Mothers trying to have it all – but not without your help, fathers

men + womenJust over a year ago, I wrote The Myth of Doing it All, a confessional post (turned minor internet meme–kinda cool) inspired by an earlier post in which I admitted that working mothers can’t do it all and explained that asking us how, in fact, we do do it all, is a very uncomfortable thing to can ask a working mother.

Not as uncomfortable as questions like “if you didn’t want to raise your children yourself, why have them?” but you know. Uncomfortable. Relatively speaking.

Since then, this idea of mothers and how much we do or don’t do, has inspired the most amazing discussions in my life–here, in social media, in person, and often by email. Sometimes a reader thanks me for saying what she’s always been afraid to say out loud. Sometimes a newly married colleague is still trying to figure out the juggle. Sometimes it’s just a group of mothers like me, hard-working, ambitious, with professional success to varying degrees, sitting around a coffee or a cocktail, or whispering confessions in a quiet corner of a party about the things that are really, truly lacking in their lives.

This past week, aspects of the discussion were reignited, with a hugely popular article by Anne-Marie Slaughter in the Atlantic: Why Women Still Can’t Have it All. It was sent to me by no less than 16 people. (Thank you, people! You know me so well!)

It’s well worth your read. The piece is a phenomenal and very comprehensive dissection of what’s wrong with the workplace and our current system and our culture at large, while offering practical thinking on how we can create environments in which women can have more “all.” One of my favorite lines was when she quotes her assistant simply stating, “You know what would help the vast majority of women with work/family balance? MAKE SCHOOL SCHEDULES MATCH WORK SCHEDULES.”


Now I haven’t read a lot of the responses or criticisms of the article (I’m busy!) but I feel like I need to ask a question that I haven’t really seen:

Where are the men in all this?And what is their role?

There’s a lot of talk about changes at the institutional level that can better support women in their pursuit of their dreams. There’s a lot of talk about “mommy wars” –  stay at home moms versus traditional working moms getting over their shit; or even now, as Lisa Belkin points out, child-free women like Elizabeth Wurtzel, who seems to buy into the myth of the selfish rich working mom and makes the tired argument that mothers are selling out feminism. (Blah blah blah.  That’s another post entirely.) Still–what about the conflict that’s happening right at home?

What has to happen in our relationships to smooth the path to self-satisfaction for women?

What do men need to learn, or do, or…maybe even, give up? And, of course, what do we?

Slaughter suggests, as Sheryl Sandberg does, that “marrying the right man” is one of the essential factors in women’s success. And I think to a large degree she’s right. But do they always start out as the right men? Or do they learn to become that way?

It’s amazing the number of powerful women I speak to who confess that their relationships are tough. Sometimes more than tough. He’s not supportive. Or he’s not helpful. Or maybe he’s resentful. Or competitive. Or simply at a loss with someone so unlike his own mother.

I think, where does this come from? Are Type A women attracted to Type B men? Or, as with so many of our mothers in the 70s, do some women come into their own post-marriage, and realize they want more from life once their children get older, throwing off the formerly perfect balance of work and power in their relationships?  As we grow and evolve, do the men in our lives grow and evolve with us or is that a lot to ask?

A lot of women I know don’t have the supportive husband of their dreams. Which makes me think that it’s more than simply clean dishes or pediatrician appointments  or perfect, sinewy yoga bodies and enviable triceps that we give up when pursuing our personal and professional passions.

My relationship is wildly imperfect. We love each other and yet we have our issues, like everyone. I don’t use this forum to talk about them; although I did once explain the proper use of a hamper.  But we do have to work extremely (extremely) hard to figure out what we can reasonably expect from one another other, and whether our expectations will ever match the reality of what’s possible.

You can’t imagine how many whispered stories I hear from women who have expressed the same. Or worse. They’ve told me that their work or their activities outside the home strain their relationship, either because of the time they put into their jobs, the cultural (or inlaw) pressures to be more traditional in their role as mother, even competitiveness with their partners, particularly if the earnings power starts to shift.

One blogger told me that her mother-in-law asked, “wait, you earn money from your little blogging thing?”

“Yes,” she answered. “I earn more than your son does at his job.”

She was floored.

And yet, it didn’t stop the mother-in-law from continuing to treat my friend like the woman whose primary job is to have dinner on the table and clean the house just the way he likes it. Her husband…well, let’s say acorn/tree.

I don’t think this just applies to mothers who have traditional jobs or careers, by the way. I think that there are mothers who run the PTA, chair the school benefits, start up the Girl Scouts Troop, or beautify their neighborhoods who have husbands that feel challenged with the time and energy spent on those things.

Shouldn’t we as a culture have evolved past this by now? For fuck’s sake, it’s now 35 years since I first starting peeking at the Ms. magazines by my mother’s bedside.

Busy women’s lives are freaking hard. But their relationships, need to help make it easier. Especially when you look at the statistics that even for those women who are primary earners, the men still do less housework and have more free time–though sometimes this is by the woman’s choice, whether they realize it or not.

(We need to get better at that too!)

Relationships take work. And work takes work. And children take work. And personal fulfillment takes work.

How much work do we all have in us?

Hopefully a little more, if we want those happy endings that Disney movies (and a few Jewish mothers) have promised us all these years.

Please don’t misunderstand me–I’m not some throwback Cold War-era conservative admonishing women for not being home at 5PM to bring their man a martini and his slippers. But I do think this all comes back to my assertion that we need to commit to raising the next generation of men who accept and honor successful women; and, just as importantly, to know that they are capable of being equal household managers and nurturing caregivers.

Not just for our benefit, by the way, but for our children’s.

How awesome to think that my own girls will grow up knowing that daddies do dishes and go on field trips and make really good eggs.

Because without men in their lives that take responsibility and offer support, how can they expect to have some of that “all” that the rest of us want?  The kids and the great husband and the professional successes and the personal satisfaction of finding your bliss through your work

As Slaughter put it so perfectly:

Men are still socialized to believe that their primary family obligation is to be the breadwinner; women, to believe that their primary family obligation is to be the caregiver. But it may be more than that. When I described the choice between my children and my job to Senator Jeanne Shaheen, she said exactly what I felt: “There’s really no choice.” She wasn’t referring to social expectations, but to a maternal imperative felt so deeply that the “choice” is reflexive.

We’ve come a long way, baby. But I think we can still go further.

I hope our partners can help. And eventually, our sons.



68 thoughts on “Mothers trying to have it all – but not without your help, fathers”

  1. I am incredibly lucky in this respect (and yes, I call it luck, because we’ve been married 15 years and a lot changes over that time, not always for the better in spite of our best efforts). I knew it from the time my then-boyfriend of 6 months stood up to his mother in favor of me, and then again thousands of times over as he has made choices that support both our family (and I don’t mean monetarily) and my personal goals. I’ve done the same for him.

    I think Kyle takes crap sometimes (not so much here as he did back in New York) for prioritizing us as a family over work advancement and general adherence to that 50’s-era lifestyle so lauded as the ideal. I’m grateful that he recognizes the importance of both of us being satisfied with our lives, and that satisfaction does not always derive from a plethora of material things.

    I’m not sure how he got this way, because god knows his family life didn’t set a good example for treating wives/mothers with respect. I’m very glad that we’re doing a better job for my son (and my daughters).

    1. I love stories like this, and that’s so wonderful. So many men I work with also put their families and their wives’ own priorities first at times. I’d love to hear more like that.

    2. Agreed here that my husband has also learned that *he* can’t have it all either. He makes less money than his partners, took longer to make partner and generally gets flack at work because of his commitment to his family–for being involved in taking kids to and from school/camp/daycare, for coming home for dinner (and on his nights, coming home early enough to cook it too), for staying home with sick kids, not working on weekends unless absolutely necessary, etc, etc. But in the end, I guess we both actually “have it all” in a way because we both have careers, we’re both involved parents, and we both still really like each a lot other with minimal amounts of the ill-will that can come when one or the other is taking on all the kid/house/pet responsibilities and doing all the sacrificing career-wise. I always feel like he is “on my side” and I hope he feels that way too.

  2. Oh Liz. You captured so much of what troubles me. And something that I struggle with daily.

    I won’t talk about myriad causes, that I believe range from familial dynamics to societal issues (religion, for one). But I think this requires a huge paradigm shift. A change in expectations of both men and women in society. A new normal for our roles, not just as parents, but as people in general.

    And you’re right: It starts with parents. With us.

    1. I’m so happy to see lots of dad bloggers starting to talk about it too–I think overall they’re more progressive than most, many being SAHDs. But yeah, it can’t just come from the moms.

  3. wow well you certainly made me feel better about how life as worked out. i had always assumed i would work hard then stay home. hahahaha! I am the primary breadwinner as my husband is primary caretaker of kids and occasional freelancer/artist. and the crazy thing? it totally works. it’s not on purpose but it’s the best thing for us. turns out i love business and am crazy motivated. he is much better at just attempting (and putting up with) my ‘to do’ listsl.
    is he perfect staying home doing things the way i would? HELL NO! but i think of it as him learning how to do all the things he never learned as a kid growing up in a totally different era with very different role models. Today’s dads are going through a huge cultural shift. as women we (ok at least i was) were raised to ‘go with the flow’ or ‘make our own way’ or some variation where we learned how to adapt. It’s a whole lot easier to learn to focus on work and career and still organize family things (or learn to pay for house cleaning/yard maintenance) that it is to learn how to clean house if you have never done it (my husband had no silverware when i met him. none. he was 30 and had plastic utensils from Wendy’s. i cannot make that up! when i get frustrated with him i remember how far he has come!)
    Hopefully the next generation can partner with people that bring out the best in each of them. both working or one staying at home or both staying at home and earning money some other way, whatever, regardless of gender.
    these articles, these discussions, all of us shaking things up, they are the little changes that reshape our cultural expectations.

  4. This is interesting. I am in a totally opposite relationship. I have always out-earned my husband, ever since we started dating. Growing up, I always wanted to earn my own money and was terrified of being financially supported by a man (due to my parents divorce and where it left my mom). So, my husband is used to me earning more money, and as a CPA, I also handle all of the financial decisions. My husband has always been more of a cleaner than I am, and he takes on more than 50% of the chorse – a lot more. I enjoy cooking, and do all of the grocery shopping and meal planning.

    The strife has come with having a baby. The problem is that I WANT to work less. I WANT to cut back. I WANT to be with my daugther. But I am the breadwinner. It’s my job that has the health benefits. My husband does work, and his income is catching up with mine, but I don’t know if he will ever outearn me. I am hoping we get to a point where it’s enough that I can cut my hours back at least (30 hours min. in my state and you still get benefits).

    So, this is where I feel failed by everyone who told me I could be anything I wanted. What happens when what you want changes, but you can’t make a change in your life? And it has nothing to do with a husband who doesn’t support what I want. It’s a financial decision only. I have worked hard for my career, and now my career feels meaningless in comparison to spending more time with my daughter. I don’t know if I would ever want to completely leave the workplace. My daughter is only 19 months old, and I am sure I will be happy that I have kept up with my credentials and experience once she is older. But, I can’t stand this 40 hour/week plus traffic BS that I am living. I feel like I never see her. It literally hurts me inside.

    What doesn’t help is I can’t hide these feelings, so my husband feels badly that he can’t support us financially. Even though we both knew from the start there was a good chance I would not be able to stop working, we didn’t realize how we would both feel after our baby was born. Even though she is in a great daycare and I think gets a lot of benefits from being there…..I don’t know.

    I do wish I had known this before, but it’s not like I would trade in my husband or my daughter for another life. I love them both will all my heart. So, that is why I wish there could be some changes to the workplace, as outline in the article. Something to make it easier on us middle-class, two income families. More jobs that allow for part-time work while still staying within your career. The ability to get benefits no matter your hours (as part of pay negotiation of course). More openness to telecommuting. More quality daycares that take children under 2.

    I will tell you what I think will help all moms (and fathers, for that matter). That is moms owning businesses. Businesses that do well enough that they can hire other parents. Moms who say, “bring your baby to work – here is a pack and play and a curtain so you can nurse”. Moms who say, “Yes, pediatrician hours suck, don’t they? Why don’t you just make up that extra time from home later on, and focus on your child for the rest of the day”. Moms who know, that children need their parents more than employers need their employees. So please, let’s all put our children first, and then we will all be happy to put work at a very high second.

    Wow, this is getting too long. I just have so much to say on this topic, it’s hard not to rant. Thanks again for a great article!

    1. There’s so much in this comment that I echo. I’m the primary breadwinner (my husband is a freelancer WAHD), and the struggle I see with all the ideas of “having it all” is that I feel utterly stuck. I can’t take the leap to a new career if it means a paycheck reduction. I can’t work part time because I need the full time income and benefits. I don’t work somewhere that allows flex schedules, so I’m stuck. So what happens when you want a change, but can’t make one?

      1. Oh Ginger, thank you so much for coming forward. I feel that way too a lot. I wrote about it here (which I mentioned up in the first paragraph of this post) – I’d love to know more women like you, because you’re right, the issues are unique and very challenging.

        It’s easy for other women to say “go girl! Pursue that startup you’ve dreamed of!” when they have a safety net.

    2. I totally get how you feel! It’s always tough when one family member, male or female, feels like he/she has no choice. I suppose it’s still easier for the male to do the breadwinner stuff. For me the perfect solution would have been a one-year maternity leave. I really wanted that time at home. It didn’t help that we have many European friends who constantly reminded me that they stayed home and then had a full-time job waiting for them.

  5. You’ve articulated a theme that I have been trying to voice to my husband for, basically, our entire marriage. Why is it that some men can work all hours and weekends, and only see the kids to tuck them in at night, and yet not feel the least bit of regret? Is it something in their hormones? Don’t get me wrong, I would not want to be that way. But I think therein lies the key… if we can get men to feel the same emotional investment as we do, maybe we can shoot for great equality at home and at work.

    1. I remember running into a colleague on a business trip who also has young kids. I asked, “don’t you miss them?” and he sort of shrugged and said yes, but implying that this is work so what are you going to do. Women would have had long teary overwrought conversations about the push and pull and guilt and societal pressure and and and.

      Thanks Nina. I love your last line.

      1. But what if we can’t get men to feel the same emotional investment? I think my husband is a great and invested father, but he just doesn’t feel the same guilt and worry that I do in working full time (a recent thing for me after being a WAHM since my first kid was born), or in being absent at least one evening each week. A friend of mine is in the same situation – great dad, zero guilt about work and kids. I don’t like to say that’s the way men are, but what if it mostly is…? And if I feel that I need to only provide home-made cookies and teach my kids to read and write in English (we live in a French-speaking part of the world) and read to them each night and have some snuggle time before bed and organize at least one after-school activity per week and and and, in order to be the parent I want to be, all while I am working full time… while my husband does not feel all the same needs (or at least, not nearly as strongly), then how on Earth can I not burn out?

        Yes I know I need to make choices and set priorities for what’s really important, what I’m trying to say is, I fear it goes way beyond changing societal/cultural norms and a “retraining” of some men – both of which are absolutely necessary – to an inherent difference between men and women.

        1. I believe, as others have mentioned there are biological and cultural differences that contribute to factors like guilt and emotional connection. The one comment stands out from a dad who said when his baby cried at night it was hard for him, but it physically hurt his wife.

          However, we don’t always take on obligations and responsibilities because we feel a strong emotional bond (for lack of a better term) to them. Work ethic, responsibility, commitment–these things are learned. I don’t think men mow the lawn (or whatever) because they have innate compassion and emotional ties to grass seed. He has learned somehow that that’s his responsibility and by investing himself in it soon comes to take pride in it.

          I guess what I’m saying is, it doesn’t matter if your husband doesn’t feel the need to read to the kids and spend time with them and make lunches for them once in a while. He should do it because he’s a parent and that’s his job.

          Anyone think I’m crazy?

          (PS Your kids will live without homemade cookies. I think you can give yourself a little break on some of this stuff, no?)

  6. Oh, the school and work schedule. That is my current dilemma.
    Thanks. You put in to words what I feel all the time. We struggle a lot with this at our house. Especially since I don’t make as much money, but my job comes home a lot these days. We are growing and figuring it out. We’ll have it set by the time the kids leave the house. I know I am lucky enough to have a partner that while not perfect, is so bad either. We struggle, but we survive and we have good kids to show for it.
    I think it is changing, it has changed since I was growing up, I just wish it would change faster.

  7. I am so glad you mentioned the importance of volunteer work. Due to the cost of childcare I left my job. I now work from home part time while raising 3 children. I am also a PTA President. It is a huge time suck (meetings galore, countless phone calls & emails), largely thankless and involves a lot of the same people management skills that my “real” job did.

    I see this PTA position as an important part of creating the best possible enviornment for my children (and setting an example for volunteerism). While I have met wonderful people and get satisfaction out of it, it is not fun and games. Yet, before I run out to a meeting I still make sure the PJ’s are laid out, dinner has been made and homework is done. When I come home the house is a mess, the kids are not always asleep and my husband is full of complaints about how tough his night was. He is a great husband & father and a hard worker, but it would be nice if this huge job I have taken on to benefit our children was seen as a “real” job, not a fun hobby. I admit, some if it is me and my sense of responsiblity for running the house. However, lot of it is pressure from others to be all things to all people and it is exhausting!

    1. I hear this so so often Lissa. I think everyone wants and needs credit for the (often thankless) things they do.

      I also notice myself saying “thanks for doing the dishes,” more than I hear “thanks for cleaning the kids’ room.” (Which would be never.) I think it’s a woman thing to praise for chores because inherently we see them as our job.

  8. The “traditional” idea of the man as breadwinner adds quite a bit of stress on me. We live in an affluent area and I make good money at a nonprofit, but we are not wealthy. I am lucky to have flexible hours. 99% of the time when I go to the nearby park at 4:30 or later, I am the only Dad. I realize my schedule is a luxury. I also feel sorry for Dads who work 60 plus hours a week to “provide” for their families and miss their kids lives. I do a lot of the housework and share in the dishes and cooking, but my 40 hrs in an office are cushy compared to my wife’s time at home with our kids. A family is a team and we argue at times over our roles, but we are aware that we both work hard and respect each others contributions. You will never hear, “that’s not my job” in our house.

  9. So often men get a free pass, from both society and from women. I too am so very lucky to have a husband who is so supportive–not to say he doesn’t vent his frustrations to me about the change my job has had on our routine, but he has and continues to stand-by me and encourage my career and education (finishing my PhD).

    He is a full participant in the child raising and it took sometime to get there. His parents divorced when he as 6 and he lived with his mom, so he didn’t really have an idea of what an involved father is. He admits he is still learning. On the flip side, my mom wasn’t the best role model–whereas my dad is totally kick ass, so I don’t always fulfill my husbands expectations of what a wife/mother is.

    We have struck a great balance and while neither of us are “perfect” we certainly are doing the best we can and I too am happy to know that both of my kids have a strong father who is actively engaged in their lives and a strong mother who works and is able to be actively engaged in their lives.

    I don’t have it all–but I have what matters most.

  10. Applause! Excellent post.

    No easy answers on this one, for sure, but you hit on a lot of great things. Thanks for the thoughtful commentary. Now I’m going to tell everyone to read this.

  11. Okay, but the quote you end with is actually saying the reverse: that in certain (biologically determined) ways, women may simply relate to child-rearing differently than men (at least, that’s what she seems to imply by saying “it may be more than that”). And that’s the truly difficult, taboo subject — a subject her excellent article only skirts, for understandable reasons. It’s difficult, of course, because it can so easily be used as an excuse for perpetuating unjust social structures — and because, applied to any given individual, it may be very far from accurate.

    My own experience, however, has brought it home to me in a very powerful way. Four years ago my husband and I made the choice to prioritize my career in a really dramatic fashion: we moved so that I could take a job that was great for me, and he became a full-time stay-at-home parent to our (then only) daughter. He’ll return to full-time work this August for the first time since, but he currently does all the laundry, two-thirds of the cooking, and eighty percent of the random household upkeep — car maintenance, lawn-mowing, taking out the trash, loading and emptying the dishwasher. I’m married to the man who would make those high-powered careers possible. But: he and I agree that I still manage to do probably slightly more than half of the childcare (basically, whenever I am home, we almost unconsciously default to me as primary parent). And that’s not actually something I am necessarily eager to change — though we try not to let it be too mindless. Part of it is biological in an obvious way: I’ve breastfed both of our girls, neither of whom would take a bottle, so their first couple of years are especially me-centric — even when I’m working, I’m doing it in a way that involves regular intimate contact with them. But the rest of it is what Slaughter calls the “maternal imperative”: I love my job but I also CRAVE time with my children, and virtually every moment that I am not working and they are awake, I am in full-on mothering mode. My husband, a super, super-involved dad just doesn’t feel that way: when he was working full-time, he’d come home and need twenty minutes to himself to unwind before he wanted the baby, which seemed reasonable enough to me. He’d be perfectly willing to extend the same courtesy to me, and on some level I’d like it too, but it’s not want my body/heart/gut let me do: I walk in the door and I want a girl in each arm.

    Now, I get that I’m not all women and he isn’t all men, and I also get that these differences can so easily be parlayed into regressive hiring practices/legal policies/economic structures. But the bottom line is that for many mothers, the ideal work-life balance might not look the same as the ideal work-life balance for men. And this is something that I, at least, feel better articulating to myself straight-out: I can’t have it all. The ONLY thing that would allow me to have it all is some sort of time-freezing machine, where I could do my work for as long as necessary and then return to find my children not one minute older. But so long as the rules of this universe still apply, having my children lovingly cared for by their father (or, now that my first daughter is older, the world’s most wonderful preschool) isn’t the same as taking care of them myself. That cost is, to a certain extent, one I’m willing to pay, but I make better decisions when I recognize it as a cost — to me, and to them. I also make better decisions when I think of my career in this way: I would, no question, write a better book and more articles and end up with a higher-powered career if I didn’t have kids. But that’s okay. I’d also write and end up with ditto if I didn’t enjoy sleeping so much. Some trade-offs are worth making.

    I guess what I’m saying is three things: 1. we can’t look to society to alter something many women experience in their guts and, perhaps more importantly, 2. the pull so many of us feel to our kids is a gift — an expensive gift, but one that we should allow ourselves to take full pleasure in, and 3. the social change I’d like to see in addition to the usuals (access to childcare, etc.) is a culture that gives full voice to people who make choices (or, as is more common, find themselves in circumstances) that don’t yield professional or economic clout.

    Man, I hesitate to post this because I *know* how it could be warped into an excuse for hiring/promoting men instead of women and assuming that all women ought to be maximally-involved moms — that’s not my point. It’s just that the “change” rhetoric doesn’t quite resonate with me — I’m not sure that my maternal imperative is something I want to change.

    1. SO much good food for thought – I’ll have to respond more thoroughly when I have more time. But I don’t think the idea in her piece is to change the maternal imperative, it’s to create changes that allow for us to explore both the fulfillment we get from raising kids and the fulfillment we get from having careers. I’m with you in that we can’t have it all…or at least all at once.

      However my main point is that it’s not just institutions that play a role in our abilities to balance or achieve or succeed or pursue, but the partners in our lives. I think they can make or break progressive change in this arena and we don’t give them enough credit (or onus) for it.

      1. Yeah, I agree that isn’t her point — what was refreshing about the article was her willingness to acknowledge that what women can achieve professionally is limited by many external factors but also by certain internal factors — for instance, by how much, when push comes to shove, we value professional success. I like that she’s willing to look at a lack of desire for the-most-success-possible-at-whatever-cost as a strength — because more and more I find myself thinking of it as an attribute I need to cultivate in myself, not stifle. Because it’s good for my family, but also just because it’s *good*. (What I didn’t love about the article: Slaughter’s “downscaling” career is a tenured professorship at Princeton. Good lord, if I work my butt off, maybe I can be half the slacker she is. Still, as she said, some folks are superstars.)

        Re: partners, absolutely. And I’d echo what other folks have said: if we hadn’t turned things upside-down in the way we did, I don’t think we’d have come close to achieving the parity we do have in our marriage and our parenting. Laziness+social expectations+personal preferences would have added up to me being way more of the primary parent than would be good for any of us.

        Finally, the thing I find hardest is the lack of multiple off- and on-ramps: if I could go part-time now, I do it in a heartbeat, but I can’t without losing hope of ever having a career. Heck, I’d volunteer to be an assistant professor till I’m fifty and go up for tenure then — but for various reasons that’s not an option. (However, check out Alice Domurat Dreger’s blog for a fascinating account of the one female academic I know who got tenure and then gave it back to spend more time with her kid. Though, again: superhuman. She writes more part-time than I could double-time. Still, she’s super sensible and inspiring on the subject of not having it all.)

    2. I totally agree with you, and that is sort of what I was writing about above, too. My problem is not a lack of a supportive husband. My husband (though he is not a stay at home dad and not cut out to be either), is incredibly supportive of me, and just wants me to be happy and fulfilled. My problem is that I have to work full-time, but my heart is with my daughter. Now is that because I am a woman? I can’t answer that. But, if I look at the other women around me, I would say yes. We are all different, and feel it to different degrees. But, in general, women are less willing to put work before family. The men I know, in general, are less willing to put family before work. Why? I can’t answer that. All I know is, it’s a struggle for me to feel balance in my day. I only pray that my daughter is happy, and won’t look back on her childhood and say I wasn’t around enough. She will never know how much I have wanted to be there for every moment. At least not until she is a mom, herself.

  12. Daycare cost is extremely frustrating. I have thought numerous times how “wealthy” I would feel if 25% of my income did not go to that!

  13. People used to tell me I was so lucky to have married my husband, who is our primary cook and ironer and an equal partner in parenting. And then I said, “I’m not lucky, I’m smart.” Because, ladies and gentlemen, we’re the ones making the decisions to hook up. We all need support, both genders, and we should choose wisely when deciding with whom to spend our lives and raise our kids, whether we marry them or not.

    I adore everything Slaughter said and spent the better part of last week ranting about feminism and the raising of the childrens here:, so I’ll save the book of a comment I could write, because it would be essentially the same thing. Thanks for always being a champion of the working mother, Liz!

    1. Hm, you could say smart. (And you are! Because I know you!) But I think some smart choices at one point in your life may become less smart choices as we, or circumstances change. It doesn’t mean that women “chose badly” per se.

      Now I have some reading to do!

  14. So many good nuggets in here Liz. As you well know, my juggling act may appear smooth on pinterest images, but behind the scenes there are plenty of tantrums (mine), whining (the kids) about how to make this business work alongside the business of running a family.

    Sad that sometimes I hide my successes, so I don’t appear that the work life is taking over the family portion of my life. I’m guessing there aren’t many blogs written by men discussing all of this. I think men get so much of their identity from work, the mother’s our there need to raise this generation of boys to get worth from family.

    And as for school schedules amen. Plus I wouldn’t have to torture my kids to keep up with reading and math for 3 months.

    1. So glad to hear from you hear Nicole. I’m amazed (and also sad) to hear you admit to hiding your successes but I think that’s not uncommon for a lot of women. I think there’s also an ego thing with some guys. Not yours of course!

      I really like the dad blogs that do discuss this stuff – it’s mostly stay at home dads, but Dadcentric, Beta Dad, Mike Adamic sure do (to name a few). In fact, Doug from Laid off Dad made a wholesale career and lifestyle change simply to be with his kids above all else. Pretty awesome.

    2. Actually there are tons of dad blogs that discuss these topics on a regular basis. The dad blogosphere is quite large and has been in existence for years.

      1. In fairness to Nicole though – aside from the bloggers/memoirists a lot of dads don’t tend to talk about this stuff to each other from what I’ve seen. Am I wrong?

  15. This is a very nice post on such a complicated and emotional issue. I work more than full-time (e.g. >40 hours/week), my husband works more than full-time, we have 3 school-aged daughters, and we have about as close to a 50-50 marriage as possible. The problem is that between paid work, housework (cooking, cleaning, shopping, etc.), driving our children to and watching their sporting events, volunteering in our school communities, etc. there is JUST TOO MUCH WORK for two people. We need another parent!

  16. as so many others have written here, i’ve been insanely lucky in that i have a wonderfully supportive husband/partner. we’ve both been in the ‘breadwinning’ positions at some point in our marriage, and both view household responsibilities as something that need to be shared in order to get done. there’s no way either of us could do what we do without the other, and we take great effort to thank one another for the little things. As you said, relationships–even good ones–take work.

    something i’ve noticed, however, is that there is a type of man who appears to be left out of so many of these types of discussions: what about the full-time working dad who wants to ‘have it all’ too? my husband makes some sacrifices (i.e. getting up early to come home early) so as to be able to spend as much time with our son as possible. he absolutely hates missing events and/or doctor’s appointments, but often has to due to inflexibility in his job. paternity leave is still a rarity for men in our country, and even those who have it (such as my husband) are often looked down on for wanting to take it (i.e. he has a class he must teach right when our next baby is due). thanks to the age-old views of what a man is ‘supposed’ to be and do, men who express their wishes to spend more time with their families or children are viewed as not committed to their careers, or worse–they’re mocked for it.

    i know that these men may not be in the majority currently, but they are out there, and they deserve to be acknowledged in this conversation, too.

    1. I’m with you Sarah! Last week I was interviewed in an article about the hapless dad stereotype in advertisingand mentioned how many of my male colleagues also race home at 5:30 to catch the school play, and how important things like paternity leave are to the family unit. In fact, I just talked to one of my coworkers who left a high-profile and very appealing job because it kept him from his family too much. I told him that story needs to be told!

      I still don’t think that most (most) men feel the biological pull or the same cultural pressures; men don’t get those sympathetic eyes after they come back to work from having a baby and get asked “so…who’s home with the baby now? Are you okay with that?” But maybe we’re getting there.

  17. I think we’re further along than some people realize, at least from my vantage point. Most of the couples I know work as pretty good teams. My husband worked to put me through violin making school, and once I graduated I worked while he got another bachelor’s degree. We support each other, and without his efforts we wouldn’t have the successful small business we do even though I’m the visible face of it.

    Whenever I run into a couple that is unhappy with their division of labor between work outside the home and within I’m puzzled more than anything else. Life is better with the buddy system, and among my friends who are doing well that’s how they function. I’m glad that’s the model my kids see.

    1. Interestingly, I used to think a lot of people we knew were good teams. Then I got to know the couples better and found out that things aren’t always as they seem. If your circle has this for real, I think that’s amazing, and great modeling for your kids. Because they don’t just pick up the relationships in their own home, but in those of their friends.

      Don’t be puzzled about relationships that are imbalanced; as Kristen said above there are a lot of factors that trump logic, like upbringing, motivation, tightly-held stereotypes about gender roles.

      1. I guess the part that puzzles me is when people make choices that they should know will make them unhappy. But you’re right, I come from a safe and solid background that has given me an ability to make good decisions for myself and it’s hard not to take that as a given for others. I suppose people often choose what’s familiar to be comfortable, even if what’s familiar isn’t healthy.

        1. I think (and you know I respect you Korinthia) that sounds a little judgmental and narrow. A tough marriage doesn’t always mean you made a bad choice or that you make unhealthy decisions. Life throws curve balls. Sometimes good things go bad. Or sometimes what’s right at one point in your life, is not right at a later point.

          1. Ouch! I was not trying to be judgmental at all. I think I just got caught up in my head about specifics of some couples I know who are not happy–the ones who leave me puzzled–and was just sort of musing about that while typing, which apparently is a bad idea.

            And I agree about curve balls and things changing. I think Dan Savage’s idea that a successful marriage does not have to be one that ends with a death to be a better way to look at the institution. You can have one marriage that is successful for a period of time, and end it to begin a new one that fits a new circumstance and be successful with that one too.

            1. I can comment on the relationship aspect of the work-life balance. My husband and I definately struggle with division of labor, time for personal interests, and expectations of each other. I chose him for qualities that were important to me in my twenties when we met and got hitched. Now that we have his parents living with us and two kids under 5 years old. You could say that we are under very different circumstances that when we “chose” each other. Our marriage is strained by our work, kids, household demands and other stresses. We are both committed to our family and each other, though we are an imperfect couple. I do occassionally wonder if my life without him in it would be better or easier. I doubt it. So, we struggle on! Communicating with each other about our struggles has brought us a long way. Learning to ask for what I need and to listen to his needs is something I’m getting better at. I also expect and am seeing changes from him that are helping our work-life-relationship dynamics.

  18. There are some days I feel guilty for being able to balance my family life as well as I do when I watch so many other moms around me continuously struggle to find the balance that works for them. Don’t get me wrong, it is still really really hard for me to balance, but with the help of my totally supportive husband, who has more than grown with me over the course of our relationship, most days I feel like we are in a really good place. My husband works at home, does chores much more often and with more attention to detail than I do and he supports my ambitions outside of being a good wife and mother. We made choices (which could also be seen as sacrifices) to make it all work, but we made those choices together in support of both of our passions and the shared vision we have for our family life.

    Thanks for helping me realize just how lucky I am (or as Rita said above, what a good choice I made.)

  19. I remember very early in my relationship with my husband, we had a conversation in which he talked about a friend of his, whose lifestyle hadn’t changed a bit despite getting married and having kids. This guy still went to the pub as often as ever. The gist: Future-hubby said he would NEVER be like this friend. At that point, he moved a dozen steps closer to being “the one.”

    We definitely have these struggles at home, over who “gets” to do work while the other takes care of the kids, but I feel lucky that we both do plenty of chores around the house. I’m in charge of the kitchen (including stocking pantry & fridge, and cooking) while he’s in charge of the laundry. I still probably do more, but he definitely does nearly as much.

    I’m also lucky to work for a company that is flexible with my schedule, allowing me to do some family-related things that I wouldn’t be able to do with a standard gig. And, yes, my type of situation needs to become the standard.

  20. There’s so much to mull over in your post Liz, and it hits on a lot of things I’ve thought before. Let’s be realistic–even before kids you need a supportive spouse if you’re really going to make a go of your dreams, yes? Not in the same way, but really, you need it then too.

    So when kids come on the scene, and the emotions ramp up to eleven and the scheduling ramps up to a million, and the mess ramps up to at least a 20–why is there always so much shock when it gets said “we need the support of the dads?” I’m lucky to be married to a guy who is the domestic one (he cooks and cleans way better than I do), but it goes beyond the chores. He’s also as concerned with my happiness, fulfillment, and success as he is with his own. That was true before we had a kid, and after.

    My life is challenging, and I struggle with the institutional problems set up that make work life balance an absolute joke–in our family I’m the primary breadwinner, my husband is an artist, so I feel completely stuck in a job…and good luck finding one that offers true flexibility for a parent. But I can’t IMAGINE how much harder it would be if he weren’t my partner through this all.

  21. I grew up in a home where my father was always very involved with us so when I became a father it was never a question of would I be involved.

    The only question was in the details and that was something that worked out pretty easily.

    My wife was a social worker. She loved her job and it was what she wanted to do, but I made almost five times as much as she did so there wasn’t ever a question about who would work and who would stay at home.

    I easily would have, but financially it didn’t make sense.

    I turned down positions that involved more travel even though they would have meant a substantial increase in pay. I did it because I wanted to be around as much as possible to be with my family.

    When we talk about some of these things I think there are socialization issues as well as physiological. When my children cried at night I was always concerned, but it physically hurt their mother.

    That didn’t mean that it didn’t bother me, it was just different, not better or worse.

    But just as women feel this overwhelming pressure to try and do it all because of socialization there is this beast we deal with.

    Ask a man who is unable to support his family the way he feels he should how he feels and most will tell you it is crushing. It can be all consuming and something that is quite destructive.

    In discussions with other fathers we have also recognized that we often have different definitions/understandings of what needs to be done than those of our partners.

    Many of us feel the discussion is often framed unfairly. A lot of mothers seem to think that the ability to give birth bestows magical parenting powers and that this provides license to criticize what we do.

    Different isn’t necessarily wrong. It is different, maybe not how you would do it, but not wrong.

    Anyway, work keeps interrupting so this is far more rambling and incoherent than intended.

    1. All really great points Jack. I agree we both have innate differences coupled with cultural pressures that make things challenging for both of us in different ways. I’ve learned a lot from reading some of the more introspective dad blogs. Thanks for your points.

  22. It’s weird, we never went into the discussion about who should be the “bread winner” in the family with anything in mind other than what is best for the kids and puts us in the best financial position.

    At first, we both worked because we lived in Boston and we couldn’t afford not to. When my hubs got a job offer here in Houston, we took it because we knew it would put us in a financial position where one of us (in this case me, because I was out of work and due to have our son) could stay home. We both grew up as latch key kids and we really wanted something different for our kids. For three years, me staying at home worked, but then my hubs got burned out at work and was miserable, which, to be frank, made him miserable to be around at home. I made the decision to start looking for work, with the intent to switch places so he would be the SAHD. For a time, we both worked (just to make sure I liked my job and that I made it through my probationary period), then he quit his job. It allows us to have someone at home for the kids, which was our end game all along.

    It’s always been understood that whoever was home with the kids was expected to do the “around the house” and caregiver work. We’ve also always shared certain household chores, no matter who was working and who was at home. I won’t deny it…I know there are still times where my hubs feels like he’s not “being a man” by being a SAHD and I know he catches crap here and there for the role he’s decided to take.

    At the end of the day, I’m glad my son and daughter are seeing that both Mom and Dad have had a role in the bread winner/caregiver game.

  23. We mother’s can do things that sometimes our husbands cannot do, especially on household chores. They think its easy but it’s not. But of course we help our partners in making money for the future of our children and in our family.

  24. I totally relate to the idea that women have an inherent need to be with their children in a way that’s different from men. Before we had kids, my husband and I had this understanding that I would have the career and he would be okay being the primary caregiver. Even so, I made career choices that would make me somewhat more available to my family, something that I’m not sure most men do. I did it because I knew that being able to take care of my children was important to me personally and I wanted to do it. It certainly wasn’t because of any pressure from him or anyone else that staying home was something that I HAD to do.

    Shortly after our son was born, we made the decision to move cities so that I could take a job. My husband was going to be a SAHD, and he was a good one, but about three months in he started to feel the pull to take on outside work. Before I knew it we were both working, although his job had much more predictable hours and he still did a lot of work around the house. That changed while I was on maternity leave with our second child. Now his job is much more demanding and I’m fortunate to work somewhere that allows me to be flexible if my family’s needs demand it. This is partly by choice and partly by necessity; I don’t know how we’d pull it off if both of us had inflexible schedules and crazy hours. I’m okay with this.

    What’s interesting is how easily we have settled into the idea that I will be the “Executive Parent”. While my job is flexible, I certainly don’t want to take advantage of that fact, even though part of me thinks that he believes I should always be able to bend. For example, I adjusted my work schedule this year so that our son could go to preschool two days/week. Next year he’ll be going three days/week and when we were discussing how we were going to make this work, I had to convince my husband that I just couldn’t take three afternoons away from work every week and still expect to have a job. To be fair, my husband does a lot of chores around the house and we have our pick-up and drop-off routine at the daycare down pat, and he has rushed away from work to take our daughter to the doctor. He has taken time off work to be the volunteer parent at preschool and is much better than I am at making sure that the kids are wearing sunscreen and have their hats.

    But this state of affairs has not come naturally. I am certain that had I not demanded that he take more of an active role with the kids, he wouldn’t have noticed everything that I would have been sacrificing in order to take care of our children. Now that he’s had to make similar choices, he understands it a lot better. I’m glad that we can provide an example for our kids of a household where both parents are equal caregivers.

  25. Thanks SO MUCH for writing this (yes, I did just yell that). It isn’t easy to be a mother or a woman in this society- the expectations are daunting and intimidating. I must be attractive, healthy, smart (but not too vocal), a breadwinner, a care provider, good cook… I could go on all day.
    Me? I want to be a storyteller (yes, it’s an actual profession- I have a master’s degree) but at this point in time I have to be a mother first. I work part time as an adjunct professor and we live very frugally in OKC.
    I have a great deal of guilt (still!) because I direct a play every summer and it takes up a lot of time for about a month. That month falls in the time when my husband is only teaching online courses and is home quite a bit anyway. I see this as a way to keep involved in a community that I would like to someday be a full-time part of, again.
    Who says I’m not a feminist? Who says I’m not a good mother? Who says I’m not a good storyteller??
    The thing is this: I know that I can have it all. I just can’t have it all at once. And that’s okay; I’m making sacrifices right now. Later I’ll sacrifice something else. Making these particular sacrifices (not working right now) doesn’t mean I’m not supporting my family in the best way that I can, or that I’m not equal to anyone else.

    It has taken me a long time to get here- to say that I’m a SAHM and I don’t have to feel bad about myself or apologize to some aggregate movement for not doing what someone else thinks I ought to do.

  26. so many thoughts on this subject that I could go on forever – I won’t (thankfully).

    I will say this – the whole men thing – whether they are born that way or we help them to be helpful is a toss up. I think it is a case by case scenario BUT I will say this – they can learn to be more helpful (like 50%).

    I always imagined being a SAHM forever – some preconceived notion that stayed with me since childhood. Trying to recreate something that I never had as a young child, but I could not do it….SO, I laid it out there to my very shocked husband.

    When I first set down this path, I wrote a post called ‘out of groove dad’ which was very true at the time. Not so much anymore -my other half has been calling for a retraction and I think he deserves it.

    I will end with this – like you said – none of this is without struggle. R

  27. Marrying another woman makes all of this easier in some ways. Harder in others, because there just isn’t a societal blueprint out there to follow (or rebel against).

    1. Do you think? My friends in same-sex marriages tell me that they have issues as well, often falling into similar matriarchal/patriarchal roles–even if the societal expectations of masculinity are absent. I’d love your perspective.

  28. Oh the hours I have spent thinking about this. I am (much to my surprise) in a very 50’s era-looking marriage. I take care of the kids, the cooking, the cleaning, the bills, the…you get the idea. We didn’t plan things this way but my husband started his own business when our first daughter was born and running a business is incredibly life-consuming. (Honestly, it probably would have been easier for us if he had just had an affair like a normal person.)

    Our unbalanced work load at home was a source of huge resentment and fueled many a fight between us until I just reached a point where I let it go. I love him for a lot of reasons and I couldn’t walk out on the relationship because he loaded the dishwasher like an idiot.

    There is an advantage to running the house- I don’t really have to compromise. I’m the boss and what I say goes. This means I don’t have to negotiate on our daily routine or what we’ll eat or any of the other minutiae of daily life. I realized this one day when I was staying with one of my friends and her husband. Their parenting style is much more 50/50, but this entails lots of agreement in regards to discipline, schedules and just about everything with the kids.

    I am in the midst of switching to a more flexible career. Even though he’s not folding piles of laundry, my husband has been very encouraging and supportive of this even though it means we’re sacrificing some financial stability.

    I think this is a big issue with a lot of nuance, this is just how it has played out for me personally.

  29. I have that issue that Joanna & Ginger do – I’m the breadwinner, my husband is the stay at home parent. Mostly it works, until he grumbles about how much he has to do, and I feel bad because I’m out of the house for nearly 11 hours a day. And I’d love to cook dinner more, and take her to swim practice, but…it’s not happening.

  30. I always felt like the world would be more balanced not only if more women became CEOs but if more men became SAHDs as well. After reading the article, the first thought that came to my mind was, Even men can’t have it all.

    I suppose it’s because it wasn’t too long ago that women typically didn’t work that the focus is on whether women can handle careers and motherhood and have it all, but I felt like dads were left out and we should wonder why we’re not asking the same of dads. In society’s definition of having it all, then dads clearly aren’t if they’re only seen as the breadwinners.

    I think people also have to define what “all” is. I’m sure it’s pretty difficult being the top ranking woman of any company or organization and still be home for dinner and such.

    But for me, I’m a working mom with a flexible schedule, so I get to work and see my son more than the typical 9-to-5 mom. I also got promoted and got a raise, so that should say something about the feasibility of working from home and still moving up the ranks (or at least getting paid more).

  31. Great post! As a single mom, I wish I had some help. But with or without it< my kids come first and know it! Keep up the great posts.

  32. I love the idea that school schedules should match up more with work schedules – we’re having that issue now, and it seems like our school (suburban NYC) just assumes that there’s a SAHM in every family. But there’s not. Some of us work part-time and can take off for the kindergarten picnic in the middle of the day, and some of us are teachers who can’t possibly take the time off.

    But you’re also right about the fathers. Society needs a little more change so that they will step up a little more, as a general rule. My husband has done this, and frequently is on bus or drop-off duty, and we split up the school holidays pretty equally. He also works at a job that’s close by rather than one where he’d be commuting into NYC every day because he’s home earlier and doesn’t have to work as hard. He could make more money and maybe even be happier in his job if he made a move, but for now, he’s staying. He struggles with it a little (as do I, in my part-time non-career), but ultimately he knows it’s best for our family for now. When my son is older he probably will change jobs to something that requires more of his time but is more rewarding but for now this works for us. Priorities.

  33. This. Thank you for this. I’m really lucky to have a husband who not only is the primary ‘breadwinner’, but who is also our primary cook and kitchen-cleaner-upper. He’s always been wonderfully supportive and understanding, and we’ve always split the housework roughly evenly. Now that I’m a stay-at-home-mom, which is a choice that I made and that I’m happy with (but was never pressured into, at least not by my husband), I do a larger portion of the housework than he does — but he still does all the cooking and kitchen-cleaning, because he knows how much I hate that. Our son is going to grow up knowing that married people share responsibility, that men can and should cook, and that your genitals have no bearing on whether or not you should scrub down the damn stove. And I’m proud of that.

  34. I wholeheartedly agree with the Anne-Marie Slaughter’s points in her article – yes social change is what it muts happen, and happen sooner rather then later. As for men, well, I must say that women bringing all these issues to light now, while men endured them (and even built socially-acceptable aura around it) for more than hundred year reminds me of fresh point of view that kids bring into your life. You know, the moments when they ask “Why people go to tanning salons” while you are smothering them with sunscreen. Duuuuh?

    This discussion about demands of workplace becoming over-compassing part of your life is long overdue, and man have to pitch in. Or face the possibility of falling into sad statistic of majority of men who regret not spending more time with their families – on their death beds. Women get to lead in the cause, as we are still free to FEEL the need to be with our families, but man have to join quite as vocal (if not more) in demanding of society and themselves to get rid of awful “sanitizing” in which is it OK for fathers/husbands/brothers/sons to put career accomplishment before family and belonging. Because their acceptance of this dogma (and our inherent modelling of “desirable” career) is what is gradually leading us to 12-hour-workdays-7-days a week being expected. Weekend conference calls being norm. Burning midnight oil just to stay on the job, not even advance.

    But maybe we are safe – we all saw the indifference to putting the “career” effort forward with new generations. Millennia kids simply don’t want, don’t care, don’t bother with that kind of overtime and commitment. They are busy doing what they value, how misguided that is at the times. Maybe they are onto something here?

  35. Hi Liz,

    The Anne-Marie Slaughter article hit such a chord with me, as did your blog post. In the late ’80’s, I graduated from an elite grad school with an MBA. There was almost no discussion of work-life balance while I was in school, so my friends and I were greatly unprepared for the work-life challenges that arose later on when we began having children. While my husband has always been an extremely supportive parent and spouse, he was working a demanding career as a consultant (with lots of travel) while I was working at a high level in consumer products marketing. This literally resulted in us often not seeing our toddler or only seeing her for 30 minutes or so at night. For me, the issue was crystalized when I went to a funeral of a female colleague who had died of cancer. The minister said that my colleague’s biggest fear was that her young son wouldn’t remember her. I sat in the pew and thought, “What do I want my daughter to remember – that I was V.P. of Marketing, or that I was there to tuck her in at night?”

    Shortly afterwards and after much soul searching, my husband and I decided that one of us needed to be able to be home more to be with our daughter. I changed careers, including a stint as a SAHM (and PTA president). I now work in a different career that is very rewarding (but NOT well paying) but that also lets me be home in the afternoon when my kids get home from school. It has been well worth the tradeoff, but if there had been a way to make the hours more family friendly in my marketing job, I would have stayed there.

    To me, the issue isn’t just the need for fathers to step up – my husband does and always has as much as is humanly possible, including telecommuting and turning down consulting jobs that are too far from home. It is also some of the other issues that Anne-Marie Slaughter brings up, such as the lack of institutional flexibility regarding work schedules, as well as the inherent bias that still exists in many industries against men OR women who are committed to their families.

    A final point that I thought was especially relevant in the Anne-Marie Slaughter article was the recognition that each family situation is different and that what works for some in terms of work-life balance will not work for others. As I read the article, her husband is an incredibly committed parent – yet in the short term, at least, she recognized that her son needed more of her time as well.

    Thanks for your thoughtful take on these issues. I appreciate both your and Anne-Marie Slaughter’s willingness to tackle this subject!

    1. Thank you so much for sharing your story Sharon. I imagine you’re not alone at all in some of the choices you made. And I couldn’t agree more that all of Slaughter’s suggestions combined are what will make change. Congrats on finding something that works for you, with the spouse to support it. Yay!


    We just saw a brilliant, funny show at Playwright Horizons, “Rapture, Blister, Burn” by Gina Gionfriddo. Unfortunately, it was the last night. Fortunately, it is likely going to be moved to Broadway. Read the NY Times review.

    Inspired by Wendy Wasserstein’s “The Heidi Chronicles”, and very different, Gionfriddo both takes a snapshot of this conundrum as things now stand and provides a 3 generation look from the point of view of women aged 70, 45, 21.

    Having done her undergraduate work at Barnard, gotten an MFA at Brown and taught at Brown, now living in NY with husband and young child, she absolutely “gets it” and I would suggest that when this returns to Broadway everyone run to get seats.

  37. I found myself more interested in Slaughter’s thoughts about really high-powered careers….in her case, the political world. There, no women can have it all. It’s just not an option. And I think that, as the conversation with Senator Shaheen points out, many women would choose family (and certainly children) first anyway.

    No amount of change in society is going to make room for mothers (or fathers) who wish to have high-powered jobs and work just 40-50 hours a week. It’s just not an option. As much as we talk about families being valued, as long as we’re a society that expects folks to check in with work all weekend long, we’re not valuing families and ourselves as much as we value all-mighty work.

    I work at a job (one I love) that does value family and since I am a single mama, I must have that arrangement. But I make sacrifices in terms of pay. I know what I get for what I’ve given up and I value it mightily. I have no idea what it would take to “have it all” but I am glad of these conversations.

    1. Fantastic point Stacy. I think the same goes for women who are the primary earners. We don’t all have a chance to “downgrade” to a less demanding job when the mortgage falls squarely on us.

      That said, I remember my first boss in advertising. His name was on the door. He left sharply at 5:30 every night to be with his family, and never worked a weekend. It was a profitable, successful agency, and the work ethic trickled down. It can happen. I have hope!

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