So, about a month ago, the interwebs went wild over Princeton professor Anne-Marie Slaughter’s explanation of why women still can’t have it all.
Reactions ranged from “At last! Finally someone gets it!” to “Uh, excuse me, poor/single/minority women have been forced to DO it all for years and no one has batted an eye!”
With respect to the latter point, Slaughter is very clear that she is not speaking for all of womankind and acknowledges that she is operating from a place of privilege:
I am well aware that the majority of American women face problems far greater than any discussed in this article. I am writing for my demographic—highly educated, well-off women who are privileged enough to have choices in the first place. We may not have choices about whether to do paid work, as dual incomes have become indispensable. But we have choices about the type and tempo of the work we do.
Holding all of that aside, the piece really resonated with me and several other professional women I know (as evidenced by the constant facebook postings, retweets, forwarded emails and so on).
In the days and then weeks following the article’s publication, I planned to write a brilliant, ground-breaking response – one that synthesized all of the spin-off articles and came up with THE solution that has alluded the modern working woman for decades.
But I didn’t.
I didn’t have the time.
Yes. Single, childless Curvy CEO could not find the time. Between working a 12-14 hour a day job, keeping my apartment looking semi-decent, fitting in some exercise and tending to relationships with my family, friends and even a gentleman caller or two, I could not find the time.
Even when I did find the time, I felt an enormous amount of pressure . . . like I had to write THE best blog post ever because hundreds (well, tens) of readers were counting on me to come up with a solution. (This pressure – rooted in my perfectionism – seems to be another symptom of trying to “have it all”.)
The fact that Professor Slaughter’s article pretty much obliterates my typical take on the “having it all” debate didn’t help either. Up until this point, I felt confident that you could, in fact, have it all . . . just not all at the same time. I believe this so strongly, I even have a little plaque in my apartment that says as much . . . see?
In response to this notion, Slaughter writes:
Young women should be wary of the assertion “You can have it all; you just can’t have it all at once.” This 21st-century addendum to the original line is now proffered by many senior women to their younger mentees. To the extent that it means, in the words of one working mother, “I’m going to do my best and I’m going to keep the long term in mind and know that it’s not always going to be this hard to balance,” it is sound advice. But to the extent that it means that women can have it all if they just find the right sequence of career and family, it’s cheerfully wrong.
The most important sequencing issue is when to have children….A child born when his mother is 25 will finish high school when his mother is 43, an age at which, with full-time immersion in a career, she still has plenty of time and energy for advancement. Yet, this sequence has fallen out of favor with many high-potential women, and understandably so. People tend to marry later now, and anyway, if you have children earlier, you may have difficulty getting a graduate degree, a good first job, and opportunities for advancement in the crucial early years of your career. Making matters worse, you will also have less income while raising your children, and hence less ability to hire the help that can be indispensable to your juggling act.
So, what then is an ambitious, yet family-oriented woman to do?
I think it boils down to acknowledging the different trade-offs you will have to make and being brave enough to make those tough choices. I know that for me, personally, I am constantly being reminded by my friends and family to “slow down” and “not be so busy” with my career and hobbies (of which there are many) that I don’t carve out time to meet The One and build a family. Above all, I try to keep the words of another plaque in my home at the forefront of my mind:
Tomorrow, I’ll share what some mommy bloggers had to say on this issue. In the meantime, here are some interesting books you might want to check out on the subject.
Having It All? : Black Women and Success In Her Own Sweet Time: Unexpected Adventures in Finding Love, Commitment, and Motherhood 20-Something, 20-Everything: A Quarter-life Woman’s Guide to Balance and Direction Midlife Crisis at 30: How the Stakes Have Changed for a New Generation–And What to Do about It
What about you, dear readers? What are your thoughts on the notion of “having it all”?
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