Can a woman, wife, mother, and professional have it all? Of course she can. She can have the white picket fence, the 2.5 kids, the loving and doting husband, be able to take amazing vacations every year, drive the car she wants (no minivans, please), and be the power professional her colleagues see as a superwoman. Of course she can have all of that. However, the real question is: a woman, wife, mother, and professional can have it all, but at what cost?
As women, especially Black women, we are expected to be the glue that holds everything together. Our roles as Black women are exhausting. We are charged with protecting our Black and Brown children from a world that doesn’t always view them as beautiful. We have to protect and support our Black men while not showing our fear every time our husbands leave the house (Jesus, watch over him). We have grocery runs, playdates, and doctor’s appointments. Oh yeah, don’t forget to drink water and exercise! Then, what are we having for dinner? We just had takeout last night; I really should cook. While working, wondering if this email sounds “too aggressive” because I want to be firm but not coined the “angry black woman” (rolls eyes emoji).
Our thoughts and actions are endless, aiming to be the…
…best mom, while battling postpartum depression and mom guilt;
…best wife, while being too tired for sincere intimacy;
…power professional who toes the line of being called bossy, although we are only assertive.
The pandemic only intensified these roles and thoughts, making the compromise a bigger reality. From being scared to send my newborn to daycare — knowing our parents are at high risk — navigating having a baby, and having work deadlines looming in the back of our minds. Our husbands can go into their office, close the door, and shut out the world while we are left to balance feedings, meetings, and deadlines. Mommy mode never turns off. It’s the compromise we make, knowing that our husbands can walk away (trust, he’s coming back), but whether he’s there or not, we take full responsibility.
We find ourselves shifting from mommy mode to wife mode, to work mode, back to wife mode, then back again to work mode, and don’t forget there are plenty of mommy mode moments in between. On a daily, hourly, or even minute basis, women consistently shift into different modes and expect our measly one hour of personal time a week to reset and unpack the weight of being super mom/wife/woman.
When do we shift to ME mode, selfish mode, silence mode, or bubble bath with a bottle of wine mode?
Often we find ourselves being everything to everybody and receive comments like, “I don’t know what we would do without you.” Personally, that comment comes almost as an insult because I have fostered an environment where I am everything for everybody, to the point where they literally cannot live without me. Black women, wives, and mothers live in the compromise. We are mentally, physically, and sometimes emotionally exhausted. However, we still find ourselves wanting to do bath time just to hear their infectious giggle or sit and give our husbands the time they need to unload their day. Meanwhile, our thoughts are on what still needs to get done today and what is on the schedule for tomorrow. We live by schedules, up by 6 am, workout, fix lunches, get baby ready, throw our hair in a big girl bun and get everything done. By the time we get home, it’s back to homework, dinner, bath, and bedtime. Oh, and don’t forget to add in pumping sessions (my current struggle). We compromise our sanity, balance, and peace to ensure we meet our family’s needs.
How can I be the greatest mom, wife, and professional when I am mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausted? Can I really have it all? Can I have the perfect Instagram family? Honestly, the answer is NO, not without compromise. Google defines compromise as “An agreement or a settlement of a dispute that is reached by each side making concessions” or “accepting standards that are lower than what is desirable.” The first definition does not appropriately describe how we balance wife, mommy, and work mode because the sacrifice usually is not agreed upon. As women, we can be vocal in saying what we need from our partner; however, when communication fails or schedules change, we take on most of the household responsibility. The first definition of compromise doesn’t fit, but the second seems too harsh. Am I accepting standards that are lower than what is desirable? Is one hour a week for personal time to unwind enough? Am I creating an atmosphere where I am everything to everyone? Let’s just say…it’s time to renegotiate the compromise.
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A native of Columbus, Ohio and proud graduate of the illustrious North Carolina A&T State University Dr. Andrea Gentry-Apple is a veterinarian that has made her mark in helping underrepresented students pursue their dream of becoming a veterinarian. In her role as the Coordinator of Veterinary Education at her alma mater, she aims to provide quality education to her undergraduate students. As a new mother, she strives to find the balance between a career professional, mother, and wife. As anyone can tell you this balance is not easy. Her job is consuming and her husband is her greatest cheerleader and support. Dr. Gentry-Apple is dynamic, always seeking opportunities to better herself and others around her. She truly is a work in progress.