Seedlings: Having It All – By Amy Wall Lerman
I have recently been told that Women Still Can’t Have it All. In an article in the July/August issue of Atlantic Magazine, Anne-Marie Slaughter, a former Director at the US State Department, told the women of America that we’ve been sold a bill of goods by the women’s movement. The article says that we really can’t be moms and have careers – and be really good at both. Yet we continue to strive for exactly that.
The article has caused quite a stir among moms who work outside the home, with outcries of: “How can this working mom be so anti-feminist?” And, “What right does she have to speak for me?” To the opposite side of the spectrum: “Right on…you sing it Sista’.”
I’m somewhere in the middle – floundering in the quagmire of my own reality. While I am currently attempting to “have it all,” I don’t really “want it all.” Basically, I never thought I could have it all which is one reason I’m a later mom. I’m often torn between the challenge of having a career and the reward of being a mom. I hate the tug-of-war that exists between the two and yet, and until I can be in two places at once, that’s my world. But will it really take the paranormal to attain balance?
When I had my son at age 42, I had absolutely no idea how I would make it all work in family-averse corporate America. We are the only advanced country in the world not to have universal healthcare and one of the only ones not to have a national vacation policy or decent time off for maternity leave. There is little interest on the part of large corporations to take care of their employees by assisting them to balance their personal and professional lives. And why is that? Wouldn’t it make for a happier workplace? Happy employees are more productive and loyal, aren’t they? Would it kill these multi-billion dollar powerhouses to spare some extra vacation time? Give assistance with childcare? Let a woman nurse her baby for a few extra weeks? And if they’re worried about parity for childless employees, why not incorporate some family leave days?
Admittedly, I’ve internally raged at the women’s movement for dangling that carrot – forcing one door to open while another is slammed in my face. Like an abandoned child, I feel like I’m flying blind without a friendly hand to guide me. Where are those women now – the mothers of my so-called equality? They certainly aren’t running the corporations or the government. In fact the loudest women out there just want to shut more doors in my face. The feminist movement died – even some of its leaders have died – leaving their daughters and grand-daughters balancing a laptop on one hip and a baby on the other.
But how can I blame the women’s movement for making me think I can be Sr. VP and Supermom? My mom’s generation got the ball rolling and my generation not only dropped that ball, but continues to sit back and watch it roll into the gutter. The women’s movement gave me choice; they gave me the opportunity to lead a different kind of life than the generations of women before me – for that I am grateful. The women of the 20th Century, suffered so that I could have choices. They made it possible for me, not to just dream of having it all, but to actually strive to have it all – and so I am – whether I want it all or just a piece of it all.
What’s next liberated women of the 21st Century? It seems to me that what needs to change, as Ms. Slaughter points out so well in her article, is the corporate and government attitude toward families with working parents, and women in particular. We need to stop waiting for things to change and start pushing for change.
Thank you, Ms. Slaughter, for opening another door – at least – for me.
Amy Wall Lerman, Editor of the Motherhood Later Than Sooner eZine, Baby Bloomer, is a television news producer and writer. She is the author of several books including The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Critical Reading and The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Family Games. Her poetry has been published in an online literary journal and she maintains her own blog called Dodillydo. Amy lives in New Jersey with her husband and 4-year old son.