Working mothers and “having it all.”

In the past few days, there has been a lot of talking around the issue of whether women can or can’t have it all, and why. Anne-Marie Slaughter, a Professor of Politics and International Affairs at Princeton, started the fire, with her honest thought-provoking cover story, Why Women Still Can’t Have It All, in the latest issue of The Atlantic.

In the article, Slaughter – former Director of Policy Planning for the United States Department of State – shares her experience with great honesty. With a high-profile career, a husband and a child, she was convinced that yes, women can have it all. But when she moved to Washington D.C. and, for the first time, had a job where she wasn’t in control of her schedule, she realized the demands of her profession and those of her two teenage sons, just weren’t compatible. Her family was in Princeton, while she was posted in Washington, and although her husband was taking, Slaughter says, “the lion’s share of parenting,” that still wasn’t enough.

And so, after two years, she went back to Princeton instead of continuing service with the government, coming to the conclusion that “having control of your schedule is the only way that women who want to have a career and a family can make it work.”

In her article, Slaughter goes through the myth of work-life balance for women, and what according to her needs to change for that to become a reality. That it’s all about working hard, or that all a woman has to do is find the right husband, or perhaps that it all can work if her kids don’t cause too much trouble is what today’s women have grown to believe, but not the truth, she says.

Of course, her experience is different from most women’s. Not many have such a high-profile position that requires them to move and leave their families behind, however there are a lot of similarities between Slaugther’s life and any working mother’s.

The article generated a huge debate, which shows just how sensitive the topic is. Many agree with Slaughter. Others don’t, and say her experience is actually a proof of how much women can have – a choice between a high-profile position in the State Department and a professorship at Princeton plus a family, in her specific case. Some say this generation of mothers still can’t have it all, but maybe the next will, others that our extreme work culture is to blame. Finally, there are those who say it’s healthier to compromise, and that women simply shouldn’t want it all.

We do know many successful women who have worked all their lives and built great careers, and yet managed to have a family and raise their kids. They have though, in most cases, had to work much too much for it. As a matter of fact, women vastly have to make more sacrifices than men to be able to have both a career and a family, and often can’t manage to balance both, feeling like they are compromising on one, or the other. Is it because, despite all the progress, working mothers are still somehow doing two jobs? Or because society still isn’t completely accepting that is just as normal for women as it is for men to want it all?

What is your position on this? We’d love to know your experiences as working mothers. Do you think something needs to change? What?

We think a good way to begin the change would be something Slaughter herself tweeted just a few days after the article was published.

Interesting point, don’t you think?



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