Article Aug 7, 2014

How do women do it all? (Three perspectives)

Editor’s Note: Today, we have the privilege of hearing from three busy wives and moms–with other ministries and responsibilities outside of their homes–who have banded together to answer the oft-asked question, “How do you do it all?”

Megan Hill: Are we wrong about what “all” is?

I well remember the time I confessed to a group of women: “Sometimes being a mom is boring.”

You could have cut the resulting silence with a pie server.   

I love my kids. Their stories, their questions, their Lego creations.  I take seriously my responsibility to care for them as my children and as my fellow human-beings. My roles as wife and mother rightly have high priority in my life (Titus 2:3-5).

But if, while I am stirring the macaroni and cheese, my mind turns instead to the wonder of the incarnation or the problem of systemic racism or the challenge of writing a fresh metaphor, is that wrong?

The question of doing (or having) it all was resurrected for my generation by Anne-Marie Slaughter in her July/August 2012 cover article for The Atlantic, “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All.” Her piece was followed by Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In, a slightly different perspective on the same situation. For Slaughter and Sandberg and many women my age, “doing it all” means being able to find success and fulfillment in a wide range of simultaneous roles: wife, mother, employee or employer, creator, friend, citizen, volunteer.

Many conservative Christians take issue with Slaughter and Sandberg. They would say that godly women should define “doing it all” as being able to find success and fulfillment in a smaller number of simultaneous roles: wife and mother.

But whether women define “doing it all” with a list of a hundred roles or by reducing that to one or two roles, we are wrong about what “all” is.

Yes, being a wife and mother is my highest earthly privilege; my conduct in those roles even influences what other people think of my God (Titus 2:5, I Pet. 3:1-2, Eph. 5:22-33). I can also take satisfaction in work done well.

But I am not dedicated finally and completely to being a wife or a mother or a writer. In the words of the Heidelberg Catechism: “I am not my own, but belong with body and soul, both in life and in death, to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ.”

If being a peanut-butter-sandwich-making and laundry-folding mom is sometimes boring, it’s because those tasks are not intended to be ultimate. I do them heartily, yes, but I do them as for the Lord (Col. 3:23). I take every thought captive—whether thoughts about mac ‘n cheese or thoughts about global poverty—to obey Christ. (2 Cor. 10:5) And I bring my children up in the way of the Lord, submitting to my husband as is fitting in the Lord (Eph. 5:4, Col. 3:18). I pour water and cook dinner and buy clothes and, yes, write articles for my Jesus (Matt. 25:40).

In the words of Charles Wesley’s hymn: “Thou, O Christ, are all I want; more than all in thee I find.” How do I do it all? By daily remembering that “all” is not to be found in the sum of my different roles. It is found only in the one all-consuming and all-worthy work of a lifetime: “to live is Christ.” (Phil. 1:21)

Gloria Furman: Whose do we think we are?

It’s easy to look at your schedule, family, church, work, interests, and yourself and conclude: God has given me roles, tasks, circumstances, strengths, and weaknesses that compete with each other. How do you do it all?

To answer the “how” we need to know what we mean when we say “it” or “all,” as Megan mentioned. But we also need to know the “who” and “whose.” We don’t need to dwell on our gifts, opportunities, personalities, passions, and strength-finders nearly as much as we need to know and love the God who has revealed himself to us in his Word. Who is this God from whom and through whom and to whom are all things (Rom. 11:36)? We must know whose we are.

God is triune, and God is one. There is no disunity in the eternal council of the Godhead. God ordains, designs, calls, equips, strengthens, holds us accountable, and rewards us. The Spirit’s distribution of spiritual gifts to Christ’s body (1 Cor. 12:11, Heb. 2:4) doesn’t collide with the Father appointing us to his service (1 Tim. 1:12). The finitude and weaknesses that God has designed for us don’t thwart Christ’s grace and power but are strategic in their display (2 Cor. 12:9).

We belong to God by creation and by redemption. “You were bought with a price; do not become bondservants of men” (1 Cor. 7:23). God’s sovereign purpose and calling cannot, by definition, conflict. We can rest easy when we look to the Good Shepherd for his loving, capable, coherent leadership.

I do not contend with these truths, but sometimes my feelings don’t line up. Do you ever feel like you would be happier if God had used a different stitch when he knit you together in your mother’s womb? Or if he would call off one of your callings?

As one who struggles with thinking the grass is greener for other sheep, it helps to ask: What is it to me that Jesus wills this or that for someone else when according to his wisdom he is pleased to call each of us to follow him (John 21:22)? With our gaze fixed on Jesus (even in the valley of the shadow of death) we can see with eyes of faith that we’ll never look back on our lives and conclude, “I was robbed.”

While we’re on the subject of other sheep and their callings, our distinctly Christian worldview must also take into account the reality that union with Christ makes us members of one another. How do y’all (the church) do all God has given youse guys to do? But that’s another question for another day.

So, we remember the nature of the one, triune God who does all things for his glory, in whom there is no conflict of interest. His grace frees us to seek first his kingdom and his righteousness because he will give us everything we need to do that which he calls us to do. It’s that simple. We are free, indeed.

Aimee Byrd: Loving the simplicity of faithfulness

Well, you know what they say: The first step is admitting you have a problem. My name is Aimee Byrd and I think that I can do it all. With a child in high school, one in middle school, and one in elementary, my life often feels like the American Ninja Warrior par course. I’m trying to make it to the buzzer at the end of a day of packing lunches, writing deadlines, and housewife-miracle-working, without falling in the water and being disqualified.

I used to think this whole parenting thing would become less busy once the kids were out of diapers and in school. But now I’m dealing with three different social circles, ball teams, school projects, and rites of passage. They all seem to involve much driving. Every season of life comes with its new batch of challenges. You may have different vocations than me, but we all have obstacles that hinder us from the mountain of accomplishment and that blessed buzzer.

So often we women expect to take on all our ambitions and responsibilities at once, like the freshly married couple who presumes they’ll move into a house much lovelier than their parents’. But we just can’t do it all. In God’s providence and his perfect timing, we strive to please him where we are called.

It’s really as simple as that. Just keep faithfully serving where we are called in good stewardship. But no one likes that answer. It usually takes humility, stress, and good old-fashioned grit. I take my opportunities when I get them, and I plod along to the end. Remember, the tortoise won the race. We have a race that we are in that is called the Christian life. The author of Hebrews encourages us to run with focus and endurance (Heb. 12:1-2). For most of us, it’s going to be a while before we reach our reward.

Building on athletic metaphors, an exhortation just a few verses later alludes again to Grecian Olympic games: “Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees” (Heb. 12:12). Basically, get back up! You will fall in the water. But our Savior has already run ahead, and he will see us to the end.

No, I do not run the world. But my sinful default is to get caught up in the lie that I do. Thankfully, I am set back on course at the beginning of every week when all God’s people are called to worship the One who does. This covenant renewal ceremony reminds us that we are receivers of all God’s blessings in Christ, who “upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Heb. 1:3b). Here we are given a glimpse of what is to come, our great reward. We are in a sense recalibrated as God delivers his Word and sacraments by his ministers, “doing it all” as we worship. We are then sent back out into the race with a benediction, confident that since we are in Christ, he will bless all of our efforts.