“Why Women Can’t Have it All,” an article published last week in Atlantic Monthly, has been attracting a lot of controversy, and rightly so. It shines a spotlight on the lives of women in the workplace, challenging the long-held -- and hard fought-for – belief that women can, in fact, have it all.
The writer knows what she’s talking about. Anne Marie Slaughter, a mother of two, is a law professor and the dean of Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. Before that she was the Director of Policy Planning at the State Department. Speaking from her own experience, she attempts to debunk the myth of the post-feminist era "superwoman."
As an example, Slaughter remembers one particular evening at a glamorous reception hosted by the President and Mrs. Obama. “I sipped champagne, greeted foreign dignitaries, and mingled,” she writes. “But I could not stop thinking about my 14-year-old son, who had started eighth grade three weeks earlier and was already resuming what had become his pattern of skipping homework, disrupting classes, failing math, and tuning out any adult who tried to reach him.”
After two years at the State Department, commuting from Washington DC to Princeton, Slaughter quit her job to be near her husband and sons. She now says her decision brought into sharp focus the question faced by so many women today, whether it is truly possible to have everything. At one time she believed it was, she says, if one was committed enough to making it work and made the right choice in a partner, while being mindful of sequencing child bearing with her career trajectory.
However, she concludes now that it is not possible to ‘have it all’, and further states that most women of her generation already know this. However, society continues to promote the fiction that it is possible, she says, because younger women want to believe it is so.
In the article, she says, “Here I step onto treacherous ground. I’ve come to believe that men and women respond quite differently when problems at home force them to recognize that their absence is hurting a child, or at least that their presence would likely help. I do not believe fathers love their children any less than mothers do, but men do seem more likely to choose their job at a cost to their family, while women seem more likely to choose their family at a cost to their job.”
What do you think? Is it possible for women to really have it all, or is it a modern myth? What has your experience been? Tell us in the comments.