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Is there a collision course between career and family?

Dear Reader, 

A debate about whether women can have it all –high-powered career and happy, healthy family—has been raging in the blogosphere for the last week.

Anne-Marie Slaughter, now a professor at Princeton University, stepped down from a high-powered job in the State Department in 2011, because the job was taking her away from her family, especially at a very trying time for one of her teenage sons.  In her article in the July-August issue of The Atlantic, she suggests that women may be kidding themselves in believing they can have it all. 

She sums it up this way:

“In short, the minute I found myself in a job that is typical for the vast majority of working women (and men), working long hours on someone else’s schedule, I could no longer be both the parent and the professional I wanted to be—at least not with a child experiencing a rocky adolescence. I realized what should have perhaps been obvious: having it all, at least for me, depended almost entirely on what type of job I had. The flip side is the harder truth: having it all was not possible in many types of jobs, including high government office—at least not for very long.”

Mary Matalin, who spent two years as an assistant to President George W. Bush and a counselor to Vice President Dick Cheney, stepped down from her prestigious position to spend more time with her daughters.  She wrote: “Having control over your schedule is the only way that women who want to have a career and a family can make it work.”

Many women don’t have the choice to step down from their jobs to spend more time with their family.   Slaughter and Matalin were lucky because they did.   But what about the rest of us? 

Slaughter suggests the following changes and they would be welcome for all working parents—women and men:

  • more latitude to work at home
  • more flexible work hours
  • career breaks and not having those breaks held again you when you return to the workforce
  • matching work schedules to school schedules

For me the most important thing is that women who decide to stay home with their children, or work outside the house part-time or decline the prestigious job because they don’t want to sacrifice family time not be made to feel like slackers but be acknowledged as heroes.

Here's to your success,

Helen Hoart