Betsy Huff, Intern
The recent cover story of Atlantic Monthly “Why Women Still Can’t Have it All” by Anne-Marie Slaughter, a tenured professor at Princeton who also spent two years as director of Policy Planning at the State Department, is only the latest fuel to the fiery discussion concerning women juggling the demands of a high-powered career and family. With this article comes praise and criticism from all sides. Some reproach the author’s laments because of her highly privileged background, which allowed her the “luxury” of stepping down from a fast-paced political career in D.C. to a distinguished academic career at Princeton. If only most women were so fortunate. As Rick Newman comments, “Unrealistic expectations, in fact, are often the core problem that working Moms face when trying to juggle the demands of office and home. Some working Moms have no choice but to try to do everything, because there's no husband or not enough money. But others do it because they choose to.”
Newman is certainly right about the debate being about unrealistic expectations, but not just of women. Both men and women need to reevaluate their priorities when it comes to balancing career ambitions with the health and needs of a family. A family in which either parent is basically absent from a child’s life due to an 80 + hour work week is detrimental to a child’s well-being. Absent fathers are just as damaging as absent mothers. In the Marriage and Religion Research Institute’s publication “162 Reasons to Marry,” an abundance of social science research is referenced supporting the idea that an intact family is best for a child’s social, mental, physical, and educational well-being.
No one can have it all, no matter who we are, or what our family looks like. It’s time the debate is shifted from mom and dad fighting over who gets to work and who has to stay home, to what is most beneficial to children and in turn beneficial to society as a whole. Suzanne Venker hits the nail on the head when it comes to advocating for the health of the family in a commentary on her website, centering the debate back to where it belongs- the well-being of the children. She says, “The children — and whether or not we value them. Our actions, our choices, are the only way to prove what we value. The rest is just talk…That’s why two parents are so critical for childrearing. This is a perennial that we as a nation cannot seem to face…Children’s needs conflict with adult desires. Period…The ability to sacrifice one’s own desires for the needs of others is crucial to building healthy relationships. There are no shortcuts.”
Venker concludes and I agree, “Until Americans start reevaluating their priorities, we will never be successful in raising strong families.”