On Having a Baby and Having “It All”
As a lady with a job, and a blog, and a soon-to-be husband and step-son… who would (I think) someday like to have a little bugger of my own… believe me when I say that I fully believe in and support the idea of “having it all.” Meaning nothing more than that, someday, I would really like to be able to have both a job, and a kid… as successfully as possible.
That said, I’ve been meaning to comment on Anne Marie Slaughter’s Atlantic piece because, well, I’m pretty sure she’s right… and the whole “it all” thing is a little more complicated than any of us would really like.
So — I’m not sure if the article has had quite the reach or impact on the entire country that it has on women here in Washington (do fill me in — and if you haven’t read it, do it now… then please come back and discuss) but I think it’s pretty safe to say that here… where many of us young ladies look up to Anne Marie (maybe we’ve even worked with her, or near her) and see ourselves (dream of one day) stepping into very similar shoes… well, it’s safe to say that the piece has shaken things up a bit.
It’s taken me awhile to comment for a couple of reasons. First, the piece hit very close to home. I’m not going to lie and pretend I’m a super-lady (and, for the record, I don’t think other women should either). Almost daily, I worry that bringing a baby into what is already a very busy mix, not to mention the very likely possibility of more job responsibility that might coincide with said baby, could be an impossible task. I worry about this in the very deepest parts of my soul, places that don’t tend to offer up an easy answer.
Second, it has taken me some time to get my thoughts straight. Anne Marie’s piece is illuminating, inspiring, and very depressing to a cynic such as myself (I’m sorry… I have to admit it) who knows that change, while always always always possible, comes very slowly… and this problem we have is unlikely to be addressed overnight.
But the problem should be addressed, and a good start might be to identify what, exactly, the problem really is.
I believe that where Slaughter falls a little short is in pinning the issue to women and women alone. I believe, and please do chime in if you disagree, that the problem is something just a little bit larger than the one Slaughter identifies… and that is a problem with work-life balance across the US.
Interestingly enough, an exceedingly tiny bit of research (in other words, I’m no expert, but here’s what I found) reveals that while the US leads most of the world in its share of mothers who work, it also lays claim to some of the most overworked employees around, and is one of very few developed countries without a national paid parental leave policy.
Now, obviously this discussion is centered around those with the privilege to care. At a time when unemployment is at a record high (and that’s just limiting our concerns to the comparatively very privileged US) it does feel a little off to ramble on about too few options for working from home. But having this discussion doesn’t mean we are somehow turning a blind eye to more serious problems, or that we assume the issue applies to every working man and woman, and we shouldnt use those concerns as an excuse to limit the level of seriousness with which we talk about this issue.
I commend Anne Marie Slaughter for getting this discussion off to a good start, and sincerely hope that it will continue. Ultimately, if we start talking now, I hope that someday that talk can result in real change… however near or far that someday might be.
So start talking! What do you think? Do you agree with the piece? It’s okay if you don’t.
Photo: Rylee Hitchner