On Why Women Still Can't Have it All

The Atlantic published an article last week titled "Why Women Still Can't Have it All." It has become a raving topic of conversations among many of my friends, both male and female. The article is written Anne-Marie Slaughter, a remarkable woman who has spent her life working in highly demanding leadership careers (as Dean of the Woodrow Wilson School and Director of Policy Planning for the US State Department) while raising two boys and maintaining a marriage. She speaks candidly about the real challenges for women who want to be successful both at home and at work. I really encourage you to read the article. It is a long read, but it is packed with relevant issues that we would all be better by engaging in and discussing.

Here are a few take-aways for me from the article:

Having it all, in general, is a first-world ambition.

There are women on my street here in East Nashville who are simply trying to make it to the next paycheck or trying to avoid being beaten by the men in their lives. Most of my female African friends are primarily concerned about survival - of their bodies, babies, and livelihood.  As a woman in today's world, it is a rare opportunity to have the freedom to make choices about work, life and self-actualization. It is specific to an elite population of privileged women, myself included. Before we go any further, I just want to acknowledge that asking the question of having it all is, in itself, a privilege.

We must be realistic about limitation.

While there are enormous societal challenges that make it very difficult for a woman to successfully serve in work and life (for instance, school schedules do not align with typical work schedules), there are also unrealistic expectations about what women (and men) are capable of managing. My priest, Becca Stevens, told me that life is a box, and in that box are various balloons representing the commitments of our life. If we want to fit more in the box, we may have to deflate some of the larger balloons to make room for the other ones. Or we may have to only have two really big balloons or a lot of really small balloons. The point is, pay attention to the balloons because the box isn't going to get bigger.  And we live in a culture of broken boxes and popped balloons.

We need a new paradigm shift. 

James and I are replacing work/life balance for something we are calling vocational rhythm. We mean vocation quite literally as “calling”, which includes work and life, business hours, vacation hours, children, family, friends, and job as pieces of an integrated pie, not diametrically opposing forces. In the vocational rhythm paradigm, all parts of our lives are working toward one mission, telling one story. I am interested in what it looks like to integrate the whole self into a vocational rhythm. I am curious if there will be a cultural shift to continue to encourage that for everyone.

What do you think? Can women have it all?