Women can’t have it all
Thursday, 28 June 2012 17:45 GMT
I have a husband (going into 21 years of marriage), three children, a demanding career and a ministry at my church that helps people learn to manage their money. When people hear about all the things I’m committed to do, they either ask, “How do you do it all?” or “When do you have time for everything?”
“I don’t sleep much,” is my standard answer to both questions.
And I don’t. I might average five hours a night trying to do it all. But every few weeks, the lack of sleep catches up with me, and I crash, spending a Saturday curled under my bed covers shooing away kids, husband and callers. The only other way I keep so many balls in the air is because I have control over my work schedule, a situation that is not typical for many working women – or men.
So I agree with the July/August Atlantic magazine cover story in which Anne-Marie Slaughter, the first woman to be director of policy planning at the State Department and the mother of two teenage boys, dared to say that many modern-day women trying to balance a demanding career and raise a family can’t do it all – at least not well.
“When people asked why I had left government, I explained that I’d come home not only because of Princeton’s rules (after two years of leave, you lose your tenure), but also because of my desire to be with my family and my conclusion that juggling high-level government work with the needs of two teenage boys was not possible,” Slaughter wrote.
And, most important, Slaughter confessed: “I’d been the woman smiling the faintly superior smile while another woman told me she had decided to take some time out or pursue a less competitive career track so that she could spend more time with her family. I’d been the woman congratulating herself on her unswerving commitment to the feminist cause, chatting smugly with her dwindling number of college or law-school friends who had reached and maintained their place on the highest rungs of their profession. I’d been the one telling young women at my lectures that you can have it all and do it all, regardless of what field you are in. Which means I’d been part, albeit unwittingly, of making millions of women feel that they are to blame if they cannot manage to rise up the ladder as fast as men and also have a family and an active home life (and be thin and beautiful to boot).”
Here’s another important observation from Slaughter, who was addressing a specific demographic—highly educated, affluent women who are privileged to have choices in the first place: “The minute I found myself in a job that is typical for the vast majority of working women (and men), working long hours on someone else’s schedule, I could no longer be both the parent and the professional I wanted to be—at least not with a child experiencing a rocky adolescence. I realized what should have perhaps been obvious: having it all, at least for me, depended almost entirely on what type of job I had. The flip side is the harder truth: having it all was not possible in many types of jobs, including high government office—at least not for very long.”