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There are more opportunities available now than ever before for mothers wanting to enter or return to the workforce after having a child, and many women are choosing to pursue careers than stay at home raising their children. As a result, the pressures to simultaneously work and keep house tend to fall on the working mother’s shoulders, making the concept of “having it all” as likely as winning the lottery. Is it possible to achieve work-life balance in the real world?
Anne-Marie Slaughter’s controversial piece “Women Can’t Have It All” captures the crippling reality that many women are forced to accept: sometimes, you can’t have your cake and eat it too. Slaughter was a year and a half into her high-profile job as “the first woman director of policy planning at the State Department” when her career dreams came to a crashing halt. While she was flourishing in her career in Washington, D.C., Slaughter’s family life back in Princeton, New Jersey seemed to be falling apart each and every day. In many of her lectures to women over the years, Slaughter reassured women that they could have it all – not knowing that she was making a promise that even she couldn’t keep.
Accepting that her “all” just wasn’t possible at that given time, Slaughter put her career on the backburner in order to tend to what mattered most – her two teenage sons and husband back home in New Jersey.
So, what’s her view on work-family balance now? As she puts it, "I still strongly believe that women can ‘have it all’ (and that men can too). I believe that we can ‘have it all at the same time.’ But not today, not with the way America’s economy and society are currently structured."
What she means is that the US just hasn’t caught up with the rest of the world when it comes to helping working parents, especially working mothers, find work-life balance in their everyday lives. America may be considered a leading nation in the world, but its efforts to enrich the lives of its citizens resembles that of a third-world country, not a global economic powerhouse.
However, some working women still think that you can “have it all,” but that it depends on what that “all” entails, according to the testimonies of the ten women that CNN.com interviewed. Senator Patty Murray, the senior United States senator from Washington, explains that she attains her “all” by putting family first in life, as she did when, without hesitation, she immediately left the office after receiving a call that her young son had a nosebleed at school. Despite flack from one senator on her way out, Murray left and tended to her son – only to be lauded by that same colleague for her decision to put her family first that day.
For Lauren Wolfe, an award-winning journalist, the perception of being an adult was shaped early on in life, as she observed her father come home every day dressed in a suit and carrying a briefcase. However, once she was in the working world, Wolfe realized that her reality of becoming an adult didn’t mean that she had to follow in her father’s (or a man’s) footsteps or try to “have it all,” so she paved a new path and pursued her “all” – journalism.
In our pursuit for finding work-life balance or “having it all,” it’s important to recognize exactly what you’re going after because it will be greatly disappointing in the end if you discover that the dream you’ve been chasing only leaves you emptier and more unfulfilled.
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