Anne-Marie’s article on ‘Why Women Can’t Have It All’, has been subject to a lot of discussion on the internet lately. I loved the article, filled with insight and offers an in-depth view on the discussion. Even the picture was perfect- a baby in the briefcase! Anne-Marie hit hard with some hard-hitting facts that hit close to the truth so I wanted to write about a few of my views on the subject.
Link to the article: Why Women Still Can’t Have It All – The Atlantic.
Do you want it all, or do you choose not to?
I think women face a lot of pressure from each other. As an example, I believe part of the women rights is to make your choice-it might be to give up your cushy job to spend more time at home, or move to be closer to your family. Having it all maybe for the ones who want it all, what if I don’t want it all? When I chose to move to New York to be closer to my husband as a newly-wed, I got a lot of flak, mostly from women I used to admire for their career focus, who assumed that my choices weren’t my own, and that as a woman from the new generation I should be stronger than that. I remember the episode in Good Wife when Caitlin explains her decision to quit the firm to Alicia- her point is that her generation has the choice, without judgment to focus on work or family- that statement stayed with me.
I think that making the choice yourself is progress- if someone chooses to take time off work to focus on family or moving to be closer to your spouse doesn’t make them weaker or against the cause. At a high school reunion, I would like to see working women not have a smug smile of satisfaction when they meet classmates who are full-time moms or housewives- we really should be more supportive of each other. Don’t you think there is enough hate out there without us being judgmental about each other?
Why don’t men have to worry about having it all?
There is a lot more scrutiny on women who are successful- the recent case is Marissa Mayer- since she took over as the head of Yahoo, there is more discussion on her pregnancy and maternity, than there is about her plans for Yahoo. If roles were flipped-a Mark was the new CEO and had a baby on the way, I wonder if there would be even one question about paternity leave and having it all with him? Consider the case of Hillary Clinton, running for the highest office in United States, but most columns were directed at her clothes and haircuts, rather than her views on the economy or Middle East. Most conversation about women in powerful positions go down the route of superficiality or judgment on her family choices. If writers and commentators are obsessed about having it all- is there a chance that we can ignore it?
I talk to colleagues with kids- and the women I know tend to beat themselves up for not being there for a football game or when their kids go through teenage rebellion. Even the ones with supportive spouses feel the need to be there or feel the guilt of being away. I don’t mean to make this discussion about fathers, my point is simple- as women, we have the pressure to do it all.
What I worry about?
This article gives great suggestion and insight on how to reach a ‘having it all’ situation, but it won’t work for me-that’s the part that worries me. I just started working in a financial services company in New York, and while financial services isn’t as cut throat as investment banking or some other areas of finance, it is still pretty intense- if you don’t seem like you are there, you may be getting marginalized till one day you are out. I am constantly aware that there are 100s who can fill my shoes, so I have to be at my best. I love my work, and I can’t imagine doing anything else.
That sets me up to my quandary (albeit imaginary one, I am nowhere close to having kids yet but I am an over-thinker by nature!)- I have been raised by a mother who has always been there, my mom left her job when I was young and once we were in school she worked around my schedule. It is the kind of childhood I would want for my kids, but I am fast realizing it won’t easy to get there. I love my job but I would like to have the opportunity to have a give a great childhood for my kids too. Unless I find another career that I am good at and love, I don’t see how I can ‘have it all’. The ideas on the article aren’t exactly workable for me- after all, most financial firms still care about face value so working from home isn’t really an option and zooming off at 5pm may not be the best idea for long term prospects.
All my favorite role model mothers have managed beautifully- but they have career schedules that are flexible, they work their days around their kids. My cousin who is a doctor has clinic hours when her daughter is in day care, or when her husband is home. Ideal, but not for everyone! What scares me further is when I talk to women leaders within my company, their answers vary from ‘I had kids when I was 22’, to ‘my parents pretty much raise my kids’ to ‘ my husband works from home’– all great answers but none that would work for me. I don’t find enough stories of how women managed it all, without regrets.
Do you agree? Does having it all exist? How do we get to it?