Mommy Wars: Another Bill of Goods Comes Due

Mommy Wars: Another Bill of Goods Comes Due

Can women have it all?

I am drawn to the topic as: 1)  a child of the first generation of women to enter the workforce; and 2) the father of three girls.

The latest entrant to the conversation is Anne-Marie Slaughter, an academic and former top official State Department, whose article "Why Women Still Can't Have It All" appears in the current issue of The Atlantic.

Slaughter left what she describes as a "foreign policy dream job"  to spend time with her two sons, a choice made by women on a regular basis.

My initial reaction was "boo hoo."

Here is a highly educated, wealthy, successful woman, married to an equally successful man, who had the luxury to leave her job in Washington D.C. and return to her hardscrabble life as a tenured dean at Princeton.

The article targets a narrow audience; women who aspire be C-level executives  in the corporate world or hold top posts in government.  She does allow (six pages into the article) that most women "aren't privileged enough to have choices in the first place."  For example, I would love to hear the perspective of women like the miners in the film North Country.

Slaughter says women who manage to be both mothers and top professionals are either rich, superhuman or self-employed.  In order for women to ascend to the top, she says, employers must offer: 1) flexible hours; 2) investment intervals (choosing career plateaus in order to maintain a family situation); and 3) family comes first management.  The resulting Fortune 500 utopia is what I call "Corporate Candyland."

 Here's what I know:

The notion that any of us can "have it all" is hooey.  Men and women make choices in the workplace.  As someone who spent years in the corporate world, I dealt with both managers and colleagues who believed family got in the way of work.  Slaughter refers to "time macho,"  the notion that more hours worked is better, as a deterrent to productivity.

Years ago a friend told me about his boss, a woman, asking that he come in on Saturday before making it clear that she didn't want to hear "about any child care issues."

"It's called parenting," he replied.

That's a value choice, at which point any employee has to make one also, unless you think you can outlast the boss (been there, done that).

Former General Electric CEO Jack Welch said it best.  “There are work-life choices, and you make them, and they have consequences.”

What have your experiences been in the workplace?  I would enjoy hearing from you.

Of course the perfect way to create work-life balance is to like us on Facebook.



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  • I was a stay at home mom for 25 years. I know, I'm a dinosaur. I was made fun of for staying home and taking care of my own children and "not using my mind." We lived modestly on my husband's salary and still do. My part-time job pays for nothing, but I wanted to get back in the work force before I was too old.

    The benefits of my staying home were the great memories I have with my children and the best part is, that they are healthy, happy and productive members of society. We always got compliments on our children as they grew up, and we still do and they are adults now.

    It didn't matter to my husband and I that we had a new car every couple of years (we drove 20 yr. old cars most of our married life!) and we didn't move to the suburbs.

    I didn't "want it all." I had it all.

  • In reply to siblingless:

    Pam thanks so much for reading and your comments. It sounds like you did have it all, and you are hardly a dinosaur. I know plenty of stay at home moms, and dads. My male peers view the world differently, generally, than Don Draper and the Mad Men gang.

  • Very interesting. I do agree it comes down to a choice. As a child growing up in a single parent home, I understand the need for a parent to work to survive, but also the big need for parents to spend time with their children. Maybe it is a balance between the time required to achieve a modest income and the time to spend with family. They seem inversely proportional, ultimately having one for most people means having less than the other. Thank you for sharing this.

  • Carlo thanks for reading and your comment. Most parents (myself included) sacrifice at times in order to do what's best for them and their family. Ultimately it's a question of values and the reality of today's workplace.

  • I am so glad to read that you agree both women *and* men can't have it all. My husband, who works a long day, doesn't work as long a day as some other men in his profession - he makes sure to have plenty of family time.

    Unfortunately, sometimes we have to learn the hard way what is a good balance for our own individual cases. I am a self-employed freelancer so I can have flexibility and be there for my family when they need me.

  • In reply to Leora:

    Leora thank you for reading and taking the time to comment. As much as we try to find balance, both men and women are bound to miss out at some level. It all goes to quickly doesn't it?

  • Great post, Bill. I purposefully stayed away from commentary on this article until I wrote my own, as I wanted my thoughts to be mine alone. I was on vacation a few weeks ago with four other families. One night, after the kids were all tucked away, the ten adults discussed this article in depth. Five men and five women who agreed with you -- it is not possible to have it all. There are always consequences to our choices. Well done. MTM.

  • In reply to Mary Tyler Mom:

    Thanks Sheila. The Jack Welch quote resonated with me, and the notion that men make plenty of career sacrifices also. Loved your post also!

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