Thank you to my reader Dave for pointing out that Keli Goff posted an excellent response to Anne-Marie Slaughter's article in The Huffington Post. She had a similar reaction as I did. And her writing kicks ass. Do read it.
Thank you, Nicole G., for directing me to this beyond-fabulous rebuttal to Slaughter's article written by Lori Gottlieb, a MOM no less. Wow. I love this argument.
THIS ARTICLE IS SPOT ON!
Sorry for all the caps, but I cannot believe how well-articulated this piece is. I particularly love:
"As I have remarked before, no one expects everyone to make a good neurosurgeon and to want to become one. Yet we view parenting, which is harder, as something everyone with the physical capability to undertake must do, do well and enjoy, or at least pretend to. Oh, and we expect some people to actually balance the job of neurosurgeon simultaneously."
There's really nothing left to be said that Ms. Goff hasn't said.
Thanks to Dave and you for passing it along.
I don't like the comparison of neurosurgery to parenting.Having my fingers buried in someone's brain ,and potentially altering their quality of life and that of their families for the worse..... Nope.
Any dispute over which calling is more demanding and pressurized would be a game.No way could I keep my poker-face on for that,lol!
P.S. I love your blog, thank you for giving me constant reinforcement for my lifestyle choice with the positivity and candor that I wish everyone responded to me with.
Your post on the joys of Auntie-hood resonated with me.My niece is now six months old and is such a great kid:-). I love being able to love her and watch her grow up .Not bein responsible for raising her frees me to just enjoy her as she is,and you hit the nail on the head:-).
Sorry,neurosurgery is NOT less work,challenge or effort than parenting! Even among those who cater tO the party line of TMDJITW, it would be hard to say this with a straight face.
That's blatantly laughable and insulting.
I liked the article. It speaks to the deeper shaming our society has always done when it comes to what it means to be a 'real woman'.
There is STILL so much baggage about that. On every level we need to deepen our thinking and challenge our assumptions about this rhetoric.
Being childless does NOT mean being family-less. Or not be fulfilled and living the life you want.
The planet can only sustain so many people. There are so many ways to spread your love, and parenting is something that deserves far more devotion
and effort than many people put into it. I admire good parents. I just don't get the big deal over someone's decision to spend their life in other positive ways.
Here's another great rebuttal piece:
My only problem with Gottlieb's piece is that it assumes that having kids is some positive experience which is part of some tradeoff for having a good career.
As those of us childfree know, we see nothing positive about having kids of ou own and see no need to have a tradeoff for not having them, freeing us to pursue only the positive things the childed have to forgo (partly or totally) when they chose to have kids.
I have a few things to say about Gottlieb's article. Some things I liked, some I didn't.
Let's start with the things I didn't like that much:
Slaughter's piece sort of admits that she can't "have it all." At the end, she comes out and says that she wanted to be at home with her kids rather than plugging in 14-hour days in Washington. That was one of the main points of her article: Today's young women have been lied to about the myth of "having it all," and they need to be honest that such a life is not possible. It's a bit of an over-generalization of Gottlieb's to claim that Slaughter only wants to have her cake and eat it too. Also, some of the more specific attacks were not correct, either. Gottlieb claims that Slaughter suggests that women be allowed to work on weekends, when I remember Slaughter recommending that conferences NOT be held on weekends to allow women to spend more time with their children. (Maybe someone can fact-check me on this one.) Lastly, Gottlieb might be right in saying that having a demanding career naturally demands a woman to make sacrifices at home, but what about women with more normal, 8-hour-per-day jobs? Might some of Slaughter's suggested policies work for these women?
But I otherwise liked what she was saying. To touch on specifics:
I agreed with her general argument that a high-powered career naturally demands A LOT of one's time, man or woman, and no policy will allow you to hold down this job and simultaneously spend an adequate amount of time with your children. I nodded my head in agreement when she implied Slaughter was in need of a reality check when she took her job in Washington. I liked how she used the word "choose" throughout her article. Reading between the lines, you can practically hear her screaming, "NOBODY PUT A GUN TO YOUR HEAD AND MADE YOU TAKE THAT JOB!" It bothered me that Slaughter didn't take enough responsibility for her choices, and I liked how Gottlieb called her out on it. I also liked Gottlieb calling attention to the in-feasibility and even self-centeredness of some of the solutions Slaughter came up with. Is it really fair to make our children go to school the same hours we go to work? Do you really see your nine-year-old going to school from 8:30 to 6:00? This was one of the few specific criticisms Gottlieb made, and it was a good one. Especially since Slaughter made this suggestion in a particularly cavalier way.
Speaking of cavalier...
One thing that has been on my mind recently is the amount of selfishness needed for mothers to "make it work." A lot of people look at mothers who hold down successful careers and raise two beautiful children and wonder, "how does she do it?!" Well, the answer is, she DOESN'T do it, or at least not as well as you think she does. Some of the mothers I've met who have had the most successful careers and been the happiest have also been some of the more selfish women out there. Somewhere along the way, their children got neglected, and the mother looked at it with an "oh, well" attitude. Or was simply clueless and didn't even notice it at all. I wouldn't be comfortable making those choices. If I were a mother, I would sacrifice my career at the expense of my child. I just couldn't deal with the guilt of feeling like I'm not pulling my weight. One thing I noticed throughout Slaughter's article is a general lack of guilt. I'm glad Gottlieb was here to say, "Um, listen lady, your children may be affecting your choices, but your choices are also affecting your children."
I admit I am commenting without reading the entire Atlantic article, but talking about whether or not women can "have it all" without discussing the flip side--how much their husbands/partners do their share at home--is only telling half the story. No, men can't "have it all" either, if "all" is defined as a fast-track career and always being with the kids, but the more substantive point is that men are not judged for choosing career over family as much as women are, whether they have kids or not. If a "career man" has kids, it's assumed that his wife will do most, if not all, of the work, thus freeing him up to concentrate on his job. Of course not all fathers choose to prioritize in that fashion, though most do, but the point is, the option is available to them in a way it simply isn't for women. If a woman wants children and to have a high-power career, she's considered either a monster or naive for believing she could have both. That's a judgement never made of men.
This problem will never be solved until we, as a culture, completely divorce childcare and power from gender, both in a practical sense and in the assumptions we make about both. This would require a wholesale rethinking of what gender means, what biology means, what society values...basically a reworking of the entire culture from the ground up. Since I'm not holding my breath, I instead heartily endorse the advice of Linda Hirshman in "Get to Work" where she tells women that if they want to have a career, they need to either marry men who will do their share of the housework and childrearing (she advises marrying men with much less earning power, so the temptation to prioritize his career over yours never arises, and to marry only liberal men, who tend to, at least on the surface, agree with egalitarian ideals), or to go on a reproductive strike and only have one child, to keep things more simple.
Not having to deal with this issue, ever, is one of the biggest reasons I'm glad I'm childfree. And I, too, was put off by the false equivalency of parenting to neurosurgery. Being a surgeon is in a different universe of stress and importance from being a parent. Just for starters, you don't need any credentials to become the latter (and it shows). That said, I think wannabe parents should put as much thought into having kids as a college student puts into pursuing a career in neurosurgery. The entire world would be better off for it.
If you're rich enough and can afford nannies, tutors, housekeepers, cooks, and assistants, then you can come much closer to "having it all."
This debate has centered quite a bit on fairly high-powered, high-salaried professional women with lots of job options. What percentage of women really fall into that category today? The Slaughter article sounds quite a bit like privileged people whining that theire privilege just doesn't go as far as they expected. I'm having trouble locating my sympathy. It must be around here someplace....
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