While browsing through The Atlantic, one article caught my eye because it perfectly describes what I am facing at this very moment and asks the burning question:
“Can women have it all?”
Can women have the significant other, the children and the career in equal, consistent measure?
Professor Anne-Marie Slaughter, director of policy planning for the U.S. State Department, says with resounding confidence, “No.”
“Among those who have made it to the top, a balanced life still is more elusive for women than it is for men. A simple measure is how many women in top positions have children compared with their male colleagues. Every male Supreme Court justice has a family. Two of the three female justices are single with no children. And the third, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, began her career as a judge only when her younger child was almost grown. The pattern is the same at the National Security Council: Condoleezza Rice, the first and only woman national-security adviser, is also the only national-security adviser since the 1950s not to have a family.”
This proves that mothers, who are also career women, still have choices to make, even when for many people, depending on perspective, the answer seems clear.
In the past year, I have temporarily relocated, lost my father who was the breath that I breathe, lost one job, gained three more, discovered that son #3 is on the way, while still trying to find a little time to spend with my husband and our two sons. Family members are quick to say, “Slow down.” But how do you slow down when you have ambitions? How do you slow down when one lull in productivity ensures that the next writer, the next commentator, the next editor — with no children and a willingness to work for crumbs — will slide right in and the walls come tumbling down? Colleagues are quick to say, “Keep grinding.” But how do you keep grinding when, in the back of your mind, you see the disappointment in your children’s eyes because of four little words: “Mommy has to work.”
According to Slaughter, the answer lies in normalizing motherhood in the professional sphere:
“… whenever I am introduced at a lecture or other speaking engagement, I insist that the person introducing me mention that I have two sons. It seems odd to me to list degrees, awards, positions, and interests and not include the dimension of my life that is most important to me—and takes an enormous amount of my time. As Secretary Clinton once said in a television interview in Beijing when the interviewer asked her about Chelsea’s upcoming wedding: “That’s my real life.”
“This does not mean that you should insist that your colleagues spend time cooing over pictures of your baby or listening to the prodigious accomplishments of your kindergartener. It does mean that if you are late coming in one week, because it is your turn to drive the kids to school, that you be honest about what you are doing. Indeed, Sheryl Sandberg recently acknowledged not only that she leaves work at 5:30 to have dinner with her family, but also that for many years she did not dare make this admission, even though she would of course make up the work time later in the evening. Her willingness to speak out now is a strong step in the right direction.”
I’m not sure how this work-life balance thing works and I won’t pretend to know all of the answers. But what I do know is “having it all” needs to be re-evaluated.
Weigh in, Clutchettes: How do you balance children and career?