Motherhood Mondays: Work/Life Balance

Work/life balance is a topic near and dear to my heart. Sarah Lacy just wrote a BRILLIANT post about every woman’s individual path to finding balance as a mother. My favorite line might have been…

“Every woman I know who feels like she ‘has it all’— and there are many — has done it in a unique way.” She reminds us that the key (which the sensational media often ignores) is that everyone’s definition of “having it all” is different. You have to figure out what it means to you. I love her passionate encouragement that “having it all” is both personal and possible.

Read her inspiring post here. Bravo. What does “having it all” mean to you?

P.S. 15 working mothers share their efforts to find balance.

(Photo of Toby and me when he was four months old. Balance article via Swissmiss)

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  4. Thanks for bringing this issue up on your blog, Jo. I love this site! I think it is so important that women share their experiences in this area and learn from each other…but still, as Sarah emphasizes in her post, remember that everyone’s values and priorities are different, and having a fulfilled life looks different to each person. For me, a balanced life involves writing, because it is my passion, and when I have kids one day I believe I will continue to work in my chosen field (in some manner) because I am a better, happier person when I do what I love. To me, having it all involves loving my life, feeling connected to others and living my values.

    As a side note, I really want to learn from other women’s experiences with work-life balance, but it seems difficult to open the discussion without stirring up heated, insensitive comments (seems like they come up everywhere the topic is discussed online). I find this so frustrating. I think we can only move this dialogue forward and learn from each other if we choose to step back from our own perspectives and try to be more open-minded and respectful. This comment board is much better than most though!

  5. The happiest people I know are those who wake up every day and try to “give it all.” The people I know who live their lives trying to “have it all” are without exception the least happy. Ironically they seem to have the least when it’s all said and done.

  6. I started working PT a couple months after having my LO because it was working for my dad, and my step mom cared for him…But the first few weeks were so hard! I felt like I wasn’t doing anything, the house was messy, I was adjusting as a new mom, and i just didn’t feel like I had it all..Then when I started working PT, I felt like I had a different purpose but didn’t feel like I was failing as a mom for not being there 24/7 with him. I think for me, having it all is being able to, alongside my husband, financially provide for our family, And see the smile on my baby’s face. I like having both things in my life- family and job..Sure sometimes it feels like we need more hours in the day to enjoy it, but for the most part I like being a mom and wife, and working too

  7. Everyone already said a lot of what I was going to say… but one additional thing stuck out to me. Her mentioning being “middle class California” Last time I checked or talked to people who live in San Francisco, it’s pretty expensive. I felt like she was trying to prove she was “one of us” but it rubbed me the wrong way. Maybe because I’m middle class South Chicago… haha, which is a world apart. :)

  8. I actually read Lacy’s piece first before I read Slaughter’s article, so I was expecting it to be horrible. However when I did zero in on it, what I found was one woman’s thoughtful, thorough and personal experience of trying to have a fulfilling career and family life, her struggle with barriers and her personal reflection of her conflict. While I don’t agree with all of the points made, how can I cut her down? At the very least we can all give her props for being honest and opening up this discussion.

    Sarah Lacy’s piece also has valid points and I took in her very different experiences also, but unfortunately I found it to be a little more simplistic and her tone abrasive and distracting from her message. I agree that to some degree we all have the power to wield free will, shape our attitudes + make personalized decisions. However I think it’s so much more complex than that. Political and socioeconomic factors still play a part and it should be acknowledged in our discussions and Slaughter at least addressed that. To present day: Why are women still getting paid only .77 to every 1.00 men make in the U.S.? Why does the U.S. still lag behind other countries on issues like family leave (for both men and women)? etc. A woman in a CEO position, like Sandberg, will have a vastly different experience than a woman supporting her children with a low paying job.

    More than ever today, we as women have more freedom to choose who we are and what we do (We are not relegated to sewing, child-rearing and shopping duties; family dynamics are changing with fathers helping out more than ever; women are closing the gap between male and female enrollment in college). Yet there are still roadblocks and I think it’s safe to say that for most two-parent families and single parents, the amount of responsibility of child-rearing is usually, though not always, taken by the mother which in turn can and does affect a woman’s career. Throw in work culture, beliefs, status, policies and structure: how do they in turn all fit into this debate?

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think Slaughter is simply saying in her experience, ‘What are the consequences of trying to foster your career growth and raise a healthy, happy family? What needs to change?’ And Lacy is stating, ‘What are your priorities? We can make a positive choice through our words, attitudes and actions: one that makes sense to us and is tailored to our well-being and our family.’ Sandberg says, ‘Roll up your sleeves and give it all you’ve got. We need women at the top to make positive changes for future generations of women.’ And all of a sudden, I’m confused. Why can’t we pull out the positive in all of their ways of thinking and use it in a new recipe to use for the good of the cause?

    I tire of the woman against woman drama (media-wise or other) and maybe a little bipartisanship is in order . Maybe if we judge less, listen more, bash less, embrace honesty, extend respectfulness towards each other’s experiences and fine tune our efforts to find common ground, we can work towards shaping a more family-friendly work environment and foster self-fulfillment. It just seems more conducive than bickering and pitting ourselves against each other!

    • I totally agree – we could do so much with all of this information, instead of just batting the issue back and forth we could look at the common concerns and how to make conditions better for working women.

  9. I definitely think this article contributes to the Sanberg/Slaughter media frenzy that Sarah Lacy is so quick to descry, and equally quick to cash in on. I personally loved Slaughter’s article in the Atlantic because she acknowledged her journey of motherhood in such a distinctly personal way. Does anyone remember that a huge factor in her moving back to New Jersey was to be closer to a teenager that was struggling? I feel like that is such an essential part of the debate. A mother’s duty often revolves around a child’s need, and no one can predict, judge, quantify or typify that. As the mother of a child with special needs, I can say that many of the solutions (economics aside) that work for these families would not work for ours. Read Emily Rapp’s new book from Penguin about parenting a child with Tay-Sachs, and try to make either of these theories even halfway logical in perspective

  10. I dont really care much for the term ‘having it all’ or any other terms for that matter. We all become mums for our own reasons and as adults can decide for ourselves what is the best way to raise our children ie. whether or not to work/not to work, to use organic nappies/non organic, daycare/homecare…the list goes on. If we as ‘mothers’ cared more about our children’s wellbeing and how we are setting an example for them and less on terms and the way things ‘should’ work, we would be in a better place.

  11. I don’t see the purpose of Slaughter’s article or Sandberg’s book as addressing whether women and mothers find happiness in their individual choices or are satisfied It’s about addressing the gap between fathers and mothers achieving success in their careers and attaining positions of power. Women are earning post-grad degrees equal to or in greater numbers than men in a variety of subject areas. and yet since Slaughter graduated, tons of fathers are at the top of their fields and very few women are at the top of theirs. And the women who have made it to the top are either women who did not have children or entered their careers after their children were older. Fathers of children of all ages are achieving positions of power. Why? Yes, of course, we define what it means for us to have it all & what it takes to makes us happy. But that isn’t the point. There are structural barriers that make it very hard for parents, and mothers in particular, to fully commit themselves to their careers while their children are younger. And if it is difficult for women with some means, i.e. can afford childcare, then how are women without means and childcare support facing these challenges? The best-case scenario is that compromising our careers just means that we might hit a ceiling on how far we can go or we achieve greater success later in our lives. And maybe we’re all just fine with that and don’t see that as problem worth addressing. The worst-case scenario and the reality for a great many mothers is that they can’t support themselves independently. And that is dangerous. Our labor structure is designed and built on the free labor that women have provided to parent their children. We need good parents, we need them to raise decent, capable, and independent children. And raising kids is labor-intensive and time-consuming. Slaughter’s point was that if we want to see as many women as men reaching the top of their fields, having influence over the way the world runs and have the freedom to financially support themselves independently, then something has to give. We have to deal with the structural barriers inherent in the working world to balancing family life with work life. One person can’t be responsible for it all, it can’t just fall to women and if all parents are going juggle both family and work hats there has to be flexibility or it can’t be done. It’s great that many women have figured out how to opt-out & work for themselves, truly. But what kind of blinders must you wear to expect that is possible for all parents? Flexibility is only possible if you work for yourself? And how does opting out of a system that is designed to monopolize all of our time, deal with the problem that out of three women sitting on the supreme court, only one has children while every single man on the court is a father. My beef with Sandberg is that it’s all well and good to encourage women to lean in, but without structural support how are mothers suppose do that, exactly?

    And I’m kind of wondering what universe we live when where a woman who is a tenured professor at Princeton & was appointed the Director of Policy Planning at the State Dept. can be considered a failure? She shared her struggles as a way of discussing the challenges to working and parenting, but a failure? Really?

  12. I agree that the tone of this article felt defensive and critical. It did not leave me feeling accepted. I felt worse. I felt like if I didn’t have a high profile career, a healthy marriage and well-adjusted children I was falling short. Since becoming a mother I have declared myself “in-defensive-of-mothers.” There are just so many ways to do it.
    I love what Alex R said about “”You can have it all” can become the rallying cry of the privileged, and implies that if women DON’T have it all, it’s because they didn’t work hard enough. This leaves unexamined issues of poverty, affordable child care, unequal distribution of domestic work, and more. The author is right that working women and mothers each have different experiences, and it is our society’s inability to account for those differences that Slaughter challenges.” So well said!
    People need different things to feel fulfilled. Go, find your own way, and if you are so lucky to feel happiness don’t let mom guilt or societal judgments bring you down.

  13. This article is really fantastic and highlights the very thing I said when I first read Slaughter’s article in The Atlantic, having it all means different things to different people and just because her interpretation of having it all didn’t necessarily work out for her, doesn’t mean that it can’t work for someone else. Frankly, I was disappointed in The Atlantic for propagating such a ridiculous notion. I think that the whole idea is that you give yourself options and pursue your interests, find what works for you, and set yourself up to have choices and make a decision that works best for you and your family unit. I have a one year old and I spend at least one day a week redefining my own ‘having it all’.

    Haute Child in the City

  14. Can you please do a post about break ups? As much as I love reading Motherhood Mondays I would love to hear what you have to say about surviving a breakup! I’m only 15 and a going through a break up with my best friend of two years… help. :)

  15. Gotta say I agree with people above–the article you linked to is a misinterpretation of Slaughter’s piece, not to mention ignorant of the larger social issues that Slaughter was a addressing and far more bitter than Slaughter’s piece. It’s too bad; it would be nice to have better discourse about it.

  16. This article did not resonate with me, not because of the topic, but because of the tone. The author says, “In the case of Slaughter, I’m sorry It didn’t work out for her to have it all. But I don’t see what the hell that has to do with Sandberg, me, or any other working mom. Why should she get to continually inflict her bitterness over her own choices onto everyone on the planet with ambitions and a uterus?”

    Wow; try a little sisterhood. Slaughter’s article was not a manifesto of her own bitterness, but an important reminder that life remains difficult for working women, and that a combination of unrealistic societal standards and lack of formalized supports does nothing to alleviate–and in fact contributes to– those difficulties. It “has to do” with the author, and Sandberg, and me, because the standard line that “women can have it all, as long as they work hard enough” does nothing to break down the still-existing barriers working women face.

    “You can have it all” can become the rallying cry of the privileged, and implies that if women DON’T have it all, it’s because they didn’t work hard enough. This leaves unexamined issues of poverty, affordable child care, unequal distribution of domestic work, and more. The author is right that working women and mothers each have different experiences, and it is our society’s inability to account for those differences that Slaughter challenges.

  17. When I was an undergrad, a prof (who had one little kid then, and has 2 now) in a class on contemporary women’s fiction, suggested you can have it all, you just can’t have it all at once. It’s stuck with me. I think there’s some truth in that.

  18. I find it interesting that she harshly condemns Slaughter for being bitter, when this whole post takes on a pretty bitter tone to me. She seems to be preaching acceptance that everyone has a unique experience, at the same time that she discredits someone’s experience pretty harshly. I also find that she is very insensitive about the wealth issue and pretty much misses the point- of course wealthy entrepreneurs like Bill Gates should be business role models!! Successful businesses naturally accumulate wealth. Successful mothers do not, necessarily. And I would argue, that although ALL mothers have an insanely difficult job ahead of them, mothers who are not wealthy have it harder. And this also does not make them less worthy of being role models- you don’t know their histories and what have kept them from being ‘wealthy.’
    I guess I read the bitterness as her being not completely secure in her declaration that she “has it all”. A red flag to me is that she says herself she doesn’t have many friends. I understand that her point is that everyone’s definition of having it all is different, but I’m suspicious of the idea that having friends isn’t important..
    Don’t get me wrong, the part that you quoted is great- she just seems inconsistent in arguing that point.

  19. To me, having it all can only happen if I live in a country with policies and businesses that support families through paid maternity/paternity leave, support for breastfeeding, etc. I actually thought Slaughter’s article touched on these points very well and while Lacy and Sandberg speak many truths, I thought Lacy’s attack on Slaughter clouded the impact of her message.

  20. Thank You Joanna!
    Very inspiring and thought provoking post.
    I think as any mom would agree, posts and articles like this get overlooked and we miss out. Really appreciate your blog as a go-to for great brain filling.

  21. To me, “having it all” means being a 100% mother to my son and future children. I think that is the most important work I can do, and while I loved being a teacher, I did not want to be a 50% mom and 50% teacher. I love being able to dedicate my energy to raising my son. Of course I need time to myself, and my husband spends alone time with him quite often so I can get out, but I am so glad that I don’t have outside stress taking my resources away from motherhood.

  22. A very interesting article that touches on so many points. I do agree with a lot of what she says, but I also really hand it to Slaughter for being so frank and open with her own situation, as a lot of the things she wrote are true.

    One thing that drives me crazy is this facade that is perpetuated, largely in the blog world, that a lot of women are completely taking care of their kids while also working full-time at home. I’m not saying Lacy is doing this, but she is not clear on whether she has help i.e. nanny or babysitter while she works her 80 hours a week at home and runs a start-up. I personally find it impossible to get anything substantial done in terms of work if I don’t have help while I’m giving myself maternity leave to take care of my three-month old. Naps are not a sure thing and only last so long!

  23. Thanks for the post, Joanna. But does anyone else besides me feel WORSE that everyone’s situation is different?? Maybe I am alone, but I have NO IDEA what works for me, and I am having a really hard time figuring it out. This is a very timely, raw subject for me…as in, tears-to-my-husband-last-night raw. I just started back to work (for myself) after baby #2 turned 6 months a few weeks ago. I do not take a salary, as I have a relatively new interior design business that is not yet profitable. And I have no one I know personally that has a situation like mine. Who do you ask for advice and help if every mother’s situation is different? And as I found out a few weeks ago, even the same mother’s situation is different after each baby (it was a BREEZE going back after baby #1 because she slept all the time). I guess I just wanted to say that it is very disconcerting to me that all the advice I have gotten doesn’t seem to mean much because everyone’s situation is so different.

  24. I really liked this piece about the whole business by Bridget Williams on Business Insider:
    At least we’re all having the conversation, though. There is a lot of good in that.


  25. i found her article shameful, really. that it’s individual women who need to bend reality to meet our needs instead of advocating to change reality to support working parents, mothers and fathers, is cruel and self-serving. it’s nice and all that some women have the means and the power to forge ahead without having to compromise their careers or their families because they’ve managed to find the flexibility sweet spot. but i guess the rest of us who haven’t been able to opt-out from more traditional employment where employers have the power to monopolize our time, like melissa mayer’s own employees, just lack the creativity and intellect to make their careers work for them.

    as kj dell’antonia has said: We are all in this alone. eff that.

  26. I don’t see how that piece was any more even-handed than anything else out there. She sure took a piece out of Slaughter.

    I think the point that is being missed here, because everyone is so busy defending their own lifestyle and picking sides, is that career-family balance isn’t only personal, it’s political. I thought that Slaughter made that point very well, and to dismiss her is to ignore a huge part of the issue of balance. Judith Warner writes very well on this topic as well.

    • This comment has been removed by the author.

    • Agreed. We should be advocating for a reality that supports families not hyping up our individual choices to work around the system as the answer to challenges that working parents face.

      I also think that KJ Dell’Antonia over at Motherlode does a great job on this topic as well

  27. Oh my goodness I’ve been trying to write a post on this for months… my bottomline is that having it all means that you don’t have it all – not all at once. Which brings me to a new struggle on prioritizing my life! :)

    (p.s. love the photo)

  28. I posted her article in my Friday Links. I love it and thanks for sharing this with your large audience. I think it’s important that we all figure out what ‘having it all’ truly means to each one of us.

  29. Hi Joanna thanks for sharing this. I am one of the peope who selects the topics for discussion for the women’s group at my compnay, and we are going to discuss what “having it all” means to you and the article you’ve cited above at our next meeting.
    Thanks for this!

  30. Thanks for a much needed article, I have been feeling a bit overwhelmed lately being a single Mother of three.

  31. I really like this point — “Definitely tune out anyone who tells you you can’t have it all, because she struggled. That’s like a failed entrepreneur telling other hopeful entrepreneurs that no one can ever succeed at building a company, because they didn’t. “

    It’s a good perspective.

    We ultimately decided that my son would go to day care full time and we would both work full time (9-5). The deciding factor for me was knowing that he would have care and attention and socialization and love at day care, while if he came to work with me, or I worked at home, I would struggle to pay both him and my work attention. So, it’s worked out and we’re ok with it. and we love and appreciate and are present when we are with him.

    Also, my definition of “having it all” means going to work, having a baby and getting a good nights sleep. So some nights we have it all. Others we definitely don’t!

  32. However we can expand the discussion on work/life balance and how women do it is great, whether you agree or not. My one issue with all the attention on individual women is that it does not always acknowledge the privilege that goes into getting to make the “choice” as to how to pursue work/life balance or even deciding what “having it all” is. I wish we could all unite and decide to advocate for policies that would help all women be able to make the choices that some of us get to make. Paid family leave, paid sick leave for yourself or to care for a child and affordable, high-quality daycare at workplaces or in neighborhoods would all be measures that would make life easier for a majority of families.

    • Exactly. I’m so sick of this conversation where most mothers have to make huge sacrifices in their lives, careers, or bank accounts without having a conversation about family leave, maternity leave, affordable and high-quality child care that women in other first/second/third-world countries get to enjoy. It would have never crossed my mother’s mind to go part time or sacrifice her career because she had access to highly subsidized quality child care.

  33. Thank you so much for sharing this article, Joanna.

    Exactly what I needed as my husband and I are getting ready for the final wrap of our second pregnancy and considering different options for a childcare and career/family balance when we become the family of four in May… It helps me to just FOCUS on who we are, what we do and what we believe is the best for our family instead of feeling guilty about making some choice over another.

    Have a great week and let’s get to work:)

  34. Honestly, after two kids, I don’t think you can have it all. It’s just my honest opinion. But hey, I do believe that you can try your best to make the most of it. Motherhood is a unique experience. I wouldn’t give it for anything, so it’s okay to let go of minor things like monthly facials and such.

  35. scribbling that having it all is both “personal and possible” — love how well that is worded and how loaded that phrase is with wisdom and the reassurance that personal satisfaction and one’s own happiness is not about achieving societal norms but personal goals. thanks so much for sharing, and i love that sweet picture of you and toby!

  36. I struggle with having it all, and going back to work full time with a 20 month old has mde me realize, I’d rather have a work-life balance. The MOST important thing for me is to be present with my child. When I’m with her, I’m completely with her, not worrying about work I have to get done. I thought working at home would make that balance easier, but instead it’s a struggle to find time to play with my daughter and get work done. In the end, the kids win out, and I am thinking of working part time in order to be more present with my child. I’m still ambitious,but I might channel that in other ways rather than working full time.

    In the end, when I go to bed at night with my child and hubby with me (we co-sleep) I am always thankful, and that is when I feel I have it all.

    xo green gable

  37. Like the quote and the point it makes, but do not like the remainder of the article or its tone. By attacking Slaughter, who has bravely put her own thoughts about “having it all” out there and who has repeatedly tried to debunk the media induced “feud,” the author plays into exactly what we should not be doing — judging other mothers and their views as to what it means to have it all. As a corporate mom who is pushing the pause button for a bit in terms of advancement in favor of a more reliable work schedule while my kids are young, Sandburg’s type of success is not for me at the moment, but I respect her views and her attempts to address these issues with young women. I don’t see the need to attack either women for their views, as they are both an important part of the dialogue.

  38. Joanna, I like how this post has struck a chord with both mothers and future (or non-) mothers alike. My fiance and I would like to start our family within the next two years, and I’ve always known that I want to stay home with my children (and possibly homeschool through the younger years; I’m a former teacher).

    As an anxiety-prone person, I’ve stressed out over this not because I personally have an intense desire to stay on a career track (I would be neither happy nor satisfied working 50-60 hr weeks outside the home), but because of the seeming impossibility of having a one-income household in a major city. Everyone’s “have it all” is different indeed, and with mine being to stay home for a few years, I’ve done a lot of adjustments in my thinking of what “having it all” means to me.

    It’s about sitting down with yourself and figuring out which priorities you hold highest and then working out what sacrifices you may need to make in order to put those things first.

    • *Though I realize that no amount of sacrifice may make a one-income household possible for families who struggle financially… which is where the issues RB brought up come in.

  39. I find that deciding what your personal definition of “success” is is the most important step to being successful. I have found this in my research as well, which has to do with parenting, that subscribing to someone else’s definition of success can set people back immensely! I can’t wait to read the article. :)

  40. Thanks for sharing – I also find this tremendously helpful. I’m a working mom with a 14 month old who is hoping to have other kids soon. I’ve faced some real challenges in making all this work (not a 9-5 job, not a flexible job, recurrently sick kid, no family close by to help out), and also had some real resources to draw on (a wonderful work team, a heavenly husband to share parenting with, and a fantastic kid who makes it all a joy, except for the part where I have to spend so much time away from him). Some days it feels like a little part of me dies every day when I leave my son. Some days it feels like I’ve got it all in balance. Every time I’ve revisited my choice to continue working, I have returned to the same decision: working is what’s right for myself, my family, and my son. But it has never been a choice that has come easily, and it has never been something I could answer by looking at the women around me.

    That said, I can and do get wonderful support from other mothers who are also struggling with these issues, each in her own way. Which is why I find it so appalling when moms are so eager to cut each other down for making different choices. (E.g., don’t agree with Slaughter or Sandberg? No big deal! It’s been a useful conversation.) Let’s all cut each other and ourselves a little slack. This life thing is TOUGH, and we all need all the help we can get.

  41. I don’t have kids yet, but my mom used to say that the biggest gift you can give your kids is to love their dad.

    I think that is so wise, and really, the key to “having it all.” If your marriage is alive, vibrant, and the centerpiece of your home, it’s the rock for your family to stand on.

    Most women around the world do not have a menu of career choices before them, and yet, by cultivating their marriages,it is within the power of all women to have a family that cultivates whole children and loving relationships. No matter the circumstances, no matter how many “choices” you have about your life as a woman (working, SAHM, working a rice paddy in the developing world), love your kids’ dad, and you’ll have it all.

  42. RB says...

    I’m so glad you posted about this — I’ve been reading the back-and-forth between Sandberg-Slaughter (and even Meyer) voraciously.

    I think that while it’s important to remember that “having it all” is a concept unique to each woman, I agree with Anamaria (9:26 a.m.) that Lacy misses the point about why Sandberg’s wealth is an issue: it allows her “more” of the “all.” She doesn’t have to clean her own home, buy her own groceries, or even spend time budgeting for those groceries and related household items. Just as Marisa Meyer was able to maintain her status and tenure at Yahoo! by taking some of her $117 million contract to build a nursery on the side of her CEO suite. These luxuries allow both women to “lean in” further to their respective professions, without having to sacrifice time with their children. In other words, they get “more” of their “all.”

    Finally, I am disappointed this topic remains mostly a “women’s issue” (with some interest by caring fathers and men as well). By allowing this crucial issue to be solely a women’s concern, it takes the onus off of businesses and the government from having to make meaningful changes in favor of balance and families.

  43. This is a great reminder not to beat each other up about our choices and what brings us each balance and happiness – but I have to say her attack against Slaughter seems unwarranted. Part of what was so powerful about “Why We Can’t Have It All” was the point that there are a lot of structural barriers to women being able to feel comfortable with their roles as workers and mothers. When we have terrible choices for health care, for child care, for commutes, for housework, for health food, then these aren’t individual choices at all. Parents – actually, all workers! – are too often expected to work crazy hours that don’t allow them to balance anything, and that’s a problem that’s larger than just motherhood, but the whole culture of work that’s becoming more and more demanding (worker hours have gone up steadily since the 1970s). When we have a more equitable society that allows women and parents to feel comfortable with who is caring for their children and how they earn money, then we can really talk about choice and individual versions of having it all. There is still a lot to fight for, a lot we need to change in our employers and coworkers and government. But we have to stop fighting each other before we can do that!

    • I agree that the attack on Slaughter was a little bit unnecessarily harsh. If nothing else, she did open a really important dialogue, and I think that’s important! I kind of appreciate the fact that the author of the article included MEN, though. It is not just women who struggle with the work-life balance. I understand that it’s definitely still more of a “women’s issue,” but I think it’s unfair to act like this is a dilemma that only women have to deal with.

    • Yes, Sarah! I agree! I am even questioning whether the author actually read Slaughter’s article. Slaughter herself has said, many times, that the media’s “Sandberg-Slaughter” stand-off is inaccurate.

      I completed my graduate degree with a toddler and a newborn and the ONLY female professor in my department gave me just one piece of advice–hire a full-time nanny. I literally laughed out loud. As if that’s an option for all of us. I think that’s the kind of attitude Slaughter tried to portray as unhelpful and counterproductive. I so appreciated the way she pointed out societal realities that I face on a daily basis.

    • I also think her characterization of Slaughter’s article and intentions is way off. Slaughter opened up the dialogue on this topic which in itself is a very imporant step forward. Her point is that many women don’t have the option to make the choices that give them the best balance. Everyone should have those choices. Slaugher also does not want to be the anti-Sandberg and it is the media, and people like Sarah, that are painting her as such. Slaughter supports Sheryl’s message and recommends her book.

    • rk says...

      YES! Sarah Lucy, PLEASE READ BEFORE YOU CRITIQUE. I don’t even think she read Slaughter’s article. Slaughter raises very important issues about practical obstacles in the modern work force that hinder a woman’s success.
      “I fear that the obstacles that keep women from reaching the top are rather more prosaic than the scope of their ambition.”
      Her point is that saying “You can do it!” is not enough. We have to talk about HOW we are going to do it. How are we going to change work hours and decrease pressure to travel and increase how acceptable it is to work from home.
      Silly critique that paints Slaughter in a narrow, pessimistic, condescending light. She is saying more women need to be in leadership roles so that the entire system can see some change.

  44. it is such a personal struggle to find that work/life balance. some days i feel like i’m failing at everything — being a mom, a wife, a friend, a colleague, etc. there must be a balance where i can feel satisfied and hopeful — thank you for reminding me to define happiness and fulfillment n my own terms.

  45. I vacillate between feeling like I “have it all” and feeling like aspects of my life need more attention. I work flexibly from home so I’m with my daughter much of the time, earning an income and advancing my career, albeit more slowly than I was pre-parenthood. Most of the time this feels AWESOME! But, there are definitely times when I feel my daughter needs more attention than I can give or that work is suffering because of family obligations, or I get focused on how difficult it is to work out or spend time with my husband. Basically, I’ve noticed that, for me, “having it all” is all about my attitude towards my life!

  46. Who was it who said, “You can have anything you want, but not everything you want?” For me that resonated. You need to find out what is most important to you and go for that. For me trying to do everything at once, especially with kids at home, is crazy-making.

  47. I am excited to read the post about balancing motherhood and work. I am single, childless, and young in the career world. However, I’ve already spent a good deal of time thinking and discussing the topic of balance in relation to a family, first as a wife and then as a parent. Marriage and motherhood may not be in my future, but if it is I want to be the best wife and mother I can be.

    The first issue I ponder is balancing my husband’s and my own career (and, of course, marriage). The second is balancing careers and parenthood. I’m excited to see it all transpire and look forward to working at it with my husband one day.

  48. I’ve juggled and balanced working, staying home and working opposite shifts from my husband over the past 25 years. It’s been tough but staying focused on what’s really important was key for me.

  49. This is such a big topic, even pre-kids. I was once told that you can have it “all,” but just not at the same time. I’m not sure if that’s true, but I like not feeling pressured to make everything happen at once.

    • “you can have it all, but not all at once.” i got the same bit of advice in my early 20s, and it’s stuck with me as i’ve been a stay at home mom and now as a working mother who might end up becoming the primary breadwinner in a few months.

  50. Have it all is relative, impossible to have it ALL, but you can have all that is important for you, and if you have those important things you will be happy! I am in the way for that, little by little

  51. I miss that mush toby. Who was that little man running around your house talking it up?

  52. Totally agree. And as a mother of three young children I can say that I have, finally… realised that you can have it all, but, not at the same time. Life goes in phases. Accept the phase you´re in and look forward to the coming. Caroline

    • Such a good perspective! :)

  53. The subject of having kids is becoming so big in life that I might have to read this book!! =)

    Ergo – Blog

  54. I love this. I’ve written a lot about how “it all” means different things to different people. Furthermore, I think it means different things at different phases in life. xoxo

  55. Thanks for linking to that article. For someone who is thinking a lot about this as she gets ready to start a family, it was very interesting and struck me as very true how we balance different aspects of life is dependent so much on our circumstances and personalities. And priorities: it seems to me that although she says she’s disagree with Slaughter, that is exactly Slaughter’s point. She also misses the heart of why Sandberg’s wealth is an issue. It’s not the wealth, per se, it’s that she doesn’t have to do any house work! That is quite a bit different than the rest of us. My husband and I currently split all the housework evenly; some days all we do is work, come home, and do house work- we don’t even have kids yet! That’s exhausting.

  56. This article is fantastic and just what I needed to hear today! I currently don’t have any children, but I am recently married and struggling to figure out how this new identity as a wife is supposed to meld into my identity as a friend, sister, co-worker, etc. Even though the article is geared toward working mothers a lot of her words hit home when she talked about finding what works for you and your spouse alone.. Definitely takes the pressure off of me to try and fit into the mold of other women! I will definitely be saving this article and rereading it when I have kids and undoubtedly go through another identity change as a mother! :) Thanks for sharing this!

    • Amen, Jenna! I’ve been married for 2.5 years; we don’t have kids yet, and I just finished graduate school and am transitioning back into the working world. Because school consumed a large part of our marriage so far, I’m really beginning to explore and struggle with finding my identity and balancing the demands of life (even without children). It’s tough to balance marriage and the needs of your spouse with a career, friends, and time for yourself…especially as you’re cultivating a new marriage.
      I do think it’s key to figure out what works with your spouse. We recently started having weekly meetings to discuss our schedules, goals and plans for the week, etc. It’s been a huge help in communicating and being intentional about finding balance. Good luck to you as you journey through this phase of life!

  57. Thank you for sharing this! Currently, I’m the mother of a 2 year old and 6 months pregnant. I have two jobs–an office job in publishing that has great benefits but requires a traditional 40+ hour work week; and an adjunct teaching gig that is about as part-time and flexible as you can get, but is a total dead-end career wise. I’m faced with the dilemma of stepping out of my career (again) in order to stay home with the new baby, or to keep my job and hand over 90% of my salary for quality daycare, but maintain my place on the ladder. And I’ll tell ya: the little I’ve read about this is just awful! I can’t believe how judgmental women–mothers!–can be! But this article reminds me that I know what’s best for me and that I need to just trust my instincts. Thanks!

  58. I don’t like the phrase ‘have it all’ because it puts so much pressure on women to show they’re doing things right. I think the quote used above puts it brilliantly, it’a a time you have to look internally and work out what works best for you and your family and to hell what the rest of the world thinks! It’s so hard as we live in a world of constant comparison, which is why the only road to happiness is ignoring every other mother who seems to be handling things more elegantly and having the courage of your convictions. There’s no wrong or right way to be a mother as long as you and your children are happy and healthy :)

  59. I love this quote! I am a stay at home mama, and have been for 6 years now. There are times I miss my former career (I was a school social worker), but this life definitely takes the cake. Through blogging and frequent visits with friends, I absolutely do feel like I “have it all.” And once my kids are all in school, I have all sorts of dreams for my time!

  60. For me having it all is being a stay at home mom. Clothes, vacations, new lip gloss and whatever other shiny thing I might enjoy buying and using – all pale in comparison to being with my little girl everyday! :)

    • I’m with you!

    • Gosh. That sounds like hell to me. I love my kids but I like my own life and I think it is good for them to see me have some independence and work. I think having it all means that I can work AND be a mother AND be a wife. I think children really benefit from knowing that their parents can love them and work. I would go crazy if I couldn’t leave for a few hours every day.

    • I don’t see how you can possibly have it all when all you have is your child’s life to live vicariously through. People like you are the people who become Helicopter Moms. Yikes. No thank you. I want my children to actually want to talk to me when they’re teenagers. I have no problem with someone staying home to raise their kids but when nothing is better than raising your child I think it is probably time for a lobotomy.

    • Just as I would never accuse a woman who maintained her career outside of the home after having children of being neglectful and selfish [in fact, I have nothing but the utmost respect for them – having been raised by one myself] I can’t imagine why a person would accuse women who chose to stay home as helicopter parents in need of a lobotomy. Really women, I expect better of our gender!

    • Hear hear Elyse Reagan. Life is hard enough for us all without the feeling that we are being judged for our decisions regarding parenting/childcare/work. I think there is no RIGHT ANSWER each way of doing things has its’ own advantages and disadvantages. The only thing I am realising in bringing up my own children and trying to work part time is that these precious years are slipping away from me so quickly.

    • I’m really disappointed to read such critical comments on cup of jo- the readers here are usually better than that! each to their own, there is no one way of doing things and no need to pass judgement over those who do it differently to you.

    • i think that there are many different situations to working moms. Working full time, outside of the house, from let’s say 7am to 6pm, is one thing. Having a part-time job in the home or only for a couple of hours a day is something else completely. We all have our own personal situation and i believe that we all do our best and love our kids as best we can. personally, i grew up with a full-time working mom, and having wished she was around more, i decide to be home with my kids. that doesn’t mean i didn’t try working, and that doesn’t mean that i don’t work a bit from home. it also means that i try not to judge working moms. judgement gets up nowhere. As long as we find the time to fulfill our own personal needs, as well as being there as much as we can for our kids, and love and support them no matter what, they will turn out alright…

    • Well said, Elyse! I never understand this “us versus them” mentality. Whether you’re a stay at home mom or you work outside the home, being a mom is tough stuff. Let’s not make it harder by attacking each other.

    • Oh my. I’m with Elyse. I found many of these comments cringeworthy. I think the most important thing we can do as women is support each other. I want the next generation to understand that women can be stay at home moms or working moms and that dads can be stay at home dads or working dads. I think anyone that denies balaning family and work is a challenge hasn’t met any parents! In my humble opinion we all need to jump OFF the judging train and start sticking up for each other! Be nice!

    • I am with you Lindsey McLean. I am a stay-at-home Mom of 4 kids and have it all. I am my own boss. I schedule what I want when I want. I run an excellent home (didn’t say perfect:) I started on the ground floor…(In the corporate world you start by fetching coffee, or printing things, or doing the tasks no one else wants and work odd hours. I changed poopy diapers and cleaned up toys a lot, and slept and showered odd hours) But I have earned my place in my home. I am proud of what I’ve done. I am there for the quantity and quality moments (that can’t be arranged in reality. C’mon, how many of those “arranged” quality moments end in tears, anger, or disappointment?) I have many interests and projects and things I do. When I want to learn something new I go learn about it. I read all the books I want to. I spend time with my husband every day and go on dates with him twice a week. I do things alone. I do things with friends. We throw parties. I am involved at church, the community, and my children’s schools as much or little as I choose. My kids are now 16, 14, 12 and almost 10. My children share things with me that I would have never shared with my own mother. They see the hard work I do, the fun I have, the successes, the failures. I would not trade those early years for anything. And my work isn’t done. Through the teenage years it is just as important to be home. Seriously, I have it all and wish every other woman could too!

    • Why would you have to “earn a place” in your own home? That seems like a weird thing to say.

    • While I wince at the judge-y tone in some of the replies, I think I understand what brought it out– the idea that working mothers work because they want vacations or new lip gloss more than they want to be with their kids, even if the first comment wasn’t meant in that manner, the implication could be inferred from it. The truth is, there’s no good reason to look over the fence and judge someone else’s life. But be careful when talking about what works for you, that you don’t judge other people in the process.

      Seriously, ladies, let’s lay off the More-Mom-Than-Thou routine.

    • KGIB- I was trying to compare the way someone might work up the corporate ladder. I’ve invested in my home and family. That’s all:)

    • I think that mindfully regarding our own expectations is what determines whether we can ‘have it all’. I may not wish for all the career accomplishments some women want just like I don’t eat exactly the same food they do. Someone’s dream of a perfect dinner out may be lobster, caviar, oysters and martinis. I would not like to have any of that. Sure, it is associated with wealth and a cultured palate… but why would I try to crave something just because other people crave it? Give me a thin crust margarita pizza and some wine, please!

      It is exactly the same with ANYTHING in life. The work we choose to do, the home we choose to live in, the clothes we wear… why is it that we are constantly being pressured into wanting specific things because other people want them? I have wanted to be a mother for as long as I can remember (I’m not there yet). Not because I think it will complete me as a person, or because I have some jaded view of what motherhood really is… but because its what I want to do. Sure, I also think its healthy to fill my time with more than one thing, and I plan to do just that. Do I think there is anything wrong with working mothers? Technically, EVERY mother is a working mother so no. I think that women who have jobs outside of their home and their children deserve huge credit! I can only imagine how much hard work that is! However, no one should be subjected to those first few comments (I believe the word lobotomy was used?!?!?!?!?! Do you realize what that means?)

      I, for one, want to have MY all. All of the things I am passionate about. To those women who want things that are different to me, I respect you. Do what you want, have YOUR all and no one can take that away.