In this month's issue of my e-zine, Connecting with Keri Wyatt Kent, I wrote about looking for heroes that looked like me. How most of the writers held up as examples to me in college were men. And how I was looking for a hero who looked like me.
Here's an excerpt from my essay:
"This week, the Chicago Tribune Sunday Magazine ran a story about biologist Steve Goodman’s work to catalog and preserve biodiversity in the jungles of Madagascar. The note from the magazine’s editor on the opening page had a profile of the photographer and also the reporter who went into the jungle (risking life and limb) to get the story and photos. The reporter, Laurie Goering, is a mom.
When I saw that, I felt a sense of longing—what if... And then I wondered, who did Laurie Goering look to as a role model? Who told her it was okay to be a foreign correspondent and a mom, both? How come no one told me that?" (click here to read this and other back issues)
I got an e-mail this morning from Laurie Goering, that correspondent. (don' t you just love Google?) She contacted me and said she enjoyed what I'd written. IN her e-mail, she sent me the text of a speech she gave in Chicago last October. (Yes, in case you're wondering: having someone you admire contact you in this way is a trip!) Laurie has two kids, ages one and three. She has simply taken them with her, and with the help of a nanny and a great husband, continued her career. She took her preschoolers with her to Madagascar! She is a hero to me--because she's figured out a way to do the working mom gig on her own terms.
Here are a few excerpts from the speech text she sent me:
WHEN I ARRIVED AT THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE IN 1987 AS AN INTERN NOT LONG OUT OF COLLEGE, I WENT TO SEE THE PAPER'S TOP EDITORS RIGHT AWAY. I EXPLAINED TO THEM THAT SINCE I WAS JUST BACK FROM SOUTH AFRICA, WHERE I'D BEEN DOING SOME FREELANCE WRITING ABOUT APARTHEID AND FINISHING UP A MASTER'S DEGREE IN AFRICAN STUDIES, MY EXPERIENCEQUALIFIED ME TO BE THE PAPER'S AFRICA CORRESPONDENT. THEY NODDED IMPATIENTLY AND I'M SURE LAUGHED A LITTLE LATER, AND THEY TOLD ME TO GO WORK IN THE SUBURBS.
I LIKED THE SUBURBS. I ANGLED TO GET THE SOUTH SUBURBAN BUREAU, WHERE THERE WAS NO EDITOR AND ONLY A COUPLE OF REPORTERS. I WANDERED AROUND ON MY OWN, LOOKING FOR GOOD TALES TO TELL AND GRADUALLY MANAGED TO EXTEND MY BEAT AS FAR AS MISSOURI AND IOWA AND INDIANA. I DIDN'T CALL THE EDITORS MUCH BUT I FILED A FEW GOOD STORIES AND RESISTED ALL OF THE PAPER'S EFFORTS TO LURE ME BACK TO THE CHICAGO OFFICE. IN 1994, AFTER DECIDING I WAS BASICALLY A FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT ALREADY, THE EDITORS RELENTED AND SENT ME TO BRAZIL.
SINCE THEN I'VE HAD A REALLY INTERESTING TIME. I'VE BEEN SHOT AT ON THE WAY TO BAGHDAD, RUN POLICE ROADBLOCKS IN THE IVORY COAST, BEEN ARRESTED IN BOTSWANA, TEARGASSED IN ZIMBABWE, WATCHED A COUP ATTEMPT IN PARAGUAY AND SEEN A MILLION PEOPLE STREAMING OUT OF RWANDA DURING THE GENOCIDE THERE.
ON HAPPIER DAYS I'VE ALSO PADDLED A CANOE DOWN THE FLOODED AMAZON RIVER, SHAKEN NELSON MANDELA'S HAND, CHATTED WITH FIDEL CASTRO, COMPETED IN BARREL RACING AT THE CUBAN RODEO AND DRIVEN A VAN THROUGH AFGHANISTAN AS DELIGHTED LITTLE GIRLS RAN ALONGSIDE YELLING, "A GIRL! A GIRL IS DRIVING!" WOMEN DON'T DRIVE IN AFGHANISTAN, BUT THE DRIVER WAS TIRED AND I FIGURED, WHY NOT? ...
I HAVE TWO YOUNG KIDS, A DAUGHTER WHO'S JUST SHORT OF THREE YEARS OLD AND A SON WHO IS ONE. PLENTY OF PEOPLE TOLD ME THAT MOTHERHOOD AND THIS JOB WERE INCOMPATIBLE, THAT I'D NEVER MANAGE, THAT I'D HATE THE TRAVEL AND BEING AWAY FROM THE KIDS. THEY WERE RIGHT ABOUT THAT LAST PART. SO I'VE JUST TAKEN THE KIDS ALONG.
SINCE SHE WAS CONCEIVED, MY DAUGHTER HAS BEEN IN MORE THAN 30 COUNTRIES ON FOUR CONTINENTS AND MY SON'S QUICKLY CATCHING UP.
I'VE BEEN ABLE TO MANAGE IT IN PART BECAUSE I HAVE A WONDERFULLY UNDERSTANDING HUSBAND, TERRIFIC PARENTS-WHO ARE HERE TONIGHT-WHO PUTUP WITH THEIR GRANDCHILDREN BEING 10,000 MILES AWAY, AND THE WORLD'SGREATEST NANNY. WHEN I FLY AROUND AFRICA, THE TRIBUNE BUYS ME A PLANE TICKET, I BUY THE NANNY AND THE KIDS TICKETS AND WHILE I'M OFF DOING INTERVIEWS ALL DAY THEY'RE DOING GREAT THINGS LIKE FEEDING GIRAFFES OR SWIMMING IN THE OCEAN.
EQUALLY IMPORTANT TO MY SUCCESS WITH THIS HAVE BEEN SOME UNBELIEVABLYUNDERSTANDING EDITORS AT THE TRIBUNE, WHO'VE BEEN UNSTINTINGLY SUPPORTIVE AND WHO ACCEPT THAT I CAN'T GO TO BAGHDAD ANYMORE FOR SIX WEEKS AT A TIMEAND THAT BETWEEN 5 P.M. AND 8 P.M. I'M GIVING KIDS BATHS AND FEEDING THEM DINNER AND PUTTING THEM TO BED SO IT MIGHT BE A COUPLE OF HOURS YET BEFORE I GET THAT STORY FILED. I COULDN'T DO THIS JOB WITHOUT THEM AND THEIR UNENDING SUPPORT.
IT'S BEEN EXHAUSTING SOMETIMES BUT THE KIDS HAVE HAD A GREAT TIME. MY DAUGHTER NOW KNOWS HOW TO CLIMB INTO AN AIRPLANE SEAT, FASTEN THE BELT, PUT DOWN THE TRAY TABLE AND WAVE FOR A DRINK. THEY BOTH HAVE PASSPORTS FULL OF VISAS FOR PLACES LIKE SUDAN AND ETHIOPIA AND SENEGAL AND GHANA AND MY DAUGHTER SPEAKS A BIT OF ZULU AND XHOSA. BUT WHAT I LIKE MOST IS THAT THEY'RE GROWING UP CONFIDENT WITH NEW SITUATIONS AND COMFORTABLE WITH NEW PEOPLE.
WHEN I WAS IN A RURAL AREA OF SOUTH AFRICA REPORTING RECENTLY, MY DAUGHTER SPENT THE DAY BAREFOOT, HERDING GOATS WITH THE LOCAL KIDS AND CARRYING FIREWOOD, WHILE MY SON CHASED CHICKENS. I FIGURED IT SURE BEAT DAYCARE.
THE KIDS HAVE MADE ME A BETTER CORRESPONDENT TOO. AFTER YEARS IN A JOB LIKE THIS, SEEING A LOT OF HUMAN SUFFERING, IT'S EASY TO DISTANCE YOURSELF AND BEGIN LOOKING AT PEOPLE AS GOOD LEADS FOR STORIES AND GOOD QUOTES AND GOOD COLOR. BUT WHEN YOU PASSIONATELY, MADLY LOVE YOUR KIDS-AND UNDERSTAND HOW OTHER PEOPLE DO TOO-YOU SEE HUMAN SUFFERING IN A WHOLE DIFFERENT LIGHT.
Okay, isn't she cool?
Now, some of you are maybe wondering, I thought this blog was about how faith impacts real life. So why all this stuff about working moms?
Here's why: God gave each of us passions and dreams--these give us a clue to our calling. Our faith is not just about us, it's about how we impact others. To do work that God calls you to do, to impact the world with truth, that's a spiritual practice. That leads to spiritual fruit: joy.
Every person, regardless of gender, is created in the image of God. As such, they need to be part of a purpose greater than themselves. Because it will test their faith, because it will bring them joy, because it will help others, and lots of other reasons. During certain seasons, for some women, motherhood is enough of a calling. And that's great. But the "mom only" phase of life is short, and making it your sole focus, while an option, is not the only choice.
Women, especially within Christian circles (unfortunately), tend to think their choices are more limited than they really are, although sometimes takes faith to believe that. And even more faith to act on that.
What are you doing today to pursue God's calling? To be all that God made you to be? To let your light shine?
As Marianne Williamson wrote: "We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. ... And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."