photo by Dan Wehmer

Speaking Personally: How I do it all

(I wrote this while my kids were asleep)
To all the young girls reading this, please know that “baby” is not a four-letter word
Two weeks ago, I accepted the presidential gavel of the Ozark Press Association. In the 134-year history of the OPA, I am the eleventh woman to do so. Of these eleven, I can’t be sure how many are mothers. I am morally certain, however, that I am the only OPA president to ever accept that gavel with a newborn baby in my arms.
My youngest daughter, Geraldine, is five weeks old in the picture you see here. 
At the annual conventions, members vote on a proposed slate of officers, so my nomination and subsequent election wasn’t a surprise. As I dressed for the day, the traditional gavel hand-off photo was very much on my mind. True, I was apprehensive about being photographed so soon after having a baby.
But in the forefront of my mind were the young women of our community. I knew they would see this picture and perhaps wonder how I could do it. Today’s column is for them. I am printing this picture here to show a living, breathing, albeit exhausted, example that motherhood is not an enemy of achievement.
I am a mother of four. And I am a newspaper publisher/editor/reporter/ad rep. There is no job, large or small, that I have not done in service of this newspaper. Most of the time, I do this work with at least one child in tow. 
Every day, someone asks me how I ‘do it all.’ The truth is, I don’t know.
I do know that I have been much more successful since my children have been born, and some of my most impressive achievements have happened while I had a baby in my arms or in my belly. 
I don’t think I’m special or that I’ve led a charmed life. And I really do not believe that my experience is necessarily remarkable. 
Given the chance (or no other choice), motherhood has sparked a flame in every ambitious woman I know. In my experience, mothers who started as girls with goals learn and grow in the environment of motherhood. It’s a tempering furnace. It’s grinding exhaustion. It’s sanctifying work.
The older I get, the more I’ve come to believe that a life full of hard work is the best-kept secret to lasting happiness.
Motherhood is all-consuming. Planned or unplanned, it changes your priorities completely. For every driven woman I know, this has been a good thing. Because motherhood requires women to pour themselves out completely for the sake of their children. I have found that my worst faults have had to be poured out too. There’s no time for my lazy selfishness. There’s no time for my flair for the dramatic. If I want to run my small corner of the world and care for my kids, there’s no time to waste at all. For this all to work, I must be the best version of me every day.
I have asked a lot of myself, and with God’s grace, I’ve been able to answer. I’ve been extremely grateful for the full days that feel so long even as the passing years seem so short. 
To all the young girls reading this, please know that “baby” is not a four-letter word. You do not have to choose. Your future children are not obstacles to the things you may want in life. They are not the enemy of your goals, either in the home or in the world.
It won’t be easy. In fact, it will feel impossible most of the time, but that doesn’t mean it is impossible. If I can do it, you can too. 
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