Women Can’t Have It All

June 22nd, 2012

Women can’t be great mothers and have successful careers according to Anne- Marie Slaughter in The Atlantic.

She is about as successful an intellectual as you can be without being Hillary Clinton. (Side note here. All the men I’ve ever met who hate Hillary are afraid of women who are their equal. They like women who smile. We women who are the equal of men happen to love Hillary.) Slaughter says you can’t properly raise your kids and put 100% into your job. She works for the state department, teaches at Princeton and writes and speaks everywhere. She has an understanding husband who helped with the kids, yet she argues you can’t do it all.

The problem with doing anything 100% is that it means 100%. Women who are highly successful in public policy, as lawyers, in finance, have to give it 100% and that doesn’t leave any little percentage left. Maybe you can put a marriage on hold. After all, he knew what he was getting himself into when he married high powered you, but kids grow very quickly. And the problem with being a good parent is that it requires one very simple thing: Presence. By presence, I mean, actual living in the flesh presence when you are awake and paying attention to what is going on.

Oddly parenting is very much like love, maybe because it’s the first and most complicated love. We love our parents generally because we need them and we love our kids generally because they need us. Love isn’t something you can do well if you aren’t there. Ask anyone who’s tried a long distance relationship. Without presence, it dwindles and then it’s gone and the lover is replaced by someone who is actually there.

When my kids were younger, it was easier to shift the responsibility among the three of us adults who were responsible. Yet I always think of the first fifteen years as being the hardest. Hard before the divorce and still hard afterward. My ex, my husband and I formed a kind of team. We didn’t play against each other. We worked together. We were starting up the press and raising the kids. We didn’t have any family to help us, money was tight, and the teenagers years drove us crazy. Nearly drove us to drink.

Which is why I say you can’t let go of your kids. I was abandoned by my parents and my ex was raised by his grandparents and my husband was on his own by the time he was an early teen, so I’m a big fan of sticking with it as a parent. I don’t think you can let the other parent have the kids and just be happy someplace else. Working successfully. Making money.

I have a daughter and I want her to have a successful life and be a mother, and I think she can. If she decides on a career that doesn’t take 60 hours/week of her time. Which rules out medicine, law, finance, public policy—four professions dominated by—you guessed it—men. She’s a lesbian, she should be able to tip the scales in her own favor. There will be two women and Uncle Steve raising those kids. Can’t she have it all? No. She has to choose a career that allows her to pay attention to the kids when they’re growing. That limits what you can do.

I focused my time on being a mom and therefore don’t really have a career at all. But I have a life, and I wouldn’t trade it. But the formative part of a career is that 25-45 range and I’ve kissed that goodbye. I tell myself that it’s all good, that 45-70 bracket is going to be awesome. But I hope my daughter will do better. The things with kids is that when you let them slip away, you usually can’t get them back. You can find another spouse, but you can’t replace your children.



Published in: on June 22, 2012 at 3:23 am  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Kate…there’s a wistfulness in this piece that I don’t expect from the wild-eyed, cursing, brilliant and beautiful blonde firecracker whom I met in the pink canyons at Ghost Ranch. I admire your drive to be a present Mom- as I feel being a Mom is the most hard fought privilege of my life (although sometimes I’d like to squash him!). As a child abandoned, you must have had a deep pool of murk inside of you around “momminess” and what THAT was all about…or perhaps it came to you naturally…from your own longings. Whatever…it sounds like you have done well. And from my view…it looks like you DO have it all. You have raised a strong woman, you have a thriving career and you have all that fire…it just shoots out of you! AND…I might add…you are in GREECE? N’est se pas?

    • Yes, I am in Greece. And I have a great son, an amazing daughter and a creative life. What we carry. Hard to put down.

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