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“Well-behaved women seldom make history.” - Laurel Thatcher Ulrich
I’m kind of annoyed. I just finished reading The Atlantic cover story: Why Women Can’t Have It All. The title itself made me annoyed, and more annoyed still that what the author, Anne-Marie Slaughter, had to say was painfully true.
Slaughter speaks from experience. A mother of two and top super-mom juggler, (the first woman director of policy planning at the State Department), she left her job in Washington to better attend to her kids, one of whom was having trouble in school.
"Many women are worrying not about having it all, but rather about holding on to what they do have," Slaughter says.
Exactly one year ago this month, I wrote my first blog for Modern Mom, asking the question: Can we really have it all? What does that even mean in today’s world? I called it the Super Mom Shuffle: the near impossible juggling act between career and family - the equivalent of having two full-time jobs.
The reality is we have been oversold on what a woman's life should be: a career that breaks the glass ceiling, a happy family and a passionate marriage. Unless there is some magic potion that a fairy is going to drop off on my front doorstep, I’m stumped as to how to "have it all."
My generation is the first under so much pressure to have both a glowing career and family life. It is next to impossible and we have few role models. We are the first to do it. Something will have to give, besides us!
Enough of the idealized motherhood and the perfectionism that simply exhausts us rather than fills our lives with meaning. Let's change the conversation from "having it all" to "having what's right for you." Let’s talk about our real dreams - which are different for each of us.
One of the most beautiful things about women is we are ambitious (more ambitious than men, studies show), but our ambitions include higher expectations for family as well the need for a meaningful career - not just a paycheck. For 84% of GenY women, doing good in the greater world is an important aspect of work experience.
Though the power of women is steadily growing, we are still behind on a number of key issues that need our attention.
Number 1 is equality in the work place. Women still earn 80 cents on the dollar compared to men for the same jobs! In the corporate world, men are twice as likely to be rewarded with financial compensation and advancement, while women receive mostly verbal praise. The gender gap on this count is a whopping 21% raise for men compared to 2% for women, according to a recent article in Forbes.
So what does it mean to have it all? Let’s start with a level playing field. Women need stronger professional support, along with more flexibility and options to really have the work life/family life balance that is crucial to happiness and success.
Is this an impossible dream? It will take some strategy, but it can be done.
One thing we can all do is support family-friendly policies in the workplace, such as flexible schedules, telecommuting options, augmented use of family leave, paid parental leave for new babies, and programs to advance women through ranks. A growing number of employers offer these benefits, but it needs to become the norm.
Slaughter suggests that things won’t really change until we get a woman president and 50 women senators. Okay. We can do that. There are 26 million working moms in the United States. Enough to make a difference anywhere we want to make it.