Sarah Jakes Roberts: You Have To Determine Which Sacrifices You Make For Your Family And Career—Not Society
Everyday women are constantly required to prioritize when it comes to family planning and career goals; however, Gabrielle Union’s recent comments about “barrenness” being the “penance” for career women, and Tyra Banks’ emotional revelation pertaining to her current fertility struggles, has sparked an interesting conversation across digital platforms. We were recently able to catch up with Sarah Jakes Roberts, author and daughter of mega church pastor T.D. Jakes, to discuss her new parenting book, Dear Mary, and of course, we had to ask her to weigh in on the hot button topic.
MN: What inspired your latest book, Dear Mary?
It was after a book tour. I realized that my kids had changed so much during the three months of the tour, and I wasn’t gone the entire three months, but the travel had died down and once I got back into our everyday routine I realized that I have a 12-year-old son—who is right on the cusp of adolescence and all of the drama that comes with that. Then, I have a daughter who is five and dealing with social pressures, peer pressure and insecurity. At first, I thought that I was entering the easy part because for the most part, they’re pretty self-sufficient but I realized that you just exchange one period for another. And during this period, I realized that it was just really going to be a faith walk to really understand how to guide them and protect them—not just from outer, physical dangers like electrical outlets and jumping in the pool, but about how to become an adult—a human full of hope and faith in a world that can give you so many reasons to be disappointed.
MN: What are some of the topics that readers can expect you to broach in Dear Mary?
I talk about Mary from a very practical level. Obviously, she’s an incredible figure in the Bible, but I really wanted to make her a human mother having the experience of raising a son. So some of the issues we discuss are How did you tell Jesus that Joseph wasn’t his father? I mean, we know that he was divine, but at some point, she probably had to have a conversation with him to really help him understand “your life is very different than what you may perceive it to be.” We talk about baby daddy issues. We discuss what happens when your child is different and doesn’t really fit in. You know, how do I deal with my child’s differences? We talk about letting them go—letting them grow and mature. How do we let them grow without feeling like they don’t need us anymore? I discuss human nature issues that mothers deal with as their children grow and evolve.
MN: It’s funny that you say you address that Joseph wasn’t Jesus’ biological father. Does Dear Mary also address stepparenting and blended families?
Absolutely! I’m in a blended family as well. My husband and I will be married a year in November. Finding your place and your voice as a mother—and a stepmother— is definitely addressed in the book.
One thing that I would encourage readers to do as they prepare to blend their family is to really ask, “What is my role in this child’s life?” and realizing that the role can have its own definition. There are so many stepmother roles that people like to play. Some say, “My stepmother and I don’t get along,” but I’ve seen some really beautiful stepmother-stepdaughter relationships. But you have to be open to that relationship have its own definition.
MN: I read a quote that you posted on Instagram about allowing your children to be who they are instead of you want them to be. Within the church, there are a lot of pressures and expectations placed on the children of preachers and those in ministry. Any advice on how moms can shield their children from these pressures?
I think too often parent-child relationships become dictatorships, but in reality, we can’t learn to read or raise children we don’t understand. So I think that a way of avoiding this idea that they have to live a life exactly how we think they should live is recognizing their own personalities, gifts, and offerings. And also, teaching them to nurture those talents and gifts with wisdom. You know, not trying to create these little robots who become a reflection of who we think they should be.
MN: You share a lot of positive affirmations on your social media accounts, and I know you spoke openly about your former marriage and issues of infidelity. How were you able to walk into this new marriage without allowing baggage from the past to hold you down?
Everything I write on Instagram is something that I’ve told myself at some point in the way. Literally, I’ll have a thought, and I’ll jot it down and put in on Instagram. I think that part of the challenge in having a platform is that it’s difficult not to become an authority on subjects. But the reality is that I’m walking it out just like the people who follow me and the people who are invested in my journey. When I post things, though it is affirming, it’s because it affirmed me first, and I know that it will touch someone else.
It can be very challenging not to bring those past hurts into relationships. I talk all of the time about making a conscious decision to move forward, forgiveness, forgiving yourself and learning the lessons that that pain carried you. You can go into new experiences feeling empowered to not be abused or victimized, but see it as an opportunity to become better.
MN: Gabrielle Union recently discussed not having children yet and the struggle that career women face when it comes to having children and feeling like they have to sometimes choose between the two. What are your thoughts on the balancing act that is being a career woman and a mom and the notion of having it all?
It’s certainly a balancing act that cannot be underestimated. Listen, I need naps. But I think it’s all about what you consider having it all. I do think that we make sacrifices for our families and for our careers, but you have to determine for yourself—not by society or corporate America’s standards—what having it all looks like for you. And once you determine what having it all looks like for you, you can make decisions for yourself personally and career wise, that reflect what you believe to be your ultimate goal. But I do believe that there is this penalty for wanting to a career that is successful and also have a family. I think it comes down to freeing yourself from the opinions of people and determining that this is what I want my life to look like. This is what I want to sacrifice. This is what I’m willing to invest in order to make that dream a reality and truly become comfortable with your own process.