The Sheryl Sandberg Lean In story, and this response by Anne Marie Slaughter, reminded me of something I’d written last summer that speaks to the importance of supporting a wider range of peoples’ ambitions, even if we personally may be less ambitious.
FROM JUNE 2012:
I used to say you can have it all, but not at the same time—a cliché with some truth to it, though not my own concept, of course. Now more and more women with experience are coming out with this truth, following years of trying to pull it off. In the past, I didn’t think it was so important for mothers to hold high-level positions, I mean, being a mom is very important in itself, right? I’ve changed my mind, though. Yes, raising children is important, but women who are mothers really do need to be part of business and government at the highest levels in order to ensure balanced policymaking. Here’s a very good article wherein one woman from the highest ranks shares her experience and notes what needs to change.
I am reading Twilight of the Elites: America After Meritocracy by Chris Hayes and it discusses the problem we have in America now with a relatively small and non-diverse leadership of our institutions, insulated at the top, who’ve failed us. Hyper-competitiveness and ego (the whole work-time machismo thing of being there grinding away into the night is an example) plays a role in causing these folks to actually not have the best or even good solutions to many of the challenges we face as society.
Ensuring there are mothers in high-level government and business positions will help diversify the leadership and balance policymaking. So, to me, it’s not really so much about whether or not I personally “have it all.” I may not want “it all,” but some people do and being a parent should not keep them from achieving it.
Regarding work-life balance for all and in general, also revealed in comments is how some people just can’t get their heads around this the concept at all. “Is it fair for childless people to have to work extra hours…” they ask. No! Nobody needs to work so much. Perhaps even more people are hired (thereby helping unemployment) and we all work a little less. Europeans seem to have a handle on this. Why, oh why, is there this assumption here in American that there is always so much very urgent work to be done that can’t wait til 9-5 tomorrow? Or, maybe 9-12 pm after the kids are in bed, before which an employee took off at 2 pm? The world is not going to fall apart if certain things happen a little later instead of now. Of course, there are exceptions in emergency responder fields, certain service jobs that are less of “emergencies” but are based on timing, but don’t be ridiculous, like I said, they seem to manage in other countries.