Lisa Belkin writes a great article about Anne-Marie Slaughter and her choice to leave the workplace to focus on family here. There are excellent points about how to make work and homelife more compatible for parents. Important points. Very important points. Slaughter writes another excellent piece about her choice, focusing on how difficult it is to “have it all” the family/the job/the happiness. Tara Sophia Mohr follows up on Slaughter’s article, asking if her story made the cover of The Atlantic, what got left out?
In particular, I loved this question Mohr asked:
Women, who now make up half the workforce, are making it work — and many are doing so in ways that leave them deeply satisfied. Some of those deeply satisfied women are entrepreneurs, some have full-time jobs at companies with enlightened work-life policies, some have spouses who are the primary caregivers. Some find that with quality childcare and connection to community, dual full-time careers with decent hours work just fine for their families.
Why aren’t we reading their stories?
She goes on to describe the women whose stories are missing as:
“Powerful women” aren’t just those who have mega-jobs. A woman who feels satisfied, who feels deep, full-bellied satisfaction with her life and her choices? A woman who feels she is enough, who feels at peace with her mothering, her bank account and her thriving career? Where is she in our cultural discourse?
She is powerful and empowered. She carries the energy of her own happiness. She is not constantly sapping her own contentment with self-critique and guilt. She is strengthened by confidence in her own choices. She’s got the satisfaction of knowing her skills and talents have value in the world, and can bring her and her family economic security.
I am pretty sure we never hear about her because she is boring. If you’re getting the job done and are happy about it, what is there to say? No one would watch Grey’s Anatomy if Meredith were a secure, happy, satisfied surgeon with a healthy, happy relationship founded on mutual respect and admiration. (Which makes me think: Are there any shows where a woman is a secure, happy, satisfied whatever, who goes about her business without man-hunting or trying to get her kid off crack? I can think of 6 shows off the top of my head that feature a leading man who is secure, happy, and satisfied and whose only weekly drama is the case he is working at the time. If there are such shows, please tell me! I’d like to tune in.)
I would say that I fit Mohr’s description of the invisible working mother. I wouldn’t say my career is thriving because I’ve spent so much of the past decade leap-frogging positions trying to get ahead that I haven’t built any true credibility–jack of all trades, expert of none situation. I wouldn’t say I am confident in my ability to bring economic security because I define economic security as being able to save at least half of what you make, but if (God forbid) anything happened to B, I could keep Thor in shoes.
I am happy. I am satisfied. I am a good mother, and I am confident in my parenting. I am confident in the choices I have made for my son, and while I would be the first person to tell you that I’ve lost sleep and cried tears over not being able to be his primary, daytime caretaker, I would also tell you that I am extremely proud of what B and I have done for our family, and I’m not sure I would change it if I could.
So that’s me, and it is also many, many women I know. Women who read the Huffington Post and The Atlantic. Middle Class, aspirational, hopeful, working women who have enough income to make choices. You know who it isn’t? It isn’t women who work three minimum wage jobs just to put food on the table. It isn’t women who have no choice but to leave their child with a neighbor, or another child in order to get to those three jobs just so they can feed their child.
It isn’t the women who have to make the choice between getting that child fed, and getting the babysitter vetted.
We see articles about Welfare Moms all the time. And we see articles about Working Moms who have the money for nannies. Now and then we see articles about the moms, like me, who are just trucking along. We do not see the articles about the women (and men) who are working their tails off for next to nothing, paying their taxes, working within the system, doing the absolute best for their families that they can, who still cannot afford to even so much as choose between quality and sketchy daycare. Or who fall in between the cracks of daycares that run from 6a to 6p, when they work the 7p to 3a shift. You know: The people whose stories are too sad to tell because there is so little hope for difference for them. Because you aren’t ever going to get rich working for WalMart.
Let’s talk about those people. Let’s shine a light on them, and see if we can’t find solutions in Slaughter’s original article and Belkin’s follow up that can make a difference in their lives.
For those who believe that the only right way to raise a happy, successful child is to have a Stay At Home Parent in the house, I reject your judgment and your guilt. There is no such thing as Only One Right Way and I believe we have had a few Presidents who prove that point.