There has been a lot of discussion in the media and social circles lately about Anne-Marie Slaughter’s piece in The Atlantic magazine, examining why “women still can’t have it all.” Slaughter is a Princeton professor, who took a high-ranking government job for two years, then resigned after realizing it wasn’t working for her family. To add to the working mom dialogue, this week, Marissa Mayer, the new CEO of Yahoo, announced that she is pregnant with her first child, and told Fortune magazine that, “my maternity leave will be a few weeks long and I’ll work throughout it.” Both women have been applauded and attacked in the subsequent coverage of their decisions.
I’ve followed the debate with great interest and engaged in conversation online, but I haven’t discussed it with any of my friends in person. My mom friends run the gamut, from stay-at-home moms, to work-at-home moms and moms who work part-time. Some work full-time like me. A few make just enough money to pay for kids’ clothes or occasional home renovations, others make six figures and are responsible for a large part of their household income. But San Diego is not D.C. or New York or even Silicon Valley. The pressure to have a high-powered career is not constant, at least not in my social circle. San Diego is more focused on quality of life. We all want to make enough money to be comfortable, but we also want to go to the beach with our kids after work or the zoo on the weekends.
The definition of “having it all” is different for everyone. Relatively few people have the desire or drive to be a government policy director, investment bank president or tech CEO. Making a choice to return to work a few weeks after having a baby sounds crazy to a lot of people (including me), but I don’t want to see a world where women don’t have that choice. For Slaughter, Mayer and those of us with financial stability, it is just that, a choice. Some women aren’t so lucky, as they have to return to work immediately for financial reasons or quit because they can’t afford child care. For those of us with options, we should support each others’ choices, not gossip about them. What is right for one family may not be right for another.
I think most working women want to have rewarding careers and still spend time with their families. Slaughter suggests that flexible work schedules would make it easier on parents, and I couldn’t agree more. While I feel fortunate for all the perks of my job, flexibility is not at the top of the list. Billable hours require working at least eight hours every day. As much as I wish I could take off the afternoon just to play with my kids, it doesn’t happen often. But I do spend time with them in the morning and leave the office at 4:00 p.m. We often stop at the park on the way home or go to the pool in the evenings.
More often than not, I feel like I have it all. I have a job I like that I am fairly compensated for. I have quality child care, a helpful husband and spend a lot of time with my kids, even though I work. For me, doing my job well while having a happy home life is “having it all.” I’m not running a company or making $1 million a year. But I’m contributing to our family, setting a good example for my daughter and having a positive impact on a company I feel does good work. And tucking my kids in at night. That’s “all” I need for now.