Thursday, June 27, 2013

Repost: Working moms, are you tired of hearing that you "can't have it all"?

I've contributed to the Orlando Sentinel's Moms at Work blog since 2010. The blog is changing content management systems and my old posts will no longer be available to the public, so I'm reposting them here, in the order that they were originally posted.
This post is from exactly a year ago today.

June 27, 2012

Oh, look, it's another article about how working moms "can't have it all."

Are we tired of this yet? This time, it's from The Atlantic magazine, and it's an article in which Anne-Marie Slaughter, a formerly high-ranking State Department official, goes on at length -- and I do mean At Length -- about how guilty she felt when she quit her job to spend more time with her family. Slaughter said she felt as though she was letting down her family when she was working and wasn't as committed to her career when she was putting as much energy as possible into her family.

She has several prescriptions for women of the generations behind her that she worries might eventually feel as she does. Here's one (I encourage you to read the rest at the link):

Along the way, women should think about the climb to leadership not in terms of a straight upward slope, but as irregular stair steps, with periodic plateaus (and even dips) when they turn down promotions to remain in a job that works for their family situation; when they leave high-powered jobs and spend a year or two at home on a reduced schedule; or when they step off a conventional professional track to take a consulting position or project-based work for a number of years.

Well, yes.

Here's the thing: Most women don't have time to worry about this stuff, because what Slaughter's talking about are the kinds of calculations that women who don't work in careers as high-powered as hers have to perform all the time. When you have kids and need or want to work, you have to constantly prioritize. Moms today understand, implicitly, that it's just a fact that it's really difficult have a high-ranking, highly-paid career and be a helicopter parent -- and we know that this is a challenge for moms and dads. There simply aren't enough hours in the day, and our society doesn't have the institutional support system to allow parents to do that.

The good news is that most working moms (and dads) manage to perform this kind of triage in our daily family and work lives without as much angst as Slaughter. We live our lives day by day, and we know that some days will be better than others. We do the best we can, and many times our best still puts us above and beyond what our families and employers expect from us. On balance, most of us are getting this parenting thing right.

Let's stop putting so much pressure on ourselves.

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