This is sort of a Marriage Monday post, although I think ideally the subject matter affects men and women, married and single, gay and straight.
and sooo….segue. Have you read the Atlantic Monthly article, Why Women Still Can’t Have it All? If not, here’s the link: http://bit.ly/MMyR9Q - Don’t worry – we’ll wait. See you in a month or so…
The only way I found time to even read this article was because E. went down for bed around seven on Friday night and S. had a work event. With most of my house currently under construction, including the kitchen, I didn’t have much on my “to-do” list to prevent me from reading Slaughter’s article. I’ve thought about a million different ways to approach posting about this article but instead I’ve decided to post the first five thoughts that I can reasonably organize into bullet points, and see what you all think.
Here we go.
- Okay, this is a non-bullet – and rather facetious, but one of my first thoughts was, the author must never talk to her mother. Or, if she does, her mother is very very different than mine, who requires at least three hours of conversation a week. Bare minimum.
- First of all, phew. I am exhausted. Every single graph of this piece possesses a frenetic feel, as though the writer is writing it as much for her own self as the rest of her readership. To me, this piece has just so much to unpack that it is almost hard to focus – it is argumentative, defensive, well-written, large in scope – as a writer I don’t feel Slaughter left us room to breath and absorb what she is saying. She spent so much of her time defending her point of view, acknowledging that this argument doesn’t necessarily apply to lower-middle class and lower class families – in short, defending every area where she could be attacked that I didn’t feel there was enough space to take in all of her very valid points.
- Ultimately, and this may sound awful, I am not someone who worries about “having it all.” So I wonder if this is more of an issue for women of her (readily acknowledged) class and rank? Okay, let me see if I can unpack what I mean here…we didn’t have much money growing up. I remember when Cabbage Patch dolls were incredibly popular and that is all I wanted for Christmas and my mom, God bless her, MADE me one because my parents couldn’t afford a store-bought doll. I loved that doll so much – I still remember her name. Alice. From a very young age I understood that if I wanted to go to college (let alone graduate school!) scholarships would have to play a very major role, and even then it probably couldn’t be an incredibly expensive college, and also if my parents were going to assist in my college-going experience (which they certainly did) they weren’t going to support a theater major, and, well – fifteen year old me would have considered “having it all” to mean the financial wherewithal to pursue my art without compromise – and the sacrifice for that would certainly be living a life without much, if any money. Times have certainly changed and it turned out that I ended up much more pragmatic than I ever would have thought but my point here is even as an adolescent, I understood the concept of trade-offs. Pursuing a career in acting equalled a life of not a lot of money but the ability to do what I wanted. My thinking now, as a mother, is not really any different -I chose to have my daughter. She takes an incredible amount of time. In exchange, I will probably not end up running the hospital system I work for – and I am okay with this. I understand that Slaughter is arguing that this very kind of thinking is what is wrong in our society, but it is how I feel – it is how my mind, my personality works.
- I understand that Slaughter had to bring her personal life into this piece to make it work but I found out she left so much out – probably to protect her family – that I struggled with fully believing her position. She doesn’t talk about any strife between her and her husband while she spent time away from home working but surely, there must have been…I don’t care if you are a man or a woman, if you are working and left with a majority of the parenting issues are bound to crop up. She doesn’t share any late night fights she and her husband may have had – any passing of the blame – she solely talks about her relationship with her husband through the lense of her sons, and this is something I could never, ever do. In the piece she writes about spending from 6-8 pm at home, as though this choice allows for enough time to be a parent. And who knows, it may…but then, when do you have time to be a wife? I don’t think S. and I could survive without time to ourselves. Sure, we commit ourselves fully to E when she is awake…but when she is asleep we spend time together. A few hours a day isn’t enough to be part of a family, in my opinion – and I noticed the fact she didn’t address it. Now, I’m more than fine with the fact she didn’t want to but I am willing to bet there were several late-night, raised-voice conversations between Slaughter and her husband before she left her job in Washington.
- Even though it might seem like I have a negative reaction to her story, I really don’t. I agree with many of her points, especially the idea that school schedules should match work schedules. That could address a lot of working parent issues. I find her clarion call at the end, and her stress on the importance of more female leaders in order to improve things for women, everywhere, as incredibly important. She acknowledges that these problems are very much problems only to those of us who can afford the time to intellectualize “having it all” – but it is also those of us who should be pursuing better lives for all women.
- Final bullet! I could write so much more! Anyway…I think my ultimate issue is with the idea of “having it all.” Do I believe in a more intelligent way to approach work/life balance? Of course. Do I believe in the necessity of more women in positions of power? Absolutely. But I also recognize trade-offs are bound to happen – we all have a dozen different kinds of potential within us – we could all have led different lives. The choices we make in the past define who we currently are, and, being the kind of person I am, with the kind of heart I have – I would not be able to work at the level Slaughter works. I just know it. I can actually say I do (often) love my job – I believe in doing good work for a good cause and I don’t stress about working over 40 hours a week or on the occasional weekend, but I also need time in life to read books, watch tv, practice yoga, write, play with my kid, decorate my house and cook dinner. And no matter how much I love my work, I also want to bear witness to the life I am fortunate enough to lead – including time with my parents as they age, hours with S. on our back porch, watching E. and the dog play in the backyard. I want to read great books and ponder curtain colors and enjoy, as I did this past Saturday, long brunches with my friends and their children. I am fine with not having it all, but maybe that’s because I’m so grateful for what I do have, and am also cognizant of just how much work it takes to maintain?
Blarg. So much here. Did you read it? What did you think?