Mona Charen
Anne-Marie Slaughter's eye-catching Atlantic article, "Why Women Still Can't Have It All," is being greeted with a certain reverse snobbery. We've been reminded that the choices and challenges of women with advanced degrees are hardly typical and not the sort of thing that should divert us from the problems of the middle class.

Perhaps. But there are millions of women in the upper middle class and the culture they create and reflect affects everyone. Besides, Slaughter deserves some credit for honesty. As she recounts in the piece, when she mentioned to a friend that she was considering writing that women can't have it all, the friend was adamant: "You can't write that. You, of all people." Slaughter explains: "... such a statement, coming from a high-profile career woman -- a role model -- would be a terrible signal to younger generations ..."

Slaughter, the "first woman director of policy planning at the State Department," had been one of those reliable soldiers in the "mommy wars" who had assured young women that, of course, they could have a satisfying career, a high income, a loving husband and 2.5 ego-gratifying, low-maintenance children whose problems wouldn't intrude when they "sipped champagne" at a "glamorous reception" hosted by President and Mrs. Obama. But she has discovered that the "have-it-all" catechism was a lie. Even with a supportive husband who was willing to "take on the lion's share of parenting ... (while) I was in Washington," she found that she didn't want to be away from her two teenaged sons, particularly when one was having trouble in school.

"Want" is the critical word here. Slaughter made a choice, as adults do. She writes, "I realized that I didn't just need to go home. Deep down, I wanted to go home. I wanted to be able to spend time with my children in the last few years that they are likely to live at home, crucial years for their development into responsible, productive, happy, and caring adults."

Slaughter's wants mirror those of other women (high-earning and otherwise). A 2007 Pew survey found that among working mothers with children 17 and younger, fully 79 percent said that they would prefer part-time (60 percent) or zero (19 percent) work outside the home. Only 21 percent said they would choose full-time employment while their children were young. This was down from 32 percent who preferred to work full time in 1997.


Mona Charen

Mona Charen is a syndicated columnist, political analyst and author of Do-Gooders: How Liberals Hurt Those They Claim to Help .
 
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