Sorry to keep beating a dead horse here with the Atlantic Monthly’s mommy issues, but I can’t stop talking about the work/family balance. Here’s another rebuttal to Anne-Marie Slaughter’s article on the myth of women ‘having it all.’ Here’s Dana Shell Smith on “How To Have an Insanely Demanding Job and Two happy children”:
But while Dr. Slaughter concluded that it was impossible to “have it all” as a high-level official in government, my experience could not be more different.
So what, exactly, is a balanced life, according to Ms. Shell Smith?
By using mobile technology and consistently selecting jobs that handle mainly unclassified material, I’ve been able to continue my work regardless of my physical location and late into most evenings after my kids are asleep. I am focused and efficient during working hours and am rarely far from my blackberry when I’m not at the office. These were all choices available to me within our system…
…So-called “work life balance” means work and family. Full stop. Social life is on the “nice to have” list, not the mandatory list. We haven’t seen a non-animated movie in a movie theater in a decade. We collapse from exhaustion most evenings and are each settled in with a book by 10 p.m. We watch almost no TV and shop for everything except for groceries online. … My kids knew by first grade that they should sign up to bring water to school parties, even though I love to bake. I would like to have closer friends, but that would require time I simply cannot give.
And I would love to exercise and get haircuts when I need them, but those, too, are luxuries that do not go along with the life I am leading at the moment.
Um… I don’t really know what to say here. She’s not a single mom working two factory shifts. Friends, hair cuts, exercise, making (or buying, for crying out loud) a batch of cupcakes made from a mix once a year are… “luxuries that do not go along with the life I am leading at the moment.” Not going to a movie for a decade? Working late into the night every evening. These are ‘balanced’ activities? Look, I’m loath to criticize yet another hardworking woman just trying to get through the day as a decent person. And I’ve certainly put friendships on ice and skipped the gym (a lot) and let my scary skunk roots show for weeks at a time. Life is complicated.
But people are taking these Atlantic commentaries very seriously and it’s a pretty powerful thing for a powerful woman to represent herself as “balanced” if she actually thinks taking care of her health and basic grooming are “luxuries.” (I hope she has glorious Rapunzel locks; If I tried that stunt, I’d be sporting a halo of brillo pads.)
And I wonder, too, how this insular view of family life will look in hindsight. It’s a very big departure from the way families and communities have been organized for centuries to forgo the support of a wider social network (and I’m not talking about facebook.) There are real health implications to living such a driven life, too. Again, plenty of people do it. I just argued in yesterday’s post that it’s a valid choice for some folks. But, please, let’s not call it balanced. Intense? Fulfilling? Sure. Maybe. I can’t speak for anyone else. But it doesn’t sound balanced.