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At a Women’s Conference in Provo, Utah, three years ago, Elder M. Russell Ballard said, “Although the world teaches women they can ‘have it all’ in education, careers, church service, marriage, and family, like many men, most women discover that this is not always true.”
He said most of us—men included—have to make choices. Individual revelation could lead one woman to pursue further education and another to start a family. “That’s why it is so important that we should not question each other’s choices or the inspiration behind them,” he said. “And we should refrain from asking hurtful and unsupportive questions…We can all be kinder and more thoughtful of the situations in which our sisters throughout the world find themselves as they seek to follow the will of our Heavenly Father in their lives.”
Many women struggle with the pull to do everything and be everything. For some, marriage and family is their entire list. But for many, a career beckons, or the opportunity to make professional contributions. I know a woman who has traveled the world, lecturing on important issues that benefit society everywhere she goes. I know another with similar talents who chose to use those in the confines of her own home, raising a large family. Each feels secure in the answer to her prayer, and the personal revelation God has given her. I think Elder Ballard’s advice is perfect: We should not judge either of these choices, but realize each has validity.
I also like the point he made that men must also make choices. Every career could lead to neglect of the family, if you pour your entire being into it. The quest for advancement and greater income is powerful, but the cost is often steep. We all know many people who wish their dads had been more dedicated to the family instead of choosing extra dedication to work. Women are not the only ones who strive to find balance.
Years ago, I got a Master’s degree in Professional Writing from USC. My dream was to write screenplays. I still remember the moment when I was offered a huge position in television as a writer/producer, and the sudden realization that I should turn it down. For me the prescription was to be at home with my children. Now, the next woman who walked in might have gotten exactly the opposite prompting. But the customized message for me was not to do it. Maybe God knew I’d become a workaholic, who knows? But I remember feeling more than a little chagrined that I had spent two years getting a degree in writing screenplays, only to discover that this specific dream was completely at odds with my other dreams. Better dreams.
I went on to write books and plays when the kids were asleep or at school. Someone else may have been able to “do it all,” but I got a different answer. And let me just say there are thousands of mothers who choose to work, or simply must work to survive, and they are entitled to their own revelation.
But here’s where I want to share my personal view of this whole “having it all” issue. I think we already do. As members of Christ’s restored church, we actually have the entirety of his gospel. I believe we have more than we could ever hope for. We have saving ordinances that will last far beyond any earthly accolades, beyond any mortal measure of success.
We have Christ’s living, breathing, atonement to use forever. This includes right now as we struggle through this learning curve called life, and then in the next life as well. We have phenomenal mercy and forgiveness. We have sealing ordinances, hope for incredible advancement, blessings beyond our earthly understanding. We have Christ’s actual plan for ultimate success, all laid out for us. If that isn’t “having it all,” then what is?
Many of the “blessings” we hope for in this life pale in comparison to that phenomenal avalanche of gifts from God. Financial wealth, obedient children, children at all, even secure health—none of these are going to matter in the next life. Your health will be restored. Wealth will not matter. Marriage and children will happen for those who didn’t have those on earth. Literally every blessing still awaits.
Plus countless others.
A relationship with our Father and Mother in Heaven that will surpass our wildest imagination. Tremendous learning and understanding beyond the scope of anything available today. Indescribable joy. Love that makes the love on earth look like a passing fancy. The good we’ll be able to do, the relationships we’ll have—it’s going to be staggeringly fulfilling. So, once again, can men and women really “have it all”? I think we already do.
Perfect for Mother’s Day– Hilton’s new LDS novel, Golden, is available in paperback and on Kindle. All her books and YouTubeMom videos can be found on her website. She currently serves as an Interfaith Specialist for Public Affairs.