Loving and Attentive Husband. Well-Adjusted, Brilliant Children. Immaculate Pottery Barn House. Success at Work. Homecooked Meals on the Table at Dinner. Consistent Exercise Routine. Is it possible to have it all, a career and a family, and to do both well?

I don't know.

I doubt it, though. Something's got to give because as much as we like to imagine we're Super Woman, we're human. No super powers here.

Let me tell you what this post is not.

  • It's not anti-working mom, for single moms as well as women whose husbands have lost their job or women whose family needs additional money if little Susie is going to college - these women have to work.

  • It's not saying that every woman should be a stay -at-home mom who homeschools her children, although I bless those who do (and am a former homeschooler myself).

  • It's also not saying that those who do choose to stay home with their kids are throwing away their careers, their intelligence, or their college degrees by choosing to spend more time with their children.

So what's the point of this post? An honest conversation where we evaluate culture's expectation for us as women to strive to make it to the top and to criticize us when we make the decision not to because we want a family. Where we evaluate whether or not it is even possible (on a middle class income or in poverty) to climb the corporate ladder and to love our family well. Where we open God's Word and see what He has to say about the subject.

On the one hand, we have voices such as Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook's Chief Operating Officer, telling us to "lean in" to the opportunities to grow and to promote up at work and to not "leave before you leave" (referring to women who make decisions to take a backseat at work because of their desire to marry or to have kids). She also states that women should "stop trying to have it all" because to succeed at work involves sacrifices in the home (and vice versa).

When you are seeking to have it all, there's a constant tension as a result because, I don't know about you, but it bothers me to no end when it feels like I'm not doing everything well. One time at the state fair, I watched a young boy in a performance act who started spinning plates on poles, and in between adding more and more plates, he kept running back and forth to keep the others going. He finally reached a point where plates started crashing because he couldn't get to them in time. When you've got lots of plates spinning, you can't keep them all going for long. You have to make choices about which plates are important and which you can let go.

Even in the secular world, women are realizing that they can't keep all of the plates (work, parenting, being a wife, housekeeping, exercising, cooking, volunteering, etc.) going. Last summer, Anne-Marie Slaughter, a former director of policy planning at the State Department wrote an article for The Atlantic about the flack she received for stepping down from the job in order to spend more time with her kids who were struggling with different issues. While she believes women can have it all, she poses that because of the American economy and the structure of our society, they "can't have it all at the same time." And in her article, she exposes the lies that we have believed in our striving to have it all at the same time, lies such as "It's possible if you are just committed enough" or "It's possible if you marry the right person."

Because of feminism in this country, women have more education and more opportunities than they ever have before (although they still make less than men but that's a topic for another conversation), but culture tends to criticize and look down on the women who don't make the most of these opportunities. I had several female college professors who had fought against sexism and glass ceilings as they sought their doctorates then as they tried to promote up at our university. They were very pro-education and female empowerment and favored the female students who were not in college for their MRS degree. Being entrenched in the world during college then going straight to seminary where some guys thought I should pastor and some guys thought I shouldn't even be there, I FELT the tension about my role as a woman. What can I do? What am I supposed to do? The world says one thing, and I heard all sorts of things from people in the church about my role in the home, in the church, and in society. But which voice is right?!

Where is God in all of this? What does He have to say about the tension women feel? About keeping the plates of work and family spinning? And about whether or not we can or should have it all?

Well, you'll have to read part two of this post in a few weeks because duty calls, time is a commodity, and I can't spend any more time on this plate today :)