Hot topic on the net this week, at least until the Supreme Court ruled on the Affordable Care Act today, is this great article about “having it all” at The Atlantic. I can’t even begin to cover all the great discussion this article has launched, but I am thoroughly thrilled that people are talking. I’d like to look at the main reasons I loved this article and the tidal wave of discussion it’s started.
1) The fiction that the first wave of feminism accomplished what we wanted it to accomplish is exposed. “Having it all” with no costs is a breezy lie. Finally, honest, heartfelt discussion on this topic. It’s validating for men and women who are trying to balance work and family and finding it impossible at best. Just to know that we are not the only ones struggling can make us feel better. This honesty ends the guilt and worry about “something the matter with me” if I can’t do it.
2) The author, Anne-Marie Slaughter, makes the point that we need cultural, societal, policy changes to improve the situation. This isn’t about just the challenge to couples on their own, that it will be all right if only they work smarter, get more education, build better support systems. Yes, those tools can help. But unless there is a shift in workplace expectations, whether industry, business, government, or academia, we will continue to lose talent when parents choose to opt out of their fields in order to pursue the elusive balance. Let alone what the current trend to crazy work schedules is doing to our collective and individual health as a nation that has sky-high rates of stress-related diseases.
3) Slaughter speaks up about wanting to be home, a truth that is often frowned upon and greeted with glazed-over eyes by those who don’t get it or scorn by those who perceive a parent as “wasting” one’s skills. Yes, we can want to be home more to make that critical contribution to our children, that in turn is a contribution to society. I am NOT implying that making a choice to NOT be home with children is NOT a good choice. What I’ve always espoused, because it’s what works for parents and children: to be the best parent you can be in the way that works for you. There is not a single Right Answer for every parent or every child.The point is the freedom and support to do what works for you. To be your own perfectly good mom.
We need to remember that balance is not a set point, rather it’s a constantly shifting target. It’s looking at the big picture of balance over the long haul in a life, not the teeter-totter of every day. Let’s continue to evolve–through just this kind of discussion, inching us toward a livable solution.