August 12, 2012

Having it All

Actual New Yorker cover, May 1998

As a future doctor (in T minus 9 months!) and as the daughter of two working professional parents who I can say without a doubt love me more than anything else in their lives (except for maybe my sister, and even then they assure us that we are equally what they love and value most), the recent article "Why Women Still Can't Have It All" by Anne-Marie Slaughter in the Atlantic was fascinating.  Though the article is quite long, it's completely worth it.  Instead of focusing on condemning our generation for not "striving for the top", or being falsely reassuring about the reality of having a high impact career and being highly impactful on your family, she brings the argument to how instead of continuing to give women horrible "choices" and judging what they choose, we should change the discussion.  Some examples include how technology can let us have more flexible work hours, how companies can encourage "family leave" acknowledging the importance not just of children, but of caring for a spouse or ill parent.  And this is probably one of my favorite paragraphs and is a great example of her shifting the discussion:

One final example: I have worked with many Orthodox Jewish men who observed the Sabbath from sundown on Friday until sundown on Saturday. Jack Lew, the two-time director of the Office of Management and Budget, former deputy secretary of state for management and resources, and now White House chief of staff, is a case in point. Jack’s wife lived in New York when he worked in the State Department, so he would leave the office early enough on Friday afternoon to take the shuttle to New York and a taxi to his apartment before sundown. He would not work on Friday after sundown or all day Saturday. Everyone who knew him, including me, admired his commitment to his faith and his ability to carve out the time for it, even with an enormously demanding job.
It is hard to imagine, however, that we would have the same response if a mother told us she was blocking out mid-Friday afternoon through the end of the day on Saturday, every week, to spend time with her children. I suspect this would be seen as unprofessional, an imposition of unnecessary costs on co-workers. In fact, of course, one of the great values of the Sabbath—whether Jewish or Christian—is precisely that it carves out a family oasis, with rituals and a mandatory setting-aside of work.

Without giving more away, and because I'm still processing it, I'll just tell you this: read it (click here). then let me know what you think. and then let's talk about the changes we can make.

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