I don’t know how she does it


21 Jan 2016
I’ve returned to work for 2016, fresh from a delightful holiday with my family touring our nation’s capital.  It was one of those family holidays that lifelong memories are made of: a road-trip, late night board-games, corny puns, sun burn and many many laughs and hugs.  One of those ‘you really had to be there’ experiences.
I’m grateful to say I was there, by design.  It was an essential part of my role as mother to be there, and such holidays are part of the family life my husband and I are carefully and thoughtfully shaping, blessed as we are with three healthy and happy children and the freedom to choose such experiences.
My reflection as I return to work this week, to another key role in my life, is how do I balance my family life with my work in lay ministry?  This reflection is in no small part influenced by the recent frenzy of media attention on the inappropriate behaviour towards women merely doing their jobs; a public servant, a journalist, and a sports reporter – all roles where gender should be completely irrelevant.
My job has a travel component.  In the first few months of 2016 I will be away from home for a total of 45 days.  The question I am most frequently asked is; how do you manage that with young children?  You must have help!  Of course I have help – from their other parent, with whom I approach all such family arrangements as a partnership.  It perplexes me though, how no one ever asks that question of him, leaving me to ponder how much our stereotypes of gender roles in the workforce have really changed.
I have a vocation as a mother and a vocation to serve God’s mission through my work.  I take both seriously and lovingly.  My giftedness and my desires come from God, and my call to holiness is grounded in my baptism.  My gender is only relevant in so far as it informs my being; it isn’t a handicap, and it doesn’t restrict me to certain roles.  God has created me as woman, bestowing upon me gifts and longings which empower me to serve both these vocations.  I give glory to God by actively serving both.  I don’t believe the needs of my family or my femininity detract from my commitment to my work – I believe they inform my work and vice versa, because all of those ingredients combine to shape my ever-evolving identity.  This is who I am, as God creates me, without compromise or apology.
So, as I reflect upon the joyous week I spent relaxing with my family, perhaps the question of how I balance my family life with my ministry is the wrong one.  Perhaps the question I really should ask myself is, how do I celebrate both, in unity?
Andrea Grant is the Director of Mission for the Loreto sisters, based in Melbourne.
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