Since I was a young woman I have heard many discussions (some of them quite heated), about the idea of "Having it ALL." To the best of my knowledge that means that it IS possible to have a career, a husband, home, and children.
I never had a "Career." I had many jobs because we needed to eat, pay rent, and wear clothing. My job provided us with Healthcare Insurance, and free tuition for much of my husband's college education. My husband also always worked. He several years he worked free-lance types of work to bring in money. Then he went back to college and finished his under graduate degree. Then moved on to Law School. Some of the time he worked from his bed due to his multiple health issues.
Did I have it ALL?
I wish to discuss for moment what the "IT" is that we refer to in the oft quoted and discussed statement, "Can you have it all?" I would guess that IT refers to success in varied parts of our lives. It is usually spoken in reference to women. I don't hear as much about men who seem to be concerned with having "It all."
I would like to posit another type of ALL. A woman gets a college diploma, a career, marries, and gives birth. Now she has it all, right? This kind of ALL comes with ALL kinds of responsibility, and how do you prioritize ALL of your life? Is your career, (which in American Society usually allows very little flexibility for parents, Father or Mother) your first priority? Or does this idea belong to your husband, children, or home? What if you have ailing parents that need your care and protection. This type of ALL gives you ALL of the imaginable headaches while attempting to prioritize to do ALL that you need to.
Or is the ALL that we are speaking about ALL the perks of financial success? Does financial success give you freedom to spend more time with your family? Or is this priority choice taking away time to be with your family? I don't know about many incredibly FINANCIALLY successful people who can work 60 hours a week, and still have enough energy and time to be equally empowered in time with their family. I personally think that the concept that "quality time is as valuable as quantity time" is a fallacy. Time is precious. Of course we want a quality to the time that we use for the most important priorities in our lives. Yet when those priorities are not also given an important level of quantity the quality becomes is reduced.
When my husband became so ill that he spent almost three years in bed, we struggled brutally with financial need. On the other hand, the girls knew that their Papa was ALWAYS there when they needed and wanted to be with him. Nyle and I were stunned to find out that many able bodied people that we knew spent far less time with their children than we did even when we were battling with major health issues. They used their abundant health for different priorities. I do make a judgment here, not that others are better or worse because of their decision of values, but just that their values are different than my husband and mine.
If you have children, knowing that they will have to spend most of their young lives in the care of a Nanny because you and your husband are too busy to be with them more than 10 hours a week (except, of course, when they are asleep) why have children? Do you choose to have children because that choice will reflect well on you in American Society? Are your children more like accessories that you wear to improve your outfit? Do you really want to bring a human being to this planet to feel less than in their parents priorities?
Life is filled with hard choices. I personally believe that learning to make educated, faith filled choices is one of the best parts of life. A small example from my life. For a short time I owned my own childcare business. This meant that sometimes I would have to go to a grocery store with 4 to 6 children at a time. It was necessary to have strict rules to avoid total chaos. The toddlers rode in the cart sitting down. The older children had to hold on to the cart with one hand at all times. It strictly was forbidden for anyone to take their hand off the cart, and begin to explore on their own.
I was amazed at how many people felt the responsibility to let me know that they completely disagreed with the idea that a person should have more than 2 children. Since when did my reproductive decisions become subject to the general public? I repeat, they weren't my children. I grew weary quickly of explaining, "I have a childcare business. These are not all my children." Sometimes one or two of them were my children.
Each and every human on this planet has their limits. I am limited by poor health, lack of money, time, and distance. Each and every one of us has limits, although not many of choose to own that idea.
One day, I reached my limit of listening to people say, "My you have your hands full!" in a manner that made me feel foolish for having more than one or two children. My limit came when an elderly lady said in a smug, judgmental manner (I realize that in qualifying her as being judgmental, that makes me judgmental as well. Isn't life interesting?) "My you have your hands full." Without a single thought the words came flying out of my mouth, "Isn't that better than having your hands empty?"
She looked very surprised by my reply. (She had no idea that I was more surprised by it than she was!)
Thoughtfully she responded, "I never thought of it like that."
Here is a suggestion for myself, and if you like it, feel free to follow these steps yourself. Take 15 precious moments to take inventory of yourself, and your priorities. Use a pen and paper for this exercise (using a smartphone, or computer to list these ideas leaves you open to ever so many distractions. Even if you do not struggle with Attention Deficit in any level, electronics have distractions awaiting you at every corner and thought. (Yes, I know that I'm currently writing this post on a computer. I also know that I'm distracted about every 2 minutes...and I DO have ADD!) Sometimes I write my posts the old fashioned way, and THEN transfer them to the computer.
Back to the inventory suggestions. (You may have noticed that I write lots, and lots, of asides. Did I mention that whole ADD thing? lol)
1. What is your number one priority? Why do you count that activity as number one?
2. List the order of priorities in your life. For example, 1. Career 2. Family 3. Church or spiritual involvement 4. Service 5. Home (It may even be wise to list the home needs, such as daily, weekly, monthly, yearly needs to keeping up a home.) Be specific about those priorities.
3. Explain to yourself WHY you prioritize in the method that you do? For example; My Papa and Mama always made God and family their first priority. (God and family were not two different ideas to them. They could not see a way to Love God, without loving their family, and vice versa.) They followed lovingly the teachings of Christ, "Love the Lord with all thy heart...love thy neighbor as thyself..." Notice that there is a less obvious commandment in these verses to love yourself. "Love thy neighbor as THYSELF." So, love God, your neighbor, and yourself in this level of priority was their bedrock for making decisions. Their priorities were very much the same. They were ever so different in other ways. In spite of their personality differences, their united priorities kept their marriage strong through World War II, death of a child, raising a disabled child, all kinds of health issues, and then fostering children. So write down your reasoning for your priorities. This exercise would be very wise to take in connection with your fiance if you are looking towards marriage. It's so much wiser to discover that your potential mate doesn't share your priorities...AT ALL before you are married.
4. You have thought about your motivations and how they impact your priorities. Take inventory of your current life. Do you feel that your life matches your priorities? Or do you need to change your life to bring it in line with your priorities? If you need change, make a plan to accomplish this change.
5. Last, but certainly not least, write down your strengths. Write concrete ideas of how to use your strengths to create a life that matches your priorities.
Summarizing this post, you need to define in your own mind what ALL means to you. You need to decide what you value most as priorities. Do your best to be clear about YOUR priorities. In other words, don't use anybody else's priorities, not even your spouses as you perform the above listed exercises. If you and your spouse or fiance have very different priorities find a good therapist or clergy person to help you sort and think of ways to achieve compromise. Set aside time to think and write down your priorities. They will change as you move through life. As a famous song declares, and the Bible declared before the famous song, "To every thing turn, turn, there is a season, turn, turn, and a time for every purpose under heaven..." Your priorities may need to shift, adapt, arrange, and re-arrange as you travel through this journey that we call life. Being mindful of what ALL means to you, and to your significant other can enrich your life in ways that will surprise you.