“Maybe young women don’t wonder whether they can have it all any longer, but in case any of you are wondering, of course you can have it all. What are you going to do? Everything, is my guess. It will be a little messy, but embrace the mess. It will be complicated, but rejoice in the complications. It will not be anything like what you think it will be like, but surprises are good for you. And don’t be frightened: you can always change your mind. I know: I’ve had four careers and three husbands.”
It seems to be work-life balance / motherhood / daddyhood week here. But really, Internet-with-a-capital-I, you shape the dialogue.
Anne-Marie Slaughter’s Atlantic cover story “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All” is generating that perfect storm of talk and traffic. After two years in her dream job, as the State Department’s first woman Director of Policy Planning, she had to quit. Her family needed her.
Women today are better educated than men and hold increasingly more powerful professional positions, yet most of the highest ranking jobs are still held by men. Why?
In her piece, Slaughter feels that women today are falsely told they can have it all. She believes dialogue like Sheryl Sandberg’s commencement a address to Barnard’s graduating class,” contains more than a note of reproach,” because “the women who have managed to be both mothers and top professionals are superhuman, rich, or self-employed.” Yes, we have the brains, but are we allowed the flexibility required to be both parents and professionals?
Formerly a professor and a dean at Yale, Slaughter had always considered herself fortunate to have flexibility in her career. Except she…
“had no idea how lucky until I spent two years in Washington within a rigid bureaucracy, even with bosses as understanding as Hillary Clinton and her chief of staff, Cheryl Mills. My workweek started at 4:20 on Monday morning, when I got up to get the 5:30 train from Trenton to Washington. It ended late on Friday, with the train home. In between, the days were crammed with meetings, and when the meetings stopped, the writing work began—a never-ending stream of memos, reports, and comments on other people’s drafts. For two years, I never left the office early enough to go to any stores other than those open 24 hours, which meant that everything from dry cleaning to hair appointments to Christmas shopping had to be done on weekends, amid children’s sporting events, music lessons, family meals, and conference calls. I was entitled to four hours of vacation per pay period, which came to one day of vacation a month. And I had it better than many of my peers in D.C.; Secretary Clinton deliberately came in around 8 a.m. and left around 7 p.m., to allow her close staff to have morning and evening time with their families (although of course she worked earlier and later, from home).
Ah. No one has to line up, for anyone, that being a parent on that schedule (even with a husband willing to shoulder more responsibility) is ridiculously untenable. And, naturally, women are “not going to choose to do both if it keeps coming down to a choice between one or the other,” i.e. career or their children.
When will we stop having to adjust to the workplace and when will the workplace adjust to us?
Two great pieces.
The original Atlantic piece.
Edith Zimmerman’s interview with Anne-Marie Slaughter, in which she asks, “How do I be more like you?”
“To be honest, one day I’m absolutely fine and happy and, you know, start legitimately thinking about the idea of having kids, and the other day, I’m like ‘oh gosh, no, no, what?’ I can barely keep my own schedule straight,”
“Right now in my life, I’m smart enough to know that I’m a selfish person right now, and I can be, and that’s OK. There’s nothing wrong with that. At least I recognize it.”
“That’s a big step,” she said. “It’s like moving away from home. It’s really scary until you do it and then you figure it out.”
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