Recently, The Atlantic published an article entitled Why Women Still Can’t Have It All by Anne-Marie Slaughter.
It was a very honest view of the constraints put upon women who want to excel in their careers and be active mothers in the lives of their children. The conclusion? It’s impossible.
The author writes of a fulfilling and highly demanding career in the White House and the continued feelings of failure she experienced because her adolescent son was experiencing trouble at school. She notes that most women do what they can to spend as many of the toddler years as possible with their children and sacrifice the teenage years for their careers.
This reminded me of something a colleague of mine said to me not too long ago: children need their parents just as much, if not more, when they are in their teens. It is a highly volatile time for a child and that is when parental love, guidance and support is most crucial. It is also when we decide that they are independent and can fend for themselves. Surely they don’t need mommy to feed them, clothe them or take them to the potty. So mommy can go back to work in over-drive! When the children are young, career is sacrificed and when the children grow, they are sacrificed.
Slaughter was criticized for her decision to sacrifice her career for her adolescent children; it rings so very anti-feminist. Except, is it? We do not live in a society that favours and supports raising children – I mean truly raising them. Even for us Canadians who have the privilege of a one year maternity leave, we are left a little disoriented at the end of that year in the scramble to find adequate (and, affordable – though the two never seem to align) childcare when it is time to return to work.
Once at work, there is the negotiation of time, work-from-home options, the endless sick days we take for our children…and, that’s if we’re lucky to work in an environment that supports family. Some careers demand our full attention and children and family are dropped from the priority list.
Slaughter calls for the beginning of a new dialogue. One that involves looking at the needs of modern women who wish to engage in a thriving career and have a family. This dialogue demands that women become outspoken and promote change at the legal level to ensure that the needs of children are being met without any sacrifice of career and that the needs of women are being met without the sacrifice of her children. If it was possible for the feminist movement to exact great change in the lives of women 40-50 years ago, then it is possible for us to reopen the dialogue and exact change in the lives of women again.
I loved the honesty of her writing and the passion she has for promoting the interests of women and family.
Do you believe women can have it all now? Or, do changes need to be made in economic, social and legal structures to allow us to have it all?