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Women Can’t Have It All. Or Hadn’t You Noticed?

By Rich_Maloof Jun 25, 2012 4:50PM

Photo: Katrina Wittkamp/Digital Vision/Getty Images

UPDATED 6/26/12

Not everyone thinks the Atlantic cover story on super moms, which we discussed here yesterday, is so super. The magazine is keeping readers updated on the debate so far, and has had the integrity to run rebuttals including a particularly cutting commentary by a fellow Atlantic writer. 

Being both a mom and a professional is possible — as long as you’re self-employed, super rich, or superhuman.

So says Anne-Marie Slaughter writing this month’s cover story for The Atlantic, an essay that aims to untangle the work-versus-family issues that have tied the first post-feminism generation of women up in knots. It’s a thought-provoking read for anyone with an hour and a half free of family and work to read about family and work.

Slaughter acknowledges in Why Women Can’t Have It All that being torn between personal and professional ambitions is something of a gold-plated problem; while it troubles the consciences of highly educated women with wonderfully accommodating husbands, most families can’t afford the debate: it takes dual incomes to pay the bills, period. Slaughter herself is a tenured Princeton professor who left her dream job with the State Department to have a more balanced life.

But her experience is neither uncommon nor exclusive to the intellectual elite. Toggling between career and motherhood, women seem set up to feel bad about themselves regardless of how they choose between prioritizing family and fulfilling personal potential. In her article, Slaughter looks to undo some of the damage done by “making millions of women feel that they are to blame if they cannot manage to rise up the ladder as fast as men and also have a family and an active home life (and be thin and beautiful to boot).”

The article is not a long-winded gripe but instead a compilation of justifications for changing professional environments to make them more family-friendly. The changes won’t come easily; they require not only an evolution in current business culture but some very astute foresight in women, who will need important milestones to fall on time and in sequence. But without the re-think, women will continue to be trapped by the “fetish of the one-dimensional life.”Already a young generation is opting out of careers that demand them to be alpha males when not only women but the businesses they work for could be benefiting from an environment that integrates professional and personal dimensions.



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