“You cannot have your cake and eat it too.” This age-old adage seems to have been thrust upon women specifically, despite historic changes in women’s rights. Women now live in a time of empowerment in which we can have our cake and eat it too. Better yet, we can have it all. As a female orthopedic surgeon, author, speaker, entrepreneur, owner of two nonprofits, the wife to a senior pastor of a mega-church in one of the largest cities in the country and the mother of three kids, I can honestly say, yes, my life can be a little hectic. But I asked for all of it. I am keenly aware that life doesn’t always play fair or follow any given pattern. But I believe I have the ultimate equation for having it all: it’s all about one’s perspective, near-perfect timing and an enormous amount of discipline. Perspective Women have been shaped by society to think or believe in a way I call the “Disney Effect.” If you grew up in the past 60 years or so, you’ve been exposed to the ideal of “happily-ever-after.” Little girls have idolized and celebrated beautiful damsels in distress requiring rescue by a prince or a knight in shining armor. At best, these characters demonstrated how strong women truly are — from surviving a poison apple from a wicked stepmother to living in a wooded forest with seven little men (side-eye). Sadly, these fairytale women had to count on magical fairy godmothers who designed couture ball gowns and glass slippers with the passing of a wand. The Disney Effect teaches little girls to become dependent on others, thus trivializing their own power to make things happen.
Media images of dependent women don’t end with fairy tales, however. For the past half-century, onesided media images of what women can and should do and be have been historically crafted (and dare I say skewed) by men. What images did we see? The female characters on prominent television shows like I Love Lucy, Father Knows Best, Leave it to Beaver and The Dick Van Dyke Show represented stay-at-home women whose sole purpose was caring for their families. In contrast, later shows featured working women who were bullied or told they were inferior and could never attain a man’s level of power or wealth — or even expect to be paid the same for the same work. Think of Mary Tyler Moore, Alice or the mother from One Day at a Time. Even in the best-case scenarios, female characters could either be single and successful or have a family with a husband and kids — but they couldn’t do both. Today, though, with role models and mentors like “The Notorious RBG” (Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who has changed the legal landscape for women’s rights), it is easier to believe women actually can have it all. The Oprah Effect counters the Disney Effect by helping women to dream big and feel good about themselves while doing it. Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama both serve as examples of women who simultaneously held positions of power while being mothers and wives. Today’s girls and young women are exposed to a perspective that hopefully helps them realize they can, indeed, have it all.
“To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heavens” (Ecclesiastics 3:1). Realize that “having it all” comes in phases and at certain times in life. In the early years of my practice of medicine, I operated as an orthopedic surgeon until I was eight months pregnant and could no longer reach the table. Being a surgeon didn’t faze me, but being the mother of three children? I admit I had met my match. Being a new mother was so much harder than being a surgeon, but I appreciated the journey. I wasn’t upset that I had to take a break from the operating table; I basked in the privilege of motherhood. I understood that nurturing these special people was critical because they would not be little for long. Try to live in the now. Experience what life has to offer at any given moment but be ready, willing and able to adjust, with the understanding it may be just for “a season.”
To “have it all,” the most important trait you need is discipline. Discipline helps you focus on what’s important. If you know exactly what you want, obtaining it is a matter of following a series of steps, thinking lots of positive thoughts, saying a few prayers and having a great group of people around you for help and support. What drives you? Start by finding your passion. Then, take time to define goals and create a realistic schedule. Rome wasn’t built in a day; having it all in your personal and professional life isn’t much different. Becoming a surgeon took 14 years, becoming a mother over 15 years and becoming an author took four years. What you do with your passion, goals and time is predicated on your discipline. What’s your follow through? Who supports you? How well do you adjust to what life throws at you? All of these factors can and will make you the person you are destined to be. More importantly, with a change in your perspective, great timing and a whole lot of discipline, you really can have it all.