Women are caught in the tug of war between two views. Both sides seem fully convinced they’re right, and there’s no middle ground. Women are made to choose their priority: career or family. It’s interesting to me, as a mom of boys, that men don’t have to make a similar choice. My sons, for example, talk about their plans for career and family and look forward to both.
Growing up, my mother and grandmothers provided role models of success. My maternal grandmother, Imogene, had been a stay-at-home mom, raising her daughters while caring for her elderly parents and in-laws. She was a gifted cook and loved to sew. She loved to read and play bridge.
Then there was my paternal grandmother, Anita. She was a missionary in South America. She earned a master’s degree in education and worked for many years as an educator and administrator. She also loved to read and sew.
My mother, Carolyn, started her career as a computer programmer in the early 1970s. When I was in high school, she went back to school to get her Ph.D. in information systems. As a professor, she helped build a university before she retired. As a pastor’s wife, my mother’s work helped to support my dad’s ministry work. She also played piano for church most Sundays.
Which one of those paths led to success for me as a woman? On the one hand, secular culture would say that my mother and grandmother Anita were the successful ones. They had impressive careers and advanced degrees. According to society, staying home as a mom is a waste of a woman’s talents and education. Real success means breaking glass ceilings.
On the other hand, conservative Christian culture would say that my grandmother Imogene was the successful one. Sure, women can work outside the home if they really need to, but pursuing a career isn’t feminine. God’s design for women, they say, is to be in the home caring for their husbands and children. Success means submission and obedience to God’s design.
Women are caught in the tug of war between these two views. Both sides seem fully convinced they’re right, and there’s no middle ground. Women are made to choose their priority: career or family. It’s interesting to me, as a mom of boys, that men don’t have to make a similar choice. My sons, for example, talk about their plans for career and family and look forward to both.
In watching my boys plan for the future, I’ve wondered if there is a better way for women. Could we think of success not as diametrically opposed options, but as encompassing a range of possibilities? Could the concepts of callings, vocation, and Christian liberty help us reach a more balanced understanding of success?