Are women finding that parenting teens is incompatible with a busy career? “Why Women Can’t Have it All” by Anne-Marie Slaughter in the Atlantic is getting a lot of buzz. (It appears alongside Elizabeth Wurtzel’s piece chastizing rich stay-at-home-moms but frankly, if you only have time to read one, pick the first.)
Beyond the “Mommy War” theme — and please, let’s not go there; I think these are big issues, but let’s assume we are all well-informed and making the best choices we can based on the many complex factors in our own personal lives — here’s what fascinates me with the piece.
Slaughter starts with her epiphany: “I sipped champagne, greeted foreign dignitaries, and mingled. But I could not stop thinking about my 14-year-old son, who had started eighth grade three weeks earlier and was already resuming what had become his pattern of skipping homework, disrupting classes, failing math, and tuning out any adult who tried to reach him. Over the summer, we had barely spoken to each other—or, more accurately, he had barely spoken to me.”
And later in the article she points out: “Michèle Flournoy stepped down after three years as undersecretary of defense for policy, the third-highest job in the department, to spend more time at home with her three children, two of whom are teenagers.”
I’m guessing – but please correct me if I’m wrong – that a lot of women who were able to throw money at the problem of work-life balance when their kids were young with great caregivers, daycares, camps and other programmes, find that as their kids get older they need a parent to deal with things. My eldest is only 6 and I’m already starting to feel that shift.
And that is where having a high-powered career can become a pretty serious issue – right at the point that you’re about to take on the big challenges professionally.
Of course the Atlantic article addresses the women who have the option to dial their careers back. Lots and lots of us may run into the same problem when our kids are teens and have no option but to find our way through the work/life juggle.
Have you found that as your kids have gotten older and you’ve moved up in your career that the balance you hoped would even out when you were toting a diaper bag has actually gotten harder? What advice can you share with people who are coming up on that?