that. BUT beyond that, we can't have and do all, all the time - it would kill us and burn us out and it wouldn't necessarily bring us joy.
You have to let something go. And that process is prioritization rather than suffering. We have an opportunity to prioritize what we value the most, and to spend time focusing on and building that. And we have the opportunity to choose to prioritize different things in different seasons. If there is something that I have learned in 2020 it is that we don't have to do it all. There is a beauty in cancelling 2020 and only focussing on being. Being present. Being a family. Being still.
So I have been learning to check in with myself regularly to see which part of me or my life I need to prioritize. Lately, I have been struggling with prioritizing my time in the Word, particularly with the working from home, I find that I wake up, get the little ones out the door to daycare and sign in to work, and get sucked in to emails, putting out fires and delegating work. Before I know it's midday and then its evening and it's time to think about dinner and get through evening routine with the kids. By the time they are in bed, I spend sometime in the blog and then I'm exhausted and crash. However, without my spirit being fed, nothing else matters - theres little fuel to do all these other things.
The children will also only be this little for a season. When we were in the 3 kids 3 and under season, there's NO WAY I could have blogged. The goal in that season was literally to get through each hour, hour by hour. And coming back to Michelle Obama, her choosing to prioritize family in a season has certainly not hindered her from Becoming more - she's launching her podcast this Wednesday!
So my hope in this post is not to crush any dreams. This is the pep talk I wish someone had had with me before getting into marriage, motherhood and career. Rather than raise my daughter with the mantra I was raised with, I will be raising her to understand the power of her choice - I will let her know to choose her husband wisely. But I will also remind her that even with the most supportive husband:
You can have it all, but you can't have it all at once. So prioritize as you go along and enjoy each season for what it is - Career Slay Mama
You STILL got this!