Can We Really Have It All?

Feminism tells us ‘we can have it all.’ Is this possible? Even if it is possible, should we have it all?

Feminism after World War Two told women to leave the home and have a career. Now it’s more of a relaxed approach where domestic arts are not frowned upon, and feminists believe in the importance of marriage and motherhood. It’s even trendy now to be domestic. Today it’s cute and desirable to be a woman who bakes bread, knits, and throws Pinterest-worthy birthday parties for her kids.

Now we see the post World War Two career woman married to the domestically cute wife and mother. We have to be both. Do it all and be it all. The social pressure is high to become a one woman juggling act and add one more ball.

We have to race to the top of the corporate ladder as fast as the men, be as successful outside the home as inside the home, still come home and cook healthy meals for our families, help with homework, do house chores, bake cookies, and still find time to be beautiful and skinny. Women keep pressuring women to do it all and be it all. In the feminist quest to be like (or even better) than men we’ve beat up our own sex.

The Juggling Act

Pick up the phone, women, reality is calling and she’s saying you can’t have it all. Well, you can, but something in your life will suffer. Your career might suffer, your marriage might fall apart, your children will not have your full attention, or your health might take a dive. When juggling so much it’s inevitable that something will be subpar. It’s time to stop believing the cultural lie forced on us in our fast-paced society. It’s time to lay down our pride and know we can’t do it all.

Anne-Marie Slaughter says it perfectly in her article, “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All,”

“All my life, I’d been on the other side of this exchange. I’d been the woman smiling the faintly superior smile while another woman told me she had decided to take some time out or pursue a less competitive career track so that she could spend more time with her family. I’d been the woman congratulating herself on her unswerving commitment to the feminist cause, chatting smugly with her dwindling number of college or law-school friends who had reached and maintained their place on the highest rungs of their profession. I’d been the one telling young women at my lectures that you can have it all and do it all, regardless of what field you are in. Which means I’d been part, albeit unwittingly, of making millions of women feel that they are to blame if they cannot manage to rise up the ladder as fast as men and also have a family and an active home life (and be thin and beautiful to boot).”

In his book, “Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less,” Greg Mckeown says:

“The idea that we can have it all and do it all is not new. This myth has been peddled for so long, I believe virtually everyone alive is infected with it. It is sold in advertising. It is championed in corporations…What is new is how especially damaging this myth is today, in a time when choice and expectations have increased exponentially. It results in stressed people trying to cram yet more activities into their already over scheduled lives.”

He goes on to say:

“It’s not just the number of choices that has increased exponentially, it is also the strength and number of outside influences on our decisions that has increased….The larger issue is how our connectedness has increased the strength of social pressure. Today, technology has lowered the barrier for others to share their opinion about what we should be focusing on. It is not just information overload; it is opinion overload.”

The Weariness of it All

It’s time to stop the comparisons, judgements, and pressures among women and slow down. For Christians there is only one opinion that matters: God’s opinion. God views us through his Son, and thereby we are perfect in his sight.

God is also omnipresent (he is everywhere at once.) Just like Adam and Eve, we can still eat the forbidden fruit today and try to be like God. Yet, God knows we are not like him; he knows we are weak and limited. As such, he created sleep for us and commands us to rest.

Our God is the one who said, “Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28-30.) There is only one who can do it all. Jesus Christ. He is the one who took our heavy burden of sin away, and exchanged it for his light burden and easy yoke. The good news is that Jesus has already done it all. It’s finished, and now we truly have it all.

Living in Her Shadow: Domesticity and Proverbs 31

She looms over us like a menacing shadow. A shadow casting much taller than us, so we are constantly trying to measure up. Who is this lady of mystery? It’s the Proverbs 31 woman.

If you’ve grown up in the church, like me, you’ve probably heard a lot about her. There are countless books written about her, sermons preached on her, and numerous interpretations of her. We throw the term around loosely: “I want to be a Proverbs 31 woman,” “She is so Proverbs 31.”

She is the epitome of womanhood, so we must do exactly what she did, right? Not exactly. A lot of times we confuse the Proverbs 31 woman with June Cleaver from the 1950’s TV show Leave it to Beaver. We think domesticity and the virtuous woman go hand in hand, and they can at times, but don’t always have to. What I mean is this: no where in the Bible are we commanded as women to be cooking recipes from scratch, making sure our houses are spotless, cleaning up after our husbands, or cleaning dirty dishes and laundry.

These are good things to do for our families, but are not things that necessarily make us good wives and mothers. If doing these household chores comes from a heart of service and love for our husbands and children, then great! But if we are excelling in these domestic endeavors, while simultaneously yelling at our children, manipulating and controlling our husbands, complaining, and angry then we are not being virtuous women. We are just good cooks and maids.

More than Maid Service 

The Proverbs 31 woman is much more than a maid and a cook. Rachel Jankovic says, “The state of your heart is the state of your home.” Proverbs 31 is not an unreachable example of a domestic goddess, but a heart lesson in being a virtuous woman in the home. She is nothing like June Cleaver.

These are the June Cleaver’s of today: fake, always smiling and perfect looking even when everything is crumbling around her, a social construct and not a Biblical example, she avoids conflict by pretending everything is ok, does everything without effort and with ease, feigns love towards her husband at the dinner table, but then slanders him to the women in the salon.

This is the Proverbs 31 woman: real, hard-working, most likely dirty and sweaty from back breaking labor, does not manipulate, control, or deceive her husband, she does not talk bad about him to others. This is how she does him good and not harm. This is the very reason her husband can trust her. “The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life” (vs. 11-12.)

She is an entrepreneur (vs.18, 24), she is intelligent and wise with money (vs. 16), she is strong (vs.17), she is generous and compassionate (vs. 20), she plans (vs. 21), she is not lazy (vs. 27, 13-15), she is frugal (vs. 22), she speaks with wisdom and kindness (vs. 26), she is not anxious and fearful (vs. 25.)

The Virtuous Woman

As you can see, being a virtuous woman is deeper than being domestic. The domestic endeavors of the Proverbs 31 woman flowed from a heart of virtue. Her story isn’t about being a better housewife, checking off lists, living naturally, or getting a lot accomplished. Her story is about being more Christ-like.

Of course we can’t attain to Proverbs 31 status if we think of her as June Cleaver and reduce womanhood to domesticity. But we can attain to the real Proverbs 31 status, because Christ has redeemed us and given us the grace to live for him. We can be more like Him, because He died for us and empowers us by His Holy Spirit. We just need to humble ourselves and ask for His grace.

Proverbs 31 is not an overwhelming list of things we should be doing as housewives, but an oversupply of grace as we see what God can do in us. We don’t need to be praised for how well we take care of our homes, how good we cook, how many homemade cookies we can bake, how many crafts we can do with our children, how many books we read to them (though these are good things), we should be praised for our fear of the Lord in how we live in our homes and treat our families.

“…But a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised” (vs.30.)