Monday, June 3, 2013

Job Title: Support Role, Leading Lady

In 21 days, my husband and I will move most of our worldly possessions down South for a year. I am attempting to remain calm and create a game plan as I'll continue to work till the end of the month, and still have belongings scattered between two homes.

I've started to be asked the question of what I am going to "do down there"; I usually look at my belly and reply, "Have a baby!" That does not generate as many laughs as I'd originally hoped. What people mean is what job I am going to do. Never mind that I already edit and write when I'm not nannying, and I'll continue to do more freelance, God-willing. But a "real" job? No thanks. 

I love nannying. I love taking care of kids. This is one reason Will and I decided to be open to pregnancy early in our marriage. We knew that Will would be busy with medicine. And me? I wanted to be busy with kids and supporting Will. 

When I took on a third part-time job earlier this year, the work load started to suffocate me. Pregnant, working overtime, and supporting Will from near and far was hard. I cried a lot. My Dad, the man who instilled my need to be busy and productive with a go-getter work ethic, suggested I quit my third job. 

But I like it, I explained. 

But you're miserable, he reasoned. 

Just tired, said I; I need more sleep. I need more time. 

What you need to do is support your husband, he said. You're married now. Will is your priority, and your baby. 

So I did, and my happiness levels leaped. I missed the action of that job, but I relished in getting to bed earlier and more family time. I even finished a few book reviews. I supported Will as we decided where we wanted to go for the next year. We decided a surgery rotation was not the best thing for our family or Will. We decided to forgo residency one year, take a risk, and enter into a one year clinical research masters program for MDs at Tulane University. 

Do I get paid for advising my husband? Of course not. But it's what I live for: to be there for Will, to support him, to love him. My career ambitions will always be second to our family, and that is my decision. That's a monetary risk** we take on, a sacrifice we accept. 

Feminism's battle call isn't about competing with our fellow man, earning money to prove our worth. It's about the ability to pursue our passions without obstacles that confuse gender with capabilities. Women can do anything. Individuals must decide how to best use their own talents. 

I'm not interested in working in a hospital or running a company. I like editing and being on my own schedule (mostly) and taking care of little kids. I like short projects and long term planning. I like books and coloring and making people happy. I like supporting people, especially Will. He'll work long hours with demanding people. I'll have long hours with smaller demanding people. We'll do it for each other, and with each other. 

At his medical school graduation shindig, after chanting "Speech!" at him for a few moments, my husband thanked everyone for being there and for supporting him through the last four years. And then he talked about medicine, the profession he's wanted to do and be in since he was a tot, and how it's just one path in life, and just one way to support our little family and build a life with me. Cue the "Ahhhhhhhhs!" and applause, and a kiss from me. 

No one says anything negative about Will wanting to support me; that's his role as husband, they say. That's his manly vocation, his duty. Then why can't women answer a similar call without fear of retribution? Fear of accusations that their talents are being wasted? 

To play a supporting role does not mean passivity. It means to serve, to invest your love, to discern your ambitions and rise to the occasion. It means to use those talents to benefit the ones you love best, to give them the similar opportunity to grow, discover and pursue in life. 

Pope Francis tweeted this past Sunday, "The world tells us to seek success, power and money; God tells us to seek humility, service and love." The pay-offs are certainly different, but the reward? Substantial. 

**I'm going to keep writing, because I'm good at it, love it, and people keep asking me to do it (and even pay me occasionally). 


  1. "To play a supporting role does not mean passivity." So true! And I think a lot of women who claim they are unsatisfied with raising children or being homemakers or wives often feel this way because there is very little recognition in our world of the incredible importance of the supporters and encouragers and servers. Such people, we're told, only act this way because they don't have enough guts or motivation to "lead." But really, (I know it's been said before, and it bears repeating) without those supporters, the leaders would have so much less strength to do what they need to do.

    Also on a practical note they would have no one to lead.

  2. I love this. We get asked about this a lot because Steven is playing the 'support role' and I'm just going to send them this from now on.

    Praying for you guys and you move and start this new journey together! :)

  3. Tulane (New Orleans)? Cannot be far from your (almost)favorite former professor? We shall visit!

    Inveniam viam aut faciam.