Editor’s note: Dave Siff is a senior producer with HLN.
There’s been a lot of buzz around the office the past few days about Anne-Marie Slaughter’s article in The Atlantic, titled “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All.”
If you haven’t read it, you should (but not until you’re finished here, of course.) It’s a well-written, compelling window into some very complicated issues that many working parents face.
For now, here’s a quick synopsis: Slaughter left her job as the State Department’s first female director of policy planning to spend more time at home with her two teenage sons. Before going into government, she’d been a law professor and a dean at Princeton. And, having gotten used to being the high-powered professional listening to other women explain why they stayed home, Slaughter didn’t exactly welcome this sudden flipping of the script.
She had spent years telling her fellow female professionals they could have it all. And, she insists, she still believes women (and men) can have it all. But she realizes in today’s fast-paced world, it’s not that simple.
As a working parent myself, I wanted to sympathize. But I could only go so far, because two thoughts kept rattling around in my head:
1) You can’t complain about the “glass ceiling” and then complain again when you break through it.
2) Can anyone really “have it all,” women or men?
I think “having it all” means different things to different people. But I believe there’s a misconception that for men, spending time with their children isn’t as important in the overall equation.
My son is 4 years old. Those of you with kids know what a great age this is. He does amazing things. He says amazing things. I don’t get to spend enough time with him, especially during the week. But I’m the breadwinner, and I’ve got to work full time. There have been many days when I left the house before he was awake and came home after he was asleep.
Before he came along, I thought “having it all” meant being able to balance work with marriage and two hobbies that require a good bit of time and money (playing bass guitar in rock bands and playing golf.) I still have those hobbies, but I don’t spend nearly as much time on them. Although my son loves golf, he’s too young to play for real. And it’s awfully hard for me to justify leaving him for six hours on a Saturday or Sunday to play a round with friends.
When our son was born, my wife left her corporate job and stayed home for a while. Since then, she has worked for a friend’s company, and then started her own. She works hard, but she can do a lot of it from home. She spends more time with our son than I do. She spends more time with friends than I do. She has more time to work out than I do.
So, does she “have it all”? On the surface, she’s a lot closer than I am. But she’d like more time for work and other things. And there’s the rub for all of us: There are only 24 hours in a day. The more you try to cram into a finite amount of time, the less you’re likely to get out.
What “having it all” means, and whether it’s achievable, can be debated until the end of time. I’ve decided to look at it this way: I have a job, a roof over my head, a great family, and even some spare time to play rock star and chase the golf ball around.
When I think about wanting much more than that, it feels a little selfish.