“Why Women Still Can’t Have It All?” The cover of the Atlantic article asks the question that has sparked debate throughout the digital atmosphere. Anne-Marie Slaughter, author of the piece that has gone viral, concludes that when it comes to the difficulties women face balancing work and family, the final answer is: “No, women can’t have it all” – unless great changes are made.
Slaughter, a Princeton professor and once a senior adviser to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, is being viewed as the contrary voice to Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg.
Some time ago, Sandberg proclaimed to all working mothers in America that it is time to be brave and step up to job opportunities. This 42 year old mother of two has lectured extensively, spreading her message that we must resist ‘leaning back’ in our careers. Just do as I do: leave the office at 5:30, eat dinner with the kids, bring the excess work home and you will be the perfect mom and career woman.
Let’s be honest. Not every woman has the ability to leave work at the ‘right time,’ sit down to a deliciously prepared dinner, be in a great mood, and then continue on with work brought home from the office. I am not even mentioning homework, baths, emotional issues, and the husband/wife relationship.
In her article, Ann-Marie Slaughter shares personal revelations. She writes about a rebellious teenage son with whom she had little time to attend. She mentions workweeks spent in a different state than her family. She learned as her children grew older that there are times a mother needs to step back and focus on putting the kids’ needs first. Slaughter questions if her high profile job was truly doable.
Where does that leave us?
I feel as if today’s moms sweat to live. Always running, remembering someone’s needs, juggling after school programs and appointments, PTAs, pick-ups, drop offs, feeding both bodies and souls, wiping away tears, soothing hurts, keeping it together – and all this is without the burden of work brought home. We try to do the best we can and struggle sometimes to find the joy. We tell ourselves that “if we just make it through this work load or this child’s crisis, we will finally get it together.”
You can ask, where are the men in all this? Why is there an uneven domestic balance between husbands and wives? Why can’t the fathers just step it up?
I don’t believe we would all agree on the answers to these questions. Each family lives with different personalities and needs.
What we can do is honestly ask ourselves if we are fulfilling our unique mission in the home, despite the demands in our lives. Women who do not work professionally are equally obligated to answer the question. I have encountered too many mothers who may be home in body but not in spirit.
Mothers, whether they have a career or not, are the strength and spiritual foundation of the home.
All mothers, whether they have a career or not, are called in Hebrew ‘akeret habayit’ – the strength and spiritual foundation of the home.
When Adam, the first man, is told that he is destined to die, he names his wife Chava, from the word chaya, life, because she is the one who gives life to all living. He sees within her the continuation of his destiny, the promise of life and legacy. The name Chava denotes spiritual life. Not only do women carry life within, but it is our sacred mission to give forth spiritual and emotional life as well.
This is the role of every mother in her home. We are here to guide, to nurture, to lead, to bring light into our homes. Women kindle the Shabbat lights and as we do, we pray that we ignite souls and maintain peace and spiritual balance throughout the week. We ask that we are able to teach and build character, moral values, and kindness.
We can do this better by acknowledging the fact that children need their mothers. Yes, of course they need their fathers too, but we are now addressing the special bond that exists between mother and child.
I recently met an adorable 10 year old girl who happened to mention that she is so happy to have her cat sleep in her bed. When I asked her why, she told me that her mother leaves to work before she wakes and comes home late each night after she goes to sleep. She is so lonely but at least she has her cat to talk to and cuddle with.
My heart hurt for this child. While I have no doubt that this mother feels torn and may be forced to work these long hours, I wonder about the price that is being paid.
At least, let us attempt to put some safeguards in place as we attempt to find harmony in our lives.
Whether you are a career or stay at home mom, let us embrace the sacred spiritual role that we have been given. If you cannot be there when your kids get home, at least pick up the phone and call them. Don’t let a child walk through the door and assume that you are too busy to even think about him. Tell him how much you love him, take a moment and ask about his day; let him know that you will be home soon. When you do finally return, I know it can be tough to put a smile on your face, but your smile warms his soul.
Never have a child believe that you are disinterested in his dreams. You wouldn’t believe your child’s joy when he sees your blackberry or computer turned off while trying to catch up on his day. Sing the Shema, complete your night together with a bedtime prayer and kiss. Even older children need a few quiet moments with you; never doubt the value of your presence. And be sure that each week, no matter how difficult the days have been, your Shabbat is a delicious time for family to reconnect.
At the end of the day, we are mothers first. Isn’t this our greatest legacy?