Can Christian Women Have It All? Debunking the Work-Life Balance Myth
By now everyone who cares, and some who don't, have heard about Ann-Marie Slaughter's exhaustive Atlantic cover story, "Why Women Still Can't Have it All." The sub-blurb heightens the controversy:
It's time to stop fooling ourselves …. The women who have managed to be both mothers and top professionals are superhuman, rich, or self-employed. If we truly believe in equal opportunity for all women, here's what has to change.
I've always found cheerleading inexplicable, but while reading Slaughter's 12,000+-word treatise, I felt a powerful urge to don a flippy skirt, grab a pom-pom, and lead a stadium of women in a cheer: "Sis Boom Bah! No More La-Dee-Dah!" Slaughter, who broke several glass ceilings as the first woman dean at Woodrow Wilson School of Law and as first woman director of policy planning under Hillary Clinton, dared to do the unthinkable: She stepped down from her high-level position to spend more time with her struggling teenage sons.
Slaughter boldly takes on the myths of feminism perpetuated most recently by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg. Both women are addressing the persistently low numbers of women in high levels of government and corporate leadership, despite decades of feminist ideology and greater gains among women in education and influence. Sandberg blames it on an "ambition gap." Women are giving up positions of power to prioritize their families, but they can do better. If they're committed enough, if they marry the right person, if they sequence their childbearing correctly, they can have it all. Or so goes the mantra.
But Slaughter effectively guts these myths. The real obstacles to successfully managing both a career and family life, she argues, lie in outdated, one-dimensional thinking in our workplaces. For too long we have thought in exclusive categories: If you're committed to your work, you'll spend as much time as possible at the office. If you talk about your family at work, you're less professional. The greater your devotion to work and the more time you spend, the more productive you'll be, and so on.
She gives us homework we can all do right now: to begin breaking down the artificial borders between these essential parts of our lives. Slaughter leads the way. "When I was dean, I was very conscious of openly saying, 'I have to go to a parent-teacher meeting. I have to go home for dinner.' What kind of society doesn't let us say these things?"
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