Before cell phones, my mom had a car phone. And before that, she had a pager. I could always reach her during the workday and she almost always seemed to have time to talk to me. As a kid, I never thought about the time management contortions she must have been doing in order to make herself so accessible to my brother and me. When we were teenagers, she worked long hours as a hospital administrator and often went grocery shopping at the all-night Giant around the corner from our house. It wasn’t until I started working alongside women with children of their own that I got a glimpse of what my mom must have gone through.
And I can only imagine what it’s like for a mother trying to balance parenting with a high-powered government job. Now, we can all imagine that a little bit better after reading Anne-Marie Slaughter’s article in The Atlantic with the provocative title Why Women Still Can’t Have It All. Slaughter took a leave of absence from her job as dean of Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Government to become the first woman to be the director of policy planning at the State Department. Her article is, in part, a response to Facebook COO’s Sheryl Sandberg’s remarks about how women underestimate themselves and sell themselves short when it comes to climbing the career ladder.
Slaughter focuses on what she sees as an institutional bias against working mothers. She writes,
Consider the following proposition: An employer has two equally talented and productive employees. One trains for and runs marathons when he is not working. The other takes care of two children. What assumptions is the employer likely to make about the marathon runner? That he gets up in the dark every day and logs an hour or two running before even coming into the office, or drives himself to get out there even after a long day. That he is ferociously disciplined and willing to push himself through distraction, exhaustion, and days when nothing seems to go right in the service of a goal far in the distance. That he must manage his time exceptionally well to squeeze all of that in. Be honest: Do you think the employer makes those same assumptions about the parent?
Are you a parent? How do you balance your work and family responsibilities? How did your work life change after you had kids? If you don’t have children but you’d like to, how do you think that will affect your career?
What’s your definition of “having it all”?
- Andi Zeisler: Editorial and Creative director at Bitch Media
- Andrea Paluso: Executive director of Family Forward Oregon and the Mother PAC
- Karen O’Connor: Partner at Stoel Rives