Can Women Have It All? No. But Neither Can Men.

Can Women Have It All? No. But Neither Can Men.
You may remember Lori Gottlieb – author of the bestseller, Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough. I was Lori’s dating coach while she wrote her book and I remain a fan of her writing, which is generally funny, self-aware, and accessible. Her latest article, in The Atlantic, is no different: Why There’s No Such Thing as ‘Having It All’—and There Never Will Be. This piece is a reaction to this week’s Atlantic cover story by Anne-Marie Slaughter, titled Why Women Still Can’t Have It All.

I was inclined to write a long response, adding fuel to the fire, but this series of articles has gone so viral that there’s now an entire page dedicated to women’s work/life balance on the Atlantic website.

The one that best describes my thoughts, apart from the Gottlieb piece, was the one written by James Joyner, entitled “Men Can’t Have It All Either”.

To sum up, in short, people do what they want. Not men. Not women. People. If you want to work 70 hours a week, your relationships will suffer. If you want to be there for your children, you have to work less. If you want to achieve great things in your career, you better have a supportive spouse who is willing to somewhat sacrifice his/her career OR have a lot of money to pay for a full-time nanny. As others have already pointed out, these are simply rich people problems. The vast majority of the world doesn’t even have the illusion of “having it all”.

If you want to achieve great things in your career, you better have a supportive spouse who is willing to somewhat sacrifice his/her career OR have a lot of money to pay for a full-time nanny.

As a driven, successful man, I’m thrilled to have a wife who, by her own accord, decided to become a full-time mom after 17 years at her company. She found the calling of motherhood to be more important than her satisfying career and was surprised that she doesn’t even feel the pull for part-time work right now.

She’s equally entitled to her career. This was her choice. If she decided to work again, these would be our choices:

If she went back part time, we’d need a nanny for the 2 days a week she would work.
If she went back full-time, we’d need a full-time nanny/daycare.
And if she were really ambitious, it would fall upon me to work part-time in order to accommodate her travel and 70 hour work weeks.

You either need a ton of money or one partner has to give.

Unfortunately for smart, strong, successful women, there are fewer men who are willing to give up their careers to stay home with the kids. In fact, 78% of men prefer full time work after marriage, while 58% of women prefer part-time work. Not to mention that the men who are content being house-husbands often don’t inspire the attraction of most smart, strong, successful women. At least this is what I’ve heard, ad nauseum, as a coach for successful women.

Which brings us to the reason that these type of articles are still being written: feminists feel they’re getting a raw deal. Because there are fewer men who are willing to work part-time to be more available parents, women feel that they are the ones who have to compromise. This is true – but only if you insist on choosing a man who puts his career first.

Because there are fewer men who are willing to work part-time to be more available parents, women feel that they are the ones who have to compromise. This is true – but only if you insist on choosing a man who puts his career first.

If you – like me – choose a partner who isn’t as ambitious, then you can work full-time and be an available parent. But if you work 70 hours a week and so does your husband, what kind of marriage do you have? What kind of relationship will you have with your kids? That’s right: if NEITHER of you is going to compromise on work, then NEITHER of you is going to have much time with each other and your family.

That’s not the patriarchy speaking. That’s life. Most men want to work full-time. Most women don’t. Ultimately, we’re all equals and you can do whatever you want, as long as you are conscious of your goals, your tradeoffs, and finding a partner who enables your dreams.

What I find interesting is that everyone is focusing solely on the fact that certain ambitious women need to compromise. How about the 58% of women who don’t see working part-time as a compromise – they see it as a luxury. For they have the ability to either work part-time or be a stay-at-home parent without having to support the family – an option that virtually no men have. And you don’t see many men writing articles about how unfair it is that they have to work, do you?

I don’t have a horse in this race; I’m just not a fan of hypocrisy and blind spots. And I think Lori Gottlieb and James Joyner did a good job in punching holes in Slaughter’s original, smart and measured piece.

Read the full article here.

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