Wow! I just read this article from the Atlantic* that is sweeping the interwebs, and my head and heart are so full. First, I am so thankful to Anne-Marie Slaughter for saying publicly that she wants to be home with her kids. When I say that I would like to work part time when I have kids in order to stay home with them to most people in science, this declaration is usually met with one of two responses: 1. Polite nodding, frequently (though not always) backed up by a slightly incredulous look or tone of voice OR 2. “I can’t imagine not working full time” (this second response more often comes from other women). What Slaughter’s piece helped me realize is that these responses are less about me and more about a system that values hours worked over productivity and devalues parenting over other pursuits.
Second, I feel profound relief in knowing that other, smart, ambitious, high-powered career women (like Slaughter and other women she mentions, such as Mary Matalin, who worked as an assistant to President George W. Bush) have achieved high ranking positions while also having families, have not been forced out of these positions, and have still chosen to leave these jobs in order to be the mother and partner they want to be. In spite of reading the very encouraging Professor Mommy and following the blogs of several tenured female scientists, I still can’t see how having to be on the tenure clock at a Research 1 institution is going to allow me the freedom to be the mom and partner I want to be. This is absolutely about how I feel, and not about other women who choose to go into academia. Slaughter points out, in fact, that the flexibility of her schedule as a tenured professor and former dean makes it infinitely easier to achieve work-life balanace than her job in government did. I am just glad to see female role models that have prioritized their families in the way that feels best for them.
Finally, I am elated that this conversation is happening and that smart, driven people everywhere are reading this article and responding to it. Slaughter’s message is twofold. In addition to being about the expectations women (and men) of my generation have regarding work-life balance and why they can be really difficult to fulfill, she delves into how we can change the current climate for everyone by revaluing family, redefining the arc of a successful career, and encouraging the pursuit of balance and happiness. As Hubs and I explore plans for our future, I pray that we can keep these things in mind, too.
*If you don’t have time to commit to reading the whole piece, watch the interview video that is included with it.