I'm riding on the caboose car of the train racing to respond to Anne Marie-Slaughter's essay, "Why Women Can't Have It All" in this month's The Atlantic. I know many of you have read it and already discussed it, but I just finally read the whole thing on vacation last week. I won't attempt to analyze the essay point for point, but I will encourage everyone who has a stake in preserving the American dream to read this essay. It is as comprehensive as it is thoughtful, and offers some very specific and (in my mind) achievable solutions to the problems with which women and families are dealing in the workplace and at home today. There is just one point that Slaughter raises that I want to share. Slaughter is an accomplished professional and a mother of two teenage boys. She is a former dean at Princeton and senior level director in DC. She says that for years she has taken very express measures to bring her children into the work conversation. That is, if she is running late for a meeting, she will not obliquely excuse herself. She will say it was because she had to drop off her son at practice, if that is the real reason. When she is introduced at professional conferences, she insists that the person introducing her mention that she is *also* a mother. She does not advocate gushing on about one's children while at work. But she does think that women will do each other a great service in refusing to be silent about that which matters most to them.
I agree what Slaughter's preaching, but I find it tremendously difficult to put into practice.
I have worked for some exceedingly anti-family organizations. Work and being present in the workplace was much celebrated; taking time off for family priorities was not. It was often surreptitiously used as a strike against a person's performance.
I am glad to no longer be serving said organizations.
Still, I find it hard to talk about my priorities in the workplace. I want to compartmentalize. I want to not appear un-serious about the work for which I am paid to do. I am fortunate to have female and male mentors who encourage faith first, family second, work third. It is still something with which I struggle.
And struggling is okay. I no longer try to find the balance in my work, but I am ever more encouraged by Slaughter's essay to live out my priorities, not only in deed, but in word. I don't want to deceive my students that they can have it all, because life is about choices and compromise. Some days you excel in one capacity, others you are walking on the treadmill while reading your work for tomorrow while texting with your husband and then you get home and the kids are all asleep and that is awful because you barely saw them, but wonderful because now you can get some grading done.
You can't have it all; no one can. Not even the richest most successful people in the world. Everyone is trying to be more present. Everyone is railing back against the you-have-a-smartphone-therefore-you-are-available-all-the-time song and dance. The song's music is catchy at first but the steps become increasingly more difficult as the multiple beats and multiple instruments syncopate....
I am choosing to live and tell the truth: Maintaining my priorities is a constant struggle, but it's certainly one for which I am willing to fight.