Guess what, ladies! We still can’t have it all. Well, we could, if only the world of work adjusted itself to meet our requirements. As it currently stands, however, we just can’t have a really, really high-powered job and spend as much time taking care of our children as we’d like to — not even if we’re working for a feminist icon, in what is arguably the most aggressively woman-friendly presidential administration ever.
This sad news comes to us in a (ahem, rather lengthy) piece in The Atlantic by Anne-Marie Slaughter, who left her job as dean of Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs to spend two years as Director of Policy Planning in Hillary Clinton’s State Department. After two years in Washington, D.C., Ms. Slaughter hightailed it back to New Jersey in order to, well, spend more time with her 14- and 12-year-old sons.
She had an epiphany, you see: spending the week in D.C. with only weekends at home to attend the Little League games and pick up the dry cleaning just wasn’t working for her, even though her husband is the guy we girls have been dreaming about since we first traded our aprons and sewing kits for laptops and legal briefs; he even cooks Hungarian! Her family was suffering. Because of her career.
Who’s to blame? You guessed it: SOCIETY. Because men are still socialized to blah blah blah. Studies have shown that blah blah blah. Young women are agonizing over blah blah blah. Older women are agonizing over blah blah blah. And what’s to be done? Right again: CHANGE SOCIETY. Change the way we work; change the way we value different kinds of working (through email, phone and videoconferencing, and not thinking that #hours-spent-in-office=drive and dedication). Oh, and arrange school schedules so that our children can be kept at their own desks for as long as we are at ours. If we do this, we will finally, finally, figure out how to achieve, you guessed it again, WORK-LIFE BALANCE.
Now, Ms. Slaughter very nobly includes a couple of paragraphs where she acknowledges that she is writing, as she puts it, to her “demographic” (i.e., privileged, educated women who have considerate husbands and household help) and that the women stocking the shelves or ringing up on the cash register at Walmart might have a somewhat different notion of work-life balance from hers.
And if Ms. Slaughter’s demographic requires a 12,000-word Atlantic article and endless back-and-forth Internet discussion, not to mention a front-page New York Times story, to air and analyze grievances yet again, doubtless the ladies of Walmart will understand.