The article hit social media over the weekend and the morning news followed up early this week. The Atlantic’s July/August cover story once again raises the question: can women have it all?
It’s a compelling issue and the article is fabulous, hitting on the common thoughts on the subject but also raising new issues. How can women be great mothers while still meeting their professional goals?
Bottom line—according to the author, employers need to adapt and create a work environment that is family-friendly and not one that gives preferential treatment to those with or without children. A great point is made in the article through the story of a Jewish man keeping the Sabbath, from sunset Friday to sunset Saturday. He did not work late on Friday, was sure to be home on Friday before the sun went down, and did not (nor was he expected to) work at all on Saturday.
Take the same idea (no work for 24 hours) and apply it to any other man or woman taking time out for family, and it seems frivolous (even though a commitment to the Sabbath is a commitment to family). Same goes for someone who commits to a hobby (such as marathon running) instead of family. Training for a marathon takes discipline and commitment; but so does being a parent. The idea of committing time to family somehow makes that time less important.
So how do we fix it? How do we succeed at having it all?
Well, I don’t know if we can—but I also don’t think this is a women’s issue—it’s an individual issue. Each person has to decide for him or herself where their priorities lie.
And then as a group, we need to change the way we, as a society, look at people who make those hard choices between work and family. We need to find value in the men and women who work hard whether they work hard at home or at their job. We need to respect the choices that we each make. Whether people have to work or choose to work, that’s okay.
Personally, I made hard choices. My husband and I waited 10 years to have children, waited for a time when our military marriage slowed down a little bit and we could attempt to save before having children. We agreed that I would quit my job and stay home, which was the right choice for us but really didn’t turn out to be what I really wanted. I needed to work, to satisfy a part of myself. So I found a way to fit a job into the time that I had. That’s what worked for me and my family.
I’ve tried to have it all—but I have found that I cannot concentrate on my work, my family, my self, my home all at the same time. I think of it as a triangle, with work, family and self all taking a different point. The distance between two points is easy to manage; but if you add that third point in there, you’re tripling the effort needed to keep up with it all. I can keep two points active on any given day, and it’s not easy some days to make the choice between what needs to be done versus what I want to do. And that’s where I need the support of my community (work, family, friends, everyone) to help me to be successful. That’s when we all need each other.