Is having it all a first world problem?
This is one of the things that NPR was discussing when discussing the Slaughter article. And it’s an interesting point. The author of the article was a professor at Princeton and took a 2-year gig in DC. That, in itself, should indicate that her experiences are not the norm. To make a career choice that makes your life complicated and difficult, and then conclude that balancing families and high-powered careers, is impossible, is not entirely fair. Or as Meg says, if you get to work for Hilary Clinton, you don’t get to complain that you missed soccer. But while the anecdata that Slaughter uses might be elite, her conclusions are nonetheless mostly correct – it is difficult to balance work life and home life.
One of my favorite points that a commenter made on NPR was, "The rhetoric that this is a problem only faced or thought about by rich white women has been used for generations to keep women down." Which is so true. It was true of suffrage, which was seen as a problem that only bothered rich, bored, white, upper-class women who didn’t have anything to do at home. Brushing off a problem as "that’s only a problem for elite women with high powered careers who try to have it all" discredits the thousands of working moms who have to work, rather than choose to work, but would like to have more options. The point isn’t that rich white women can’t balance work and career, the problem is that not even rich white women feel like they can balance work and career.
Most of my clients have children, and many of them do not have jobs, or have low-paying jobs. They have come up with systems for childcare and try really hard to make it work and to make ends meet. They are not even trying to have "it all", in the way we, as upper middle class white women, think about it. They are simply trying to have something – anything – food on the table, a partner who doesn’t hit them, health insurance, the ability to take their kids to the doctors. They don’t obsess about how to balance work and motherhood, they just go out and make it work. Sometimes it falls into place and sometimes they lose their jobs because of a situation with their children.
So maybe the question we should be asking ourselves is whether we are embracing an appropriate definition of "it all"? If maybe elite women are asking for too much when they ask for "it all"? I have clients everyday who want things they can’t have. They want alimony, they want child support, they want their mortgage to be paid and they want it all to happen when their opposing party doesn’t even have a job. And I get to tell them that they are asking for too much, that they are being unreasonable. You can’t get blood from a stone, and there are 24 hours in a day.
What do you define as "having it all"? What is a reasonable amount of "all" to ask for?