VOICES: YWCA Dayton has been calling women to balance since 1870

Credit: Knack Video + Photo

Credit: Knack Video + Photo

There is a question we all hear often; and one that when answered spawns the need to be asked again and again. The answer to this question does not quite satisfy; and in fact, I think for a moment it may quench the need to know; but then, is quickly followed up by: How?

This question and its answer are upheld as a professional achievement; a badge of honor for women, to show to women, to talk about to women, but it is also a weapon that holds us hostage to a definition that does not take in the whole of us. It does not consider the multi-dimensional facets of a woman that moves through moments; nor her innate wisdom for caring for children, families, communities, responding to trauma, crisis, in caring for herself, the answer does not take in consideration the compass that is uniquely hers, a metronome that keeps pace; her pace on where balance is.

The question is: How do you achieve work-life balance?

I often grapple with how to answer the question. I spend time trying to determine if it is achievable for those who want to achieve it in an organization that is overlaid with what has been called an unachievable mission: We will eliminate racism and we will empower women while promoting peace, freedom, justice and dignity for all people.

It is not the promotion of peace, freedom, justice and dignity for all people that gives me pause; it is the commitment and the will to eliminate racism and empower women. How does answering to intersectionality, gender crisis, class crisis, segregation crisis, while many voices are still marginalized and for some further away through all of this increase of crisis — bear more balance?

The last time we were here, we hadn’t yet responded to increase shut-ins, decreased housing stock, increased stress, increased intimate partner violence, sexual violence, imminent danger, increased calls, and increased walk-ins, our decreased patience, decreased capacity, a decrease in coping skills and a decrease to handle all of the increase.

Answering how to achieve work-life balance while trying to achieve a balance for a mission that compels us to give our all, to give our best, to give our most excellent because the increase is so great and so constant, it calls some of us to respond — is how we answer. A mission that moves us on any given day to anger, to frustration, exasperation and compassion, but also demands an incredible largesse of dedication, energetic striving, a solid readiness and an unyielding commitment — to what people say is the unachievable. But that is the answer. The balance is what compels you every day to wake up and know that you are made to achieve what others believe is unachievable. The balance makes you full even when you are physically tired. It calls you beyond what is before your eyes and pulls your within. And then it sustains, and keeps you, and refreshes you. And it assures you that without checking in, it is…your balance.

The YWCA Dayton’s mission has been calling women to balance since 1870. Compelling us to see the injustices amongst us and stretch beyond ourselves to make a more just, a more peaceful, a more balanced place for freedom for all people. Our balance is the work we do 365 days a year, 24-hours a day and every moment that we have, working for the absolute dignity of others. We are the carriers of our load and the refresher of our spirits; we stand against racism, and sit for peace; we speak for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are without voice, we work with eager hands, offering housing, food, clothing and shelter; we never sleep; our lights never flicker; we invest in this community, we invest in people, and give of our time, our talent and our treasure; we work vigorously with arms that are strong for the task; we are your sister, your mother and your children, we are the first responders, the last ones to say good-bye and good luck.

The answer to how to find balance is not allowing anyone else’s definition to be the dictum of the work that you do; that you are made to carry and where you have been called to speak, to challenge, to build is the balance. Know that you are endowed by your grandmother’s grandmother’s energy — without genetic compromise — it is the energy which compels you to move, to know when and how you are balanced. It is what you are called to do, gifted to do, made to do. It is in the doing.

How do you achieve work life balance? It is less a measure of time and more a measure of your joy; it is less a value of your day and more, a value of your purpose; it is in your mission. And in the balance of achieving your mission, the YWCA achieves the balance of ours mission.

Shannon Isom is the CEO of YWCA Dayton.

YWCA Women of Influence

On Thursday, March 10, YWCA Dayton honored eight women during its 2022 Women of Influence awards luncheon. To commemorate Womens History Month, Ideas & Voices partnered with the YWCA to share some of the speeches given at the event.

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