Having It All, Doing It All: Quoth The 20-Something

The concept of ‘having it all’ has become a heated debate since Ann-Marie Slaughter brought it up in July in her article in The Atlantic, with women from all side of the issue weighing in and contributing their two cents as to why women can or can’t ‘have it all’. What Slaughter was alluding to, was that women could not raise children and pursue a serious career:

“I’d been the one telling young women at my lectures that you can have it all and do it all, regardless of what field you are in. Which means I’d been part, albeit unwittingly, of making millions of women feel that they are to blame if they cannot manage to rise up the ladder as fast as men and also have a family and an active home life (and be thin and beautiful to boot).” Ann-Marie Slaughter, The Atlantic

As part of the ‘young women’ Slaughter mentions, I was a bit heartbroken to hear that my dream of being a wildly successful women who could have ‘it all’ was a myth. However, having spoken with women from different generations, I think there is a chance that not only can women of my generation ‘have it all’ we can ‘do it all’ too. Perhaps it’s because I’m a freshly minted college grad successfully transplanted into New York, but I’ve had the honor of meeting many women who have found a way to ‘have it all’ by their own unique definitions. To some, raising children and having a top-tier job might be having it all; for me, having it all is feeling satisfied with my career and being able to decide if and when I start a family.

In her article, Slaughter most directly addresses the difficulty of raising kids amid government jobs and adolescence: something I have little to no experience with (other than probably being a complete terror as an adolescent):

“In short, the minute I found myself in a job that is typical for the vast majority of working women (and men), working long hours on someone else’s schedule, I could no longer be both the parent and the professional I wanted to be—at least not with a child experiencing a rocky adolescence. I realized what should have perhaps been obvious: having it all, at least for me, depended almost entirely on what type of job I had. The flip side is the harder truth: having it all was not possible in many types of jobs, including high government office—at least not for very long.” Anne-Marie Slaughter, The Atlantic

One interesting point I heard from a woman my age about this issue was the concept of the “stay-at-home dad”, and how women might be able to ‘have it all’ if more men were encouraged to take paternal leave to allow women to be ‘the breadwinner’ in certain situations. I’m not advocating the ‘traditional’ model be overturned per-se, but it would be refreshing if there were perhaps a system that awarded spouses that both worked with alternating leave (or some way to allow both to take time off to support their children) then there might be hope for women who start families and enter the workforce.

Perhaps I’m naive, (and perhaps it’s because I am neither married nor a mother) but I think there shouldn’t be any reason that a woman in today’s society can’t  ‘have it all’. What do you think?

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