Women at Work: I have it all and I’m exhausted

In a recent article in The Atlantic, Anne-Marie Slaughter describes her own experience of stepping down from a high-level State Department position to teach at Princeton and spend more time with her children. In the process, she came to an uncomfortable realization: No matter what well-meaning feminists might say, women really can’t have it all. “Not today,” she writes, “not with the way America’s economy and society are currently structured.”

Here is the thing:  I agree, particularly when you put in the important caveat of “high-level.”  I fully realize that this makes the entire conversation a bit elitist, a conversation only had by women that, to put it simply, have a job, and one that is high-level to boot.  Which is an indulgent conversation when so many in our country struggle to find a job.  Did you see the Saturday Night Live skit when Americans were complaining about the new iPhone to the Chinese workforce that manufactured the phone?  The juxtaposition of the inconvenience of the workings of the mapping function when the Chinese workers live in a dorm in a country that is pretty much shutting down the internet and arresting anyone with an opinion as the Communist Party prepares for the 18th National Congress got some laughs.  I get that this conversation is sort of like that.

So with that acknowledgement, I also want to state that the number one question I am asked by any woman I mentor is “how do you do it?”  Ah, well, while he works full-time as well, my husband does more than his fair share.  He does all of the grocery shopping and cooking and takes care of anything car-related.  We alternate kid-related tasks (carpooling, doctor).  We all do our own laundry.  We have a house cleaning service.  But after I work my 60 hours a week (minimum), pay the bills, drop off my dry cleaning, deliver on my community commitments (after advocating for women’s leadership all the time, I joined some non-profit boards and volunteer for some causes important to me), try to keep my roots dyed and my arms from getting saggier, schedule the family like a military operation every single week except Christmas—“If I land by 5, I can get from the airport to carpool by 6”—I’m exhausted.  That’s how I do it.

I’m not whining, I’m just saying—that is my answer to the question.  I get by and it isn’t pretty.  But I’m one of the lucky ones.  I have choices.  When Stephen Colbert asked Ms. Slaughter why she thinks it is any different for him than it is for her, she explained that research shows that women still do more on the home front . . .that they are socially expected to do more, particularly with children.  He said, “Don’t do that.  I don’t.”

Which leads to my agreement with Ms. Slaughter AND with Mr. Colbert:  you can’t really do it all, but you can choose what you do.  And if you have a high level job and a rich personal life including community and family, then prepare to be exhausted.

One Response to Women at Work: I have it all and I’m exhausted

  1. Tom McGovern says:

    Love these mini-articles Jen! Keep up great work (and thoughtful edu-tainment).

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