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duck with santa hatOver the years, I’ve had lots of people ask me how I manage to “do it all”. And I certainly have asked other women the same question. While the smile and shrug response is the quickest rejoinder, I think that we need to be more transparent with each other and either admit that we don’t actually always “do it all” particularly well and/or share a fuller response as to how we do pull it off sometimes.

So in all disclosure, I was very fortunate to have found an amazing partner who believes our home/family responsibilities are to be shared. We have complimentary skill sets, which help us juggle. He is self-employed which gives him the opportunity to flex work into the weekend so he can help with things like picking up a sick kid early from school or dropping off a forgotten backpack. He makes the kids’ lunches, cooks dinner, and does all the grocery shopping and the majority of school pick-ups. Having a partner who truly has my back and supports my career is how I am able to do so much. Gloria Steinem teaches that feminism must include support for men as they take on roles in families that may have traditionally fallen in the “nurturing” category. She is completely right on that point in my opinion.

For my part, I may work 60 hours a week but the academic environment also allows flexibility so I don’t have to be at my desk in order to be working. This means that I too can be flexible to help out at my son’s school sometimes or leave work early for a PTA meeting, then pick up my laptop later in the evening. It may provide an opportunity to work all the time but it also gives me a chance to juggle more efficiently. I also will admit that my car is a mess. I often freak out on Sunday nights when I look at the week ahead. At times, I don’t keep up with my kids on social media as I should, or overlook dust for a very long period of time. I can get overly list oriented and I have been known to drink a glass of wine when I have to help my son (who has ADD) with his homework in the evening.

I find the most solace from women friends who can also admit that they are holding it together with strings sometimes. It is the rare day that I’m good at pulling off all my different roles well. Julie Zaharatos, EWSE Leadership Team member, reflected that she and her friends often feel like they are ducks. They may look calm on the surface, but underneath the water they are furiously peddling their feet to stay afloat. At the end of the day, knowing that I did my best is what matters to me. As we begin this busy time of festivities and expectations, I hope we all can embrace the mess, mania and magic of the season. And also maybe turn off email and sleep in!

Sarah Verbiest, DrPH, MSW, MPH is the Director and Co-Founder of the Every Woman Southeast Coalition. She is also the Executive Director for UNC Center for Maternal and Infant Health and the CDC Senior Consultant to the National Preconception Health and Health Care Initiative.

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