Having it all … depends on what “all” means

Interesting all the commentary — supportive and outraged — swirling now that Anne-Marie Slaughter chose family over power. Slaughter left her high-level State Department job to return to her (mere) job as a tenured Ivy-League college professor so she could spend more time with her two boys.

The money, prestige and power elements are different, but the choice to opt out of the corporate race is one we made for our kids.   It was a conscious choice — one that worked for us.

The background:  My mom, a single parent of six, died less than a year after I graduated from college. My mother-in-law died before our first child was born.  My father-in-law had given years to the corporate world, which, despite his success, eventually decided to dump him.

My husband and I met and married in Washington, D.C. We came back to Reno (his home town) for family reasons. Friends who stayed in DC felt — and still feel — the pressure to make it all work. Many do a spectacular job at both. Some stayed and fought the system so they could stay home with the kids — and paid a professional price.

I do think it is possible to blend corporate and family life … but you have to want it, you have to be lucky, you have to work your tail off, and usually, you need lots and lots of  help.

And it will ONLY work if everything goes right, and you make enough money.   Have a needy/challenging/problem child? An ogre for a boss? A job that must come first?   A need for health insurance?  Any complications and the equation falls apart.

If more people had a choice of two terrific jobs, with one that allows for family, they might make Slaughter’s choice.   I did — in a much less lucrative/less influential way.

Yet, I suspect the people who say having four kids and working full-time is great and everyone is happy, have lots of other help — nannies, grandparents, stay at home spouses.

A baby, or even a couple of babies, may not demand all your time. Running a multi-child family with multiple sports, music lessons, varying school schedules, plus schlepping them to dental appointments, play dates, birthday parties, etc is a full-time job for someone — or several someones.

I admire those who can juggle demanding jobs and family life well and make it work for everyone.

I had a huge ego adjustment to being a full-time parent and a part-time business owner. It literally took years to adjust.  It flew by … and I do know why Slaughter doesn’t want to miss it.

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