Monday, June 25, 2012

Posted by Laurel Garver on Monday, June 25, 2012 8 comments
Recently I've seen a number of people link this thoughtful article from The Atlantic Monthly: "Why Women Still Can't Have It All." It's quite long, but very thorough and worth the time to read.

The author argues that women "having it all"--that is, having a stellar career and a fulfilling family life--remains unattainable for a number of reasons that she explores in depth. But overall, it's because American culture hasn't changed deeply enough. To rise to prominence in a career, male or female, you are expected to sacrifice all your time, creativity and energy to work. Give family greater prominence and your commitment to your job is suspect.

As I hear increasingly of the productivity expectations for today's authors, I can see that writing is increasingly becoming less of a family-friendly career choice than it used to be. Besides all the marketing and social media responsibilities, today's authors are also supposed to produce multiple books a year. Family time is increasingly squeezed. Produce less and you'll likely need to make other un-family-friendly decisions, like taking a day job, in order to make ends meet. I also can't help but notice that many published authors I know are single, childless or empty-nesters--and I don't think it's just a coincidence.

What do you think? Is it still possible to be an author who puts family first and how?

8 comments:

  1. Man, so true! I struggle with this now, and I don't even have kids. It's totally true that American workplaces want you to dedicate your whole life to your job, and if you want to, oh, I don't know, leave at 6 p.m. every day, people look at you like you're crazy for going home to spend time with your family. It's been a struggle for me internally to know that I'm still a good worker (or writer) even when I make time for things like family, friends, and exercise. Good post!

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    1. Right. Even without kids, balancing work and life is hard. Throw family stuff in the mix (be it kids or sick parents or nieces/nephews in crisis or what have you) or trying to get a writing career off the ground, well, you're in nervous-breakdown territory.

      Question is, how to change the perception that someone isn't a slacker if they don't want to try to be all things?

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  2. I've never tried to have it all, never wanted to have it all. If I'd had a baby, I would have stepped back from my day job for a while. When I was in school, I didn't write as much. I don't think there's anything wrong with recognizing our limits and making choices; I don't think we should feel obligated to cram our days to the point of exhaustion, or try to be all things to all people.

    It's true that our society could make those choices easier, though: allowing parents of both sexes to transition in and out of day jobs more easily, allowing more flexible work schedules--and conversely, for schools not to hold events for parents in the middle of a workday. In my generation, I see a more equal sharing of domestic chores between men and women, but in the generation just ahead of mine, women still took on most of them, on top of day jobs and parenting.

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    1. Great points here, Jenn. The author of the linked article talked about the younger generation having more realistic expectations for themselves and being more willing to cut themselves some slack. She was dismayed, however, by how older women who should be mentors being hard of them.

      I also agree that this isn't a "woman problem," it's a society-wide problem. Younger men are beginning to do a better job of realizing work-life balance is something for everyone. But the older generation of men still holds most of the positions of power, and they need most to be influenced to change.

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  3. I think it is hard to try and do it all...something hast to give and for me, it's the job. My family comes first...so yeah, I don't get to blog as often, or write as much as I want, or work full time somewhere else...but I get to spend more time with my kids and not have to have daycare. It does mean my work struggles, but I would rather have that than my family struggling...so I guess it's that mentality that enforces the not "having it all" as well. I realize that I probably won't be one of those authors that cranks out 20 books a year or whatever so my husband can quit his job and I can support us fully etc...I'm sure there are moms that do that...but I bet it's very few and far between.

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    1. Something does have to give. The author talked about how many young women like you are putting careers on hold rather than making themselves miserable. Many people can do a particular paying job, but ONLY YOU can parent your own kids.

      She is saddened however that higher-ups in companies don't value people who do this when they return to work, and that first-wave feminists can be outright hostile to young women who don't act like men and glibly sacrifice family for career.

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  4. Gosh, what interesting points. I think that anything will require sacrifice and time away from other pursuits. The authors I've read about who put family first are inspiring and they do things like write in the middle of the night which I'm not sure I'll be able to do. I think it's possible with compromise, though. Maybe instead of churning out multiple books a year, one a year is more realistic for these cases. There's nothing wrong with that! Also, I read this cool response to that article:

    http://www.salon.com/2012/06/21/can_modern_women_have_it_all/

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  5. Family is a big part of the reason I'm not moving quickly on my writing. I refuse to put anything before them. And then the job has to come next. Then the writing. It's tough! But at least it's always interesting :)

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