Men Can’t Have It All Either

Did you guys really think you wouldn’t hear from me about the Anne-Marie Slaughter article? I don’t have much to say about the article that hasn’t already been said. Slaughter’s version of feminism is one that neither myself or the women in my family can relate to. It reeks of white class privilege. And although I’m white,  I don’t come from any type of privilege. Slaughter’s feminism is reminiscent of the early feminist theorists who were rich white women who were at home caregivers and demanding to be able to work like their husbands.  Which is fine. I get it.

However, I come from a lineage of women who would have given their left arm to be able to stay at home with their children. Instead, my grandmothers worked in factories where they received 12 cents an hour. Women in my family work. Hard. Because we have to. I went to graduate school with individuals whose parents paid for their rent for the houses they lived in, paid their car payments, and sent them weekly allowances. Meanwhile, I hoped my scholarship and student loan money would stretch to the next month while I checked out the latest deals on Ramen noodles.

Yet, that’s not my biggest issue with Slaughter’s article and the articles that have followed since its publication. My problem is the assumption that men can have it all whereas woman can’t have it all. Yes, you did read that right.

When it comes to having children and being a parent, men can’t have it all either. The assumption that men are able to have these wonderful career dream jobs while still playing an active role as a father is simply not true. Men make just as many sacrifices when it comes to parenthood as their female counterparts. At least most of the good fathers I know.

For example, I can’t count the number of fathers I know who have given up the career they would have liked to have and had to settle for a job that paid the mortgage and next month’s tuition. One of my fellow Dad friends played in a successful band for years and now works in an office job. Do you think if he had his choice he wouldn’t love to still be playing music? Or my other Dad friend who always wanted to be a successful stand up comedian and now he manages a cell phone store. Do you think he really wants to wear a suit and tie everyday? Or another fellow Dad who gave up his law career to sell insurance. Do you think he really wants to sell insurance? Really? I could go on with the list of career sacrifices that I have watched all of the good fathers make around me, but I hope you can see where I’m going with this.

I just don’t think we live in a world anymore where we can have it all. Anyone. Male or female. Maybe this world existed at one point, but it doesn’t anymore. None of us get to have it all. And honestly, it’s a bit selfish to think we can.

If we have kids, we have to pay for kids and this requires all kinds of versions of the American dream. So we make sacrifices. All of us. Big ones. We give up some of our dreams. I gave some of mine up. And Yancy gave some of his up too. We all do. We give them up so that we can make our kids’ dreams come true.

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10 Responses to Men Can’t Have It All Either

  1. Caitlin says:

    Heather! That is a nice reminder. I have had a really hard time going back to work after having my baby. (I’m at work reading parenting blogs… hmmm maybe i should be working now…) It was pointed out to me, that I can’t have it all. I can’t be at home with my baby all day, and also work 40 hours a week. But that providing food and shelter for our family is an equally essential part of parenting, as actually having eyes on the baby. I can be a little self-centered at times. And I need constant reminders to break through my hormone filled mind, so I can appreciate the sacrifices and hard work my husband does to stay home and love on that baby. He probably has the harder job right now anyways. He doesn’t even have boobs to give her while I’m gone all day!

  2. Sara says:

    This is an interesting post. I found the Atlantic article very, very interesting because the author is someone who is about a decade older than me and has teenagers (I have a 6 and 2 year old). She clearly works a very high-powered job and was articulating how that negatively impacted her family, even during her children’s adolescence. Now, I currently do not feel up to the challenge of a high powered job. I only work 20 hours a week and even that gets a bit overwhelming at times. My husband takes on the bulk of the earning responsibility and has the high-powered career in our family. I admit that I am a little bit jealous at times, and he is a little jealous of me at times, as I get to spend more quality time with the kids (as he sees it). Of course, some days I’d love to trade places with him, when my kids are in foul moods and giving me a hard time or there’s mommy drama on the playground. But overall, I have it pretty good. I also have a sitter for my 2 year old and my daughter is in school. I hope my daughters also have these kinds of choices when they have kids, if not more so. My husband could have been an artist, but he chose to be a physician. Let’s face it, he wanted the paycheck way before he had the thought of kids. I was a teacher before I became a psychologist and now work half as much for the same salary. These were choices I made before I had kids. Not everyone is so lucky, but I recommend thinking these things through before you have kids. I suppose it’s harder for the starving artist types who have to make greater personal sacrifices for their children. I have a hard time imagining how a child can have two parents with very high-powered careers, though. That would probably be pretty tough on a kid. Sorry if that offends anyone, but I just see how my 6 year old daughter tells me she needs me so much and even with my 2o hours of work I feel so guilty. However, I need to go to work and get irritable and depressed when I don’t work. So obviously, I am a better mother for working, and I feel a better role model(for me). Also, I am more organized when I work than stay home 100% of the time. I’ve done it both ways and this is what works for me! Anyway, I think you offered an interesting perspective. You must have some interesting friends and fun parties!

  3. IamSessica says:

    Life is choices. I prefer to think of it as choices rather than sacrifices. Some people choose to never have children and dedicate themselves to their career or another endeavor. Others choose to have children and that comes at a cost – in money, time and potentially a career. I agree that both men and women, now more than ever, have to choose. Not many parents can have it all – have the superstar career, be a good and present parent and have a happy marriage.

  4. Ali says:

    I found Slaughter’s article to be enormously selfish. Her constant droning of me, me, me with no regard for her children was self indulgence at its worst.

    The glaring sentence in the entire article was the mention of how much Slaughter’s son struggled in school. My thought immediately went to my own son and how much he needs to know I’m there for him. I’d rather have a son who knew that mom loves him more than money, career, school, home or anything else. I gladly give my time to my children knowing that my sacrifices pay off in raising well behaved, adventurous children. My career can resume later. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

  5. T. says:

    I get your point…
    Women still make 70% of men salary.
    In my country, women are forced to sign “blank” dimissions, which are filled by the employers when they get pregnant, so they can be lawfully “sued”.
    Youn married women often aren’t hired because it is supposed that they will soon have children, and therefore (here, in Italy) they will be away from work for 1 year.
    As far as I know, noone of the above happens to men. And both happens to women who, like me, don’t have and don’t want children.

    Also, the pressure for a women to do more job with the children is a gazilion time greater than on men (never heard of Daddy wars) and the domestic chores are 90% on women shoulders (granted, there are exceptions. Wonderful men who do their own laudry and can iron their shirts, but I would argue that they are the minority).

    Bottom line is: people make choices. While it is true that even men makes them in case of parenthood, women have to do both more work AND theirs aren’t personal choices, but more conseguences.
    Both a man and a woman may have to stop a beloved hobby to cater for a child, but only a woman will (almost always) make 70% of a man salary.
    Both a man and a woman may wish to stay at home/go to work after having a child, but only a woman will have to “fight” for whenever she wants to do with other women (the -honestly, idiotic- mommy wars)
    Both a man and a woman may have to accept a job they don’t love to cater a child, but only a woman won’t be employed when young and married because she will likely be pregnant soon and their employers don’t want to pay maternity leave (again, don’t happen on the US, but here it does).
    Both a man and a woman have more chores in the house after the child is born, but mostly a woman will have to do it.
    Both a man and a woman might have to take stressfull, far-away jobs they don’t want to save for the child college, but while a man who does it is called brave, a woman who does it is called a terrible mother and slandered.

    Long post short:
    Women still get the shorter end of the stick.

    (Also, this is, I admit, ugly to say, but I have to ask somebody, and you are by far the most level-headed and rational mommy blogger around: have you ever thought that, most likely, you are sacrificing your dreams so you child can sacrifice his own for his children and so on in a chains of -mostly- sacrificed dreams?)

    • Mommy Psychologist says:

      Thanks, T. These are completely valid points. And I do agree with you. All of the statistics support what you have to say. Women do get the shorter end of the stick when it comes to their careers. However, when it comes to careers coupled with parenting, both men and women have to make sacrifices. Your last question is a great question. And yes, it is partially true. But I would say this. I have not given up all of my dreams. Before I had kids I checked off all of the things I wanted to do (i.e., lots of travel, lots of fun, and getting my degree). I didn’t have Gus until I was after 30 because I didn’t want to feel like I hadn’t been able to accomplish my goals. Nor did I want to resent him for feeling like I had missed out on something. The time came when I decided that I really wanted to be a mother. That is my own experience. I must add that there are individuals whose dream is to have a family and be a wonderful parent. That is their number one dream in life so in having kids they aren’t giving up their dream, but rather fulfilling them.

  6. Mama Bear says:

    ? I can’t understand your contempt for Slaughter. She has spoken eloquently for mothers and fathers to create a new vision of work and life that embraces the reality that our kids need us. She points out that fathers are beginning to publicly state that they want to put their kids first, too. My husband does this at work. Work comes first, but not every meeting requires face-time.
    She says she knows she’s privileged, and she’s concerned about the working poor, too. How would an organization change to more humane expectations if the people at the top don’t acknowledge the need for change?
    For those who view feminism as a war, I suppose some of her words seem traitorous. I would argue that it’s time to regroup and reconsider our strategy and goals and Ms Slaughter has provided a compassionate, painfully honest and very practical roadmap.

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