Reflections On “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All”

 

why-women-still-cant-have-it-allI am a little over four years late, but this weekend I discovered Anne-Marie Slaughter’s article in The Atlantic“Why Women Still Can’t Have It All”. The article pulled so many of my heartstrings that I knew I had to share my reflections on the blog today. Although the article was written in 2012, it is still, if not more, relevant today. Had I read it four years ago, before I was a mother, it definitely would not have touched me and fired me up the way that it did this weekend.

The Problem

“Why Women Still Can’t Have It All” is a lengthy piece, but I encourage you to read it in its entirety. Although a working mother juggling a career and family will likely relate most to the article, I believe both men and women of Generation X and Y will find value in this well researched and completely honest piece of work.

The background of the article is about Anne-Marie Slaughter’s decision to leave her job as the first woman director of policy planning at the State Department in Washington D.C. in order to be more present and available at home for her two teenage sons. The piece discusses the pull and demands between work and family life and the core of the article is that although great strides have been made to provide opportunities and advancement for women in the workplace, women today are facing an entirely different problem.

The problem is that more and more women of younger generations are leaving the conventional workplace in order to care for their families. The reasons behind this are many, but they include the lack of flexibility conventional workplaces provide for working mothers, the fact that women are getting married and having children at an older age, usually around the time that their careers are picking up or peaking, and the differences between men and women when it comes to balancing work and family.

How I Could Relate

Although I was far from a position as prestigious as Ms. Slaughter’s, I had taken pride in my work and felt accomplished in the job I was able to obtain for one of the biggest companies in the world. As I read the article, I could relate to almost every obstacle and uncomfortable situation described.

For starters I have always been extremely career driven. I take pride in the work I do both big or small and have always advanced in every single job that I have had since graduating from college. In my 20s, I never in my wildest dreams would have imagined that I would leave my career when I did. I also never could have imagined the way my children would change me.

I spent my 20s working and discovering who I truly was. While many of my friends that I had grown up with were getting married and starting families, I still felt too young to put those types of responsibilities onto myself. I got married when I was 27, which now still seems fairly young to me. I was pregnant a year later while I was working and attending law school part-time. Having experienced a year of the demands of law school I knew I couldn’t balance a career, school and a new baby – well if I ever wanted to see that baby. Something had to give, so I dropped out of law school.

In a little over a year I became a wife, mother and the breadwinner for our family. As Anne-Marie Slaughter describes in her article, women today are experiencing marriage, motherhood and career advancement all around the same time, whereas in the past these events were spread out over time with a woman generally marrying in her early 20s, having children through her mid 20s and then focusing on her career around her 30s. This may have made it much easier to balance work and family life decades ago.

Although the statistical data on working women has changed, workplaces have remained the same. They have not updated their policies to accommodate the new working woman, which is why many of us have had to make the difficult decision to leave. As I mentioned in my initial post, I had tried to come up with a compromise of working remotely a couple of days a week before my ultimate decision to leave my company. When the request was made to work remotely, however, it seemed like the approval process would be a difficult one and that I was asking a lot of the company.

This is a company that has literally changed the world, however it could not provide me with an answer as to whether I could work from home two days a week in a timely manner. It was at this point that I realized that no one will care more about my life than me, so why was I putting these important decisions in others’ hands?

Striving For a New Norm

Even if my request to work remotely a couple of days a week had been approved, this would have been an exception and not the norm. Ms. Slaughter states in her article the fact that “technologies are making inroads and allowing easier integration of work and family life.” However, she also points out that “our work culture still remains more office-centered than it needs to be, especially in light of technological advances”.

One of her solutions to this issue is to “change the ‘default rules’ that govern office work – the baseline expectations about when, where, and how work will be done”. I view myself as a professional. Whether a project can be completed between 9 to 5 or whether I need to stay up until midnight to finish it, I’m going to do what it takes to get it done.

When I suggest that conventional workplaces should get rid of the 9 to 5 standard and allow people to work when they want and where they want as long as the work gets done, many people have responded that some workers require supervision and otherwise would not work at all if they were given this flexibility. I can understand this, but also have to ask, why would companies even tolerate this type of unprofessional behavior? If this is the case, then it seems that the company would rather have rules in order to manage someone who is unprofessional than to change its standards to keep its best workers happy.

Finding the solution to these modern day problems is not easy, however I want to thank Anne-Marie Slaughter for her article. Because before we can fix a problem or provide suggestions on how to make things better, we need to acknowledge that the problem exists. It definitely exists for me and I have talked to countless women who have described similar situations and feelings.

At the end of the day, this is not just a women’s issue. These issues affect all workers today and bringing about transformation will benefit the quality of life of all employees. It is never easy to bring about change, especially a cultural and societal one, however I believe if more people begin to talk openly about these issues and begin to demand change, then companies are going to have to start paying attention. There are some companies that are moving in the right direction, but again this is not the norm.

I’m motivated to explore these issues in more detail and I hope to be a part of this change. I valued my career and had I felt that there was more balance between my career and my family I would have gladly continued working. As Ms. Slaughter states in her article, when it comes to a choice between my children and my job ‘There’s really no choice’. For the sake of my son and especially for the sake of my daughter, my hope is that they never feel like they must choose between work and family and that they can truly have it all.

Thankful

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No I’m not pregnant 😛 This is three years ago.

Happy Thanksgiving! This year Thanksgiving is even more special because today is also Kuya’s third birthday. I can’t believe that I have a three year old now. I’m so thankful that on this day three years ago I received the privilege of becoming a mother. It’s not one that I take lightly.

Three years ago I gave birth four days before Thanksgiving. After laboring hard for 18 hours, it was the hardest and most rewarding thing I have ever experienced. I still remember the way my little turkey looked when he entered the world. He had his lips puckered and they were shaped just like his daddy’s. Both Nic and I cried tears of joy and our lives were forever changed. I am so thankful for this little boy and the love, happiness and laughter he brings into my life.  

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I’m also thankful for Nic for being my partner in every aspect of my life. I’m thankful for my Sissy Boo for letting me experience the joy of having a daughter. I’m thankful for our family near and far for all of the love and support they provide us. I’m thankful for this journey and thankful for having these moments of self and life discovery. The miracle of life is life itself.

On this extra special Thanksgiving, enjoy the time with your loved ones, savor the delicious food, be thankful for all that you have in your life and if you have children, hug them tight and let them know how thankful you are for them. Stay blessed.

Is it Possible to Slow Down Time?

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I can’t believe it’s already mid-November. Sissy Boo turned 8 months earlier this month and Kuya will be three on Thanksgiving. It’s unbelievable. We moved to Minnesota to protect our time and enjoy a slower pace of life, but it seems like time passes by even faster here.

Granted, we’ve had our hands full with unpacking and settling in, which has taken more time than we anticipated, but in the last few weeks I have really started to question whether my quest to slow down time is an impossible one.

Me vs. Alarm Clock

One thing I was most excited about when I left my job and started working remotely was not having to wake up to an alarm. During my first few weeks in Minnesota I ditched the alarm clock. I felt free, well rested and was finally able to stay up with hubby after the kids fell asleep. Prior to this I was always so tired I’d knock out while putting the babies to bed.

I love mornings in bed watching Sissy Boo wake up and flash the biggest smile as soon as her eyes focus and she sees our faces, or hearing Kuya’s little footsteps cross the hallway into our room as he announces “Here yai am” (Here I am). Morning playtime and snuggles in bed with the kids before we start our day are the best. These are the moments when I can say with complete certainty that I am exactly where I should be.

However, it’s not always sunshine and butterflies in the morning. We have days where Sissy Boo is screaming her head off just wanting to be held or changed or both, and days when Kuya wouldn’t eat much the night before so he’s extra grumpy and hangry and I’m rushing to get myself ready so that I can make breakfast. These are the mornings I remember how an alarm clock can be beneficial.

These not so perfect mornings made me realize that I don’t need to have an all or nothing relationship with my alarm clock. So now I may set an alarm if I feel the need to be more productive which is usually 2-3 days during the week. I enjoy being completely ready and prepared to handle whatever mood the kids are in before they get up. However, if I’m still in zombie mode when my alarm goes off I give myself the flexibility to turn it off and rest until my body or my babies wake me up.

Clocks: Foe or friend?

It seems like every time I look at the clock I can’t believe what time it is. If I don’t wake up before the kids, it especially feels like every minute is slipping through my hands.

I came to a realization this week that if I continue to stare at the clock all day and merely focus on how much I’ve gotten done each time I check the time I’m always going to be sorely disappointed. Instead, from now on I will try and be engaged and present in everything that I do and listen to my body and my surroundings to give me cues on what I should do next.

For instance who says lunch must be eaten by 1 pm? If I’m hungry I eat and if I’m not, I don’t. I’ve been so accustomed to living by these invisible standards that I have lost touch with listening to my body, my mind and my kids – I have relied too heavily on a clock to dictate what I should be doing.

Of course there will be things that will need to be done by certain times and appointments to attend to where a clock is necessary. But other than that I’m trying to learn to live more like Kuya and Sissy Boo.

Neither cannot yet tell time, however when they’re hungry they both know it. When they need rest they show signs of it. If it’s bright and sunny outside Kuya longs to go out and enjoy the outdoors because he knows that it will get dark eventually and then he’ll have to wait a whole night for another opportunity. They don’t worry about the future. They live for the present.

Focus on the Now

Modern technology and modern life can be wonderful, however with it I’ve lost a sense of living simply and simply living which I’m slowly learning is what’s best for my soul.

From now on I will concentrate on what’s in front of me. I will focus on the now and stop always thinking about the next. Maybe I won’t be able to slow down time, but I’ll savor whatever it is that’s in front of me. Perhaps, that was my true quest after all.  

Wherever you are be there. If you can be fully present now, you’ll know what it means to live”. Steve Goodier

Five Things to Consider Before Leaving Your Job

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When I initially decided to leave my job I actually changed my mind a week later and then re-changed my mind a week after that. Because I had a family that depended on the income my job provided I couldn’t just get up and quit.

The process for deciding to quit was as complicated as I was willing to make it. When I played around with the idea I thought about every single detail I had to consider if I quit. Eventually all of the details became overwhelming and I basically ended up talking myself out of it. This is why I changed my mind about leaving.

There are so many things to consider when you decide to quit your job. Narrowing these things down will help make the decision easier. For me, the following are the top five things I took into account before I made the leap and quit.

1. You’re not going to have it all figured out

I am a planner. I plan everything. My phone and notebooks are filled with to-do lists that I continually check off as things get done. Before I take on a big project I sit down and write out all of the steps required in order to complete the project. When I don’t have a blueprint, a checklist or a guide I feel lost. I like when things are straightforward and make sense.

However, life is not straightforward and it doesn’t always make sense. So, if you’re like me and feel the need to have things all figured out before you leave your job, let me be the first to tell you that you won’t. Even if you think you have it all figured out, things are likely to change somewhere along the way – let them.  Having a predictable life may seem safe, but it isn’t always enjoyable. Don’t let predictability be the reason you don’t follow your intuition.

2. Financial Matters

One of the reasons I was able to leave my job at this point in my life is because I had been paying a lot of attention to my finances far before I decided to quit. In my 20s I began to save aggressively and I currently have a pretty diverse financial portfolio. I also have little debt.  When making a decision like leaving your job, you are always going to wish you had more saved and had spent less in the past. Instead of wishing you had more, ask yourself if you have enough.

Enough will look different for everyone, but enough is what will make you feel comfortable to leave. Find out how much you need to survive on a monthly basis and then figure out how much enough is for you – three months of savings, six months, one year or more? Make this a goal worth saving towards, or if you have already saved your “enough” amount, check the financial piece off of your list.

3. Determine what will make you happy in the long run

Many people know that they are unhappy in their current jobs and they may even know the reasons why they are unhappy. However, few people actually know what will make them happy or bring them long-term joy with regard to work. This is why people continually jump from one job to another.

This is similar to that friend you know that is always in a new relationship as soon as he or she gets out of the last one. Before the friend can figure out what he or she requires in a long-term relationship, they are too afraid to be alone and grab the first guy or girl they see that look like they have potential. This new guy or girl looks different on the outside, however internally he or she is very similar to the last partner and you already know that they will eventually break up.

Don’t be afraid to be alone. That’s what your savings is for. To give you that comfort to be able to figure out what it is that brings you joy. Don’t go jumping into the next job, because you are scared you’ll run out of money. You’ll likely become unhappy at some point and never break this cycle.

Find out what makes you happy with work, with life, and write down your goals. From there,  figure out what you can do to make money that includes these things that bring you joy, and what you can do that will push you towards achieving your goals.

4. Talk to others

When the thought of leaving my job entered my mind I really thought I was going crazy. I am so thankful for Nic because he usually always supports whatever insane ideas I bring up, and this case was no different. However, this decision felt so big to me that I needed some validation and input from others.

As I continually told people I was thinking about leaving my job, surprisingly no one flat out told me I was crazy. Most asked what I was planning to do. When I told them I was planning on working for myself, freelancing or contracting, I got funny looks sometime, but for the most part the response was that they understood why I had decided to leave and that it wasn’t as crazy as I felt it was.

When I asked my sister what she thought about me quitting, she reminded me that I had always achieved the things I set out to do, so this should be no different. I had a light bulb moment at this point. I have always been a dreamer and for the most part I have always been able to achieve those dreams, but somewhere along the way I stopped dreaming. When we are young we believe we can do and be anything or anyone we want to be, but as we get older we or society or both make us believe that this is no longer possible. I will never stop dreaming again.

Talk to people, even if you are only playing around with the idea of leaving your job. Especially talk to people who you know will be brutally honest with you. Share your dreams with others. The more you do this the less crazy it will feel. Eventually it will turn into a goal you can soon make a reality.

5. What’s the worst that can happen?

When planning to leave your job you should not only think about the good things that will come out of it, but also consider the worst things that can happen. Most of the time, the worst thing is not as bad as you think. For me, the worst thing that could happen is that I start draining my savings and eventually will have to go back to work a 9 to 5.

Maybe it’s because I survived the Great Recession without being laid off, or that I’ve never felt like a job was beneath me, or maybe it’s because I’m young, but job security has never been an issue for me. Should I have to go back to work, I told myself, it shouldn’t be a problem and I will consider this self-employed time an extended maternity leave.

Set yourself up to succeed, however if it doesn’t work out don’t despair. I know I won’t. At least you can say you tried it, which is more than what most people can say. Life is too short to not follow your dreams, however it is usually long enough where if your dreams don’t work out or if they change, you will usually have another opportunity to create a different path for yourself.

Why I Quit My Successful Silicon Valley Career

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Friday was my last day of work. When I put in my notice before our big move I let my company know that I would be happy to work for them remotely. They took me up on the offer, but only temporarily as they looked for a replacement.

I’m thankful to have had the continuous income during this transition. I can’t deny that I am nervous to no longer have that sense of financial security. However, I am also excited to create the life that works best for my family.

Making Sense of Nonsense

As I went deeper into my career the disconnect between what I was giving up for a paycheck became more apparent. As a recent college graduate, I was stunned when I realized that I only had two weeks of vacation a year. This calculates out to about 10 days that I could claim for myself. 10 days out of an average of 250 something work days. Suddenly college life didn’t seem so bad. There were long breaks that allowed for rest, rejuvenation and adventure. College also consisted of more freedom – no one told me where I needed to study or write to my papers. They only told me when those things needed to be done. I didn’t have to report to anyone if I didn’t feel like going to class. I also had the ability to choose my schedule.  

It didn’t make sense to me that the professional world didn’t follow similar guidelines. However, like most people, I just accepted that this was just the way that life was. That there wasn’t anything I could do about it. Maybe one day I’d make it to the top of the corporate ladder, I thought. Then I’d be able to dictate my life and schedule.

Well, I never made it to the top of that ladder. I’m afraid of heights anyway, so it was probably best that I never did. If you read my first post, you know that I had tried to get my work schedule to align with my personal goals, however with Sissy Boo only a few months old and having not received any confirmation, I decided that I simply did not have the time to spare and needed to take matters into my own hands. I was ready to reclaim control of my time because no one else was going to do it for me.

Leaving the Box

I was listening to a podcast before I decided to leave my job. The episode was about placing a mouse in a box from birth. The mouse believed that there was nothing outside of what was in the box because that was all it knew. However, once it got older, the mouse was released from the box. It then discovered that there was this whole other world outside of the box.

I also hope to discover this other world. A world where you can provide for your family but don’t need to give up 40 or more physical hours a week. The world has changed so drastically in the last few decades. Technology has made things so much more efficient, yet people are working more now than ever before.

Who am I?

As a society we are so attached to our work and careers. Many of us, myself included, have forgotten or have never even discovered the things we love to do. The things we are passionate about outside of work.

I worked for one of the biggest tech companies in the world. I took pride and felt accomplished when I landed the job, but at the end of the day a job is just that – a job. It doesn’t define who you are, what you care about, and it shouldn’t be the main or whole source of one’s identity. What would you do with all of your time if you never had to work again? I am just beginning to try and answer this. There are plenty of people who are not completely happy with work, but have made enough money or have enough passive income to retire, yet they choose not to. I believe part of the reasoning is because their careers have become their identities.

Success is highly tied to money and a career, but these things don’t tell you much about a person at all. They don’t tell you what brings that person joy, what fears they wish they could overcome and the values they hold close to their hearts. While I was trying to do what was best for my career I forgot about the things that were best for me as a human being.

Learning more about myself and rediscovering my passions is what I’m most excited about for this next phase of my life. This post isn’t a bash on the corporate world and it isn’t a call for everyone to leave the workforce. What it is is a plea for you to be honest with yourself. If that little voice in your head is telling you something isn’t right in your life because of your job or career, don’t ignore it. Listen to it and let it lead you to the life you were destined for.