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Having it all a little bit as a mom

Have you read the epic, flag-planting, fierce-debate-inspiring cover story in The Atlantic? I came across it the evening it was published and immediately -- though it was past 1 a.m. when I finished -- read the entire story, 12,000-some words and all. I wanted to stop in the middle several times to say, "this is ground breaking! This is amazing!" but I read through to the end. Of course, by this time, it had already begun to create controversy.

I read it almost like gospel. In my opinion, Anne-Marie Slaughter eloquently and persuasively make the case for why it is impossible for women today to "have it all at once" -- the high-powered career, and children who are well-cared for -- and how societal expectations, policies, and our own relationships might be changed to make "having it all" possible. For one, the "culture of face time" needs to be wiped out (something I agree with so much I'd happily write an entire 12,000-word column on that alone); for another, family values, even the sort that value older parents and siblings and partners, need to be re-valued (this one's worth a couple of books).

The biggest criticism of Slaughter's article is that she doesn't discuss the potential contribution of dads enough; she makes a point that "having it all is possible if you marry the right person" is one of the "half-truths we hold dear." Her husband, indeed, was a working dad rock star, a nurturing dad who helped his boys learn lines for the school play and made Hungarian palacsinta for foreign food night. She mentions Sheryl Sandberg, who famously pointed to her own husband and said, "There’s my work-life balance." Well, great. Not all of us make such brilliant choices; and even if we do pick fantastic husbands, it's still not ideal to put far more of the parenting load on dad. There are times we as moms want to be around; there are times we're really just needed; there are times that a culture that valued family more than work would be nice. OK: that would be nice all the time. We're also going to have to stop expecting any young parent to dedicate him or herself to a job. It's just ridiculous that any boss (or financial backer) should see a new parent or parent-to-be and think: "well, we'll give them a week or two off for family leave and then the responsibility will be done." We should change the expectation of work entirely; 40 hours should be more than enough. You should be able to go home and turn off, even if you do work in a high-powered job. Unless actual lives are actually depending on you. (And then it's probably better if you're actually happy.)

Slaughter makes a point of the Washington in-joke, that those who say they're leaving  a position to spend time with their family are using it as a euphemism for "fired," and that when one does actually leave to spend time with one's family, everyone rushes to say, "it's true! FAMILY! Really!" and hardly anyone believes it.

I left my last full-time job to spend time with my family. But, to be honest, this was also a euphemism. My family took more than the hours "after" work could fit. I didn't "marry the right person." I had kids with extraordinary (in the literal meaning of the word, "outside the ordinary," not "insanely difficult beyond all reason" as it often has come to mean) challenges that kept me running around to IEP meetings and to pick them up from school and up at night, literally. They required more from me than someone who wants to vault up in her career can handle.

So, I -- if you are to take literally the weird and logically-flawed reasoning of another Atlantic writer, Elizabeth Wurtzel -- became an unreal feminist. (Here's what she wrote, so you don't have to click, "Let's please be serious grown-ups: real feminists don't depend on men. Real feminists earn a living, have money and means of their own." Her argument was based on "1% wives," who she tarred and feathered as being "dumb" and so obsessed with yoga that they had no room in their brains for anything else, and were ruining feminism for us all by being so dumb and making their 1% husbands think that's what all women are like. I am not exaggerating her piece at all. Like I said: weird.) I started to, over time, depend on a man whose living is mostly made on the other side of the planet driving VIPs to their Very Important Appointments for the Army.

So I can't have it all. And I'm only a feminist in the eyes of the generous. Throwing off an Ivy League MBA for the thrift-shopping, bike-riding, weed-pulling, dish-washing life of an Army wife is fullscale traitorism in Wurtzel's mind, and I'll bet Anne-Marie Slaughter would never have made this call in her 30s, though maybe she would consider it in retrospect.

This is when we find something else. I'm an idea person; I make up what-I-imagine-are-paradigm-shifting ways to run the business world while I shower and while I run and while I bike and while I wash dishes. One of my many such plots was "Mom VC." A venture capital firm run by mothers, kind of micro-social venture capital. Each woman would contribute either time or money -- not a lot by VC standards, $1,000 or so -- or their skills as lawyer/marketer/graphic designer/accountant/strategy expert/content writer/editor. A board would decide where investments would go. We'd all be "job creators," creating jobs for other moms, jobs they could make as flexible as their family needed them to be.

I still love this idea. But it would take an extreme amount of time and dedication to make it happen. Could we? Would we? I think so. In the meantime we have Kickstarter. And it's, amazingly, becoming the kind of place where we can have, not "it all," but a little bit.

I think of it as a version of my Mom VC, but not just moms, and you can buy in with anything. Here are three projects you can support -- use your own venture capital in any amount -- for Portland mothers working to create jobs we can believe in.

  • Stealing Time, a literary magazine for parents. This is my project and it's already shown me just how incredible the community here in Portland, and across the U.S. social media landscape, can be. We've had donations of time and talent and love beyond what I could hope for, mostly by moms, but some of it by people who just care about great writing and reading. It's a literary magazine for parents to take the place of the closing-down Brain, Child, and to also be something more; one issue a year will be devoted to pregnancy and childbirth, creating the only regular venue for truly literary writing about pregnancy. Funding ends July 2.
  • Yankers, time- and stress-saving baby clothes. These adorable and sensible baby clothes are the brainchild of Rosalee Rester, a mom whose funny Babywit was the stuff of consumer lust when I first became a parent. She's back with "stylish, modern, all-in-one outfits designed with a unique and simple pull down panel in the back. This panel allows easy access to your baby's diaper without having to deal with any snaps or fasteners." I love innovation like this; it's exactly the sort of thing a Mom VC would back. Funding ends July 13.
  • Dark and Light, a love story for babies. This board book series was created by sweet Portland mom Shasta Kerns Moore, one of whose twin sons has cerebral palsy. The book "is an elegantly simple board book aimed at very young children. The pictures are straight-forward enough that babies can follow along while adults can consider the wider implications of the story's metaphors." Funding ends June 27.


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I have so many responses to this article I'm not quite sure where to begin. I guess my bottom line is that I'm glad the conversation is happening and that there are more voices for middle ground stepping up. So many times the issue is all or none, stay home or work, and this article gives voice to more balance without completely abandoning one or the other.

While I completely disagree with Elizabeth Wurtzel (I believe we last heard from her via her very crappy book "Prozac Nation", no?)about feminism (and flash on my college Women's Studies class in which my long hair, short skirts and makeup inspired overt hostility from my prof)---I otherwise have quite a few issues.

Granted, I married someone who IS an involved dad and I only have one child---but I've really generally found it completely possible to "have it all". Yes, it's easier NOW because my daughter is 12 and I work from home, but I was also able to accomplish this when she was a poor-sleeping infant and I sometimes worked 14 hour days.

While I didn't save lives, I worked in an entertainment and hospitality field---which (in order to serve all the 9-5ers) translates to very non-traditional hours. I had similar demands as I moved on to higher level positions. Even while unemployed, I was always looking for work (basically finding a job was my full time job).

Yet I always found we generally had a fair amount of free time, were close as a family and could do fun stuff together. Yes, we both also cooked from scratch, had a clean house, I don't drive and did many DIY projects. I'm hardly magic or wildly motivated, I'll happily spend my day online half the time--but I still manage to get things done.

How? I don't freak out all over the place about stuff. It's amazing how if you "just do it" you get it done---both at home and in the workplace. And this applies to both genders.

As for employers....let me start with I always rail against "the man". That said, family leave time is significantly more than a week or two---it's six weeks (which still isn't all that much). But I've never encountered an employer who thought my "work as a parent was done" once family leave was completed. Generally (with one exception), I've found employers reasonably sensitive to work/life balance. And honestly, 40 hours per week hard limit just isn't always possible.

That said, yet again, to insist that employers make accommodations just for parents of either gender is discriminatory. It also further perpetuates the myth (because I've found young, single people to have more absences from bottle flu than most working parents) that working moms in particular aren't good employees because they won't work O/T, will call in sick a lot and they'll be distracted.

In summary, it's whatever works for one person---but for some of us, we can definitely "have it all". Or at least reasonably what we want.

The whole idea that childhood should be sacrificed to advance feminism (ie make school hours match work hours) drives me nuts. Really, who needs play?

I've read the article and am still processing what I got from it. In some ways, it totally resonated with me. In other ways, it really missed the point.

I guess I did have it all, for a little while. A good job -- certainly nothing like working in Washington -- but a job I loved and excelled at, and a baby. I was able to work from home a few days a week and alternate late nights with another co-worker who also had a young family. But I wasn't happy. I often struggled to perform at the level I did before having my baby and felt like I was disappointing my boss. At the same time, I was an anxious mess of a new mother, worried desperately about pumping enough to meet the needs of a baby with a cow milk allergy, worried that I wasn't doing enough to meet her emotional and cognitive needs (read: sticking her in front of Baby Einstein when nap didn't happen and I needed to meet a deadline) and was just so sleep-deprived.

So when my husband had to take a job in another state, I have to admit I was happy to have an "out." I quit and I have been home ever since, thought I do freelance a bit, but not at any financially significant level. For the most part, I've been happy with that decision. Had a second child, who was an incredibly difficult newborn (severe reflux, poor sleeper), and am thankful that I wasn't trying to balance the demands of raising a spirited 3-year-old, a newborn in pain and a job all at the same time.

I can't remember where I read it, I think it may have even been on uM, but someone made the case that perhaps employers just shouldn't expect 100 percent out of parents of young kids. That we should get a reprieve for awhile. I doubt every parent feels that way, but I sure do/did.

Now I'm trying to head back to work. My kids are still preschool-age, but full-time mommying isn't as fulfilling any more. And I *think* I can achieve a better work/life balance now that the youngest is sleeping through the night. But I do worry how it will all play out. If I can even get a job after opting out for a few years.

And I think I agree with the above poster's point to an extent, that the answer isn't to make school hours longer so we can all get more free child-care, but to wake up "family values" politicians and Corporate America to the idea that society is way better off if parents who want/have to work can meet the needs of young children, too. I'm talking a much longer, PAID FMLA, more flex time, more job-sharing so moms or dads who are willing to take the pay cut can go down to part-time for awhile, more willingness to let employees work from home when possible, more access to affordable and high-quality child-care, just to name a few things that would really make a difference.

Oh, one thing that freaked me out about the Atlantic article: Working while raising teenagers! I thought the early years were the best time to scale back.

I just read it, and it didn't resonate with me very much. I guess I don't know anyone (male, female, children or no) who would ever work so many hours on a regular basis... my circle are moms (and dads!) like myself who work part-time and flex-time and spend the after-school hours with our kids. The kids in aftercare at my child's school are more likely to be picked up at 4:30 than at 6 and barely anyone uses the care before 8:30 am. And we still all feel very busy! Yet we also all value the 'free time' of the afternoon for our kids vs. being in care just to suit our work hours.

Other points... while it's nice to be able to work from home, it also can be a bad thing to have no separation between work and home life- and my kid does feel it when we say we have to work on a project at home. And yeah, while teens are important, early years (toddler, preschool) were not mentioned by the article's author. Perhaps she felt they are mentioned enough by others and she wished to concentrate on her own current experience.

Ultimately, I think Americans simply need to work less hours! Hm, wouldn't that also create more jobs?

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Just read the article---and wow, for a smart woman she sure wrote a stupid, rather sexist, self contradicting article. In reality she clearly demonstrates that it is entirely possible to be a full time plus working parent----just there are limits to everything!

While I realize some people manage to do it, any job in which you're only with your family on weekends (and with a state department job, you'd have plenty of events eating THAT up, too) is going to strain your relationships---DUH!!! This would apply even if one spouse was a full time, SAHP.

Harry Chapin wrote all about this phenomena (career completely dominating someone's life to the point that they're a visitor in their own family's life) 40 years ago! And it's still the extreme. I used to work 50+ hours per week---and I was still (obviously) much more present in my family than Ms. Slaughter clearly was.

It's ridiculous and even disingenuous to imply the "all or nothing" position her piece takes. She found such ajob ot be too demanding---that's fine. But she still works more than most people do, so she already had and continues to have "it all". Once again, it's finding YOUR own balance---and that applies to both genders.

As for employers "expecting less from new parents" (and we really mean moms), that's unfair to the employer, the other employees and women. Now granted, the rest of the world is more pro-family in this regard (and I agree we should be, too)....but beyond that, it's just made things harder on us.

How so? Most employers already assume our attentions are distracted---so they're more likely to hire a younger, single person or pass us over for a promotion (even it's illegal). I have no wish to be babied and have always managed to handle all responsiblities. Also, where does it stop? Ms. Slaughter's 14 year old was her "distraction".

As for being allowed to work part time----it wouldn't really create more jobs. Most people still want to work full time and you'd probably be expected to simply accomplish your full time work load in part time hours.

In othe words: it's balance and what's right for the individual. Which is what having it all is all about!

I'm glad people find her article helpful and thought-provoking. If her words do no more than generate discussion, then that's still of value.

Frankly, I thought it was self-evident, obvious, and absolutely not ground-breaking or new.

Check out these rebuttals:
(1) For more on the odd, dangerous(ly misleading), and confusing concept of "having it all"

(2) For sly poke at the images that often accompany such articles http://jessicavalenti.tumblr.com/post/25465502300/sad-white-babies-with-mean-feminist-mommies-the

(3) For discussion about The Atlantic's articles, in general (there's also, somewhere, a Tweet dialogue between the writer of this article and TA's editor)

Years ago, after careful observation of That Life, I happily rejected it wholesale because I knew (despite the general cluelessness of my 20s) that (1) I didn't want to join that rat race, which seemed only to have one raison d'etre at its core; and (2) "having it all" was a bizarre meme that, sigh and dagnabbit, would actually ONLY come from within me, not from any external or created structures ("having it all" is elusive, easily lost, and sure does change in definition as we age/change/shift around). Do I wish I had some of what she has, and do I get dissatisfied/jealous/sad/resentful? Well, sure :) :) But I'm pretty darn complete in my own life -- I'd better be, given it's the only life I got going on right now!

The part of the article that resonated most with me was the part about women wanting/needing to step off the career ladder for a while and then trying (struggling?) to get back to where you would have been had you not taken time off. I'm one of those women who fell into the thinking that timing is everything, and I opted to have my 2 kids before and during law school. My thinking was two-fold: 1) I wanted my future bosses to know that I was a woman with children, with a family, and that I intended to both work and raise my kids. I didn't shy away from talking about my kids in job interviews and always mentioned them when asked to "tell us a little bit about yourself". Confessing all, the more interviews I did, the more I started to think my scenario might be an asset in the job market - here's a woman who already has kids, so she won't be taking time off for maternity leave. 2) I thought about the career ladder question. For those who want to be at the top of their career field, I still think it can be fatal to scale back or exit the work force for a pronounced period of time. Slaughter suggests we need to change that approach and make it easier and more accepted for employees to step back and then step back in, but I just don't see how it is possible when there are people who don't need or don't want the break. When we say people can't have it all, I think it is true for all but those with the most "perfect" lives (i.e. the financially well-off with a supportive partner who doesn't also want to "have it all" and kids with no health/social/other problems). For the rest of us who want to move up and be in charge one day, either you stay in the rat race at the expense of your family, or you give up some of that ambition and settle for a less exciting job/career than you thought you wanted when you started out.

There are jobs and there are careers. Many women seem ready to quit the rat race when they have jobs they find unsatisfying or have failed to create a career they want and then they retreat to home and claim to be living a more authentic life and wrap themselves in a mantle of martrydom like they took the high road. Other women have worked long and hard and sacrificed greatly to become doctors, surgeons, engineers, research scientists, musicians, ballet dancers and countless other important and vocations and the world needs their efforts and it would be a shame for them to drop out when their gifts are sorely needed. Women now outnumber men in medical school and so unless you want a future with no doctors, or you want to relegate all educated successful women to childlessness there has to be a way for women to do both. I know many women who have it all and are great mothers and successful in their fields and I would hope that my daughter (who wants to be a Pediatrician) doesn't listen to any of this nonsense concerning mothers retreating from public life and won't buy the lie that being a doctor and a mother is an impossible situation and that it makes her part of the rat race and an inadequate care giver. No one seems to be telling my son that about his dreams and life choices!

"As for being allowed to work part time----it wouldn't really create more jobs. Most people still want to work full time and you'd probably be expected to simply accomplish your full time work load in part time hours."

If this is true, then why was the article written? If the author were happy working full-time, there would be no issue here. If it's that the adults all want full time but the kids don't, then that is something else.

Back when I was doing newborn and young toddler playgroups, several moms would express that when their leave time was up, they did not want full time and did not want the only 2 choices to be full or none.

Thus, I am so glad to see so many in Portland make their own way... make part-time and flex-time work for their family, become their own businesses, and do it their own way instead of listening to those who would tell them there are only certain choices.

That's not to say there's a thing wrong with the full time choice if all works well for you and yours, just to say that I'm happy to see people finding a way to make other choices exist.

ps. I don't have it on hand, but I am pretty sure there are studies showing part-time work can be as effective as full-time... as it's done that way in other countries. I've been an office manager part-time, after a certain number of hours, it's just seat-warming. Everyone seems to take work home now anyway. And we did often hire 2 part-timers in place of one full-timer, ta-da 2 jobs vs. 1!

@Kelly, once again, we agree completely, my friend. I have no doubt any daughter of yours will be an amazing doctor! :-)

@Spottie - I don't think you completely read either the article or my comments. Anne.Marie Slaughter does still work full time (and then some): she's a tenured Princeton Professor who also writes numerous articles for publication and pay (and is on the paid speaker circuit).

Why did she write the article? A) for the $$$ The Atlantic paid her. B) (at least from my pespective) because she hit her wall, found herself overwhelmed by a job that would, frankly overwhelm almost anyone. And she because she's disappointed in herself regarding this, she found something to place the blame on.

As I indicated, such an all encompassing career would've always made one's home/social life suffer. Regardless of the age, marital status, parental status or gender of the worker.

We're discussing a 1% elite position that few of us could even dream of. Prior to her two years in it, she had, for 14 years, successfully balanced her career and motherhood. She returned to her former life and did so in that vein again.

It isn't really a piece about career/life balance, it's a piece about one woman's disappointment in herself.

As for working part time, having your own business, etc----I'm all for that, never said I wasn't. But that, again, involves making the choices that are right for you. Including (frequently) financial sacrifices in both security (it generally takes about 2 years to see a profit, you'll actually work MORE hours and most small businesses do fail) and actual dollars (obviously part time usually pays less than full time).

I will agree frequently (in fact most jobs) involve "seat warming"---but many people have to do 40+ hours of seat warming for one reason or another. If anything the "seat warming" argument bolsters my posiiton of "sure you can work p/t, but we still expect the same productivity from you".

And plenty of us aren't interested in working p/t. Anecdotal evidence is hardly fact (or demonstrative of a majority----most people in plural compounds actually think THAT'S normal).

@wami - I liked that, too---given that I pretty much espoused her exact viewpoint, right here! :-)

I don't want it all as a mom. I just want a nap.

Not sure why you'd say I didn't read it. Getting something different out of it than others does not mean I didn't pay attention, just that I see it through the lens of my own experience vs. yours or hers. You can love or hate the article, or both or neither but I wouldn't say you didn't read it. I don't know you and have no desire to argue, I simply saw the article in another light than some others and felt my comments were equally valid. Wouldn't that be the point of a piece of writing, to invoke a variety of responses and each person take their own personal meaning?

Now read without interuptions is another story, but considering I did read it all within 48 hours, I do think I kept reasonable continuity on this one. I recognize it's her personal story, but both she and the AtIantic seemingly believed it had greater meaning. I mean, she says she's saying she's going to tell us 'what needs to change', in her mind that seems to imply extrapolating from herself and her journey into greater society.

I suppose this is ultimately a tangent since I'm not saying it's the primary message of the article (just something that struck me from a comment of yours)... I am not agreeing that 'most' people -parents or not- want to work full time. Maybe this is because I still vividly remember those playgroup moms and wishing for options other than full or none. Maybe because I see so very many people in Portland making other choices to not be in a rat race. Maybe because I was inspired by the book 'Work to Live' long before I had kids. Which may also be a digression. My wanting to not run the rat race is not meant to threaten those who do wish to do so, it is not an either or.

What I actually got most out of the article was actually a sense of how happy I am not to live in the author's world-- a common theme actually with Atlantic articles and me.

And lastly, For all the talk (somewhere along the line) of 'let's make school follow the work world', why does it never go the other way? Make work follow life.

@Debby: Hah hah! A nap and some free time to mow the @*$& lawn do it for me, too.

@ Spottie: I read somewhere that France lets everyone out early on Wednesday afternoons/evenings so that the parents can take the kids to their extracurricular activities, which take place on ... Wednesday afternoons/evenings. The language lessons, the soccer, the piano, the whatever, are restricted to Wednesday afternoons and Saturday mornings. Perhaps work follows life more in other countries?

@spottie - while I fully support the the choices of not entering the rat race, gotta say your playgroup moms aren't exactly a slice of society as a whole (again, just because most people you know think one way, doesn't mean the majority of people think that way). That's a fiarly limited perspective (and rmeinds me a bit of how the tiny rural counties in our state think we're all Republicans because everyone in thier little town is)

There's a fairly simple reason for why most people would rather work full time: it pays more. Given that nowadays it takes two full time incomes to support a household, how on earth could one part time (or even two) keep everyone fed? Plus while you might not enjoy working (which is 100% fine) plenty of women and men do. Parents and non-parents.

I'm also a bit confused by the moms in your playgroup lamenting the "all or nothing". Was this that they wanted to continue to work in their actual fields and couldn't get p/t work or was this ANY p/t job?

Because plenty of professional positions do offer p/t work (per diem in healthcare, for example) and there have always been and will always be a plethora of p/t service sector jobs. If anything, they typically prefer to hire p/t because it translates to not paying benefits. In the case of some more traditional jobs that require full time, in some cases it's because the job (by its very nature) requires a full time plus commitment.

Oh yeah, actual facts bearing out my argument http://www.bls.gov/news.release/famee.t05.htm

73% of women with children under 18 work and of those a ratio of 3:1 work full time versus part time. Granted, this includes single moms (who don't get to even entertain not working or working p/t), but even with married couples 68.7% of women work, and again with full time crowding out part time by almost 3:1.

I'm really not sure why the societal myth still persists that most moms don't work outside the home...cause they do. Also, working moms actually only spend 14% less time with their children than SAHM do.

I would appreciate more part time work options. Particularly when the children are out of daycare and into public schools. Not having to pay for daycare, I or my husband, may be able to reduce the hours, but will it be an option supported by our employer?
On the other hand, if the class sizes keep going up, we may consider catholic schools in which case we will need every dollar, but that's another topic.

@anon---wading into the private versus public debate (and yeah, now we're really veering off topic). Don't buy into the whole "Catholic or private schools are better" mythology. Totally depends on what school your kids would attend.

Catholic schools are typically better (to some extent) in teaching reading and math. They suck at science and a variety of other subjects. Additionally, this all levels out past the third or fourth grade.

As a purely anecdotal example: my nephew by marriage attended a Catholic school until the 3rd or 4th grade. When he returned to his mediocre neighborhood elementary school, he was a full year behind and had to repeat a grade (and he actually tests quite high on aptitude tests).

It's a large urban legend here in Portland that

A) our schools are completely terrible. We rate an average to slightly above average on the national scale with a 5 or 6 out of 10. Many schools are actually 8, 9, or 10. We're actually brought down by a few poor performing schools.

B) Catholic schools are superior and the classes are smaller. While "real" private schools (like OES or Catlin Gable) DO offer a superior education they're also in the vicinity of $18K - $22K per year and up. Catholic schools do not and never did. Their teachers are less qualified and typically the minimal superiority is based more on being able to teach in a more disciplinarian style. Which produces only temporary beneifts. They also sometimes are able to superficially post higher scores because they don't have to take students with disabilities to bring their averages down.

Before you fall into the trap----simply research your neighborhood school on greatschools.

Also....don't buy into the other mythology of "Portland Schools drool/Vancouver Schools rule". While as a whole, WA out performs OR, Vantucky is one of the worst districts in the state. They consistently rank below PDX.

Oh---and aftercare at most PPS schools isn't very much at all.

Zumpie, I appreciate your thoughts on schools, but I will leave a reply for a public vs private topic, if one comes up.
I am not concerned with the cost of aftercare as much as I am concered with lack of family time in the evenings and more importantly lack of time to do the homework with children and not have to hurry through it. That is why I would like to have reduced hours when they enter school and I am done paying for daycare.

There are now two people in this conversation using "anon." Oh well.

It seems to me that if 27 percent of moms don't work, and a quarter of the rest who are working are working part time, then spottie's playgroup represents a reasonable number of moms. Just not the majority.

For many years, my employer did not allow workers to go part time for any reason. If you didn't want to work full time anymore, then you had to quit. They lost many great female workers post motherhood that way, and didn't seem to mind.

At other employers, the issue is benefits and protection; drop below a certain number of hours per week, and you get fewer benefits and much less government protection. To an American worker, health care and retirement benefits are huge perks, and if both parents have them, it helps create stability in case one parent gets laid off. But most part time jobs don't offer benefits.

So does that mean that moms don't want the option of part time work that still lets them spend time with their kids? Or just that our employers/government/society don't see any advantage in creating those options?

And, to help us avoid wandering off topic, Slaughter's article, by her own definition, is about top professionals. The kind of people who are tenured professors at Ivy League colleges and/or high level government staffers. It's not about why there aren't more part time women in service professions.

@anon - but if you're concerned about family time wouldn't that automatically preclude putting your children into Catholic school, since as you point out, you'd then need every penny to pay for it?

@ other anon - honestly I think almost everyone, male or female would work only part time (or not at all) if they could afford to. I really like my job, telecommute (my employer's preference BTW) and can typically get my stuff done pretty quickly. But if my Mega Millions ticket is a winner, both my husband and I will be turning in notice ASAP.

That said, my point was more that this shouldn't simply be about working women, but working people (which was a point made by Coontz in her excellent rebuttal piece). Additionally most people who work full time, do so because they need the $$$ (which is a good point made by Elizabeth Wurtzel). And I already pointed out how really, NO ONE here could possibly relate to Slaughter's situation, as it's truly a 1% type job.

One interesting point, though----while I do point out that most families carry two, full time incomes, ironically (contrary to extensive mythology otherwise) most SAHM aren't 1% ers shopping at Chanel. They're actually precisely the women who NEED to work, as their households are frequently towards the lower end of the socio economic ladder.

In short, you're more likely to find a very young mom in rural Alabama staying home full time than you are a "middle aged" one in Chicago.

And a playground of SAHM's (of young children) in PDX would represent just 2% of our city's population. Parents here are a minority, and parents of small children and even smaller minority, with SAHP's of small children being a tiny minority.

On the contrary, I think many readers of urbanmamas could relate to wanting both involved parenthood and a very challenging/rewarding career, but not being able to choose both because their workplaces and society cannot accommodate that choice over the course of their lives.
Think of all the professions - medicine, law, governing, various fields of academics, etc, etc etc. They exist right here in Portland. To get to the top of them requires an incredible amount of training, hard work and sacrifice. I am related to one such top professional, for whom 10-12 hour workdays and prolonged international travel each month are part and parcel of his quite substantial success. Could he stop doing that in the middle of his life, turn his attention primarily to his child and then resume his top career a decade or two later? In a word, no.

I actually agree with that---but such a career would also affect one's relationships across the board. And as I noted above, I routinely worked 10-12 hour workdays (really, really standard in hospitlaity) when my daughter was much smaller. My husband worked full time, as well. Yet we felt we had plenty of family time (overall).

It's a false equivalency to imply that ALL jobs require the devotion that such a position does. In fact there are some jobs I've never bothered applying for because the salary told me just how much I'd be working and it wasn't worth it. That's a decision I would've made when single, married without children and as a parent.

There's no question that to be at the top of your career (male or female) requires such sacrifice...BUT, the moms in playgroup appear to have NOT been at the apex of their careers (as Kelly points out, their careers were either stalled, never took the direction they wanted it to, etc...so staying home was an out), at any time in their lives. And as I point out, if they really DID want to work part time, there are lots of part time jobs. Clearly they find it easier to stay home.

Additionally, most parents (94% of men, 73% of women) do work, with the bulk of them working full time. Most people don't reach the apex of their careers----never did. And feminism never promised ANYONE the "have it all" mythology---advertising did.

Feminism just gave us choices. BTW, historically your most likely group of substance abusers have been middle class housewives (laudnum 150 years, alcohol endlessly, Miltowns/Valiums in the 50's and 60's, Prozac or Percocet nowadays). Feminism offered us an out from that. If we wanted it.

Slaughter says that feminists (not feminism) need to stop telling young women then can have both top professional jobs and fulfilling family lives, because without major changes in our culture, it won't happen.

In her discussion of stairstepping, Slaughter specifically discusses that the most important career opportunities (the apex of one's career) happen in one's 40s and 50s. That's a decade or more after one's children would be playgroup aged, but they are opportunities that might never arrive if one scaled back one's efforts in their 20s or 30s to be better available for one's children.

I am not assuming that moms I've never met in a playgroup I've never attended are willing career dropouts. If you re-read Kelly's comment, I don't think she said that either. I don't think there are any facts that would lead me to conclude that. On the other hand, I do know many women who were talented, hard working, and doing extremely well in their professions but who left in order to better care for their kids. Or, in some cases, their own parents. I do not know any men that's happened to, so I don't know whether critiques of Slaughter's "gendered" presentation are valid or not.

So if you have little daughters who dream of being astronauts or doctors or president of the United States you say to them well don't have kids or you'll have to give up your dream? What kind of examples do we make for our daughters if they never see accomplished mothers In the world? What does it say to our sons if we offer that a mother's place is in the home? Who will fight for mother's rights? Will those sons be allies? Honestly this thread is depressing. I think too many women use their kids as an excuse to not do more.

Except Slaughter's incorrect on two points:

A) feminists never told us (or today's young women) that. Advertisers did.

B) As I've pointed out about 50 times. Slaughter was already at the apex of her career BEFORE the state department job. A tenured Princeton Professor, with published books and articles, giving 50+ speeches for pay is already a rarified life few of us could even dream of.

She had this, successfully for 14 years, with two children and a (presumably) happy marriage. Sounds like "it all" embodied! As Coontz points out, she grossly contradicts herself. Basically because she's bummed that she "hit her wall" and wanted someone (or something) to blame.

And I can guarantee you NONE of the SAHM I know ever even came close to the her level of achievement (and never were going to).

@z your post posted after mine (I suspect we were composing at roughly the same time). I agree completely. None of this would ever even be entertained with men. As women we can do whatever we want, including having a career and children.

A) I disagree. I think Slaughter feels herself guilty of giving young women this impression in the past. Unless it turns out that you speak for all feminists, we'll have to disagree on this.
B) It seems Slaughter herself thinks her political job was the top of her career, and the reason her previous commitments worked out was because she had an unusual amount of control and flexibility over her time. She thought she could take the political job because she had older children, but just like the Godfather, "just when I thought I was out ...."
And Z, I agree it is depressing. That's why everyone is talking about it - and desperately wants it not to be true.

I haven't read any of the rebuttals to Slaughter's article, but will when I have a bit more time. However, I took from her article that she is specifically talking about the lack of women represented at the very, very top, CEO's, gov't professional, elected officials, law partners, etc. And, she's talking about the real trade-offs mothers have to make in order to balance their careers and families (e.g. if you are going to have a powerful job that demands you are on call 24/7, you better have a stay-at-home spouse or full-time nanny and you're going to miss some of your kids' lives.) These trade offs are real and men make them, too. And, traditionally it has been societally acceptable for men to spend less time with their families. I think it's changing, but I still think women generally consider it more. Or maybe men just feel like they can't.

I have a pretty successful career, work full time (and always have) and have one child (8 years old). Thinking about my own experience in making choices, I definitely have curtailed some of my ambitions about money/power because I've NOT wanted to work 60 hours per week while raising a child. Six years ago, I turned down a $100K+ position heading up a $100million capital campaign because my analysis was that I would literally be on-call for five years, and that I would have no time for my kid (or myself). Recently, when I changed jobs, I stuck to my current position, making a lateral move (well, a slight increase in responsibility) instead of striving to become an executive director for the same reason (not money, alas, but time). And, I have a very supportive spouse who is a teacher, so his schedule is pretty darn family friendly.

But,the funny thing about that is that those ambitions are a little less important to me than they were overall. I'm not sure that I would now seek out those jobs as ferociously even if I wasn't a mom (or when my kid has flown the coop). I like having a fairly good work/life balance. (although now that my husband's a teacher, I could never afford to go part-time!)

And, I recognize that I am VERY lucky. I have a great job at a stable nonprofit. I make a generous salary and have a ton of flexibility to take time if I need it. I work about 40 hours most weeks and sometimes work closer to 50, if needed. And, I feel like I am not the norm, especially when you start comparing my job life to women/men who are poor or lower income.

I do think that society could do a better job of recognizing that most women HAVE to work and, in general, most of our business world is not set up to support working parents or workers with other family obligations.

I do think that if that shift occurred, all along the spectrum, women would have an easier time working and mothering.

@anon - it's only depressing if you let it be depressing. And myself and other working moms who are happy with our lives (again) feel that we do "have it all".

I've already upthread pointed out that Slaughter's state department job would compromise ANYONE's family and social life--back when men worked, it would've been called "married to his job". And then a man's relationship with his wife and children would've suffered. Or might not have even gotten married (or even sustained a real relationship), with such devotion to his career.

Tenured Princeton Professor, with a side writing career and weekly out of town travel for paid speaker jobs doesn't exactly sound like a slow paced career life to me. Again, she hit her wall. She's clearly upset about it, but there it is.

Like Nicola (who I applaud and am not nearly as successful), I've declined or not even bothered to apply to positions because they clearly required 24/7 on call devotion. I wouldn't have wanted that when I was single.

Conversely, a former boss, absolutely LOVED to be at work. A light work week for him was 70 hours (luckily he didn't expect the same from me and was actually great to work for). But guess what, he was also single and freely admitted he could never maintain a romantic relationship for more than a few months (actually, it was a badge of honor for him). It's why he never married (even though he liked appreciated children) or became a dad (even though he loved kids).

@ Nicola, exactly. The shifts could occur, but they haven't. And that's why you rarely see women who have children at the top.

And if women retreat to home and aren't in the world fighting for change how will it ever occur?

Z, you are right about having to fight. I want to add that it all starts at home. We can start with raising out children (of both genders) to be open minded about this topic. If our children today believe that men can stay at home with the children, women can have careers and family friendly employment laws are not a luxury but a must, then the change will happen.

You mean if they don't rise to the top in significant-enough numbers? It's a good question. Slaughter points out that two of the three women on the Supreme Court don't have children, but that nearly all of the male justices do. So does that color their perspectives on the rules we all play by? Good question.

A side note - in all the articles on the death of the wonderful and beloved Nora Ephron (a famous feminist and famous New Yorker, among other famous things) many mentioned her speech in 1996 telling graduates of her all-female alma mater that they could have it all. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/arts-post/post/norah-ephrons-thoughts-on-having-it-all/2012/06/27/gJQAfSBA7V_blog.html

Interesting, Ephron put in most of the work on her first successful career, newspaper and magazine journalism, before her children were born in the late 70s. After they were born, she turned - delightfully - to careers where she had more control over her time, including screenwriting when they were young and directing when they were older. Many people here might be too young to remember her novel, Heartburn, in which she roasted her unfaithful ex-husband, who cheated on her with a mutual friend when she had one small son and was 7 months pregnant with another. Be the heroine of your own life, she said, and she was - but it helps if you've got money and control.

@Z I agree completely. It's a total cop out to say, "well the glass ceiling DOES still exist, so I won't bother trying---and it's gonna be hard any way you slice it. So I'll just give up completely."

Anyone who thinks this way completely dishonors all our foremothers. These were women who went to PRISON AND WERE FORCE FED (among other things) all so that we could vote! Let alone the women's movement (and the choices we gained), the continued battle to maintain control over our bodies, etc.

These women didn't give up when there were challenges, so why would we? BTW, juszt because a struggle still exists, doesn't mean changes haven't occured.

@anon - Sorry, but Nora Ephron was an overrated hack. And both the "novel" and the movie depicted a woman who should've kicked the jackass to the curb in the first place.

Oh and for those of us who DO work and model to our daughters that you can, entirely, "have it all" (based on what "it all means"), thus moving everything forward, you're welcome. I do this every day. Do you?

Oh, also....Nancy Pelosi, until recently 3rd in line for the presidency (and hopefully will be once again after November!) and still arguably the most powerful female Democrat in the country is a mom to five and grandma to eight!

Since she began her political career at 29, I'm guessing she very much balanced family and career. Also, Hilary Clinton is a mom---and even with everything that went on, Chelsea's come out an extremely grounded, successful young woman.

The fight might start at home but if mothers don't demonstrate that we are capable and willing to take on the challange by actually going out into the world and being successful then then we will have few allies, make no real progress and it's all smack and no back as they say.

About Nora Ephron, again, we'll have to disagree on her talent. Whether or not she was to your taste (I like her writing so much more than her movies, for example) she was still one of a miniscule handful of successful female movie directors. I mention her here as an example of a famous feminist who famously told women they could have it all.

About Nancy Pelosi - she's great. But the bench behind her isn't at all deep, and that is the point of this discussion.

Z, you may like this article, by the former foreign editor of the New York Times, who talks about how her job was possible only because her children were older and because, as an editor, she had more control over the times and places she worked.
While she agrees with Slaughter, she remains optimistic:
"Yes, many of the most powerful jobs in the United States do elude many mothers. But there are more younger men who say they want more time with their families; perhaps they will join forces for change or help reimagine some of the toughest jobs. Be patient. And relentless."

I have long admired and followed the lead of Susan Hockfield president of MIT and a mother. I work hard and have kids and wouldn't have it any other way and most women I know have little patience for those who claim it is impossible. If I were to take time away from my profession I would never be able to return and I have worked too hard and sacrificed too much to give up my dreams and I personally think I would be a terrible mother if I were to model that for my kids. When the going gets tough; run away?

@Z, once again ITA. And I have little patience for the whining (which is what it really is), as well. And again, whining because things are imperfect is pointless. Things are better now than they were 30 years ago. Things will be better in the future.

But not if we wimper, "this is hard, someone promised me a pony". Life is hard. Always was, always will be.

Or, you could "whine," (also known as identifying that something is wrong and needs to be fixed) and then use that information to create change. Like this guys: http://www.vancouversun.com/business/Google+inspired+commuter+hoping+lure+people+their+cars+with+luxury+mobile/6863938/story.html

I don't know if they exactly whined or even really invented anything, since even more tricked out buses have been around for awhile for rock stars on tour. Not a bad idea, though.

Interesting to note:

A) two MEN did this because they want more work/family balance. B) Google is generally known as an employer that offers great benefits---but more ones to keep you at work, longer (like well stocked fridges, so when a single person's is empty, they'll show up at work on the weekend).
C) it's something done for Google employees, because if THEY can't get work done on the bus, it's an immense tragedy. The rest of Vancouver's population? Mere plebian mortals.

I'm sure Microsoft employees will be whining for their own tricked out party bus, any day!

Yes - they are men. See the quote above from the New York Times editor about joining forces. They seem to be men who work long days, have extremely long commutes, and want to spend more time with their kids. They identified a problem that needed fixing, and turned this bus into an commuter office where people can send e-mails and files and make quiet phone calls on the drive into and out of the city.

If you will re-read, you will see their service is not provided by Google or any other employer - these two were inspired by Google to create this service - as a club - in their own Canadian city. One of the men will now get Fridays to spend with his family because he made his commuting hours productive - he invented a commute solution that creates a better work life balance without having to give anything up. And he's offering it to as many other people - men or women - as a bus or two or three can handle. If there is demand for it among commuters from other parts of Vancouver, then this service and others like it will likely grow.

Wow, anon, what a great story! Thanks for sharing! It certainly seems that people are thinking outside the box. The staff at my (community therapy) job are working on a plan where they can add 1 hour to their work day for 9 days and get the 10th day off, as long as they can remain productive during the extra hour and not just use it to check facebook! Doesn't work for me since I have to be at daycare by 6, and I'm a manager, but I'm glad the rest of the team will take advantage. This was brought on by the team's desire to have time with their families or to do other self care activities (or go to the doctor, etc). Granted, I am not in a high powered job, but we have to look at the small ideas from small places that might reach the masses.

Cheers to them, and to future solutions that will help you, too.

Oh one last recent Nora Ephron discovery: she was the snotty bitch I always thought she was. Apparently she wrote a piece for the NY Times back in 2005 in which she endlessly bitched about her experiences dining in high end restaurants.

Much of her ranting was about the utilisation of more upscale (and in reality more classic) dining accoutrements like dessert spoons, glassware selections and fresh ground pepper (the larger grains hurt her delicate tongue). She was also greivously offended by waiters daring to speak to her.

Having been a server in upscale, NYC restaurants, this shows me EXACTLY the sort of bourgeois bitch she is. And also explains why her movie characters are so snotty themselves. It is NOT feminist to snub your sisters, just because they're pouring your coffee.

Ironically, I've had the pleasure of waiting (on more than one occasion) on her ex-husband, Carl Bernstein. He was incredibly low key (I didn't even know who he was until he gave me his Amex card), polite, undemanding and a ridiculously amazing tipper. And he was (the first time) there as the date of the then head of Planned Parenthood (which is about as feminist as you're gonna get).

Maybe (infedility aside) they broke up because he was embarassed because of her horribly gauche public conduct.

This is very useful for me. Thanks my friend.

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