No matter where you stand in the 'can women have it all debate,' kids must come first

I have been observing with great interest the recent debate ignited by Anne-Marie Slaughter’s article Why Women Still Can’t Have It All, published recently in The Atlantic. The debate got reignited again with the news that Yahoo!'s new chief is not only a woman but expecting her first child in October. As a wife, mother of three, grandmother of five, and campus pastor for the Dallas-based mega church, The Potter’s House, I have come to find, and agree, that having the perfect family and a time-intensive career is not always easily done.

While debating whether or not women can “have it all,” there’s one thing we should remember: regardless of a woman’s work or home situation, her children must come first. Our children are the husbands, wives, parents, medical personnel, scientists, entrepreneurs, CEO’s, employees, clergy, political and community leaders of the future. To say it is crucialthat we invest in them would be a gross understatement. Fredrick Douglass once said, “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” I couldn’t agree more.

On a personal level, I think that rearing my children to be well-rounded citizens would be on the top of my “having it all” list. I am not interested in going higher in my career if it means losing touch with them. No career in the world is worth paying that high of a price. I understand thathaving a family can be economically challenging however, there are some things in life that money cannot buy. Can your children count on you to help them with building positive friendships, attitudes and self-esteem?  Are you and your spouse doing all you can insupporting them well in school and enjoying extracurricular activities? Can they look up to you and your spouse as role models?

I believe parents should always consider these questions when making decisions about working, and consider the effects, if any, working will have. At the end of the day, when it comes to our children, we will reap what we have sown. When we are elderly and in need of care, I think it’s fairly safe to say that it will be our family and not the employers, clients, business partners and constituents, whose beat we are dancing to today, that will be there for us tomorrow.

So, between raising my children and embracing my career in a male-dominated field, do I “have it all?” How do you know when you “have it all?”

As Ms. Slaughter notes, “having it all” can mean different things to different women. One might “have it all” as a stay-at-home mom who works around the clock to care for her family. Another may work part-time, or even full-time, while also caring for her family and believe that she “has it all.”

Whatever your definition of "it all" may be, I am sure that in order to find real fulfillment in life it will have to be directly related to purpose.

Purpose is our individual meaning to life and it is powerfully prevailing. "Having it all" will never be possible apart from purpose. The reason one person can accomplish something that another cannot is often because of purpose. When you tap into Divine purpose you will find it is always accompanied by Divine permission. A woman should determine where her strengths lie and evaluate what she loves and then, go after it.  Just know we are led by our desire and when God places desire/urges in our heart, He also gives us the grace to pursue those urges.

However, as many of you already know, this pursuit will not be easy. What I have found to be especially challenging is fighting our female tendencies to over-commit. As women, we are born achievers, nurturing and resourceful. When we engage with something, we do so with our whole heart, and that project or person receives all of us. We are always striving to do a good job, to do the best we can for a child, a spouse or a client. We are fully committed to our families and if we are working, fully committed to the passion of our jobs.

This is often where the dichotomy between job and family occurs—we want to do the best at both jobs.

My counsel to young mothers who are just learning how to balance family and work is to pray, prioritize, seek healthy relationships and find time to restore yourself. I have found that prayer always helps when your work/life balance seems to be lopsided. Spending time in conversation with God often sorts out more in those few precious minutes than running around, trying to get it all done.

Prioritizing is a woman’s best friend. It allows us to sort out the critical from the noncritical, and what can be done from what cannot be done. By clearing the mind and mentally organizing the tasks at hand, one can fully focus and concentrate on each task, whether personal or professional.

I always encourage others to pursue healthy relationships. Find a mother’s group with like minded women who can help support and counsel you. Motherhood is a unique time and simply talking and listening to other mothers has always been helpful to me. Of course your spouse, parents, in-laws and other friends and family are wonderful pillars as well.

Finally, take the time to restore yourself. While you are tempted to feel otherwise, it is a very unselfish act to allow yourself time to replenish – you will be a better mother, wife, sister, daughter, employee, etc. It doesn’t help your children or your employer if you are worn out and unable to function at your normal caliber. And this world is in dire need of good mothers, whether or not they “have it all.” It’s a big job, but as I always say, you eat an elephant one bite at a time.

Sheryl Brady is the pastor of The Potter’s House North Campus in Dallas, Texas. She is the author of the forthcoming book, "You Have It In You!: Empowered to do the Impossible," mother of three daughters and five grandchildren. Brady is scheduled to speak at the Woman, Thou Art Loosed! conference to women in October.