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In a recent article, Anne-Marie Slaughter, the first woman Director of Policy Planning at the State Department in the Obama administration, argues that it's time we stopped fooling ourselves that women who have managed to be both mothers and top professional are superhuman, rich or self-employed.
A highly-educated and successful woman who reached the upper echelons of her profession, Slaughter worked continuously through marriage and and two pregnancies. At the time she was offered her "foreign policy dream job" in Washington DC, both she and her husband were tenured professors at Princeton University.
Slaughter spent the work week in DC and commuted back home to New Jersey on the weekends, leaving the majority of child rearing and household duties to her very supportive husband. As she notes, most women would agree that, "she had it all." So it was interesting to read that even though her husband was doing an incredible job of parenting their two teenage sons, her inner mom was not able to let go completely and focus on her job. The prestigious job, the doors to opportunities that opened for her, her success at having reached the echelons of power still led her to the conclusion that juggling high-level government work with the needs of two teenage boys was not possible. When Slaughter's two-year public-service leave from Princeton University was up, she hurried home, not only to preserve her tenure but also but also to be with her family.
For most women today the option to work is not a choice but a necessity. As women, mothers and business people we try to make it all work and, in most cases, we are torn between doing a good job as a parent and doing a good job at work. The balancing act never becomes easy, but most women must accommodate the different aspects of their lives. Money, a supportive husband and flexible hours all help, but the root of the issue facing young women today is why most of them can't have it all as was promised to them by the boomer generation of women.
I retired from my law practice at the age of 39 to raise my three children. My husband was busy starting a new business and travelled every week. I got immersed in the daily job of being the best mom I could be. Before I knew it, twenty years passed and my youngest child is entering her senior year in high school. As I look back, I am still torn by my decision to leave the work force and have yet to make peace with that choice. I know that I did the best parenting possible, but would I have been happier had I been part of the working world? As a mentor to many young women today who are trying very hard to balance child rearing with their careers, I applaud their efforts and constantly advise them to do what is best for them and their family. I also tell them to keep something for themselves as the day will come when parenting responsibilities diminish (though they never end ) and they may again want to be a part of the greater business community.
What are your thoughts on how young women today try to balance all aspects of their lives? Please share in the comments below.
photo: skeddy in NYC