“Having It All” Should Mean Having The “All” YOU Want

There are two articles circulating on Facebook right now – one from the Atlantic titled “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All” and a response on Slate titled “Fine, Women Can’t Have It All. Isn’t That Called Compromise?”

Go read them now, while I wait.

Okay.  So, are you as frustrated as I am?  I could have just SCREAMED after reading the Atlantic article – once again, a powerful, respected woman, who has a wide audience, is making assumptions that there is only one kind of “having it all”.   Slate does a slightly better job, acknowledging that not all women want the same things, and that the men helping women like Anne-Marie Slaughter have it all perhaps are not having it all themselves.  But both articles assume that a successful personal life involves a full-time partner and at least one child.  Lauren Sandler makes a quick reference to “Feminism [telling] us we don’t just have to be a mother, or that we don’t have to be a mother at all. ” but no more than that.  Admittedly, her article is a direct response to Slaughter, who focuses on the child-raising aspect of work-life balance, but still!

What neither article acknowledges is the pressure put on those who have chosen to be single and childless by accommodations made for those who are neither.  And even more so, for the single parents at our workplaces.  (And before you think I’m complaining about my office, I’m not.  I’m lucky in this regard, and I know it.)  But I see and hear about it from my friends – and they have a legitimate gripe.  We have swung far enough in the direction of trying to create a work-life balance for the working parent that the rest of those in that workplace may find that their personal obligations are seen as less important.  If I don’t have a family, does that mean that I should be on call 24/7?  For many, it does.  We balk at interrupting a mother’s weekend time with her children, or even interrupting “couple time”, but there are no qualms about asking a single, childless person to choose work over a personal life.

Before I go any further, I have to say that I do tend to choose work, because I love my job, and I want to do it to the highest standard of which I am capable.  But that is a choice, my choice, and the choice to put personal time first outside of work hours should be given the same respect.   When we have acknowledged that for everyone, we will finally be able to say we are moving closer to allowing women – and men – to have it all.

(By the way, there’s no illustration on this post, as every image of a woman juggling, which is what I thought would be appropriate, had some image relating to motherhood as one of the items being juggled.  Sigh…)

 

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8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Cindy McGean
    Jun 24, 2012 @ 11:45:59

    Great post! The choice not to have children remains one of the least addressed women’s issues in popular culture. This is one of my big beefs with Hollywood and TV. GREY’S ANATOMY finally had a character choose to get an abortion rather than have the child, and then they proceeded to punish her for it.

    Reply

  2. Lisa Jones
    Jun 24, 2012 @ 16:26:13

    As a childfree by choice woman I was frustrated by that article, too. Great post and thanks for letting me know I was not alone in my eye rolling and sighing during the Atlantic article. 🙂

    Reply

  3. Zanne
    Aug 08, 2012 @ 11:55:01

    I sometimes say that the biggest problem women have is not whether we can have it all. It’s whether we can make any choice without being attacked for it. My childfree friends are sick to death of getting told they’re selfish for not having children, and for getting “sympathy” for it. My out-of-the-house working friends are tired of being told they’re neglecting their children. As someone who stayed at home for 17 years, I have to say that the nicest thing about returning to work is that now, when someone asks me what I do, nobody says, “I wish I had nothing to do all day,” or treated as though the brains have falled out of the back of my head. And as you know, heaven help the woman who is not only child-free, but single by choice. I don’t want it all; I’d settle for being allowed to have the parts of it I actually want.

    Reply

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