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Thursday, June 21, 2012

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Anne-Marie Slaughter on Family and Career, and Actually Having Both

"All my life ... 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)."

In the cover story of The Atlantic's summer issue, "Why Women Still Can't Have It All" (out today), Anne-Marie Slaughter — professor of politics and international affairs at Princeton, director of policy planning at the State Department from 2009 to 2011, and mother of two — takes an honest and critical look at the ways women are currently encouraged to balance family and career. Summary: It's not great! The piece is an excellent read, but then please come back here, because we interviewed her about the article, her marriage, raising children, and the practical, doable ideas she has for making things better for everyone. (And it's too bad there's no audio here, because she has a wonderful laugh.)

Edith Zimmerman: You mention that you started trying to have kids at 35. Had that been part of you and your husband’s plan? And when did you have the conversation about who would take care of the children during what years, or did it just happen naturally?

Anne-Marie Slaughter: Well, let’s see. First place, I’d gotten married for the second time at 35. So I had been married in my 20s and then divorced around age 30, and then fell madly in love with my current husband somewhere around 1990, and we got married in 1993, and started trying pretty much immediately. It took three years, and I was a tenured law professor, and he was still getting tenure when we had kids, so there was never any question that I was going to have a completely full-time career. And as it evolved, we traded off: I took six months of maternity leave, and he took six months, and we each got a semester off. He was a completely active, engaged father from the beginning. We never had any conversation about who was going to stay home, [but] if anybody ever had to, it probably would have been him, because in terms of who’s earning more money, I would have had to stay on the job.

Right. Did you ever have live-in help, nannies, or neighborhood family day care at any point?

We had daycare from three months on. Very good daycare, one of the things many women unfortunately do not have access to. It was provided first through Harvard and then Princeton, and then since we moved to Princeton and I became dean, we’ve had a full-time housekeeper. Never a live-in. I think we tried a live-in once and it lasted three days.

But we’ve been able to always live and work very close by, and just made it work.

Do you have any advice for what makes your husband such a good partner, or what makes the two of you such a good team as far as raising kids and having full careers go?

Well. Good question. He’s a — well, let’s put it this way. He’s a very secure man! [Laughs] Which is a good thing. And he’s a man who’s always had many, many women friends, and many girlfriends, and is very comfortable in his own skin as a man. He’s motivated by different things than I am. But we were always going to be a team. And it has helped enormously that we’re pretty much in the same business. My first husband was a bio-physicist who also had a medical degree, so we were in very different fields, and it’s been important over the years that Andy and I really share a world. Less so once I became dean and went to government, but essentially we both do international relations, which has been very helpful. But look, we invented parenting as we went along. And we often have different ideas about parenting, but we’re very complementary parents, and I think he’s emerged as a father in ways that probably would have surprised him when we got married.

I also really liked the concept of “putting money in the family bank” with the sabbatical to Shanghai, and I was hoping you could talk a little bit about what you did there, and the most valuable parts of your stay.

Yeah, that was absolutely essential. Again, we were fortunate that we got a sabbatical, although deans don’t normally get sabbaticals. But I pretty much asked for it. Lesson one: ask. But it was so important that the four of us were all in a completely strange place.

How old were your kids at that point?

They were eight and ten. And it was a big deal, you know? We took them out of this nice public elementary school in Princeton, New Jersey, which is a town of 22,000, and we plopped them into a city of closer to 22 million — not quite, but 18 — and it was a country we’d never been to, a language we didn’t speak, a culture we didn’t know. I mean, if we’d gone to Europe — both Andy and I are half-European, and we speak the languages, so we’d be assured adults. But in China it was our older son, Edward, who learned Chinese the best and the fastest and would bargain for us at markets and communicate with taxi drivers. So that in itself was really valuable, but it was more like this incredible, wide-eyed family adventure. Where we shared all sorts of completely ridiculous experiences navigating a very different world, and it really helped us create a tremendous bond. As hard as Washington was, if we hadn’t had China, I think it would have been much, much worse.

So obviously you’d advocate for anyone who has the means and time, or who could conceivably carve out the means and time, if at all possible, to do something like that?

Absolutely. It’s exactly what I said. Putting money in the family bank. And if you can’t take a year, maybe you could take a couple months. Doing something with your family that knocks all of you a little off kilter makes the family become your ballast, and that’s really important.

I’m also curious about the part where you say “a woman would want maximum flexibility and control over her time during the 10 years that her children are 8 to 18.”

I thought hard about that. For some people, they may feel that they really want to be home years zero through five, and then again 13 to 18. I’m not sure there’s any absolute algorithm. In my case, I found it was actually easier when they were young because it was so much more predictable. But, again, I had access to great daycare. For us, it wasn’t until they hit puberty that it just became so much more important to be home. Although, when parents used to tell me that it was more important to be there when they’re teenagers — when you’re the mother of a young child, you just can’t believe that anything could be more demanding than that. [Laughs]

And it’s true that being home when they’re this age, you have tons [more] time, because it’s not like you’re sitting there taking care of them, you’re hoping to get 10 minutes with them as you drive them someplace. So there’s plenty of time to do your own thing, it’s just that you need the flexibility.

The Mary Matalin quote at the beginning of your piece from when she was in the car, freaking out — "I finally asked myself, 'Who needs me more?' and that’s when I realized, it’s somebody else’s turn to do this job. I’m indispensable to my kids, but I’m not close to indispensable to the White House” — in my mind raised a tricky question. Because if your career isn’t something that you're the best at, and it’s more just a job you’re doing than something particularly close to your heart, but you always WILL be the best, presumably, at raising your own children, why isn’t the choice to stay home more immediately obvious? 

If Women’s Liberation meant anything, it meant giving women a full range of choices, so that if a woman thinks that that’s what she’s best at, and that’s what she’s happiest doing, then we absolutely need to validate that choice. And many women have written about that. About the importance of not buying into the idea that going to work is only done outside the home. At the same time, the whole reason there was a feminist movement in the first place was that overwhelming numbers of women found that they wanted to have more choices, so it’s not like we haven’t tried a world in which women stayed home. And I think some will, and great. I would go crazy. If I stayed home. I would go ab. Solutely. Crazy. I think my own mother, who became a professional artist, would have been happier in many ways if she’d had both a career and children when we were young, because she’s a very creative person and I think she needed an outlet other than in the house.

It’s a question of following your own instincts. But I’m pretty confident that given the right conditions, a huge number will choose to do both. But they’re not going to choose to do both if it keeps coming down to a choice between one or the other. And that’s what I meant by as long as you give me flexibility, I can do just about anything. I can work and then go home to be with my kids, and then go back to work later, or take a business trip and work like crazy, but then spend a couple days being a mom. And many women — I think virtually all women — can manage that. The problem is where they work. What Mary Matalin said, which is exactly what I kept saying to people, is “what am I doing? There are lots of people who want to be director of policy planning, but there’s nobody volunteering to be Edward’s mother." And even if they were, I wouldn’t let them! Obviously many, many women don’t have any choice about working, but those that do should hold out for work that’s fulfilling.

So people read this article, they finish it, they think, "yeah, this is great!" What then should they do? Should they take the most workable points from the piece and present them to the people who make policy at their jobs?

That’s great. If you’re in a leadership or management position, you should set about undoing the artificial segregation between work and life. In little ways. Like I mention in the piece, whenever I’m introduced, I make sure that people say that I have two sons, and I often say something like — as Hillary Clinton said — “that’s my real life.” And that’s enormously important. The minute she said that, I thought, “yeah, that’s exactly the way I feel, and it doesn’t make me any less of a professional.”

So you can make very clear that you can be the world’s most accomplished professional, and care about your kids, and talk about your kids — not to excess, I’m not suggesting we all bore each other silly. And you can embrace the idea that men and women may choose to delay a promotion to take a different career route while they’re caregivers. And, again, that could apply to taking care of your parents as well as your kids. I manage on the principle that family comes first, and I’ve never had any problem.

If you’re working [in a non-managerial position], I think absolutely you can get together with other women and men — I think you can enlist the fathers — and sit down [with policymakers] to have a conversation about more flexible time, which a lot of places are doing. Take it on directly. This culture of facetime and time macho — talk about how measuring people in terms of time management instead of time spent is a better way to go.

Most important is when thinking about the arc of your career to think not “when am I going to have to drop out?” but “how am I going to build in the flexibility to be the parent I want and the worker I want, and stay in the game?”

I just have one last question, which I hope doesn’t sound leading, because I really just mean "How can I be more like you?"

[Laughs]

But is there anything you would have done differently at any point along the way?

Hm. No. What has really shaped my life, and I just realized as you asked this question, and I never thought about it this way before — shaping my decision to leave Washington and even to write this article — is that I’ve always refused to do things because other people expected me to do them. I thought I was going to be a lawyer, I always planned to be a lawyer. Always, always, always. And I wanted to be a lawyer who would then go to work in the State Department, and I was going to go work for a big New York firm, and then work with a partner and go in and out. That’s how a lot of people got to do foreign policy in the ‘60s, ‘70s, ‘80s, all the way back for decades. And when I went to work for a big New York law firm, I realized, “I don’t want to do this.” [Laughs.] “I can’t do this. I'm not going to be happy doing this.” So I hung out for four years at Harvard getting a degree, but basically trying to figure out what on earth I was going to do, and I ended up being a professor, and I loved it. But the point is, when I wasn’t happy, I did something about it. And that’s been true here, too. I had a dream job and I loved it, but I was very much not happy and realized that even contrary to my own expectations for my own career, and I think many people’s expectations of me, I didn’t want to keep at something when I felt very unhappy, and that it was simply the wrong thing for me to be doing. I tell my students: always follow your passion, but it’s not always clear what your passion is.

So if you wake up in the morning and are really miserable about going to work, you need to have the confidence and the fortitude to find something else. And to believe that you will find something else. And if that means you need to take time out to be with your kids, or if you’re with your kids, switching careers, you can do it. I think women often insist that their work have meaning and purpose, and that they feel like integrated human beings. And that they’re better off, and our society is better off, when they have the courage and the confidence to try.

Read "Why Women Still Can't Have It All" at The Atlantic.

324 Comments / Post A Comment

noodge

this is great... Mr. Teenie and I have discussed it, and the probable path we'll take is that once I'm out of school and we start a family, he will stay at home because 1.) he's just really good at the household stuff, and 2.) I'll be making much better money. But if he is feeling inspired by his work and wants to continue then he absolutely should. Choice is so important with this stuff... you can't be a good parent (or partner) if you're feeling obliged or unfulfilled in a significant way.

leonstj

@teenie - I really love that the idea of "Choice" is becoming more important than "Career Success" to people.

I wonder sometimes...women deserve the same chances and opportunities and choices as men, that goes without say.

But maybe the thing that the patriarchy has denied women for so long is a thing that wasn't worth having? I mean, I'm a man, and while my struggle is in most ways a lot easier than an womans, ceteris paribus, I still deal with a lot of the same questions.

Partly, I think one of my goals for feminism, and why I think pieces like this (both this interview and the full Atlantic article, which really made me so happy to be a subscriber when I read it the other day) make me think that the feminist movement is going to end up not just granting women the equality they need, but may also force us as a society to really say "Okay, so now people can do these things - but should they have even wanted to?" - and hopefully make our society better functioning as an overall whole.

(And then, of course, part of me feels like an asshole for bringing the role of men into the picture at all, because society talks about men's struggles CONSTANTLY and ugh, WHY always about us. I'm sorry. So many thoughts, so much conflictedness.)

wharrgarbl

@leon.saintjean I think what you're running into is that capitalism is, by and large, anti-family, but at the same time that "thing that wasn't worth having" is both how you put food on the table and recognition that your labor is putting food on the table. Women have always worked, but they've usually been denied the gratitude, recognition, and profit it should have earned them.

stuffisthings

@leon.saintjean Yeah, I've got a huge backlog of articles about men's struggles with work-life balance to read. Oh wait.

(No but I get what you're saying and agree with you, I think.)

noodge

@leon.saintjean No, these are good question. For instance, I'm endlessly frustrated with the system of maternity and paternity leave and childcare in the US. There are many other nations/regions (HELLO SCANDINAVIA!) who seem to have sorted this out, and their societal outcomes seem to reflect positively on how they've done it. So, wow, wouldn't it be great to live in Scandinavia and be a much more involved mother?

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...maybe not? I don't really think that this sort of lifestyle would suit me. In fact I know it doesn't suit me. I'd go insane. In. Sane. So to answer your question... yes! I think that women should have wanted these things... especially the choice to want these things, because even though the decisions we have to make are difficult, SHOCKER! we're intelligent enough and mature enough to make them, and by making them we can honor our individual natures so much better than before.

stuffisthings

@wharrgarbl Feudalism, however: VERY pro-family.

wharrgarbl

@stuffisthings Well, yeah, feudalism was pro-chattel-in-general.

itmakesmewonder

This is a good important conversation to have. Regardless of gender or family status, why do we live in a society where anyone is expected to work 12+ hours a day and be on call constantly or their career suffers? I never thought of capitalism being anti-family but @wharrgarbl is totally right about it.

dontannoyme

@teenie in Sweden it's actually very much the norm for mothers to be working. The difference is that childcare is highly state subsidised and much more broadly shared between father and mother. So childcare is not a ghetto for women. I'm in the UK btw, where we have much more generous mat leave than in the US but it does create a childcare ghetto populated only by women. I would much prefer the Scandi way.

RK Fire

@dontannoyme: Is there a downside to the Scandinavian way? Seriously, I'm wondering why no other country has just gone and said "hey, you know, that works, let's do it." Is there some secret underbelly to it where actually both parents have been sacrificing their first child in order to make the system work?

wharrgarbl

@RK Fire Minorities would also get it?

RK Fire

@wharrgarbl: Ah, the thing that has fucked up so much potential social progress in the US.

stuffisthings

@RK Fire You could say the same thing about dozens of other public policy questions. I believe the response is usually "But their taxes are so hiiiiiiigh!" Because why pay a few % more in taxes when you can just pay $20,000 a year for child care on the free market?

wharrgarbl

@RK Fire Pretty much. Something can work like a dream and be the social equivalent of a rainbow delivering cupcakes and puppy-hugs while it saves you money, but if you have a sizable political wing driven by hatred, fear, and spite, they'll torpedo it rather than see it go to people they don't like.

Heat Signature

@wharrgarbl I have been known to go on long, protracted rants about the myriad ways in which capitalism hurts families and society in general, but for the sake of brevity I will simply say that I agree that it is totally fucked up that often women do not have a choice between working or staying home and must sacrifice time with their children during crucial developmental periods just to ensure their families' survival and ALSO have to utilize a substandard childcare system in order to do so. I will not go into how much I hate our "Family Medical Leave" here in the United States, but rest assured, I do. Very much so.

Kristen

@wharrgarbl Two things. One: I recently ended a heated debate with my boyfriend (!) about maternity leave by shouting, NOT EVERYONE MAY WANT TO HAVE KIDS, BUT EVERYBODY NEEDS TO GET BORN!

Second (and more relevant to your point) I liked this article quite a bit, but one thing I did not like about it was the cheery, sunny "let's all be like California; businesses will treat us all with respect if they knew how much more productive it would make us" attitude toward reform.

NO. If history has taught us anything, it's that management does not naturally have the well-being of its employees at heart. If companies can wring more work for less pay out of their employees by forcing women into a salary ghetto and diminishing their work prospects, they will do so. Princeton may be an exception, but this article will only achieve relevance to people outside an elite bubble when we recognize that companies (and countries) will start treating people fairly when they are forced to do so, and not a second before. This wide-eyed trust in the benevolence of our overlords really rubs me the wrong way.

The answer is so unpopular, but so obvious. Unions, man. Fucking unions. It's the only way.

superdreaming

@RK Fire I think the problem with the Scandinavian way is mostly super high taxes and neo-Nazis? I would love highly subsidized childcare/parental leave but I will let them keep all of the militant racists (we have enough in the US and I don't want them getting any more organized!).
But yeah, capitalism sux and basically everything @wharrgarbl says is A+.

entangled

@leon.saintjean I think you bring up some really great points, and it touches on something that I think is a big issue in the struggle for equal rights and opportunities going forward: the pressure on men to conform to societal expectations is in some ways as if not more crushing than the pressure on women.

I feel like there's this sense that women will get crap no matter what we do, but it's generally pretty acceptable to focus on children and family or to focus on work. Whereas for men, there's enormous pressure to take on the traditional male role and it's often seen as emasculating to focus on fatherhood or to not be seen as the family breadwinner. And that's not only bunk, but it's bunk that causes a lot of unnecessary pressure on women who end up working a second shift, on men who feel pushed away from being with their families, on children whose parents aren't able to provide what works best for their own family.

I absolutely do not want to minimize the issues that women, particularly lower-income women, face in balancing work and family, but I think that the rigid gender roles for men are insidious and destructive to everyone.

RK Fire

@superdreaming: The neo-Nazis aren't integral to having great maternal/paternal care though! (or are they?) That being said, I do also agree with wharrgarbl.

stuffisthings

@superdreaming You might want to check your "hate groups per capita" figures again there.

Dorothea

@arrr starr Love this.

wharrgarbl

@RK Fire Well, we have neo-Nazis and pretty crap parental leave, so I'm pretty sure the Nazi variable is functioning independently of the parental leave variable.

RK Fire

@wharrgarbl: Ha, I'm just imagining a graph of neo-Nazis vs parental leave with neo-Nazis on the y-axis and length of parental leave on the x-axis.

superdreaming

@stuffisthings Valid response to a flippant comment. All I was trying to say was that a lot of people I know who consider themselves liberal/feminist/whatever tend to hold Scandinavian countries up as these perfect places where everyone is happy and nothing sucks, which is a super white-washed view of the world. Hate groups are always terrible and I was not trying to set up a hierarchy of anything, just to point out that people need to acknowledge the flaws in the "we should all be just like Sweden!" argument! #sorry

RK Fire

@superdreaming: Yeah, as a woman of color and a daughter of refugees, I was definitely thinking "we should just be like Sweden" only with very specific regards to parental leave. I guess I could've been more clear about that. There's a reason why my parents were shooting to end up in the US and not in Europe.

SuperGogo

@RK Fire Venn diagram. They're always the answer.

josefinastrummer

@superdreaming Yeah, we don't want to LOOK like Sweden, we just want to follow some of their policies. Which is really impossible because the population of Sweden is less than 10 million. That's what drives me nuts when people say "lets be like Sweden!" Sure, if we just let New Jersey be like Sweden, it might work.

RK Fire

@josiahg: I'm still reading through this, and you're right, it is extremely interesting.

Rock and Roll Ken Doll

@RK Fire
It will lead to your asking all Germans you know: "Is it true that Germans don't want babies?"

synchronia

@RK Fire The other downside to the Swedish system is that currently 3/4 of Swedish women who work are in the public sector (vs. 3/4 of Swedish men in the private sector), and there are fewer senior female managers there than in the U.S. (http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2010/01/have-women-really-taken-over-the-workforce/33314/). I'm hoping there's some way to have their family-friendly policies and also more gender equality in business, but I guess they haven't found it yet.

RK Fire

@synchronia: Thanks for that link!

expattycake

@RK Fire The downside in Scandinavia (I'm American but have been in Norway for 10 years) is mainly that you still only have 24/7 and it's just flat out difficult to balance work and family. The problem with top jobs and family life doesn't go away and women seem to feel it more than men, but at least the politics are a lot friendlier which makes a big difference.

I think what helps a lot is that they aren't just focused on getting women into the workplace, they are actively working on making it normal and required for men to take part in the daily family life as well. It's honestly hard to list all the ways the workplace is more family friendly over here, mandatory paternity leave for starters. :/

PistolPackinMama

@itmakesmewonder Because unions are terrible institutions and we should all have the right to work without their socialist agenda getting in the way of our labor standards...

Oh hang on.

amyfairycakes

"How can I be more like you?" - It's what we were all thinking.

SarahP

This is only tangentially related, but the first paragraph reminded me of a piece The Frisky just put out about judging other ladies' choices to work and/or stay home that I really enjoyed and agreed with.

It's been really hard to figure out my career path(s) in relation to family planning. It is definitely a topic I've given a LOT of thought every time I've considered new paths in life.

queenofbithynia

@SarahP Oh, wow, I thought that piece was actively loathsome. Richly and profoundly anti-feminist insofar as it was explicitly anti-intellect for women. Tell me my judgments are in error; tell me I'm wrong about the facts; tell me my inferences are unsubstantiated -- fine. But don't tell me I should hold opinions instead of making judgments because "to me, “opinions” are thoughts that aren’t meant to influence anyone in any way." Fuck me. No kidding.

She says: "When I am referring to feminists being “judgmental,” I’m not referring to them merely having opinions — of course people who identify as feminists have lots of opinions. I’m talking about expressly trying to influence other people’s actions."

You see this kind of rhetoric everywhere but rarely so nakedly. Don't try to influence other people's actions, feminism. What do you think you are, a socio-political movement or something? You think your principles should have any tangible effect on the public sphere or the social fabric of the nation? Ugh, so judgmental! Have all the personal feelings you want, feminists, just don't get above yourself and start expressing thoughts. Remember, everything is just your opinion.

I mean, there are certain flaws in the Elizabeth Wurtzel piece, and I'm prepared to acknowledge that and make some criticisms of her reasoning, but I cannot do that if I am not prepared to use and stand behind my good fucking JUDGMENT.

SarahP

@queenofbithynia That paragraph about opinions vs judgment almost lost me as well, since I don't necessarily agree with her self-set definitions. But I do think the idea of condemning in the name of feminism a woman's actions when she believes she's doing the best thing for herself and her family is simply rotten.

(One of the reasons I liked the article as much as I did is that a number of interesting, educated women I know have been taking flack for wanting/trying/hoping to be stay-at-home mothers recently, so it did hit me at the right time.)

I also read her as saying that she does support judgment that influences other people's actions when those actions hurt or affect someone else. So, feminism (and judgment) should be used, in your words, to "have a tangible effect on the public sphere of the social fabric of the nation." But she is saying that she dislikes when people judge others' private choices (in her example, when a woman wants to stay home or wants to work) that don't hurt the people not making those choices just because they don't line up with someone else's idea of feminism.

WhiskeySour

@queenofbithynia This probably isn't going to come out as eloquent as I'd wish, but I think there is a (sometimes blurry) line between personal judgment and expressing judgment on a one-on-one level.

For example, I may believe that eating non-organic produce is intrinsically unethical (I don't, really.) To me, there is a large difference between believing that and working to change it on a macro level. For example, by working with a group dedicated to encouraging grocery stores to buy only organic produce. This instead of positioning myself at a grocery store and telling everyone buying produce that they are acting unethically. In the latter case, the judgment becomes personal. The grocery shopper may feel attacked for choosing non-organic produce. He or she may feel helpless to enact change on a personal level, maybe because their organic produce choices are limited, or the cost of organic produce is out of reach for them, or any other myriad of reasons I may not know. In general, I feel that using judgment against individuals and their personal choices rarely results in positive change or even modification of action.

I actually think this kind of ties back to the Slaughter article. I actually agree with a lot of her points. But on the other hand, I wonder how many of her suggestions she actually puts into action. Yes, flex-time is great. Being able to go on a vacation to China is wonderful. Paid family leave is so important, I can't even say. But how many of these ideals is she offering to the people who work for her? She says she has a housekeeper - is the housekeeper able to flex his or her time to spend more time with family? Does the housekeeper amass vacation time? Does the housekeeper receive health insurance benefits? These are actual, tangible changes that the author could enact.

I guess I just feel that ideals without action are nice in theory, and are very important conversations to have; but theory without action, judgment without action on the macro level does little to actually cause change.

SarahP

@WhiskeySour You have said, much more eloquently and more organized than I could, exactly how I feel about this! Thaaaaaank you!

Miss Maszkerádi

@SarahP This. Attempting to change society into a place that's fairer to everybody is great, passing judgment that attempts to influence individual people's personal choices is horrible.

wee_ramekin

@SarahP You said (and I'm assuming the author of the Frisky article thought something similar [couldn't find the article through your link]):

"But I do think the idea of condemning in the name of feminism a woman's actions when she believes she's doing the best thing for herself and her family is simply rotten."

Here's my honest question: are feminists doing this? I'm not trying to be glib, I'm just asking because I have never experienced this in my life. I have never encountered someone who bills herself as a feminist who then condemns stay-at-home moms. I really haven't. I have experienced vitriol-filled rants from people attacking feminists as pushy females who believe they can have it all, or people who just don't agree with my life choices (which, bully for them, 'tis my life and not theirs), but I've not encountered a dyed-in-the-wool feminist who would greet the announcement of a woman who wanted to become a stay-at-home mom with "GOD! YOU'RE SETTING BACK ~*~THE MOVEMENT~*~!".

I think this is partly generational, in that I do believe previous iterations of feminism might have come off like this. In those cases, I think it's important to look at the social framework of the time when those things were being said, but I really don't sense any feminist monolith - in my personal life or the media - saying that women shouldn't choose to stay at home. I feel like that's what anti-feminist folks who invoke "feminazis" like to say about feminists, but I personally have not found it to be a reality.

Thoughts?

PistolPackinMama

@queenofbithynia It sounds like Freshman Logic.

It is either true or it isn't and the rest is Just Your Opinion.

Never mind that I have x-many graduate credit hours and degree and etc etc etc etc that have trained me to evaluate the evidence. If it's not a Fact or WrongFact It's Just An Opinion.

What?

And Since We All Have Opinions, Your Opinion Should Not Shape Discourse In A Meaningful Way.

What? REALLY? Okay, if you are 17 and learning. But grown ups with fully developed critical thinking skills should be past that. What are evaluations for if not to guide decisions?

I think we shouldn't invade Iraq based on my expert evaluation developed through years of scholarship and diplomatic experience and give your chances of success about a 35%, but that is just my opinion.

I think the appropriate course of treatment for your cancer is XXX based on my evaluation and training and your chances of remission fall into this range of likelihood, but that's just my expert opinion.

I can describe these inequities in the workforce and family life and link them to broader historical trends and document these ways in which women are disadvantaged and how our ideology helps that along. But hey, that's just my opinion.

ETA: Second opinion, expert witness/opinion, in my considered opinion... fuck that they don't have a reason to be employed to influence.

ETA ETA And it's my opinion as a respected movie reviewer that that movie made about lady-business is crap and unnecessary and so we shouldn't go see it and we shouldn't fun movies like it, and we should make more Aqua Teen movies instead. But hey, I am just a reviewer, and it's only my opinion.

Goddamn, I am grounding myself from the internet before I explode is a puff of feminist rage.

The Hyperbolic Julia Set

@wee_ramekin I totally agree. I haven't ever come across the "feminazi" damning the stay-at-home-mom character. I HAVE however been steriotyped as this character whenever I say I am a feminist or that I am the breadwinner and my husband is the stay at home caregiver. So yes, can we please talk about this and eliminate this steriotype. Is this steriotype based in any sort of truth? Is it archaic? Is just fear and misunderstanding? Have I just happened to never meet these people?

TheBelleWitch

@wee_ramekin As much as I hate to say this, I do think there's some nastiness out there with regard to stay-at-home moms. Downthread someone posted this article from Feministe, and though I think there's some good analysis there, there's also some barely-veiled judgment that makes me cringe:

Like this bit, emphasis mine: "It means that if something happens – you get a divorce, your husband dies or is incapacitated or goes to jail – and you need to go back to work, you will have a radically limited set of options; taking years off of work does not exactly make one easily employable, in part because one’s skill set has atrophied, and in part because employers rationally don’t want to hire someone who is going to leave the job as soon as a man with a big bank account comes along." Yee-ouch, not loving the implicit comparison of stay-at-home moms with gold diggers, there.

Or: "I will admit I think it’s slightly princessy and entitled to expect that someone else fully financially provide for you when you are fully capable of providing for yourself. "

Now, granted, there is a lot of pushback in the comments on the piece and I don't think Jill's opinions here are representative of modern-day feminism. But I think that subtle stuff like this poisons the well and turns off feminist-minded women who stay at home.

DoctaJones

@The Hyperbolic Julia Set I don't think it's that any one sits there and says to a person, you are a terrible woman because you chose to be a stay at home mom. But there is a lot of judgement from professional women thrown at stay at home moms, usually in a passive aggressive way, as if moms contribute nothing to society by taking care of their kids. But then again in the professional world there seems to be a lot of judgement of parents in general, no matter what choice is made.

The Hyperbolic Julia Set

@DoctaJones That makes sense.

ormaisonogrande

@wee_ramekin I'm super late responding to this, but I'm pretty sure my own mother would be really disappointed in me if I were to become a stay at home mom. She been a feminist since forever, was one of the original subscribers to Ms. magazine, and while I doubt she would be like, "You are a terrible feminist," I DO think she would ask a lot of leading questions if I were to make such a decision.
So I mean, she wouldn't yell at me or be judgemental in a nasty way, but I have no doubt that she would view it as setting back the struggle, and most likely as a kind of repudiation of HER choices.

The Hyperbolic Julia Set

@ormaisonogrande Unrelated: I don't remember where I first saw this posted, but this reminds me of the Atlantic's review of Peace, Love and Misunderstanding "Finally, A Film Gets New Feminism" http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2012/06/peace-love-misunderstanding-finally-a-film-gets-new-feminism/258246/

SarahP

@wee_ramekin I didn't see your comment till just now, but like I said above, the reason this article appealed to me is that right now two wonderful mothers I know are taking flack from their friend groups (in in their mid-20s) and in a couple cases, family, for wanting to be stay-at-home mothers.

Judith Slutler

"Be a team" seems to be the key here. Personally I'm willing to give up the idea of having kids unless I find a guy who's gonna take my career as seriously as I take his, etc.

josefinastrummer

@Emmanuelle Cunt Well said. I don't want children for several reasons but the main one is that I need a guarantee that the father of said children is going to be an equal team player. And since there are no guarantees...

limberliz

@josefinastrummer I agree with the no guarantees thing. I know there are good fathers out there but we applaud many of them for just showing up and writing checks and that's bull. I'm not getting married to some man who's gonna want me to change my name just so I can have some kid that's gonna suck away my hopes and dreams. Never say never, but it's hard to imagine feeling secure enough in any relationship to take a leap like that.

Lily Rowan

you always WILL be the best, presumably, at raising your own children

Oh god, no. I've worked in childcare and I know I would be terrible at being a one-on-one caregiver. My hypothetical children will be much better off with trained people focused on engaging them, just like I was when my mother went back to work.

wharrgarbl

@Lily Rowan Yeeeeeeeeah. I've met way too many disengaged, oblivious dads--and the occasional clusterfuck of a mom--to really sign onto that. We hope we'll be the best at raising our own children, but it doesn't always work out that way. Sometimes it even varies by developmental stage, and you spend your kids' toddlerhoods going "It's looking at me again, god, what does it want now, I don't understand any of this" but their adolescence being completely in synch with their needs.

itmakesmewonder

@Lily Rowan That part gave me the heebie jeebies real bad. It kind of suggests that you shouldn't have children unless you think you're the best caregiver for them, too. I think MOST children don't have the best possible caregiver at any time, exactly because of what you said. Someone is always better trained, more experienced, better-off financially, more empathetic, etc. That's such a dangerous idea.

Lily Rowan

@wharrgarbl I really really don't think you need to be disengaged or a clusterfuck to not be a great full-time caregiver. And raising your children as a great parent isn't the same thing as being with them 24 hours a day. My mother is a great mother, and better for having a job and making sure I was with people who wanted to make macaroni necklaces or whatever.

Judith Slutler

@Lily Rowan Yeah this rings true to me. Plus, I know some dudes who would be much better full-time caregivers than the moms of their children. My parents are the same way - my mom had to be talked into having kids, whereas my dad was super excited about fatherhood.

wharrgarbl

@Lily Rowan I think that came out wrong. What I was getting at was more that a lot of people do assume they'll just naturally be best at raising/full-time caretaking their own kids, even when they can't be bothered to remember what the kid's allergic to or they're not in a place where they can take care of themselves. It's a very strong social message that we don't question often.

themmases

@Lily Rowan I strongly disagree with her on that... Lots of parents make terrible choices for their children. Even if you except abusive parents, lots of people make gross, selfish decisions about their children's care. They're not even necessarily bad people. But they just do.

I talked to my mom once about this. Of course it was hard for her to leave me and my sister every day (we would stand in the window until her car was out of sight, and greet her the same way if we were home first in the evening). But leaving for work every morning, just like our dad? Especially when you are raising girls, that is parenting.

My case is probably pretty unique, but I've known doctors in my mom's field since I was a kid. I've been going to their conferences since I was in college. Today I'm 25 and I was published in that field for the first time at 22. All that is approximately as valuable to me as the lesson that "moms do what dads do."

finguns

@Lily Rowan I totally agree. Saying that makes too many parents who really don't enjoy being at home feel incredibly guilty. It also makes her sound very isolated, because I feel like she has to know SOMEONE in her social circle that would break that rule. I am a lawyer and have many women friends who are also lawyers. We are mostly in our late 30's/early 40's and mostly have 2-3 kids under the age of 8. I definitely have friends whose hearts break every time they put on their big girl suits and leave home for the office. But I also have friends who look forward to their time at the office as much as their time at home, and a few friends who leave home every morning with a huge sigh of relief. They're all great parents, and they've all taken great car to choose caregivers who they trust. But I truly believe that while many women may be the best parent to their child, they are not necessarily the best choice of a caregiver, and I think the author is confusing the two concepts.

I work part time, more than some of my friends but way less than others. While I consider myself a decent parent, I definitely outsource the parts of caregiving that I am horrible at - playground time, pool time, lessons of any type, playdates, bath time, etc.. I'm pretty convinced that my trusty babysitter is much better at those things than I am, and many people would argue those activities are the bulk of parenting. Meanwhile, I'm totally happy to pay her to do those things so I can use my free time to focus on the snuggling, book reading, meal eating, and 80's cartoon watching.

WaityKatie

@Lily Rowan And oh god, for those of us who had mean, critical mothers (or fathers), I shudder to think that these caregivers were the BEST, just because they gave birth to us.

parallel-lines

I'm really struggling with this a lot right now--my husband to be was raised very middle class, stay at home mom and he really doesn't seem to understand that there is no feasible way we can have kids and stay in NYC. His parents did it, so why can't we too? Um, because we work in public service and don't make $200K a year, that's why. We've both hit the top of our salary ranges for our jobs and combined it is a liveable wage, but not when you add another person into the mix. He is so resistant to leaving, I don't know how to snap him into reality--you want a family, you have to live somewhere where you can raise a family and not be commuting 2 hours a day, spending half our salary on day care.I really don't know how NYC people do it, but my best guess is "have a lot of support and money."

Dorothea

@parallel-lines Time spent commuting is a major predictor of unhappiness. My favorite professor's number one piece of advice was avoid a long commute, and I definitely keep this in mind when deciding where to live and where to work.

Clare

@blahstudent This is SO TRUE. I apologize for going off on a tangent, but I'm working a contract job through November and the hateful commute only adds to the toxic combination of boring work and terrible people.

(Sorry to make this all about meeeeeeeeeee.)

parallel-lines

@blahstudent It really, really is. My commute is very much directly linked to my mental health (and high stress levels). It sucks.

I point out to him that the reason his mom could stay home was because his dad worked such long hours and he often wouldn't see him until the weekends, and then ask him how that was. Crummy you say? Well...maybe we shouldn't do that then!

julia

@parallel-lines eek, is $200k for 2 people "middle class" now? I guess in a major city, probably yes.

parallel-lines

@julia In NYC, sort of :( - at that salary you can own property, afford preschool (uh, hello $20K a year), have a car, etc...I'd say for 2 people you'd live very comfortably/have a fairly posh life, for a family of 4 it'd be middle class.

WHICH IS WHY I AM NOT RAISING A GOD DAMN FAMILY HERE.

wharrgarbl

@julia NYC is stupid-expensive.

catfoodandhairnets

@parallel-lines @wharrgarbl I have lived in NYC for nearly 10 years and I DON'T think it's stupidly expensive. Sure there's almost no limit to the amount of money you can spend IF YOU CHOOSE TO. But when I moved here from Boston my costs went down (no need for a car, more free/cheap entertainment options, safe cheap neighborhoods that have public transportation actually exist). And our salaries went UP. Also I don't have kids yet but I'm having an accidental baby in a month or so. I'm actually surprised at how doable it is proving to be. yeah, infant daycare is expensive. and SOMEONE needs enough flexibility in their job to be able to get to pickup by 6pm every day and take a day off when the kid is sick (apparently an average of 10 days in the first year!) We need to find around 20 k the first year in our budget for daycare, but after that it goes down a lot. And with some drama and careful choosing of neighborhoods there are decent public pre-k and elementary school options. So I'm feeling like we can do this -- at least till middle school. Once I looked into stuff I went from "My life is over we have to move to the burbs" to, "oh, that's actually potentially doable". Oh and we don't make 200k. But we don't live in a cool neighborhood and we're VERY OK with not sending our kids to fancy private schools and preschools. Of course this is all theoretical (check back in a couple of years :)) I KNOW it gets a lot tougher as the kids get older, but don't assume it's impossible. I know I'd be miserable and underemployed if we left the city.

stuffisthings

@julia NYC's income demographics are fascinating. Median household income is actually slightly lower than the US average, while mean household income is considerably higher. The average (mean) household income in Manhattan is, indeed, $121,549, so the idea of $200k being "middle-class" is not necessarily that far-fetched.

This 2005 NYT article is pretty good on the subject, though the numbers will be slightly out of date.

sprayfaint

@parallel-lines It's funny, the commuting thing is exactly the argument I make to stay *in* NY. That said, my partner and I do make pretty good money (not crazy, but definitely good) and I think we can swing it if we're frugal. But the jobs we have are jobs we couldn't have if we lived in the suburbs, and I do not, DO NOT, want to be commuting 3 hours a day on MetroNorth/NJRR and never ever seeing our kids. I want to commute 30 minutes by subway. Of course, maybe I'll change my tune when we get preggers, which I'm hoping will be in the next year or so. There are tradeoffs either way, I guess.

parallel-lines

@catfoodandhairnets the daycare costs I've heard my coworker quote me are literally 2/3 of my take home pay--and I wish I could get out of my job at 5 pm everyday to pick up my kids, but I have never worked in a corporate culture that allowed me to leave that early, even at this stage of my career, so we'd probably have to pay more on top of that. I could see doing public grade schools, but my husband to be is a public school teacher (high school math) and it's so hard to get into the better public schools now (Stuyvesant is harder to get into than Harvard)--Bloomberg is really fucking the rest of the school system, badly. He said he's noticed kids getting noticeably dumber with each passing year (he's a 12 year NYC school veteran who's taught at two school) to the point that he's basically just being asked to pass kids because they don't want a bunch of 20 year old seniors. If you ever want to get talked out of having a teenager in NYC, talk with him for 10 minutes--he was a Stuy student and it was still "Kids" level bad behavior--getting drunk before class, smoking angel dust, etc...

People do it, but I don't think I ever could...

parallel-lines

@stuffisthings I think you maybe linked to the wrong article but I'm super curious to read the one you mentioned--and yes on the salary thing--someone must be buying all those $400K apartments.

parallel-lines

@parallel-lines Oh my god, that is such a long and incoherant rant. I'm sorry people--I should just shut up. The mere thought of having a teenager in my care is obviously too much to deal with...

finguns

@blahstudent That would have been the best advice I ever got in college if I had been told. We bought a smaller and more expensive house than we wanted mostly to shave time off a daily commute, and it's been one of the best decisions of our marriage.

Ophelia

@parallel-lines Ugh, yes. We are having the same discussion, although honestly, part of the discussion for us (my husband's a lawyer, I work for a job that pays similarly to the public service arena) is whether it even pays at all (apart from mental health, which I don't discount) for me to keep working if we live in NYC since the cost of childcare is so high. The math works out to some horribly depressing numbers.

Olivia2.0

@Ophelia We are having the same discussion - we're in Chicago and I work in the non-profit field. It is really necessary to have someone else care for our infant when my salary will only yield an extra $8,000ish after childcare?

catfoodandhairnets

@parallel-lines That is so true. I'm only ok with this idea up through elementary school. The idea of parenting a teenager is entirely horrific. I know what I got up to while I was in my very nice girls' school in a very nice bedroom community. If I suspect my daughter is half as... adventurous as me, we'll be leaving the city before puberty for sure.

sprayfaint

@Olivia2.0 It's not just about the money, though, although $8k is not nothing, especially in Chicago. Do you want to stay home full time? In the long run, is that good for either you or your career (+future earning power)? The answer may be yes. Or it may not. But lots more stuff has to be weighed than $8k.

theguvnah

@Ophelia something to consider: when figuring out whether it "pays" for you to continue working, try to do the math like this:
- don't assume all of the childcare costs come out of your salary - split it 50/50 with your husband. After all, he would be benefiting from you staying at home, so you should be factoring that into your math
- take into account lost future earnings - find a mathematical way to account for lost wages, earnings setbacks when you go back to work eventually, etc.
- take into account future social security and retirement benefits and those lost earnings when you stop working for a few years
- as someone else said, take into account the non-financial costs of mental health, how much your sense of identity is tied into your career, being dependent in some way on your husband, etc.

I just find that too many women say "well day care costs almost as much as my salary therefore it's not worth it" and that is just the wrong math infinity period the end.

hotdog

@parallel-lines I was a high school teacher in NYC. You are so, so right.

The Hyperbolic Julia Set

@blahstudent YES! This was one of THE BIGGEST factors in my decision to move from the DMV. My commute now: about 10 minutes. I do not envy my sister (still in the DMV) at all.

oh well never mind

I dunno, I get a bit of a sour taste from this. Maybe because I'm ambivalent/tipping towards the not-wanting-kids end of the spectrum at the moment? Do I not have a "real life"?

On the other hand, this may just be me projecting about a personally touchy subject at the moment! Hmpg.

itmakesmewonder

@moosette I'm with you.

SarahP

@moosette My hackles were up for most of it, and I do want kids someday.

Dorothea

@moosette She addresses these issues in the article, talks about shifting default assumptions about what aspects of non-work life are valuable, including recognizing the personal lives of people without children.

Judith Slutler

@moosette Do you have friends, family, a community, a pet, houseplants, hobbies? I think that's just as much of an "actual life" as a parent's home life is.

oh well never mind

@Emmanuelle Cunt Yeah, that sounds a good description to me (except that I have a terrible tendency to let my houseplants die. RIP, Toby the fern...).
I think I'm just snippy about this sort of article at the moment as my "career" doesn't seem to be going anywhere fast either!

Judith Slutler

@moosette Well maybe try taking your next fern on a sabbatical to China with you?

oh well never mind

@Emmanuelle Cunt
Yes! Toby Junior, you *shall* learn Mandarin!

Passion Fruit

@SarahP Same! I found her tone condescending. And kind of out of touch. Uhhh, sorry, we can't all take disorienting and revitalizing family trips to foreign countries for months at a time...

But maybe it's because I was dismissive the second I read "tenured professor." Ha! Like that's even a thing anymore. For one thing, it's called ADJUNCTING. For another thing, they're not called winter breaks in China, they're called seasonal shifts at Starbucks.

themmases

@moosette I was definitely more interested before I saw that there were 6 more pages about a life choice I don't plan to make.

WaityKatie

@moosette As everyone here knows, I don't want kids, but I DO love the idea of prioritizing things above work, because let's face it, work blows. I simply would choose to prioritize travel and reading books over work rather than taking care of my kids, but it's all the same principle!

WaityKatie

@moosette Don't feel too bad, I recently killed a cactus. (I thought I wasn't supposed to water it? I don't know!)

whateverlolawants

@moosette You named your fern Toby! That's so sweet. I have an aloe plant named Luther.

oh well never mind

@whateverlolawants
I tend to favour slightly older fashioned names for inanimate objects/plants/animals - my creaky old laptop was called Gerald and the huge scary spider that moved into my bedroom was called Bernard in an attempt to make him more relatable.

whateverlolawants

@moosette That's a great tactic and I do similar things. Love it.

EpWs

@moosette I'm right with you (and the rest of you lovely ladies) on this one. I know we've had this conversation before, but the whole "nothing is more important than work except maybe your kids" attitude kind of kills me. My life is more important than work, and that's ME, the petless killer of houseplants. We are a country that needs more vacation time, dammit.

WaityKatie

@The Everpresent Wordsnatcher Yeah, it does reinforce the patriarchy's assumption that women don't matter just a LEETLE bit. Women's only value comes from devoting themselves to someone else, be it an employer or a baby or a husband. You couldn't possibly have any intrinsic value on your own, that's crazytalk.

stuffisthings

I would love to see a man in Slaughter's position insist on being introduced as "father of two kids" or whatever.

julia

@stuffisthings Yes! We need to work on this narrative that any woman politician is required to discuss how she manages to have a family & serve in office. Men have families, too.

oh well never mind

@julia But, and even more important than talking about her family, what shoes is she wearing??

Dorothea

@julia Read the article! She wants men to talk about this too.

wharrgarbl

@julia You know what? It would make me a really happy camper to see male politicians get asked the same questions. I think it would be pretty helpful to see which ones basically go "Why are you asking me this, I dump all that bullshit on my wife, I only have to think about my household when I want to" and which ones have a well-thought-out answer about how they're trying to balance the disruption of political campaigns and office-holding with their family life. See also, which dudes are willing to acknowledge all the (generally unpaid) labor their partners are dumping into their politicking.

oh well never mind

@wharrgarbl Ref. Cameron telling the Leveson inquiry he needed to look at his wife's diaries to jog his memory about what he had been up to in his social life..?

Megasus

@julia And I was just reading something that said that men are just as dissatisfied with how much time they get to spend with their kids, too!

datalass

@wharrgarbl The problem is that, in any public forum like press Q&A, these guys would be so well-prepped for that sort of exchange that it would cease to be revealing pretty quickly.

The image that kept springing to my mind was minister of my childhood church. From the pulpit, he had tons of anecdotes about his homelife; he totally came off as a progressive, engaged husband and father. Same thing in casual conversation. Then, one day, I was babysitting for his family and I asked where I could find a large bowl. He literally had no idea. He stood in the center of the kitchen and said 'Maybe in one of the cabinets?'

bb
bb

@stuffisthings Apparently there is quite a bit of tension for the Obamas over this - I heard their biographer Jodi Kantor talking about it. They probably have a more egalitarian marriage than has ever been in the White House (depending on how you see the Clintons - who did not really talk about their parenting publicly) and it seems it has not been easy for him to keep the family role he aspires to have.

sprayfaint

@julia My takeaway is that instead of glossing over the glaring differences between men's and women's positions, we should be calling attention to what's working and not. Should women really be lying about taking their kids to a doctor's appointment? Doesn't that just perpetuate the stereotype that to be a working woman, you can't also be a mom?

Of course it's not just WOMEN who should do this, but this article is written for women, about women.

blee

@sprayfaint did you actually read the article? because I feel like she addresses the glaring differences between men and women's positions and calls attention to what is working and what isn't.

it's true that the article is written about women and that she is speaking directly to women at points, but she also makes a lot of great points about what men can do and I hope that male readers catch on to that.

julia

I do appreciate that the author acknowledged her privilege a couple of times and I really liked a lot of what she talked about, especially the push to get workplaces to acknowledge that time management is more important than butt-in-chair time, BUT it's important to remember that this dilemma is only a problem for people who have any choice to begin with.

It's the 40th anniversary of Title IX. About damn time for us to improve our standing on this chart, yes?

parallel-lines

@julia It seems like she is in a really lucky position that she can afford really good childcare, and that afforded her a lot of freedom to follow her dreams. I wish most women could say the same...

I'm not slamming her for this, but let's be real: most of us can't run away to China for a month to get closer with our family.

The Hons

@parallel-lines Nor do most of us get six months of maternity leave and have a spouse that gets the same. Let's just stop right there because that is basically unheard in most professions. I couldn't take any of her words of wisdom seriously after that. It's just a jumping off point of such enormous privilege. I'm glad she has it. But I think the conversation we need to be having is different and the women we need to be talking to about this are positioned differently right from the outset.

stuffisthings

@The Hons Yeah it's like, sure it's interesting to see how "successful" women in elite positions deal with work-life balance and kids and stuff. But this is, what, the 10 millionth article on that exact topic? And mostly the answer is "by having access to certain privileges that 90% of the women in this country don't have access to."

For the average American, I reckon Slaughter's insights are about as relevant as Beyonce's when it comes to raising kids while working. I like her, she is a smart and interesting lady who has a lot of useful things to say on other topics. But if you're earning $36,900 a year -- the median wage for full-time female workers in 2010 -- and have only 12 weeks of UNPAID maternity leave (the legal minimum in the US, and the norm for most workers), these insights don't mean much.

I'd like to see a front-page article in a northeastern elite rag about how, say, a housekeeper in Des Moines manages to raise her kids and keep a roof over her head. Never gonna happen though.

wharrgarbl

@parallel-lines Most of us definitely can't run away to China for a month to get closer to our family, but it strikes me that the bedrock of the trip's value, for her, seemed to be temporarily breaking down the parent-child division at the same time as giving them shared experiences.

Which is doable for most people in smaller forms, I think, especially if you're a little conscious of treating your kids like a partner in whatever it is rather than your kid. Like, if you take a pottery workshop with your eight-year-old, and neither of you knows shit about pottery, try not to turn into an unofficial TA just because you're "the adult." Which may or may not be good advice, but I don't think you necessarily have to be rolling in money to take it.

bananagram

@julia Wait wait, this is SO a dilemma for less privileged women (people?) If anything, a lack of work-life balance is more detrimental for women working low(er)-wage jobs, because those are the jobs that are the least likely to provide paid sick days, vacation days, and to have flexible working schedules. So, what are these women supposed to do when their kid gets sick? They can't necessarily take off mid-day. Even if they have sick time, it might not be family sick time that can be used for their child's sick days. They wouldn't be able to work 10-6 and in order to take their kids to school...ETC! AND to cap it off, they likely can't afford day care, nannies, or even subsidized child care because it's the most fucking expensive thing of all time. Think of it as an issue of contrained choice, that keeps them in low wage work, and out of professional development and higher education opportunities -- they simply can't afford it. If anyone truly needs comprehensive, family-oriented, flexible work-life policies it's lower-wage workers.

bananagram

@julia I'm sorry, I might have misinterpreted your comment. I just...really hated this article.

julia

@bananagram What you wrote in your first comment was my point. The "dilemma" of career vs. family is a dilemma for women whose circumstances (parents' SES and therefore their SES, high-earning partner, any partner at all, family help, 6 damn months of paid maternity leave, whatever) can choose to focus energy on family and not work, or are in a position to bargain for work flexibility to accommodate family. Many, many people simply have to do both to get by.

parallel-lines

@bananagram That part about going back to school because she didn't like her job/it didn't make her happy was sort of tone deaf to me. Everyone just run back to school, make yourself happy! Go hang out at Harvard until you figure it out!

I kinda really hated this article too, so don't feel bad bananagram. I know where she's coming from but I'm tired of reading the same old shit over and over again. Been there, seen this already.

Heat Signature

@bananagram PREACH! Also, when these same women decide that working is more harmful to their families (in that they don't get health insurance, have an income that disqualifies them from most federally-subsidized programs despite near-poverty level wages, etc.) than staying home, they get decried by the majority of society for being "welfare queens" when IN FACT, they're just trying to do what's best for their kids (you know, things like ensuring they have health care, food in their stomachs, and so forth).

bananagram

@julia Gotcha, sorry to come off as critical! My comment is just what I wanted to yell at the author. When she says that these things "aren't issues" for non-privileged, educated women like herself, I was thinking, 'they ARE issues, just not in the way that you construct your thesis!!!! GAAH.'

TheBelleWitch

@bananagram It's so funny, I kind of loved this article because unlike most on this subject, I thought she did a really good job of being like, "Here's where I was lucky. And it was still hard. And hey, why don't most people even get a fragment of the benefits I did?"

I have my skepticism that more women in high places will really mean anything great for the rest of us - I feel like women who make it to the top in the current system make it to the top because they play the game, right? So it's not like if my company's male CEO was replaced by a woman, we drones suddenly get paid maternity leave. But Slaughter seems really committed to modeling work-life balance and making that the culture when she's in charge, so yay, more like her, please.

werewolfbarmitzvah

@bananagram Yeaaaaaaah. What she describes in the article sounds like the absolute best case scenario for life (being super successful, working at a job that pays well, is enjoyable and prestigious, has absolutely unreal benefits such as 6-month maternity leave and sabbaticals, and also having a super-supportive partner who also works a great job with a great salary and great benefits, so that you both get to work great jobs that magically allow you to spend quality time with your kids AND allow you to afford quality childcare). And the kind of amazing luck and success and financial stability that she describes sounds like it's a hundred thousand miles away from anything my husband and I will ever be able to reach, and a hundred thousand miles away from anything that most people will ever be able to reach, and thinking about this is making me feel a wee bit gloomy.

stuffisthings

@TheBelleWitch Yeah, I would say that her approach in this article is probably the best it could possibly be. The premise ("Super successful women with kids: how do they do it?") is the problem, not her take on it.

TheBelleWitch

@stuffisthings Agreed. Unfortunately, I suspect we'll all be long dead and buried before the Atlantic publishes a think piece on lower-income moms leaving the kids with grandma (who is living off disability checks) while working her double shift at Captain D's, which is where the real shit in this country is going down.

I mean, for all the 'opt-out' anxiety among upper-middle-class types, the last census found that stay-at-home moms are more likely to be less educated, younger and poorer than their working counterparts, and more likely to be immigrants. But those women don't buy the Atlantic so we're gonna hear about wealthy women until the world ends.

Magistra

@TheBelleWitch I completely agree -- my take on her tone was very much that every one (not just every woman) who achieves higher levels of success needs to use that platform as a place from which to positively influence the work life balance of those around her. She/he can do it directly through actions, and indirectly, through frank discussion around the issue. In the article she specifically references the fact that the women who make it to the top do so within the male framework by avoiding the work/family balance issue completely. When women (and men) who have families and are committed to balance move up the ladder, they can make organizational change happen -- and that change can even be positive for organizations/companies as well, as was referenced in the article (although I'd like more data on that).

liznieve

@bananagram
I agree with most of your argument, but I would argue that high powered women actually can't take time off in the middle of the day to deal with their kids. It's not like you can put a meeting on hold or reschedule a deadline because your kid has soccer practice. Just saying, life might not be as rosy to be high-powered as you think it is. Even if you're at the top of your company, there are nevertheless real expectations that you work long hours. Taking breaks to pick up your kids is how you get fired.

Faintly Macabre

@TheBelleWitch Yeah, I would love to read an article by a woman I worked with at my temp job, who got up around 4:30AM every morning to get her 5-year-old daughter to school (I forget if by carpool, bus, or public transit) and then spend over an hour on various modes of public transit to get to the office because she didn't have a car. Since the office was in pretty sprawling suburbs, the public transit route to the office was incredibly inefficient. And she was making maybe $12/hour as an MA, if that.

m. marie

@stuffisthings Yes, 10 millionth article on the topic! I think it's kinda weird the way there's a new article titled "Women ACTUALLY CAN'T Have It All, Suckers, Get Ready To Fail Professionally" every month or so and the way that every.single.one of them is about feminism instead of capitalism.

I dunno, I might be too young to really get the backlash against the meme "Women can have it all" because I've literally never heard that a single time outside of sarcastic article headlines (or maybe that's something people only tell girls who want to be lawyers?).

Also, this may be ignorant, and I'm not going to be in a uber dog-eat-dog career field and I don't want to even THINK about having kids for years so I'm not an expert or anything, but... it kinda seems like all of these articles about how women "can't have it all" are about how women can't simultaneously work their way into the, like, "1%" while also doing 99.9% of the childcare/cooking/housework and spending hours every day with their 5 kids. And that's weird to me, because MOST people won't ever be bazillionaires/CEOs/presidents of the USA, AND the men who do have the same challenges as the women who do in that field, they just usually have less involved wives or incredibly rich families. And then she wrote an entire section on how "yeah, you need a husband who will help out around the house, but some women" (and then she only mentioned herself and ONE other person) "some women FEEL THE NEED to spend time w/ their family." But then she opened the entire article by saying how offended she was when other women were more successful than her professionally, even though she personally was EXACTLY AS CONDESCENDING TO WOMEN WHO WERE LESS SUCCESSFUL THAN HER. So, I dunno, I think the woman who said "I wouldn’t generalize from your experience. I’ve never had to compromise, and my kids turned out great" is the one I agree with most. I dunno!

MilesofMountains

@m. marie I don't think it's true that only the top 1% has to deal with a work culture that requires absolute commitment from employees. My field definitely isn't a well-paying one, but I was realizing a couple weeks ago that I've never met a woman with children who has successfully balanced this field and having children without being mommy-tracked or in academia. My company is stuffed with women at the lower levels, and every single one of them that has gone on maternity leave never comes back, or comes back and has to negotiate for a position with no advancement opportunities because it'll let her be home more.

Miss Maszkerádi

@m. marie "...and the way that every.single.one of them is about feminism instead of capitalism."

ZING. We have a winner.

limberliz

@wharrgarbl The trip to China reminded me of all the weekend road trips my mom and I took when I was a kid where she'd give me the map and let me get us lost for a little bit. Obviously this was the far more privileged version but hey, I bet her kids have never had a pony. The original article is really good and she discusses how work schedules and structures place undue pressures on parents. I don't think she thinks her experiences are universal or applicable to everyone in any way. It seems like she's sharing that the view from the top is still pretty challenging, even when everything is going right.

rosaline

@limberliz and everyone else To me, the takeaway from all this is that: yes, our society is not structured to allow women the work-life choices they have, although those on the lower end of the socioeconomic spectrum have it even worse than people like Slaughter, BUT. It is people like Slaughter who, when she writes an article about women's choices, are in a position to be more likely to have a direct impact. I'm picturing (admittedly through rose-colored lenses) Hillary Clinton forwarding a link to the article to Obama, writing, "Hi Barack, did you see that article my old staffer Anne-Marie wrote for the Atlantic? Michelle and I had a great chat about this the other day when we ran into each other in the Rose Garden..."

The housekeeper in Des Moines who manages to keep a roof over her children's heads has a very important story to tell, but how easy is it going to be for her to get a six page op-ed in the Atlantic Monthly? (Not saying that's right, but it is the way it is, and sometimes you have to work within the structures of society.)

We have seen everyday people have major impacts (see: fruitsellers in Tunisia), so not to deny that it happens, but change is certainly helped along the way when people at high levels of policy are at the forefront of the discussion. (Even if her specialty was foreign policy rather than labor policy.) So I'm glad she wrote this article. And I'm glad she pointed out her level of privilege multiple times.

rosaline

@rosaline "to allow women the range of work-life choices they should have." Whoops.

Chesty LaRue

@Americans I feel so bad for those of you who live in states where 12 weeks unpaid maternity is the norm! In Canada, 1 year paid (@55%, but better than nothing) maternity/paternity is the norm, and I've seen people struggle to live on that money. A 12 week old baby is still so tiny and helpless, it's heartbreaking to think of them being handed over to babysitters/day homes at that age.

ba-na-nas

ugh. as a single mother in nyc of a 5 month old who went back to work (a reasonably well-paying job with some flexibility) when my litle one was 3.5 months, this article makes me want to throw up. i mean, i guess what she did is nice if you get lucky, but that is not my life.

SarahP

@ba-na-nas You mean you can be close to your family without expensive extended trips to foreign countries?!

itmakesmewonder

@ba-na-nas It's tough being told what to do by a wealthy person who constantly has to caveat with ". . . which most women don't have," whether it's about children or the meaning of life or whatever.

ba-na-nas

@ba-na-nas And, I don't know if I made this clear above, but I think that I am pretty lucky. I have a masters degree, a well-paying job, MUCH more affordable childcare than most people a know, amazing friends, and very few people giving me a hard time about raising a baby by myself (thanks feminism!). But what she's describing is STILL completely foreign to me, and kind of suggests that whatever I do for my kid, it's not enough.

Dorothea

@ba-na-nas I think her most important point is that the flexibility you value in your job should be part of more jobs, that we need to re-define our concept of what "a job" entails. Not that everybody should go to china with their families.

Dorothea

@ba-na-nas Honestly, I read the entire article as being against making women feel bad for their work/life balance choices. The negative rxn is puzzling to me. Her life experiences are in many way exceptional, but I still think what she's saying is not at odds with most people's complaints.

Judith Slutler

@blahstudent Yeah are we seriously at the point where when someone does have a job where they can take 6 months off, we go off on that person for being privileged, instead of being pissed that our employer wouldn't do the same?

Relatedly I don't think she's suggesting that everyone needs to do what she did exactly. I think she is saying "look, we milked opportunities for family togetherness as much as we could". Yeah, this is about tradeoffs on a high level, but maybe we can do the same types of things on a more modest scale?

ba-na-nas

@Emmanuelle Cunt I'm not mad at her. I'm really not mad at all. Like I said above, I have it pretty good. I just don't want parenting advice from her.

itmakesmewonder

Her points are fine and she's treating the issue with a lot of respect, I understand that, but it's the same question as always: Why is her voice suddenly the one people are listening to? Because she's wealthy and influential.

Dorothea

@Emmanuelle Cunt Word. The trade offs at high levels matter because they determine who has power--is it always going to be dudes and a handful of super women forever or not? And they are very related to the trade offs for the rest of us--they decide what we get, after all. People at all levels should work towards better policies, I don't see this as a matter of 1% v. 99%. (except insofar as 1%ers are almost universally men.)

Dorothea

@itmakesmewonder Also she has worked hard and achieved a lot, and she deals directly with family policies both as an employee and a manager . She's not some random financier who thinks she knows everything because she has watched a few TED talks. She has lived these conflicts, and she has some control over shaping them.

RK Fire

@blahstudent: I really appreciated that about her and her article--she goes beyond talking about why the institutions/structures/attitudes are harmful and then talks about how she uses her privilege (and she seems mindful that other women doesn't necessarily have this luxury) to make people think about why those things are problematic.

Magistra

@blahstudent I'm not at any super high level (mid-management on a good track in my company), but one of the things I've enjoyed most about managing others was the ability to say "as long as you get your work done and we don't have any issues with what you produce, take the time you need for your family." I currently am managing a great woman who's relatively new to the workforce, but shows a lot of amazing potential. She also is a mom of 2 kids under 5 who's fiance just moved elsewhere for a job. I know for a fact that if she was working for someone else, she'd be looking at reprimands/correctives for the amount of time she's had to take for various kids sick/appointments/etc. I just tell her to make sure her hours are correct and take unpaid leave if she needs to (she's used up her sick time). She will be a rockstar for us in 3 years when her life is more settled. I'm willing to invest the time/patience/understanding now... and I know she will be extremely loyal as a result of that investment.

Argyle

@RK Fire Yep, very much agree. She even comes right out and says that this article is for a target audience of well-educated, successful women who are most likely going to be the ones who rise to the top and implement changes in the system. Just because she's privileged and doesn't gear her article to the average working woman doesn't make her thesis any less relevant.

Magistra

@Emmanuelle Cunt I loved one of her key points which was "ask". Ask for flexibility. Put it out there on the table. Make it an issue that is important to you.

In my 15 year career with the company I work for, I've worked full time, I've worked part time, I've telecommuted. If I hadn't asked, I can practically guarantee that my current employment would be less challenging and less satisfying. It's about making change happen by bringing it to the table.

Dorothea

@Magistra so glad for stuff like this--if i ever wield power, may i wield it as well as you!

WaityKatie

@ba-na-nas For what it's worth, my mom stayed home with me for most of my childhood, and I desperately wanted her to be working outside the home. For one it would have been a good role model for me, and for another, she totally sucked the air out of everything I was doing. My projects always became her projects, my pets became her pets, and she basically watched me every second of the day and controlled everything I did, in an attempt to be the "perfect (image of a) mother." Not to mention that we had no money ever because my dad also didn't make very much and another salary would have been quite helpful!

EternalOctopus

@Magistra Yes, this. My company has a very strong culture of treating its employees well (6 weeks paid vacation annually, from entry level to CEO, excellent healthcare, etc.), and they get high-quality work and loyal, happy employees in return. This, in turn, benefits the company financially in the long run, because our clients love us and we end up getting more work. I think because it's a smaller, non-public company, this culture is easier to sustain. But you have to seek out a place like this to work. If I have the choice, I will never work for a public company; the capitalistic focus on short-term profits is just too harmful to everyone involved in the long run. I fully plan to have my own company one day that will follow my current company's culture model. My definition of success doesn't involve me making as much money as possible, either, and that's a mentality that has to change across the board to see any substantial cultural change in corporate America. My subordinate recently told me that I am a great supervisor, and that she loves working for me, and it was one of the best compliments I have ever received.

limberliz

@Magistra Asking for flexibility is so important. My supervisor has worked at our company for 18 years (!) and when she and her husband bought a house an hour away and she had a child, our manager agreed to her working 10am-630pm so she could beat the traffic and still see her son before he went to bed. When her mom died, she went back to the Philippines for a month on one week's notice. Guess what? Everything was ok and we still have a fantastic supervisor who is loyal, knowledgeable and so much better at scheduling than anyone else.

uncle jesse

It's about choosing to be a stay at home mom, not about parenting/career balance, but this reminded me of this great article posted on feministe yesterday: http://www.feministe.us/blog/archives/2012/06/20/feminism-housewifery/

Heat Signature

This is super-duper relevant to my life right now, as we have another child on the way and are currently moving to a different area of the state to be closer to our families. Due to financial issues, I'll be changing jobs to be closer to the town we're moving to, and my husband will be changing to part-time work so he can stay home and take care of the children. It's going to be EXTREMELY difficult, but we're going to make it work and I'm glad we have the option to do so.

sudden but inevitable betrayal

It's interesting to see that even for a woman with SO MUCH privilege and access to affordable daycare and extended family vacations and a sometimes-flexible schedule and a supportive partner...this shit isn't easy.

RK Fire

Like so many other people here, this article is a little timely for me as well. However, I can't help but feel that this article is reinforcing someone else's notions of "career success"--is a successful professional life/career really a life of titles, time at prestigious institutions, writing books and getting invited to speak at conferences? I know it's a highly personal decision to define what it means to you, but I feel like some people assume that we are all thinking of the same thing when we think of success.

Mind you, I'm asking this because I sometimes feel like all of the aforementioned things are the mark of success and some of that is reinforced by my time at a graduate program at an ivy league school, but lately I have been really trying to talk to my husband about whether or not it's true (for me, obvs) and what the alternatives. We're both in the public policy/non profit realm, and while there is some amount of disdain among some of our friends for people in loval gov't who are only there "for their pension," my husband and I are also completely sympathetic to folks who want to do that--why not just work for a salary so you can have a rich life (be that family or volunteering or doing whatever the fuck you want) outside of work?

ETA: I am currently unhappy at my current job because the work culture sucks, but I am also in a good jumping point to become a local "expert" on some specific parts of my job, and I find myself applying for less "prestigious" jobs that would still be lateral moves for me w/r/t pay so I can be happy and have more time for things I'm also interested in, like volunteering at the local community library. So, that's my personal context for all of the above.

/ahhhh I'm in my late 20s and I'm figuring out my life

Dorothea

@RK Fire Yeah, I struggle with this a lot. It's hard to go through the system without absorbing some of its values, even when they are wrong. Like, I know that working at a prestigious law firm is not for everybody (maybe not for anybody), but it's hard to stamp out the part of me that is impressed when I hear that somebody is working at Davis Polk.

Also: these arbitrary and often miserable career achievements are stepping stones for things that are actually cool, so maybe it's worth doing them? Or is that wishful thinking? Aghh

RK Fire

P.S. Just a little bit along these lines: Annie E Casey Foundation put out a report four years ago (2008 is four years ago, guys!) that was basically like "a lot of young men and women don't want to become Executive Directors of nonprofits because the work/life balance issues are too intimidating, we need to deal with this as an industry or else no one will take these spots." I feel like being an ED is pretty much a "hey, I have made it" position in the nonprofit sector, but I know that right now, I don't think I want any part of it.

RK Fire

@blahstudent: Hahaha, I know--part of us implicitly bought into it, so it shouldn't be any surprise that it lingers on. I have fellow classmates from grad school who get featured on BBC World and similar shit, so sometimes it's hard not to feel that I shouldn't be doing something similar. It seems like getting the arbitrary career achievements can lead to something good though for the person in a long run, but how much of that reinforces the assumed value of said accomplishment? aaaaahhhh I don't know..

I try to remind myself that many people's careers vary and flit around, particularly people whose work I respect, and that it can make sense in hindsight. Also, I know some folks who threw themselves into side projects, volunteering in causes they believe in, and now they've managed to turn that into jobs they're happy with. That's some solace. But right now, with a scarcity of jobs and a lot of confusion, I am thinking about going to New Zealand with my husband for a year just to get away. I think I might be totally okay working on a sheep farm and handspinning yarn or a year just shelving books in some library, so what the fuck do I know?

Magistra

@RK Fire I have so many thoughts on this that I don't know where to start, but had to register/do so for the first time after lurking here for ages. To your point about "reinforcing someone else's ideas of success"... my husband asked me what I was reading, and when I said "an article about why women can't have it all", he responded "what is 'it all', anyway?" I have to agree with him. The career choices we've made have been about pursuing a happy life that balances work and home and intellect and humor and physical activity to grow cool people. That's what "it all" is for us, and I think each of us should be able/encouraged/supported to determine what it is for themselves, you know?

RK Fire

@Magistra: Yeah, this is very similar to the discussions my husband and I have been kicking around. It is really hard to get rid of some internalized notions though, which I think is the source of my personal conflicts.

OhMarie

@RK Fire Girl, you are SPEAKING DIRECTLY TO ME!!! I'm 28 and I have a solid job that I'm good at, but my job is driving me nutso, mostly because of the culture of how hard we're expected to work. I also very much do not want the job that is the end-game of the path I'm on at the moment (right now I'm actually doing the job, later people start to sell and do more corporate-y stuff).

I am totally intimidated by the idea of switching industries/type of job within my industry, especially in my area, but I think that is what I will have to do.

bb
bb

@RK Fire yep. I hear you on the comparable life choice in my field. I also read this kind of amazed that the less-career-oriented person in Slaughter's household is a tenured professor at Princeton!

And thanks for raising the issue of that Annie E Casey study - not my field, but would think it is important for many professions to ask, "what are we doing wrong that our top candidates for directors/CEOs/presidents/etc are discouraged from even aiming for those top posts?" Somewhat related anecdote - I once met with a director of an art museum, and she told me and a group of grad students that having her job and having a family would be very difficult. I'm like, if the museum world - not high paying, high percentage of women - can't figure this out, what industry can??

Dorothea

@RK Fire Yeah, I try really hard to keep perspective by asking myself whether I value what I'm doing for its own sake (like new Zealand and libraries sound intrinsically awesome!), independent of peer group pressure. But sometimes I still slip into anxiety-mode.

Nancy Gertner (awesome retired judge) did an event at my school and talked about trusting yourself to take the risky choices that feel right for you (subject to the necessity of feeding yourself), and mostly I believe her. But maybe that only worked for her because she is this amazing super woman? Anyway, I just try my best, and also try my best not to be hard on myself. What do I know anyway.

Better to Eat You With

@bb The five or six women I've known who are/have been EDs in nonprofits have all been either a) single with absolutely no time for a social life, or b) in the habit of seeing their husbands about once a month, unless their husbands were completely committed to the nonprofit they ran as well, because they spent all day in the office managing staff and all evening, at least four days a week, at fundraising/advocacy/community-building events.

RK Fire

@Better to Eat You With: YESSS. This is what I've seen as well, and it makes me question what end-game (if there is any) I want to aspire to. The Annie E Casey study tentatively throws out there the idea of "maybe we should come up with a different organizational structure" but if I remember correctly, the alternatives they throw out there are a little squishy.

@everyone: I am trying to keep an ear to a webinar so there's a bunch of stuff all of you have said that I want to respond to but I don't have the mental space right now because of said webinar. I will respond more later.

RK Fire

@OhMarie: Yeah, my issues are more unique to where I am and less of an industry standard (some of them are personality driven), but I know they exist in other places so it's always a matter of when and where they might pop again. And that makes me nervous!

I'm looking at switching now (not to libraries, heh, that's just a bit of a fantasy/grass-is-greener) but it seems to be a pain in the ass. I've been treading between two somewhat related knowledge areas (let's call them X and Y) for the past four years and with this economy, I'm having a hard time getting interviews in positions in X because I've been doing Y work for two years and that apparently confuses people. Even though my degree is in X, I have strong academic and previous work experience in that knowledge area, and my work in the Y knowledge area has relevance to emerging topics in X. ::headdesk::

[sorry to be vague, I am a little paranoid]

@bb: EXACTLY. And you know, philanthropy is a relatively high paying place to be in the larger nonprofit area and there are a lot of women in many positions of power.. and yet we can't seem to structure the positions' work/life balance to make things work for a larger swath of people. wtf?

@blahstudent: I try really hard to keep perspective too but this article was just too timely for me not to go super personal on all of you lovely Pinners. -_-; Also, as much as I try, I do tend to be hard on myself and compare myself to others... I am getting better though as I get older!

ricochet

@RK Fire: I was fortunate enough to be able to change jobs 2 years ago (in my late 20s) leaving the non-profit world and entering federal government. I made the change largely because I knew I wanted to have a family (and lo and behold my baby daughter was born 3 months ago). I had the "dream job" that I went to law school for, but just couldn't see it working with being the kind of mom I wanted to be. The non-profit culture of working our asses off for peanuts because of devotion to the cause just seemed incompatible with parenthood. I saw no role models making it work, so I jumped ship for an agency that has flexible hours, pays a much better wage, is closer to my home, and is chock full of parents. So far I am a week and a half back at work, and thanks to my very supportive teacher husband who is home with the baby this summer, my work/life balance is fantastic.

I have to admit though, that I have some guilt that this article really pinged on about stepping away from my dream job, and for the fact that I currently have zero ambition to move into a leadership position in my current work environment.

Magistra

@ricochet But there's no reason for it to be a zero sum situation. Your work life will last 50 years -- you're making the choices now that will work for you now, and in the long run you will have more opportunities and your ambition may find you again. Or it may not.

The whole point is that we need to change the way that more employers work so that they see supporting these things as not just feasible, but beneficial, because the alternative is that they lose good talent.

RK Fire

@ricochet: Wow. Thanks for sharing that. That sounds like it could be my ideal work environment--would it be too much to ask which agency you're in? I know they vary so much from region to region and office to office though, even within the same agency.

My husband and I go back and forth on kids, but overall we are leaning towards yes and I think the combo of flexible hours + better income + supportive work environment (my workplan has doubled in the past year and my raise has been 3%, and while it's nice to get a raise at all it's not fantastic) is pretty much what I'm looking for.

I'm also starting to realize that leadership positions are maybe not what they're cracked up to be, which is what is triggering a lot of my wordiness.

Dorothea

@ricochet when i first got in to law school, one of my friend's parents cornered me for two hours to give me this spiel about how working at the DOJ = flex time and being able to go to your kids' soccer games. at the time i was all: ugh, please. but now i'd want to know more. (except for my refusal to live in DC ever, because it is absolutely insane that people are expected to wear suits in that weather!)

Megasus

Oh man, having a partner that you can really be a team with is like, the biggest aphrodesiac ever.

rougemarie

It seems to me that at the level Anne-Marie was working at, it would be impossible for a man OR a woman to hold that kind of position and be able to play an active role in family life.

So why then is she directing her remarks at women who aspire to a high flying career and family rather than all people who have that ambition? There are a lot of men who also want career success and to be active dads. It seems to me that embedded in what she's writing is the implicit assumption that women have to do the lion's share of caregiving in order to be 'proper' mothers. Which is why women 'can't have it all', but men in demanding careers can.

I read through her article and I was disappointed by her comments about how younger generations of women are willing to trade off career success in order to spend time with their families. Well I am from that generation of women and I sure as hell don't. She doesn't speak for me.

RK Fire

@rougemarie: When reading the article, I thought that she had qualified her writing re. assumptions of women and caregiving by saying it was based on her conversations with many other women who were in similar career situations as she was. Also, the second half of the article seemed like she was describing conversations where she was defending younger generations of women and the perception that they were trading in career success to women of her age cohort and older.

I think there's a lot of nuance in her article. That being said, I definitely do think that a lot of the discussion points in this article could be framed as not just a "women's" thing but also "what are our perceptions of success and a work/life balance?" I mean she acknowledges that a lot of young men are asking her questions about this but somehow I think this is going to be passed around to more women then men. (And I'm a little guilty of this too, because the first thing I did was send this to a close girlfriend of mine, when I could've easily sent it to my husband and said girlfriend's husband because all four of us have talked about this.)

rougemarie

@RK Fire I like your comment, I think you make fair points. I guess that what I would say that she seems to extrapolate the problems that many women she encountered in similar positions to hers into a more general statement that 'women can't have it all'. To me that's problematic. The kind of job she was doing is pretty special, both in terms of its demands and its benefits, so that to use it as the starting point for a general explanation of "why women still can't have it all" seems like a pretty big stretch to me.

If she wanted to write an article called "why people in high-profile positions of influence and responsibility can't have it all" I would have thought that was a better way to frame it.

Secondly while I feel that women who do prioritise other things over career definitely merit defending I guess what raised my hackles was that I felt she was making a generalisation about my generation of women that silenced the voices of women like me and many of my friends. I definitely do not look at my career and plan to trade off career success and satisfaction for children. I do expect to be slightly worse off as a result of the entrenched sexism in the field in which I work (which is not so different from Anne Marie's). But I'm hoping to do my little bit to change it for other women while I'm there.

RK Fire

@rougemarie: Yeah, I think your first point touches on what bothers me a bit about your article; her points make a lot of sense for people who are interested in policy/academia/fed gov't work, which don't really apply to most of the population! (I've been on the periphery of those circles before and it is pretty atypical of most people's careers, let alone women's.) I think I was impressed by how much nuance she does bring into this--I guess I'm so used to NYT trend pieces that I have a low bar for people acknowledging their privilege and any acknowledgement is a win--that I find myself defending it on here.

I totally understand why you'd be put off by the tone of the piece, especially since it sounds like you're working you ass off to move ahead in your career.

rougemarie

@RK Fire haha, maybe I'm put off by the tone because I'm working my ass off to move ahead and I'm only moving very slowly!!

I agree she brings quite a lot of nuance and tbh I'm not giving her enough credit for the positive aspects of her piece. At the end of the day I feel that her experience of navigating career and family is an important one and that it's vital for women from all walks of life to keep talking about issues like the ones she raises. It's more the framing that irked me.

bb
bb

@rougemarie I agree - I had some of your misgivings too, but the more I read the more I felt she was really presenting it in a very balanced, measured way that relates to all people who want to have careers and families, not just women. I think the headline and framing are more likely from the editors, not Slaughter.

m. marie

@rougemarie I should have finished reading the comments before posting because you said what I think a lot better than I did.

elysian fields

I continue to operate under the assumption that having children is just going to absolutely destroy my (intended) career. Like, completely torpedo it. I plan to start with my expectations in the basement so that I won't be disappointed. Maybe I'll even be pleasantly surprised! (No, probably not. It's most likely going to ruin my life.)

wharrgarbl

@elysian fields You could find a partner who wants to be a SAHP? And is maybe independently wealthy?

elysian fields

@wharrgarbl nope, my partner will be working for IBM or whatever while I give up my nonprofit sector dreams and chain myself to the nursery. Fact.

TheBelleWitch

@elysian fields Hahaha, I have this exact same attitude. LET'S BLOW UP OUR LIVES, is the way I've suggested having kids to my husband.

t-square

@TheBelleWitch Me too, more or less. I vacillate about even wanting them, and I'm 32. Right now I don't. We both work in the same industry, which is fairly (but not entirely) male-dominated. I feel like even if there are no quantifiable changes at first, my status in everyone else's view is just going to plummet, and then nothing good will ever happen again. Ugh.

terrific

This hits a couple of thoughts I've had lately which have kind of been eating me up — she talks about how the older generation just doesn't understand why the younger generation isn't "keeping on keeping on" a la Sheryl Sandberg's speech at Barnard. Because I could see myself being totally happy as a stay-at-home mother, or whatever — I don't like competition, I don't like the working world, etc. I like pursuing my own hobbies and the idea of making those into a freelance type career. I don't like the idea of riding on someone's (i.e. my currently non-existent future husband's) coattails.

But I still can't shake the feeling that even thinking that is a sin against feminism. Because I'm a feminist! I am! A lot! And I should be working hard to advance up the career ladder for women!!!!

But I'm not and I don't know if I've got it in me and I can just never imagine being the kind of person that's okay with long hours or staying away from my family/husband for a long time. I just am not. I just cannot be. And that makes me feel like a bad person.

RK Fire

@terrific: I totally hear you. I mean I imagine that she and women like her would just say "you know, if that's what you want to do, go forth and do it and be happy" but think it would still be hard to shake the feeling that maybe on the inside they're thinking "oh man, there goes another woman." That being said, I'm probably not being fair.

Dorothea

@terrific I always try to remind myself that what we consider valuable (working all the time, getting the promotions) has been shaped by what was considered valuable in men. Careers aren't more important than family, they just have been for dudes! According traditionally feminine things (like care taking) their proper value, whether they are engaged in by men or women, is an important feminist project!

rougemarie

@terrific I wish it didn't make you feel like a bad person, I think that's a shame.

For what it's worth I don't think many people have that competitive workaholic drive you're talking about. I don't think many of the men who climb the career ladder do!! I think they do it because gender norms socialise them into it. Please don't feel bad! I'm pretty traditionally career driven and I definitely don't think most people are or that they should be.

NeenerNeener

@terrific You're not being a bad feminist. It's about choice - to have the freedom to choose a life you find most fulfilling, and not about what others think you should find fulfilling.

rougemarie

@blahstudent awesome, awesome point.

beeline96

@terrific No! Don't feel like a bad person! I so feel you, and I think there are worse sins against feminism than making (or hoping to make) a choice that was made possible by feminism. (ETA: it's not a sin at all.)

KatPruska

@RK Fire Reminds me so much of lyrics from "Just a Housewife" from the musical 'Working': Women's Lib says they think it's fine / if the choice is mine / but you know they don't! / What I do - what I choose to do - may be dumb to you / but it's not to me!

Nothing relevant to add, just felt apropos.

Millie the Scientist

@RK Fire This is exactly how I feel about leaving academia. EXACTLY. Ugh.

Heat Signature

@blahstudent I would agree, but would also qualify that statement with "capitalism" (a system largely developed and controlled by men). There's a lot of bullshit laws and societal constructs that have been bankrolled by capitalist actors (including women, especially in recent years).

RK Fire

I generally dislike the whole "feminism is about choices, any choice you make is a feminist choice" attitude, but in the case re. career ambitions in family, I feel a little more ambiguous about it. Sometimes you have preferences because of the crazy fog of gender performance and social expectations of work, or sometimes you have preferencesy because that is actually who you are or your preferences are a combo of the two and that's okay..?

bitzy

@terrific See, I AM in pretty much that position and DO feel super guilty about being OK with it. My fiancee is one of the top scientists in his field and works for an awesome private company that takes extremely good care of us (Thanks for his free PhD, guys!) and more importantly, thinks of OUR situation and not just his. I have one of those hobby professions that pays me not very much but is awesomely fun and could very easily be a freelance/part-time career once kiddietime comes along. So obviously this seems to be a fairly ideal (and extremely privileged) situation, but I feel so damn guilty about not being "ambitious" enough and despite being well-educated, actually enjoying making a nice home and all that stuff. I mean, career success (moving up the ladder) sounds nice and all, but I absolutely know that if I have 1-2 kids in the next 5 years it just is not going to happen, but a decent little freelance career certainly could. And I feel so guilty and get so judged for recognizing that and being OK with it.

sarah girl

@terrific I really feel you here. I have wanted to be a parent since I was little, since I knew the concept even existed - that's my goal in life. When I've thought about career, work, etc, it's always been punctuated with "well, then I know I'll probably take time off to raise kids, which will be awesome." I'm also not particularly ambitious (but not lazy, either), don't want to be super competitive, don't have a real "career trajectory" to follow.

I kind of feel awful about this, pretty often. Which is dumb, because it's my choice and I'm not harming anyone, but I still feel like I'm betraying feminism and women as a whole. Blah.

siniichulok

@bitzy I agree with you about 10,000%! I'm a born-poor, very educated professional who's currently out of work following an international move. My husband is employed. We're ready to have kids. I'm also a secret artist working on being a not-so-secret artist (took a different career path for survival reasons). My husband can afford to provide for both of us, and he's completely OK with me following my dream. I'm making a semi-strong stab at finding gainful salaried employment now, but it's not my dream, it's a day job, and I would only want it for financial reasons. I have no career ambitions or goals outside of my art. My art can easily be done at home, will probably enable me to rake in some dough in the future given what kind of art it is, and is not totally incompatible with child-rearing.

I always feel guilty when I (as a feminist) read articles about how it's unfeminist not to fight your way up the career ladder, or at least not to try to *develop* a career, which nearly always involves a 9-to-5-type (more likely 8-to-some-ungodly-hour in my experience) office scenario. What if that's not me? I don't love the office life--in fact, I kind of hate it, like lots of people.

And I also wonder--why isn't it feminist to break into the traditionally male-dominated world of art, while showing that it's possible to do while raising children and that you don't have to be a starving tortured lone male artist in a garret in order to be successful? And I don't have any illusions about being able to do the art while wrangling a full-time job AND kids. I figure that as long as I have this privilege I might as well use it. But I still feel guilty, and I am judged by many people who are all like, "but do you have a JOB yet? Aren't you planning to GET ONE SOON? Why did you go to college?"

If I needed to be the lone provider for my kids for any reason, I would of course step up to the plate and shelve the art for as long as it took, but barring that....yet I still feel guilty.

Dorothea

@siniichulok And I also wonder--why isn't it feminist to break into the traditionally male-dominated world of art, while showing that it's possible to do while raising children and that you don't have to be a starving tortured lone male artist in a garret in order to be successful?

i think it would be awesome and also feminist. good luck!

skyslang

@terrific DO NOT FEEL BAD ABOUT THE WAY YOU ARE! We all want different things from life, and I personally want a much more laid back, quiet, interesting, relaxing, fun life than a hectic, high-stress, crazy life. I think people who want that are the crazy ones!
The messages we receive from the media (because it is run by those type A people) is that we should be more like them. You're not! I'm not! We're ok! In fact, I'd say we're better. But I don't want to judge.

DoctaJones

@blahstudent Also the idea of giving up family for work is, I think, more a product of the industrial revolution than anything. I can't imagine that a farmer in the West 200 years ago really gave a shit whether it was him or his wife taking care of their baby. He probably just wanted to make sure that kid lived to see 10.

DrFeelGood

@terrific Yes, yes yes a thousand times yes. This was the one part of the article that I really, really, identified with (not being a mom and all). Which is I am still *feeling out* my feelings on the whole subject of children, it kills me (metaphorically) that my husband decided a long time ago that he desperately wants children. I am very conflicted on the subject, because duh, the world is unfair and I will have to deal with 80 - 90% of the career and life repercussions by having them.

For a short period of time, I worked for a time in a highly competitive, ivy league, female dominated field (hint - either veterinary medicine or nursing). I have a master's degree in another field, and very very seriously considered pursuing a PhD. All of the women around me and especially my boss had fought sooo hard, and had given up soo much of their time with children/family/life. I did not see happy people. Some were happy, but most were so so unhappy with their lot and how things turned out for them. I also saw such bitterness in them that us young'uns just aren't working "hard enough" or sacrificing enough. At the same time I saw a lot of divorced, estranged from their children or just plain depressed women. It is really sad, to see that they have done everything possible career wise, and they still aren't happy. It lead me to believe that a successful career in a subject you feel passionately about =/ happiness.

I didn't make this connection until I read this article though. I saw Sandberg's speech and it was very rah-rah let's go, woman power! Now having read this article, I'm like FUCK YOU Sandberg, and all the women like you out there. I don't want your life, I don't want your stress. I don't want to bang my head against a wall for 40 years and then stop and say, hey, my head doesn't hurt anymore. More apropos, I don't want to be in a club that doesn't want me. Maybe our system is broken and it is not OUR FAULT because we have decided not to participate in a system that sucks and is soul-sucking. The system needs to change. Not us. End rant.

Lizzy@twitter

This article is particularly anxiety inducing for a rising 3L law student, specificalyl after the horrific employment numbers the ABA just released. Many of us are going to be lucky to have a job at all, let alone be in one with the type of advancement speed necessary to gain the flexibility needed before our ovaries retire. This article is saying its impossible to be working mommy even when you're in a position of power and this other article is saying this generation will take longer to get to that position. Fuuuuuuuck me.

Lizzy@twitter

@Lizzy@twitter This was poorly worded. But still- freaking out the past couple days.

hulia

@Lizzy@twitter Aw honey, I'm so sorry. I have no advice, but as a third-year attorney whose satisfaction level with her job is in the negative millions right now and whose current relationship appears to be slowly falling apart, I am right there with you on the freak out.

yeahsurefine

@hulia @Lizzy@twitter Ladies! As an ex-Cravath lawyer who now works at a nonprofit and looooooooves her job, AND works from home on Fridays, here's some unsolicited advice- try to ride the freakout and see where it takes you. I quit law firms at the peak of the first dip (as a seventh year and with no other job- I just couldn't take it any more and quit right as I was about to make partner b/c the idea of doing that for the rest of my life was unbearable), started my own practice (at double the work and half the salary) and a scant year later wound up going in-house for my current employer, which so far has been a dream come true. AND because I was so relieved to be out of law firm life and could be a normal human being, I met a wonderful guy (whom I had time to date!) and am now married. If you had told me 3 years ago (in mid-freakout) that this would be my life, I would never have believed you (and would probably have burst into tears). Point is- the job you get in this economy might turn out to be the best thing that has ever happened to you...you just never know. My story isn't uncommon!

automaticdoor

@yeahsurefine Late reply because I just got to this (bar studying), but fingers crossed! I just graduated, have no job, am about to have to move home because my lease is up and my boyfriend whom I was going to move in with unceremoniously dumped me after I flew to Houston to see him... it's nice to hear some words of hope. God. I need a Breakup Bunker stat.

bananagram

Is anyone else bristling at how this article positioned "feminist lies" against "work-life balance realities"? No? Just me?

rougemarie

@bananagram THANK YOU. Definitely not just you.

bananagram

@rougemarie Also, work-life balance IS a feminist issue.

I'm more inclined to blame the Atlantic than the author though. This is just another in a line of lady articles that infuriatingly refuses to acknowledge the evolution of feminism past the first wave, or really any breadth of feminist definition and experience.

rougemarie

@bananagram yeah good point. To someone like me who came to feminist consciousness around 2005 the feminism they talk about is just alien.

It's interesting when the media talks about feminism being dead. Maybe a lot of stuff that came out of the second wave actually is dead. But there's a vibrant feminism that came to life after that time that is still going strong and that isn't really recognised as 'feminism' for the purposes of media beatups.

TheBelleWitch

@bananagram Yessss, but I blame the Atlantic too, knowing a bit about how headline-writing works. F you guys, feminists have been trying to get workplaces to change to make 'having it all' possible for DECADES and when other forces push back against us, we're the liars now. Fine, great, whatever.

Better to Eat You With

@rougemarie Yeah, I came to feminism in the early/mid 90s, and this antagonistic bullshit is entirely foreign to me, too. I generally think that the presupposition of contentiousness is applied by people on the outside looking in, buying into the convenient capitalist narrative about feminism, without much knowledge about feminism itself.

m. marie

@bananagram I know right?! I don't understand how she can say "look at all these female judges and Condoleeza who had to give up a family to succeed like they did!" and then somehow say that it's FEMINISM that was wrong here? Like it's not the sexism of the system that kept them from having a family that was neatly taken care of by a stay-at-home dad, it's the feminist lie that you can have it all. What?

RK Fire

@m. marie: I heard that the feminist lie that "you can have it all" also:
-controls the British Crown
-keeps the metric system down
-keeps Atlantis off of maps
-keeps the Martians under wraps

wharrgarbl

@RK Fire Fair enough, but at least it didn't make Steve Gutenberg a star.

City_Dater

And the biggest takeaway from the interview and the article? Her husband is a Unicorn of a Man. I would be tempted to marry and have kids too, if I ever met a guy truly committed to an equal partnership.

Nicole Cliffe

Did anyone else catch this part?

"Louise Richardson, now the vice chancellor of the University of St. Andrews, in Scotland, combined an assistant professorship in government at Harvard with mothering three young children. She organized her time so ruthlessly that she always keyed in 1:11 or 2:22 or 3:33 on the microwave rather than 1:00, 2:00, or 3:00, because hitting the same number three times took less time."

Dorothea

@Nicole Cliffe yes!

But it also is the kind of thing my boyfriend would do, if he didn't already think microwaving things were a waste of time. Some people take short cuts in weird places.

Genghis Khat

@Nicole Cliffe I felt validated as I do that, and I'm not even that busy.

catfoodandhairnets

@Nicole Cliffe Ugh, that sounds so stressful and exhausting.

beeline96

@Nicole Cliffe Ummmm I also do that... you know, to give my food a little extra "oomph". (Is it "oomph" or "oomf"???)

Magistra

@Nicole Cliffe I heard that trick a while ago, but when I heard about it, it was a hallmark of engineers -- i.e., the most efficient way to use a microwave. And I now do it myself and have taught my kids to do it, too.

bb
bb

@Nicole Cliffe how much time do you think she spends reading/writing internet comments? probably not a lot. Damn.

Rock and Roll Ken Doll

@Nicole Cliffe
You say efficiency, I say laziness...

NeenerNeener

Um, I have a microwave that does express cook where you just hit 1 through 10 for the number of minutes, and don't even have to press the start button. I win at efficieny... in this one area of my life.

NeenerNeener

@NeenerNeener ...I don't have time to type all the letters in words.

FoxyRoxy

@Nicole Cliffe I literally.... just fixated on this for hours because that is intense and mind, blown. I will never be the leader of anything if this is what it takes.

RK Fire

@NeenerNeener: Yeah, I was a little confused by this because my microwave has an "add 1 minute" button that I just use to heat up everything. Need more than one minute? Just hit the button again for two minutes.

Is my microwave too simple?

beeline96

@josiahg If I have to microwave my Trader Joe's frozen meal for lunch in my office's who-knows-how-old microwave for 3:30, will the extra 3 seconds hurt? I THINK NOT.

Rock and Roll Ken Doll

@beeline96
If your experience with old office microwaves is anything like mine, you're lucky if 3:33 isn't your only option because all the other number keys are broken!

whateverlolawants

@Nicole Cliffe I learned that trick from the owner of the coffee/sandwich/pastry shop where I worked in college!

Genghis Khat

When women "can't have it all" the thing they automatically have to jettison is the high-powered career, so yeah, it's disappointing to see another piece take the I Don't Know How She Does It tack, even though I support this individual woman's choice. The decision to go with family makes sense from an emotional standpoint-- everyone loves an engaged mother sacrificing her ambitions for love of her children, but if we have accepted that sometimes men see their career as more important than their families, the same needs to be true for women.

This reminds me of when a lawyer friend had a baby and said, "This is the most important work I've ever done!" And I thought, "Really? Because you literally rescued thousands of women from sexual slavery as a human rights lawyer."

So yeah, few people are going to be cut out for the kind of lonely life of high achievement, but it is ridick that it should still be men who are allowed to go that route, even when they have kids.

Sometimes not being the best EVAR mother has got to be okay. Some men care about work/life balance, some men don't but still get to have both. I want it to be the same for women.

Mira

@Genghis Khat I'm with you, and that "most important work!" thing drives me crazy. But then I'm a workaholic who doesn't like kids, so.

rougemarie

@Mira my favourite bit is when someone tells me I'll understand how important it is when I finally have children of my own.

Genghis Khat

@rougemarie That drives me nuts. Sure, maybe I'll change my mind, but that doesn't invalidate my feelings now. And maybe I won't change my mind. Maybe I know who I am.

You don't have a TARDIS, you can't tell me how I'm going to feel. Maybe in ten years you'll really regret having kids, you don't know, and I'm not rude enough to suggest that to you.

rougemarie

@Genghis Khat next time it happens I'll be sure to retort "why don't you build a time travelling police box and then you can tell me how my life is going to play out".

Because, I will let anyone who can build a TARDIS patronise me. Though only a little. For a short period of time.

Mira

@rougemarie WHITE HOT RAGE.

datalass

@rougemarie Frankly, I'd let someone who can OPERATE a TARDIS patronize me...provided that that someone was incarnation number 9 or 10.

Bed Monster

@Genghis Khat Yeah, I feel you. I have a mom who almost hung up the doctor's whitecoat while she was pregnant with me. She didn't know how she was going to keep doing it because there was no grandmother staying with us anymore to help with daytime childcare, which helped her out when my sister was born. My dad said that they'd figure it out and make it work because she had worked too hard and spent too much time devoting her life to something she loves to just throw it away. He's also a doctor, so I'm pretty that helped in terms of understanding what it all meant to her.

Choice is choice is choice is choice. I get that. I get that many women are happy when they decide to stop working/work less/take a few years off for child-rearing purposes. Many women aren't happy to do that but do it anyway, though because for some reason, they have to or feel that they must. I also wish that more people were willing to be understanding of women who are dedicated to their careers and pretty much refuse to give them up. My mom is badass and my main influence when it comes to what it means to be a working woman. On top of that, I'll always remember that my dad was important in her decision to keep at it because he just got it and didn't want her to give up something she really loved.

Personally, I'd like to hear more stories like that. I also hope that one day (maybe?), people with smaller incomes are the focal point of these stories (but that probably won't happen any time soon).

datalass

@Genghis Khat I've been in the workplace long enough to have seen quite a few very talented women leave to be SAHPs or to take less demanding positions. I've totally supported them but, honestly, in some instances it was almost heartbreaking to witness. The years of preparation--education, very specific training, gaining experience--and then, right at the point when all of that would really have started to benefit both the employer and the employee. Gone. In one case, both members of a couple worked at the same place. It was blindingly obvious that the wife was the professional star, whereas the husband was about average. And yet, when it came time for one of them to quit and stay home with their kids, it was the wife who said goodbye.

Genghis Khat

@Bed Monster Are you me? Because my family history is similar, down to two doctor parents. Yay feminist mom role models!

Mira

@datalass I haven't been in the workplace that long and I've seen this happen, too. My organization has excellent benefits (for the U.S.) because we compete for talent with European organizations, but still, women get pregnant and then they just...disappear. Maybe I shouldn't feel sad about that, but I do. (Or they start bringing their babies to the office, which is almost worse!)

Anyway, I appreciated that Anne-Marie Slaughter talks in her article about flexible policies for everyone, not just parents, which acknowledges that we all have families or people who are important to us and need to have some ability to fit our jobs around our lives. Many of these types of articles are all, "How can life be easier for me, a mother, who works?" and the proposed "solutions" often end up making life more difficult for those of us who aren't interested in being mothers or in constantly having to pick up the slack for our coworkers when their kids get sick or whatever. It was nice to have more dimensions of working and family life acknowledged here, and to make the case that more flexible workplaces can indeed be fair and better for everyone.

Miss Maszkerádi

@rougemarie Sometimes I want to have a voluntary hysterectomy right in front of those people.

And then go for a ride in my time-traveling phone box and discover that this weird woman I know who is older than me is actually somehow my daughter....wait, getting ahead of myself.....

Bed Monster

@Genghis Khat I knew I had a doppelganger in terms of life story somewhere. I blame my mom for my interest in dating science-type guys.

rougemarie

@datalass you can let 9 and 10 patronise you - River Song and 11 are more my style :)

@CountessMaritza looks like someone has hit on the plot line for season 7!

theguvnah

"If Women’s Liberation meant anything, it meant giving women a full range of choices, so that if a woman thinks that that’s what she’s best at, and that’s what she’s happiest doing, then we absolutely need to validate that choice. "

NO NO NO don't fall for the Choice Feminism conundrum! That is NOT what "women's liberation" was about!

Miss Maszkerádi

@theguvnah Then what was it about?

Magistra

@CountessMaritza The hokey pokey, of course.

queenofbithynia

@CountessMaritza The right to vote, the right of married women to own property, the establishment of rape as a crime both in and out of marriage, the definition and criminalization of sex discrimination and sexual harassment, equal pay for equal work, the long and ongoing fight to establish a universal understanding of women as full and equal humans and citizens with the full human range of rights, privileges, duties and responsibilities. Boring shit like that.

Let me spotlight a couple examples of how feminism is not about choice. We fight to criminalize marital rape. We do not fight for women's right to choose whether or not marital rape is right for them.

We fight for an end to sexual harassment. We do not fight for women's right to determine on an individual basis whether or not it might not be fun to sexually harass somebody.

We fight for equal consideration and respect to be accorded women's artistic output. We do not fight for a woman's right to choose not to be taken seriously. (Women do, of course, have that right. I just don't give a shit about it in my capacity as feminist god.)

And so on.

Gwdihw

@queenofbithynia
Choice feminism drives me nuts; it's basically a way to use the term that often winds up being kind of anti-feminism in the end. And I don't count myself as a huge prescriptivist or anything.

queenofbithynia

@l'esprit de l'escalier You look at other social movements that grew alongside feminism, like specifically the gay rights movement, the civil rights movement and the labor movement, and it's not that the "choice" language never gets applied to them -- it does! -- but somehow it's not held up as the very definition and goal of the movement itself, because that would be ludicrous.

Like, you hear about how workers should have the CHOICE to work for sub-minimum-wage, because what are they, children who need protection from the rough-and-tumble of the free market? People really do say shit like that and pretend to mean it. But I think in that case it's somehow easier see that kind of rhetoric for what it is, and the kind of attack that it is.

Miss Maszkerádi

@queenofbithynia Except the way you're framing the issue makes it sound like you view "choosing to stay at home and be a mother/caretaker" as something equivalent to or equally harmful as marital rape, sexual harrassment, and worker exploitation. I know that's probably not what's in your mind, but it can easily be (mis)-interpreted that way.

theguvnah

@CountessMaritza There is lots of blog and even academic discussion of "choice feminism" and why it should not be conflated with "real" feminism (take my quotation marks as you wish, though obviously I am not a proponent of choice feminism) and here is a great example:
http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract?fromPage=online&aid=7323460

Gwdihw

@theguvnah
Veeeeery interesting!

m. marie

Okay, and sorry, maybe I'm a mean democrat, but let me just say this made me lol a little:

"In Midlife Crisis at 30, Mary Matalin recalls her days working as President Bush’s assistant and Vice President Cheney’s counselor: Even when the stress was overwhelming—those days when I’d cry in the car on the way to work, asking myself “Why am I doing this??”—I always knew the answer to that question: I believe in this president."

Mira

@m. marie Ha, high five. When I got to that part, I was all, "...him?"

RK Fire

@Mira: ahahahahahahaha...

Mira

@RK Fire Oh, it's so cute. She sometimes takes a little pack of mayonnaise, and...

FoxyRoxy

I read Slaughter's article last night and found it really compelling and really frustrating. I suspect many women already know a lot of what she discusses here, so eloquently. I'm one of those women who has, thus far, sacrificed a personal life for her career and it has absolutely sucked. I love my job, well respected, fancy title, success, whatever. I don't regret my choice. My personal life is a disaster. I date juiceboxes because I don't even have the TIME to meet someone who is not terrible. I have about 7 years to get my shit together to have a child, am already in the iffy years of fertility and tick tock, you know? It's on my mind. I guess I never once thought I could have it all. I wonder who these women are who did think they could have it all? I also feel like working class women are left out of these fancy conversations time and again. The choices Slaughter has had? Off to Shanghai for a year? Tenure at Princeton? Come on. That is rich people shit. I say that with love and mad respect for her. She's an amazing woman but this article is not meant for the majority of people in this country. She is writing to the elite who already know most of this so I guess that's what frustrates me despite the fact that she makes some really important points. Also, as an aside, I quibble with the assertion that women cannot enter academia in the forties. I've seen it, more than once, though certainly, the older you are, the more difficult it is because the tenure track is... pretty brutal (in a white collar sense, clearly). I thought this article was an interesting juxtaposition to Wurtzel's curious little essay last week about 1% wives staying home. This is all a ramble, but I've been thinking about this quite a lot.

The Hons

@FoxyRoxy I'm glad you said this. I am commenting to agree with you-because this stuff keeps me up at night as well-and also to add my two cents about "rich people shit" in the broader context of what is featured on this website. I'm sort of hiding in your comment thread because I'm a little nervous about what I have to say. It seems like "Ladies First" for The Hairpin means "Certain Ladies First."
Slaughter is clearly not a real authority on this topic because the privileges she has had along the way make it impossible for her to truly understand the plight of average working career women in America. I'm sure that she is delightful and that is great about her laugh, but really? The Atlantic just rehashed the same old "I don't know how she does it" piece that has appeared in countless forms already, and now The Hairpin is pretending this conversation is actually going in a different direction this time? We've heard from privileged women. It doesnt matter that she seems aware of her privilege. Make an effort to check it. Usually doing that means making room for other voices who would not otherwise be heard. The Hairpin could have done an interview with one or several women who work just as hard as Slaughter but have not been recognized as authorities on this topic because their lives don't so easily conform to the narrative that if you just work as a team with your husband-and also get six months maternity leave, sabbaticals, and still have time to find yourself at Harvard-you can have it all.

It seems like it is becoming a trend on this site to ask extremely privileged people for their opinion of issues which they are not as qualified to comment on as they would like to think. Last week, it was the Of A Kind people, in what amounted to a not-so-veiled advertisement for their product. This week, it's another rich lady talking about rich things. I'm sure she doesn't mean anyone any harm. She seems like an awesome person! But she is not the one to ask about what it is like to be a woman and work and raise children, not if you really want to dig into the issue and really ask what's up. I'm angry about this because I like this website a lot and lately it seems like the editors just blatantly don't care about the social issues they raise, but raise them anyway because they are trendy or because they get to talk to people with fancy sweatshirts and nice laughs. And I think that is irresponsible.

Xanthophyllippa

@The Hons I agree with you on most of this. Unfortunately (related to my comment below about my "success" not looking like Slaughter's "success") my life makes for very boring reading, by comparison. I think there's still a bit of an escapist assumption going on - that reading about high-profile women lets us step into a "better" (or at least different) life for a bit, and seeing that they struggle too is supposed to make them more relatable. But the most engaging, breathtaking success story I've read in a long time is probably somewhere in the compilation of carolita's posts about her life; there's some glamour there, sure, but also a lot of struggle, and I've never read one of her posts and felt like I couldn't have been in that same place myself.

But yes. I don't look like these people I'm reading about suddenly.

joie

@The Hons Thank goodness the Hairpin brings the realness when it comes to book recommendations and such, not to mention a gracious, thoughtful commentariat. I think that this is a good point though, and hopefully the editors see this and take it into account. If they want to interview a 27 year old single mom working 60 hours a week and going to school at night, just for a little perspective on the other side of this piece, I'll happily volunteer!

The Hons

@Xanthophyllippa I agree with you, especially about Carolita's posts. I guess that is why I find myself surprised lately. A few months ago, Nicole had a great post called "I figured out how she does it," that just said, "she gets a nanny." (I am paraphrasing, I think Nicole's prose was likely more brilliant, but you get the point). That basically sums up the Atlantic article and this interview -not in terms of specifics, of course, but in that "how she does it" is PRIVILEGE END OF STORY. All personal awesomeness and drive aside, and as much as we would secretly like to believe that maybe people who have a hard time have just not worked hard enough, people like Slaughter have what they have because they are privileged, socially and financially. These pieces - the Slaughter interview and the straight up shilling for Of a Kind - seem like they were written for a different website.

joie

@The Hons Also, reading this article just makes me want to put my head down on my desk and weep, because if she was able to get to where she is with the aid of all that privilege (which, to be fair, she acknowledges a few times) how in the name of all that is holy will I ever get anywhere? And I think that's where it comes into play, more than anything...I would love to read interviews with people who have struggled through some genuinely tough shit in life and still found a way to build successful, happy lives. I know they're out there, right?

RK Fire

@all: Just wanted to say that although there are things I liked about the article, I definitely agree that it would be great to hear from people who weren't from what I feel to be part of the political/social/economic elite on this topic. I do feel a bit like Mame right now, especially since I don't have too many immediate examples within my family, social, or work sphere.

Mira

@The Hons I hated the Of A Kind article, but Anne-Marie Slaughter didn't really bother me because I thought her article did a really good job of acknowledging her privilege, identifying the audience she was writing for/about, and modeling the kind of broader policy changes she argued would help make a difference for women in all positions.

So I read the interview with a benefit-of-the-doubt spirit, but the interview itself doesn't really acknowledge any of those things and as a result, is pretty tone-deaf. And I definitely agree with you on the broader direction of the site; there's a certain tone of unexamined privilege and flirtation, rather than engagement, with serious social issues that is becoming a turnoff.

(And to add: I think the serious issues can be discussed and engaged with in ways that are still entertaining and even fun - I'm not arguing for gloom and doom and exhaustion! - but just glossing over all this stuff starts to feel a little silly, maybe a little condescending.)

The Hons

@Mira

Just wanted to say to you that I appreciated your comments on the Of a Kind article. Yours was one of the voices that I think could have better served that subject. You seem very knowledgeable about the issues under discussion and filled in some of the many gaps in their self-serving pseudo-Q&A (especially re: cashmere not necessarily being the great 'investment' fiber that I have assumed it was for so long!)

Mira

@The Hons Thanks, that's awfully nice of you. I don't know that I would have done a better job - and it's always a lot easier to criticize something than to do it yourself! I am trying to be more mindful of that since I'm finding how easy it is to work myself into a self-righteous frenzy on the Internet.

I'm just hopeful that the Of a Kind thing was an anomaly for the 'Pin and not a harbinger of things to come.

Dorothea

@Mira i'm not trying to be combative here, but i'm curious about the repeated invocation of "privilege" as undermining the article. (not just by you and really not just here.) like, why is it necessary for us to acknowledge that a person like anne-marie slaughter, who is highly educated and has been extremely successful, is privileged? does everything she say about her own life have to have a disclaimer on it, along the lines of: "not directly applicable to the lives of those less fortunate than me"?

for one thing, i think it is so clear that a person in her position has benefited from a combination of ability and luck that i'm not sure what it adds to repeat it ad nauseum. and the article itself, which is, after all, where the substance of her viewpoint is laid out, discusses it in depth. why isn't that enough?

and i'm also curious as to who exactly we expect to hear from, and why hearing from anne-marie slaughter prevents us also from hearing from the "housekeeper in Des Moines" on this subject. part of this is built into the elitism of the culture industry (how exactly does one get tapped to write articles for the atlantic, exactly?), and that's surely a source of concern. but would anne-marie slaughter be a better source for this information if, instead of being a daughter of charlottesville academics (i'm guessing, not sure what else her parents could have been doing there), she had been raised by a working class single mother, and then gone on to princeton and harvard and oxford? or what if, after finishing her education, she just never managed to find career success?

absolutely, we should care about the experiences of women who haven't already experienced insane amounts of professional success, and i agree that these women's experiences are underrepresented in the conversation. but why should we also seek to silence anne-marie slaughter? i think it's true that the article goes over a lot of the same ground as previous ones, but i think she does a better job of it than any i've already read, and it's still a problem, isn't it? i still want to talk about it anyway.

Dorothea

@The Hons The Hairpin could have done an interview with one or several women who work just as hard as Slaughter but have not been recognized as authorities on this topic because their lives don't so easily conform to the narrative that if you just work as a team with your husband-and also get six months maternity leave, sabbaticals, and still have time to find yourself at Harvard-you can have it all.

i read her article as explicitly rejecting this narrative. as recognizing that it was a false narrative based on luck and industry. i read it as arguing that is people can't have it all, because of a male-centric work culture based on face-time and rigid hours--but that they should be able to have more of it, because those things can and should be accessible to more people.

FoxyRoxy

@blahstudent I don't think anyone's suggesting that Slaughter should be silenced. They're asking for a broader range of voices to be heard. She's awesome and she has interesting things to say and this article takes on some really big issues quite well but she's breathing rather rarefied air so it would be... perhaps more useful for some women, to see how people without fancy jobs, job security, a supportive spouse, money, great daycare and/or a full time housekeeper, think through this notion of work/life balance.

Dorothea

@FoxyRoxy i think some people's comments could at least be reasonably interpreted as wishing she had not said anything. i'd be 110% pro-interview with another lady on this subject.

i also agree with you (and others) about the "of a kind" piece being tone-deaf. i guess the way i view the concept of privilege is that it's a useful way to check whether something somebody says is wrong. privilege can be a source of error--like, if you assume that $80 is affordable, or that it's slumming it to be unable to afford to go out to eat a few times a week. but if what somebody says doesn't have that kind of mistake, i don't think the concept of privilege is that useful except as a means of providing context for the discussion. (i'm also sensitive about this because of a billfold comment thread in which the child of two public school teachers was dismissed as too privileged to have an opinion about personal finance, which i thought was crazy.)

FoxyRoxy

@blahstudent I didn't say anything about Of a Kind. I don't know what that is though I keep seeing it mentioned so I'm gathering it is something!

Dorothea

@FoxyRoxy http://thehairpin.com/2012/06/why-buying-from-emerging-fashion-designers-costs-more-money-and-why-thats-okay

it was a post about why it's important to pay for pretty expensive indie fashion, including a few pretty cringe-inducing lines suggesting $80 boots were a super-affordable steal and that it is important for young designers to be able to afford to "buy the requisite amount of Trader Joe’s yogurt and $9 wine."

FoxyRoxy

@blahstudent OH! Okay, that post. I read it and never read the comments. I can see what people are saying about tone. I'm all for looking at fancy things but I also agree that balance is important. When I was in grad school, I wouldn't have been able to fathom affording those clothes. It would be cool to see things featured both for people who can spend more and people who can't (or won't).

The Hons

@blahstudent I don't think Slaughter should be "silenced." But we hear from people like Slaughter all the time on this topic. Her situation has even been gently chided on this site (see my comment about Nicole's post). I think The Hairpin had an opportunity to see the Atlantic article and raise it with an interview from someone, or several people, whose situations contrast hers. Other people could have been heard in this forum, and Slaughter would still have her Atlantic cover article. This sounds a little dramatic, but I dont think anyone has to be silenced in order for other voices to be heard.

Xanthophyllippa

@blahstudent Fair enough. By "privilige" I meant "money." She has the money to be able to have a full-time housekeeper. She has the money to be able to take her family out of the country for six months - and also has a job that she knows won't fire her for doing so. That last isn't entirely about money but is correllated with being in a higher socioeconomic class than a lot of people (which, circularly, is correllated with having a white-collar job).

So in this case - and it's true here but not in other cases - when I'm dissatisfied with advice about how to balance work/life from a woman who has privilege, it's because I'm dissatisfied with advice from someone who has money I don't have. I don't have a spouse and children, but even so my own work-life balance would be closer to even if I didn't have to figure out when, in between sleeping and eating and grading all these papers and maybe having fun one night a week, I'm going to clean the bathroom floor because it's unidentifiably sticky.*

Slaughter seems really down-to-earth for the most part, and I think if I met her I'd probably like her and we'd get along well and maybe have coffee. But I'd have felt a lot more of myself here just with a casual aside like, "Even if you can't travel that far or that long with your family, taking the time to do a weekend camping trip can be restorative and remind your kids who you are." I don't begrudge her the money she has, but I do begrudge the original article their lack of sense of scale.

(*I dropped some hair gel earlier this week. No, really.)

blee

@Mira agreed on all points! I think that her article was really geared towards people who are in the positions to make or suggest policy changes because it seems that change is going to have to come from the top. I would love to hear the voices of working class women as well and hope that The Hairpin would consider some out for interviews.

DoctaJones

@The Hons I think the biggest take away on this article is really it gives us some reasons why so few women are in power. And that's key. People like Slaughter make policy. They advise presidents. They argue law. They make huge business decisions. In other words, this incredibly small, incredibly privileged group of people make decisions with HUGE impact. And the number of women involved in that is tiny despite increase in college enrollment and graduation. Her article is really addressing why women stop climbing the ladder and has reasonable suggestions that would benefit everyone (like, say, changing the school schedule, offering paternity leave) not just her small circle of peers. If you read it that way, it's not really about balancing work/life, it's about retaining talented women in high power positions.

Xanthophyllippa

@DoctaJones Excellent point - I like that way of looking at this article. Her comment about asking for things is a good one; too often we don't ask for what we want to see happen, and that - even if it doesn't have the desired result - can sometimes in itself set the ball rolling.

D.@twitter

@FoxyRoxy I'm sooo glad you pointed this out. It's like, uh, HELLO, do most women even have the OPTION of not returning to work two weeks after giving birth? No, no they don't. I feel like all this agonizing btwn work and home is a totally false and misleading question, designed to make women feel guilty about something they have no control over. "The Atlantic" loves to publish pseudo-controversial sh*t like this; this Slaughter woman is basically a more palatable Caitlin Flanagan. And, as Gloria Steinem pointed out, (to me! When I talked to her!), if the burdens of childcare were more equally shared, then mothers wouldn't have to heap so much guilt upon themselves. Where's THAT story?

blee

@D.@twitter Did you read the article? Because I think that although The Atlantic is trying to frame it that way, the actual article is much more nuanced and I think that you'd agree with it more than you think. Anne-Marie Slaughter is not just another Caitlin Flanagan. Read the article! Pleeeeeeeaaaaseeeee.

D.@twitter

@blee Fair enough. Although it still rankles that she has decided to attack FEMINISTS for telling women "they can have it all." However, I feel like that was something the Atlantic editors (I still have it in for those guys) stuck in, b/c most of the problems she points out are the results of a patriarchal society, and the only times she really mentions feminism are in an initial paragraph, and also when asked leading questions in that horrifically titled video, "Have feminists sold women a fiction?" or some such nonsense.

DrFeelGood

@D.@twitter I took it more as the feminist philosophy is due for an update, if it is not serving all women well, no matter what older career women may think about us, then we need to change things. Also that for everyone to be successful, women need to be successful. Not just feminism, but the whole system has to change. Her suggestions were pretty weak though. I lol'd at the idea of approaching my boss for a discussion regarding a more balanced work-life policy.

annev6

Ok. My mom was a small business owner from the time I was 7, my sister 3, my brother an infant. The only thing she's ever mentioned about it is that it was easy for her to go back to work when I and my sister could talk, because they didn't worry so much about leaving us with nannies/sitters/daycares.
My mom worked from about 8 am to 6 pm, every day, longer hours at the end of the month, but I never once felt like she "wasn't there". Sure, my dad was more often the one to pick us up from school and deal with our crap, but I don't feel like anything in my life was weird because it was dealt with by my dad instead of my mom.
What's so weird to me about this and other articles I've read about the "choice" we have to make is how little it resonates. I guess it doesn't feel like my mom had to make some dramatic "choice". It was just always how it was - mom worked, dad picked you up, we all had dinner together, the end.
I feel like this "guilt" that gets talked about a lot is largely a self-invented thing these women feel, probably because they are so used to being involved and in charge, maybe not being that as much with their kids drives them nuts, even though it's not necessarily effecting the kids?
Also most women who work probably aren't going to be working for Hilary Clinton or Facebook, so I don't think the whole "going home at 6" thing will be so controversial.
Anyway, that's my take as the daughter of a highly successful working mom who is thankful every day she has this perspective on the world and families.

Dorothea

@annev6 yeah, i had a similar experience as far as totally having no problem with my mom working. i never felt at all neglected, and sometimes felt kind of smothered (i preferred to be alone so i could do whatever i wanted). but a lot of my friends who grew up with SAHMs cannot imagine life without mommies and snacks the instant they got home from school. their moms did those things with love, so that's what a mother's love looks like to them.

annev6

@blahstudent Isn't that amazing? I never realized how normal that was until I went to college in the South, basically Stepford, and met kids who's mother's called them like 5 times a day, they didn't know how to do their own laundry or make scrambled eggs themselves, I was like WHAT IS THE DEAL? Most of my childhood friends had moms who worked too, and it had literally never occured to me until I was in my late teens that there were women who could afford to stay home and also I was confused as to why they would need to? Even my grandmas both worked.

Bed Monster

@annev6 Preach. My parents hardly came to any school related ceremony/sports thing because they didn't have the freaking time to do it. My parents regularly came home at 7-8 PM when we had a nanny, and I got picked up at 6-7 PM even when I wasn't doing a sport once there was no nanny because that was their work schedule. I never cared. My parents made sure I was doing well in school, tried their best to be aware of my feelings, took me on vacations, and did all kinds of great things with me. I never felt not loved, and in many ways, granting me that independence was their way of showing that they trusted me. That meant a lot to me!

annev6

@Bed Monster I think all that matters is consistency. Kids don't feel "abandoned" by a parent who has made it clear their whole lives they have to work to support the family. My grandma would come to stuff if my parents couldn't, and that felt like the same thing to me. But even that I only have a vague, fuzzy memory of happening like once or twice? I dunno, I didn't care. I was too busy trying to figure out why everyone wanted boyfriends and how I could get my dad to buy me some ADIDAS Sambas.

DrFeelGood

@annev6 Thanks for this. I am the daughter of a SAHM, and my sister is a SAHM. So were my grandmas. So even though I have a freaking master's degree, and a high desire to keep working once I have kids, I ALREADY FEEL GUILTY about the whole enterprise. Even though I've heard that all the research shows is that just don't molest/lock your children in a closet, and they will turn out OK; I'm sure I will be a very guilty working mom :(

Waiting

I desperately want to believe that having a family and a career will work for ME. Why can't I believe?

Waiting

I desperately want to believe that having a family and a career will work for ME. Why can't I believe?

MissMushkila

All I can think about with these sort of articles, is that a lot of ambitious careers pose the 2-body problem oft discussed in terms of two grad students with professorial ambitions finding work in the same place. I studied languages, and a lot of my peers have entered the military, FBI, DOD, State Dept, and maybe CIA (I wouldn't know, but I wouldn't be surprised). Those same positions mostly all have as a requirement that if you work there in their employ, they can send you wherever they want whenever they want. No wonder many are still male dominated. And I pause at the thought of pursuing a federal career, with a boyfriend who hopes to become a professor, because there is no promising way for that to end. I think those career fields get away with it, because men might be able to find well-educated women willing to sacrifice their career for their spouse.

I also think this is a problem with young marriage. I'm in my twenties, so maybe this is just moping, but my God - how are two young adults still figuring out their career track supposed to end up in the same place??? It seems it would be way more convenient to fall in love (the kind of love where you picture growing old together) when you are in your thirties and more settled.

Dorothea

@MissMushkila i wonder if long-distance relationships are kind of a new phenomenon, or at least one that's changed (no longer just about men going off to war or whatever). i did long-distance while i was in law school, and so did a lot of my friends. (most of us made it all the way through law school in long-distance relationships, actually, and i know of a couple people who will continue to be in long-distance relationships and even engagements for at least a couple of years after graduation.)

Miss Maszkerádi

@MissMushkila dear God I'm glad to hear I'm not the only one stressing about this. I'm in classical music and not only is the college/conservatory experience so intense and mental-energy-and-time consuming that I've had a grand total of six months relationship experience in my 23 years on this green earth, and realizing that with graduate study and auditions and the total crap shoot of finding longer than a yearlong gig somewhere, I might not be able to pursue a serious relationship until i'm well into my thirties. Does.....anybody have advice on how to deal with this? I like being free and single for now, but I don't want to be single/"inexperienced" till I'm thirty-seven.....

Xanthophyllippa

@CountessMaritza Not that there's anything wrong with that, for those of us who are single and thirty-seven...

Ha, no, I get what you mean. I wish I had some suggestions, but I do think there's a certain element of choice here. I mean, you can choose not to pursue something serious until you're settled, in which case you might frustrate yourself and feel lonely a lot (if you're someone who likes being with someone else); you could also choose to pursue something and then deal with the professional issues when they happen. You might still end up lonely if that doesn't work out, but you won't know until you give someone else the chance to be with you and to discuss goals/plans with you.

I did grad school here (8 years) and didn't pursue anything because I knew I'd probably leave to teach somewhere else, then started teaching here (5 years) knowing each year that I was still on the tenure-track market and might leave. The end result is that I've been here 13 years and managed to talk myself out of finding relationships every single year - and now I'm too jaded and uncomfortable to try. If you think you can live with that for so long, then hold off, but if you're like me and would really prefer to be with someone else, then I wouldn't recommend basing your tangible personal life on an abstract understanding of what your professional life might be like.

sevanetta

@MissMushkila one part of me says - maybe, yeah. I just met my lovely boyfriend, I'm 30, he's 34. I have lived interstate and overseas and had lots of great jobs and changed industries (in government/research stuff) and done two degrees; he's got a degree and other qualifications, has lived interstate. We only met because we both moved back to where we grew up (the same place).

On the other hand, it took me years of being on my own to get lucky and find him, and he has been single for a while as well. So the other part of me says - Take love where you find it; you're very lucky if you find someone wonderful no matter what your age; you will work it out.

DoctaJones

@MissMushkila Yeah, this was a tough call to make. I recently got married and I'm about to turn 28 (husband is also 28). By all accounts I have (had?) a bright career ahead of me and I've put that on hold because of my husband's job. But I love him and he's perfect for me and I felt like I should grab that bull by the horns and the rest be damned.

DrFeelGood

@MissMushkila Ugh. Don't remind me. My husband has a PhD. I very much wanted to get a PhD for a long time, but I looked at everyone I knew who is married in a dual PhD couple, and they often live in different locations; they travel a lot to see each other on weekends, they even do this when they have children. I was lucky to realize prior that I didn't want that life. That it was unacceptable to me for even a short period of time. For some, dealing it with a year or a few years may be OK. Me, I want to see my spouse every night, to see my kids, to work in the same geographic area. We are both job hunting now and it is so so hard. We are both making sacrifices, but our life seems to be playing out like a lot of couples I know. It was his turn last time (deciding where to do PhD), so now it is my turn. He's making sacrifices now that will probably affect his career in unknown ways for 10 years. The same was true for me when he started his PhD.

I feel like I am walking down a hallway full of doorways, and the more doors that you walk through the more that close behind you. Life is complicated anyway, but it is more complicated with 2 people trying to find fulfilling, satisfying careers in maybe the same state?! That said, I am perfectly happy to give up one of my dreams to keep my other dream alive, my marriage. I guess you just have to be secure enough to fuck all the haters that are going to look down your nose at the choices you make based on your situation. But isn't that true of everything in life? My own advice, that echoes everything I was told, was don't put your personal life - be that a partner, a child, a dog - whatever you REALLY WANT - on hold for your career.

WaityKatie

Has anyone addressed how creepy this photo is? It looks like some kind of weirdo digitally-altered elf is creeping out of the briefcase. Just me? Ok.

Xanthophyllippa

@WaityKatie The head looks older than the body.

WaityKatie

@Xanthophyllippa Creepy hands, also!

Xanthophyllippa

@WaityKatie I'm totally NOT going to go back and check. Nightmares.

whateverlolawants

@WaityKatie The kid looks like a perfect idealized 00s/10s child. I'm not hating on actual children who look like that, but geez louise.

Xanthophyllippa

For a while I liked that Slaughter was acknowledging that she could do all these things because she has a certain privilege backing her up, but then I ended up very frustrated by her apparent definition of "success." I'm not a high-profile professor who worked for the government, but that doesn't mean I'm not successful; articles like this seem to imply that if you don't want to/aren't able to get that far into public view, you're not successful. I mean, I'd love to be a household name because my teaching and research are utterly spectacular, but I can't say I feel like a failure for not having the kind of jobs that the women do who are paraded out before me as examples of "success."

Whoever above said they wanted to see an article about a working-class woman in Des Moines who's making it all happen is spot-on. Give me someone who looks like me AND has found a good balance.

RK Fire

@Xanthophyllippa: Wow, you managed to say in two paragraphs what I've been griping/whining about throughout all of the subthreads. All of the likes for you, ma'am.

Xanthophyllippa

@RK Fire Why, thank you! Pure luck on my part, I assure you. Normally I'm not that lucid.

DrFeelGood

@Xanthophyllippa I think she does touch on it a bit with the smugness she felt and that she sees higher-up women looking down their noses at us, the plebes and our inability to measure up to their ideas of success.

skyslang

News Flash! NOBODY, man or woman, can "have it all" (if by "all" you mean a high-powered career, a satisfying home life, travel, exercise time, sleep time) because there are not enough hours in the day. Why is this even a story? In life you have to choose your priorities. It's a simple fact of existence in this universe.
Also, "all" as defined by whom? Type A, upper middle class people? My "all" is much different that this "all" and is actually pretty easy to attain: enough money to be comfortable, time to think and sleep, a job that doesn't kill me and lots of sex. I really, REALLY don't understand articles like this. They're written for a very specific type of person, NOT ALL WOMEN want this kind of life in the first place.

WaityKatie

@skyslang Re: "enough money to be comfortable, time to think and sleep, a job that doesn't kill me and lots of sex." If I ever attain even 2 or 3 of these things, I will consider myself to have Won At Life Forever, and will print up a t-shirt to that effect. Seriously, how can I get these things to happen?

skyslang

@WaityKatie Well, I have to be honest. I never have enough sex! 2 or 3 of these things I have and I do feel like I've won the lottery!
For me it's a balance and learning which things I can let go of. Like...I live with friends to save money so I can travel and stuff, rather than living alone. I work freelance so I can manage my schedule, but then I have to sacrifice a bit of security. Also...I had this goal in mind when I was 25, and I've been working toward it ever since. I'm 41 now. Again, this isn't the sort of life people like the author have in mind...but we all don't have to live like that. Big careers, kids, etc. I choose peace of mind and a simpler, easier, more laid-back life. I guess I shouldn't have said it's easy to have this. I think it's ATTAINABLE, unlike "having it all" ...

Dorothea

@skyslang but what if the only reason you can't have the career you want is an outdated and arbitrary expectation that you have your butt in an office chair 12 hours a day? what if you could in fact have a better work life and family life, but for these stupid things? what if a lot of people, men and women, would be happier with these reforms? isn't that worth talking about?

hulia

@blahstudent This is exactly why I DID like the article. The message I took away was irrelevant to what the definition of "all" is or how she is in a unique position of privilege. What hit me was how vital it is that options for more flexible hours be discussed with upper-level management, that people who take advantage of these options not be stigmatized, that we get over the godforsaken concepts of face time and billable hours, that extended family leave be given when a parent has/adopts a child, etc. Of course, this all feels particularly relevant to me right now, so I'm more inclined to her position than others might be.

Harriet Kierkegaard@facebook

What was curious//interesting to me was Mary Matalin talking about her choice in terms of "who needs me more?" as opposed to "which do I need more?". Too often that's how women frame things for themselves. And when we do put our needs first, we are called selfish - which is often exactly how we feel when we ask for what we want.

Mira

@Harriet Kierkegaard@facebook That's a fantastic point.

EpWs

@Harriet Kierkegaard@facebook Amen, sister.

playingpossum

I don't mean to be disrespectful but this article just reeks of Privilege. What about those women (MOST of them)that aren't independent financially and aren't happily partnered to someone with equal earning power?
I stayed home with my sons for 10 years and was poor - don't regret it - but I never had the chance to make the decisions she has made. And most women can't even make the choice I made.

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