Nobody Has It All: Careers We Can Believe In

By now, lots and lots of people know that Anne-Marie Slaughter doesn't have it all. Even though she was extremely high-powered, as Director of Policy Planning for the U.S. State Department under Hillary Clinton for two years, she was not a perfect mom during that time, getting on a train to Washington, D.C. each Monday morning at 5:30 a.m. and returning home late Friday night. Her teenage son wasn't talking to her and her 12-year-old was more bonded to her husband than to her.

She says everything's better now that she's back to her normal “low-powered” job: teaching at Princeton, writing 12,750-word cover stories for The Atlantic, and traveling around the world on the speaking tour in her off-hours. She's more able to be flexible for the inevitable crises of teen boys, and she has a lot of time to think about how the world — especially the U.S. — is set up all wrong to let women be the superstars of home and career we all believe they should be.

If I sound snarky, it's not intended. I'm so much like Anne-Marie, except for the part about “extremely high-powered” and “Hillary Clinton” and “Princeton University.”

I'm Anne-Marie Slaughter!
We're all Anne-Marie Slaughter.

My story began in high school, where I was student body president and valedictorian and an editor for the paper and a “Royal C” athlete. I won a scholarship to a prestigious small liberal arts college and got a degree, with honors. I vaulted straight into investment banking, then Ivy League MBA program, then Merrill Lynch. I got into dotcom management. I was a COO at 29.

This is when I also became pregnant with my first child, a move I blithely thought wouldn't make much difference.

It made a difference to my bosses.

I left that job under bad circumstances (though my boss later hired me back for another project, apologizing for his hasty judgment of me back then) when I failed to successfully juggle 10+-hour days and an infant. By the time I was pregnant with my third boy, I was working for AOL in another pretty high-powered job. One of my bosses announced she was stepping down and I angled to replace her. I had all the requisite experience and skills. The timing was perfect!

They said my impending maternity leave had nothing to do with the fact the job was given to a man (who I admired, to be sure) who had no children.

A year-and-a-half later I was, to be honest, failing. My job really required 10 or more hours a day of absolute focused dedication. My oldest child was — like Anne-Marie Slaughter's — having very desperate behavioral problems, requiring frequent meetings with school officials and early pick-ups. My youngest child was given to angry fits in which he would pull every single thing off my desk and bookshelves. My middle child seemed sweet, but he was seriously speech-delayed and would end up being diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (a mild case), only after I'd insisted on not one, but two, months-long and very involved educational assessments.

“I need someone who can give more than 100%,” said my boss.

“I can't do that,” I said.

I Quit
I quit my job that day. It was the best “quitting” I've ever gone through; I transitioned seamlessly into a freelance position that paid fairly well and required zero conference calls and never ever a traffic report or meaningless growth spreadsheet. Over time I would accept less work when my kids were having a really hard time, and more when they were doing well. I let my husband take over as chief breadwinner (admittedly, this is still something we're working out; it's not easy for either of us, and you'll probably see a column from me soon on money and relationships). I began to have more time to devote to my real passions, including more literary writing. Eventually, I won an award that gave me a leg up into other opportunities, and realized one day that I was traveling upward in another career.

One day some other parents and I decided we should start a parenting literary magazine. And I vowed to myself as I began to never let any of us put this project before our kids, our spouses, or our parents, no matter how great it was or could be. But I don't think any of us have to vow to each other, because it's just assumed. It's part of our fabric now.

What Anne-Marie Slaughter Can't Have
I think Anne-Marie Slaughter did a pretty good job of setting up what she called “revaluing family values.” Her premise is that caring for a family should be as respected as any other work/life balance decisions we make. She compared devoting time to the needs of children to devoting time to training for a marathon; or following an observant faith tradition. Later she suggests that family-friendly policies are an innovation whose time has come.

What she doesn't mention is that it's not only young children who need to be re-valued, but all families; and, in my opinion, this whole life that is outside of work, that everyone has outside of work. Except for some creative pursuits (I often tell myself that, for a writer, every minute of every day is part of my work), there is no job that can exist without some life outside of it.

“Real Life.”
In a discussion on the radio here in Portland, I couldn't help but call in and tell my story. Later a man called in who said something like, “You mothers need to stop complaining about your kids and get to work! That's your real life, work!”

I can't agree. I believe that a career — even a super rewarding career made up out of whole cloth, like mine, or a super important career, like directing international policy or working in a pediatric emergency room — should never be “real life.” Real life is what your career should support. And any time your career is encroaching so much that you have no real life, that you are calling in to radio stations and claiming real life equals work, I fear that you may be missing the point of all this.

There may not be plentiful jobs out there, but there are plentiful ways of finding a better life by making different choices. They are things we talk about every day here at Get Rich Slowly, whether it is choices to rent an apartment instead of buying a house; or riding a bike or taking the bus instead of driving; or sending your kids to public school instead of private. Whatever job you have, I guarantee that there is — somewhere out there — a job that demands somewhat less than all of your life.

Family First
You know the cliche about people on their deathbeds never saying, “oh, I wish I'd worked harder!” (It's cliche, but true.) Whether you call your offspring and your spouse your family; or your siblings and parents; or you've created a family that's less traditional, with neighbors and friends not connected by blood; I doubt anyone really wants to be the guy or gal who has achieved everything that our society agrees equals “having it all” at the expense of any loved ones.

My friend and babysitter used to work at the airport, preparing airplanes for the wealthy people who have their own. He was telling me Tuesday night about a billionaire who has every success one could imagine: He founded one of the biggest companies in the world. He was vastly wealthy and dated famous, beautiful people. He owned sports teams. (I won't go on, because it'll be too obvious.)

But every time he got into a jet or a limo he would sit in his seat without talking to the people around him, nearly all of whom were always paid employees. He was alone and silent. Perhaps once he arrived at one of his mansions or apartments he conducted some richly happy life, but to all appearances he was miserable.

Getting It All
Whether or not the billionaire is happy is beside the point, really. I have my own life, and I will probably never found one of the biggest companies in the world. I probably won't get the Nobel Peace Prize nor work for the President. I think back to that job I wanted when I was pregnant with my youngest and I am only happy I didn't get it. I think back to my life as an investment banker and remember how great the work was, how great the money was, and how conflicted I would be every day if I did that now.

I'm happy now — stressed and busy and not at all wealthy and happy. And if I could give job seekers any advice it would be to tell all about how much you love your family in that interview. “I can do the job and will do it well,” you should say, “but I do love my time with my kids/spouse/siblings/rich community of friends.”

If you're not hired because of this, I would be willing to bet this will avoid a future of conflicts over which is, indeed, your “real life.”

Note: I think a whole-life job can be done for a few years, and you can get a lot of value out of that, if only because you'll see that whatever other choices you've made are better. And sometimes dire circumstances make it necessary. But as a career, I can't suggest making your job your “real life,” for any reason.

More about...Career, Psychology

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Ru
Ru
8 years ago

If you had a high-powered and, by the sounds of it, well paying job in your 20s and knew you wanted to have children, why didn’t you save up money from that so you could afford to slow down a bit once you’d decided to have kids? I don’t understand people who want to have children but also want to work such long hours that they never really see them. You created them, you owe it to them to be there for them. I barely knew my dad growing up because he was always at work or on a business… Read more »

Lyn
Lyn
8 years ago
Reply to  Ru

But doesn’t this all just go back to “Do what works for you”? There’s no single answer for what is right for every family – AND things change.

G
G
8 years ago
Reply to  Ru

When I was in my 20s, I had no idea what it would be like to raise children. I thought day care was just what parents did and that there weren’t stay at home moms anymore. You are way ahead of the game if you are in your 20s and already know that kids need their parents around. I am 42 with kids now and I know better now.

Nicole
Nicole
8 years ago
Reply to  G

Gee, that’s funny, I’ve got a perfect kid and another on the way and somehow we’re managing to raise them, spend time with them, and send them to daycare/school during the day while we’re engaging in our full-time careers. Did you know that parents can “be around” AND send their kids to daycare because daycare isn’t 24/7? Hard to believe, I know. On top of that, time-use studies find that historically there’s been no difference between the amount of interaction working moms do with their kids and SAHM do with their kids. Both sets seem to be getting it “right.”… Read more »

Jane
Jane
8 years ago
Reply to  Nicole

Was the study just considering “quality” interaction between parent and child? If not, how is that even possible? This just sounds like a defensive argument. I find it disingenuous when working moms say that it is the quality of time that matters not the quantity. Yes, quality does matter, but it always seems to be to be a swipe against stay at home moms – as if somehow we are sticking our kids in front of the TV all day and/or ignoring them. The reality is quality AND quantity matter. I’m not even saying this because I think working outside… Read more »

LaurS
LaurS
8 years ago
Reply to  Nicole

Bravo Jane. Bravo.

Nicole
Nicole
8 years ago
Reply to  Nicole

No. The ATUS does not study “quality” time. It records “time interacting.” SAHM do things besides interact with their kids, believe it or not. Back in the day, they even used to be able to let their kids play outside on their own with roving bands of kids… shocking in this day and age, I know.

Have you ever tried to interact with a child constantly? That’s not even good for a child.

Nicole
Nicole
8 years ago
Reply to  Nicole

Also: there are advantages to kids interacting with more than just one adult. Do you really think that the high quality preschools that many parents send their kids to just lock kids up in a dark closet all day? Seriously? And what about all those horrible SAHM who allow their kids to go to public or private schools instead of homeschooling them on their family compounds? They must be doing terrible things to their children as well. Mommy wars are BS. SAHM vs WOHM doesn’t make a lick of difference in how “well” a kid turns out. My kid is… Read more »

Jane
Jane
8 years ago
Reply to  Nicole

“Do you really think that the high quality preschools that many parents send their kids to just lock kids up in a dark closet all day? Seriously?” It seems that you are arguing against someone else entirely here. I certainly never said such a thing. Moreover, I said MULTIPLE times that children at home OR in other scenarios end up just as well-adjusted and healthy. But you clearly stated that working parents interact with their children as much as stay at home parents. This is impossible. Do you think I lock my children in a dark closet while I clean… Read more »

Rosa
Rosa
8 years ago
Reply to  Nicole

10 hour workdays are not the norm, though. They’re not good for anyone, including parents. I nannied for a family with 10 hour work days (and hour commutes each way) and that did NOT leave time with their kids when the kids were awake.

Kate
Kate
8 years ago

I actually do work for the equivalent of the State Department in another country, so her article took on another layer of relevance for me. The rebuttal article The Atlantic shared, by a woman with Arabic skills who “chose not to go to Iraq” for the sake of her family made me more than a little annoyed, but that’s a bigger tangent than I’m willing to go on here. I actually wanted to submit this as a reader question, but I think it fits just as well (or better) here. I am a woman. By the definition used here, a… Read more »

Holly
Holly
8 years ago
Reply to  Kate

As another wife/primary breadwinner, I feel for you Kate. But it sounds like you are an intelligent, accomplished woman with great experience. As long as you have an emergency fund you will recover if things don’t go as planned.

Charlotte
Charlotte
8 years ago
Reply to  Kate

Do you think your husband’s words about ”if I’m giving up earning trajectory and career aspirations for yours, I dearly hope you do something important with them” place fair expectations on you? Or asked another way: if a woman said this to her husband, would that be fair? I’m not sure one way or the other. Women are usually the ones expected to give up earning trajectory and career aspirations for the sake of the family. In this case, the man is being asked to give up his earning and career power. His response is to expect his sacrifice to… Read more »

chacha1
chacha1
8 years ago
Reply to  Charlotte

I think it’s a fair expectation if the partners have the same values. Not all couples do. By that I mean, if one party thinks it is extremely important to the world to facilitate diplomacy, and is willing to give up personal stability in order to travel wherever his/her work is needed, the other person has to agree that this work has value. If the other person thinks diplomacy is a waste of time or that foreign aid is throwing money down the toilet, well, that’s not gonna work. 🙂 I think the conventional model of the woman sacrificing for… Read more »

jim
jim
8 years ago
Reply to  Charlotte

I think its certainly fair and reasonable that if your career is going to take a back seat to your spouses career that you ought to expect them to hit some level of achievement in their career. Its absolutely fair and reasonable for a wife or husband to expect that. If one career is put above the other then its based on the assumption that career has more potential and value. How much achievement you ought to reasonably expect or put pressure on your spouse to aspire to is another matter. I mean its certainly reasonable to expect your spouse… Read more »

SLCCOM
SLCCOM
8 years ago
Reply to  jim

I noticed that her husband didn’t say “earn lots of money.” That is kind of neat.

Kio
Kio
8 years ago
Reply to  Kate

Kate, I have similar feelings as you! I was raised to know that I could do any career if I worked hard; that being a female should not hamper my dreams and aspirations. I became a Computer Engineer and make great money. In my head I always assumed that I would *never* need a man to ‘pay my way,’ but I also assumed that my man and I would make comparable salaries. With the economy slump, my husband’s industry has taken a huge hit. He is an incredibly hard worker, but I have been the breadwinner for most of our… Read more »

Lance@MoneyLife&More
8 years ago

It definitely can be a struggle and I am definitely not gonna argue with that. The thing I don’t get it why these article always focus on solely women struggling with work life balance. I know that the woman is the one who has to have the pregnancy and I know it isn’t common but what is to say the dad doesn’t want to be the go to parent after the kids are born?

Holly
Holly
8 years ago

Lance, I’m not sure how old you are or how much contact you have with fathers or children. IME, boys are less socialized to provide child care. (When was the last time you heard an adult ask a little boy, “How many babies do you want to have when you grow up?” How many boys do you know who babysit after school?) As a result once the kids come, many assume the child’s mother will take the lead with child care & household management. My husband, who has grown into a wonderful father, was afraid to do anything with our… Read more »

Janette
Janette
8 years ago
Reply to  Holly

Excellent article. My husband was the primary bread winner until our kids hit middle school. I then went for my dream and became the primary bread winner. Neither of us were a part of the state department- but we both did some interesting work. My husband was excellent with our middle/high schoolers. He was a disaster with young children. I was the opposite. Once the kids were out of the house for good we both worked like crazy and saved our retirement nest egg. It is possible, but you have to be patient and not need it all at the… Read more »

Jenifer
Jenifer
8 years ago

Men RARELY have to choose between a family and a career.

Kristi
Kristi
8 years ago
Reply to  Jenifer

I’d argue that men (even now) rarely think to choose between family and career. Ninety-odd percent of the time career comes first and family fits in around the edges. The difference between this generation and our parents’ generation is that many men are more willing to question the effect that this emphasis on career is having on both themselves and their kids. Many men now try harder to get away from the office for their kids’ soccer games or dance recitals. And of course there are far more men now functioning as the stay-at-home caregiver than there were 25 or… Read more »

bon
bon
8 years ago
Reply to  Jenifer

What on earth is this comment based on? Men – like women – have to consider their families in the time they commit to their careers, where they can and cannot work/move, how much they travel for their careers, and how much they need to earn in order to support the size of a family.

-(a primary bread-winning woman)

SLCCOM
SLCCOM
8 years ago
Reply to  bon

There is a huge difference between considering the family and choosing between a career and family.

chacha1
chacha1
8 years ago

At its most basic, it’s because men don’t carry pregnancies. Even if a man is “expecting” with his wife or partner, his employer knows that the man is not the one having to go to prenatal appointments, not the one potentially sentenced to weeks or months of bed rest, not the one at risk of post-partum depression, not the one whose body is to expel a 7 to 9 pound package via a conduit the size of a Red Bull can. The man won’t be breastfeeding or pumping, and won’t possibly need surgery to repair a separated abdominal wall. So:… Read more »

Lindsay
Lindsay
8 years ago
Reply to  chacha1

The husband can and should attend prenatal appointments, and men can get postpartum depression. Fathers need to have paternity leave so they can help out, because it’s not fair to expect a new mom to be able to do anything other than feed her baby and try to sleep while the baby needs to eat every 1-2 hours. If fathers got paternity leave, there would probably be a lot less postpartum depression!

Laundry Lady
Laundry Lady
8 years ago
Reply to  Lindsay

My husband actually did suffer from post partum depression and it really affected his work. But it’s not an easy thing to diagnose, though it is much more common in men who have previously suffered from depression.

Patti
Patti
8 years ago
Reply to  chacha1

This is also called discrimination.

Kio
Kio
8 years ago

Lance, I think you bring up a good point! I think most of our society is still struggling with the concept of non-typical gender roles. This means bread-winner working women are still expected to take care of the family. It also means that men are expected to be breadwinners and NOT take care of the family. In a lot of workplaces I’ve heard comments towards my male co-workers like “Why do you have to pick up your sick kid from school, isn’t that your wife’s job?” Comments like this are totally unfair to both moms and dads. I think the… Read more »

Lindsay
Lindsay
8 years ago
Reply to  Kio

“In a lot of workplaces I’ve heard comments towards my male co-workers like “Why do you have to pick up your sick kid from school, isn’t that your wife’s job?” Comments like this are totally unfair to both moms and dads.” Maybe they have stay-at-home wives? That is the only case where this comment might be appropriate. I have a coworker with a stay at home husband and I’ve wanted to ask her that when she had to take off to pick her kids up, “Why doesn’t your husband do that? Isn’t that his job?” But I didn’t, because it’s… Read more »

Rosa
Rosa
8 years ago
Reply to  Lindsay

Working women usually pick this up. It was a habit me & my partner fell into when we were both working (partly because he thinks of his job as Much More Important than mine, so he’s more willing to send a sick kid to school.) Except, he gets a lot more PTO than I did, so after a while I ran out and he had to start doing it. After that our deal was, because of my job’s absence policy (less than 24 hours notice = sick day, not planned PTO; too many sick days = fired) he always took… Read more »

Hungry Hippo
Hungry Hippo
8 years ago

Hi Lance, (I only have time for a quick answer) My husband wants to be a stay-at-home dad once we have kids. However, that will probably only happen after our kids are toddlers/preschoolers–in my opinion, the baby needs the mother more in the first year or two of life. This is largely because of breastfeeding, if the family chooses to go that route. Of course some women can pump their milk and bottle it so Dad can feed the kid, but that requires her to have the time and space to pump while she’s at the office. However, actual breastfeeding… Read more »

schmei
schmei
8 years ago
Reply to  Hungry Hippo

I am the sole breadwinner of our household and my husband is the stay-at-home dad. Our son is also breastfed, and takes bottles of pumped milk during the day when I’m at work (where I pump). When I’m home, we nurse. I’ll admit that I have a very supportive work environment (I’m one of 4 women in my office who have been nursing mothers within the past 3 years), but I just want to make clear that The Boob is not the sole reason for a woman to be the stay-at-home parent. If the roles were reversed I think my… Read more »

Nicole
Nicole
8 years ago
Reply to  schmei

I extended breast-fed (yes, I’m one of *those* women) and my son did not get a drop of formula. He didn’t even start solids until around 8 or 9 mo (wasn’t interested). I also got literally 3 weeks off of my job because I was not covered by FMLA. (Two weeks of vacation, one week from a freak snowstorm.)

Pumps are amazing technology, and having one’s own office is great. Not all work environments can support pumping, but they should.

Lindsay
Lindsay
8 years ago
Reply to  Hungry Hippo

I am the sole breadwinner and have a baby exclusively breastfed, and my husband takes care of her during the day. Pumping takes about 40-50 minutes out of my day at work, so I have shortened my lunch breaks and usually make up the time by getting in earlier and/or leaving later. I am fortunate to have a job where I can do that, although I think with the ACA passing, workplaces will now be required to provide a place for mothers to pump, and required to offer breaks to do it.

Lindsay
Lindsay
8 years ago
Reply to  Hungry Hippo

I disagree that the baby needs her mother more during the first year or two of life. The baby needs both parents. They need time with their fathers, not just dad-time under mom’s supervision, because dads interact with their kids in a different way and it’s just as important for their development.

Marsha
Marsha
8 years ago

I ended my career as an engineer when my older son was a year old. I saw that I wasn’t going to advance without putting in 60+ hours each week, which I wasn’t willing to do. We were very fortunate that I had the option to stay home with my son since my husband had a good job with great benefits. We hadn’t let our lifestyle grow to need my income, so we only had to give up some of the “extras” when I quit. Most of my income was eaten up in childcare, extra taxes from being in a… Read more »

Hannah Swain
Hannah Swain
8 years ago
Reply to  Marsha

“If I hadn’t quit my job, we could afford one of these houses.” Then I realized that I saw no kids playing, even though it was a beautiful day. All the kids were in daycare and their parents were slaving away so that they could have houses that didn’t have time to enjoy and play equipment they seldom got to use.”

This. Thank you.

Nicole
Nicole
8 years ago
Reply to  Hannah Swain

Hm… Alternatively…

After a wonderful and fulfilling day of productivity at hir career, working parent fondly watched the kids playing happily together during preschool pick-up.

It isn’t all about Stuff. And preschool isn’t all bad.

Holly@ClubThrifty
8 years ago
Reply to  Nicole

Exactly.

Being a working parent doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom.
I love my job and find it very fulfilling creatively and emotionally. I get off work and pick up my children from their daycare. They are happy to see me and we go home and play, eat dinner, etc.

I can afford to stay home if I wanted to….but I don’t want to.

And there’s nothing wrong with that.

Laundry Lady
Laundry Lady
8 years ago
Reply to  Nicole

Yes, the key is what do you want? We have discussed my returning to work several times in the last year or two. I was even offered my old job back more than once. We have a 3 year old and a three month old. I’m always looking at the financial perspective, we could really use the money to help us pay off student loan debt faster and start saving toward some of our dream. But my husband always comes back to the heart of the matter, do I really want to go back to work? In my case, the… Read more »

Holly@Clubthrifty.com
8 years ago
Reply to  Nicole

Laundry Lady- I think that makes a difference. Even after I pay for daycare, my financial contribution is quite substantial…plus I carry our health insurance. If my pay equaled more or less what I pay for daycare, then I’m sure that would lead to less job satisfaction. Who wants to work for free? I don’t. In my particular situation, I love working and what I get out of it. I also feel that the money is definitely worth me working out of the home. On both of my maternity leaves, I tore my house apart cleaning and organizing. Of course,… Read more »

SB @ One cent at a time
SB @ One cent at a time
8 years ago

I had the similar discussion with my boss recently. I told him the same thing, my career is not everything I have. Unfortunately he, being workaholic himself, didn’t agree. He showed me many examples of people in the top tier who are spending 12 -15 hours daily. He bluntly told me if I wanted to go up I needed to work that much. I am putting more than 10 now and coupled with my blog time, I am really suffering in the ‘real-life’. I can’t quit either and it’s not that I don’t like the job. I like it and… Read more »

Kelly@thehungryegghead
8 years ago

It is unfortunate but true that people are working increasingly longer hours in the corporate world. In order to move up you have to put in the time.

Over the past three years my husband averaged 80 hours a week excluding vacations. That is how he got promoted twice.

But there is no guarantee that just putting in the time will get you a promotion as your work needs to be great as well.

Rosa
Rosa
8 years ago

it is really hard to do your best work 80 hours a week. I really feel like companies with this expectation are setting themselves up to fail.

passingby
passingby
8 years ago

why does it have to be either rich and miserable or a regular joe and happy! it is like telling people oh don’t let these rich people fool you with their lifestyle. they chose the money and therefore they are not happy and will never be. and to prove it we tell friends stories of miserable rich people! I happen to know few rich people (i’m talking of seven figures or more rich) and they look and act very happily. they love their jobs and spent time with their families and they love them back. no one is saying i… Read more »

Hannah Swain
Hannah Swain
8 years ago

I’m a young (well, 27, these days) professional who may not be COO material, but am part of a highly valued, small pool of engineers who can do what I do. The question of career versus family has been preying on my thoughts since I have found myself in a steady relationship. Even now, it’s strange to realize that I have different priorities – imagine what kids will do! All around me, my co workers are staying late. When I ask why, they say they want to make a good impression. That seems like a very slippery slope to me,… Read more »

EMH
EMH
8 years ago
Reply to  Hannah Swain

The quality of your work should make the impression and not the length of time you stay in the office.

Nicole
Nicole
8 years ago
Reply to  Hannah Swain

I mentioned this down-thread, but Wandering Scientist ( http://www.wandering-scientist.com/ )has a great series about how she’s been able to have a great career (and is a great mom to two small kids, and her DH also has a great career) never working too much overtime because she optimizes her productivity and, now, as a boss, helps facilitate that same optimization for her employees. They meet deadlines because they’re not burning out with the excess face-time. For another view, Anandi at House of peanut ( http://houseofpeanut.blogspot.com/ ) has negotiated a part-time career at a top software company. Her husband also used… Read more »

Lindsay
Lindsay
8 years ago
Reply to  Hannah Swain

I say, train someone to help you. Hire an assistant to do the rote things so you can do the big idea things. Then train them to do the big idea things and offload some of your load onto them! So many people are unemployed, it would be good if all the people working 60+ hours a week decided to start hiring and delegating. A little less money in your pocket, but if the work keeps rolling in, and your assistant is working billable hours, is that really so bad?

Lauren
Lauren
8 years ago

Can we just take a second to marvel at the boss’s “I need someone who can give more than 100%”? How and why do people keep saying stuff like that with a straight face? Not only can’t you have 110%, you likely can’t have anywhere near 100%. Even the most high-powered of jobs can’t possibly actually take more than like 85-90% of anyone’s time or energy. Sure, you can let it eat into your sleep and never go to the gym or cook or socialize, but you do have to get *some* sleep and occasionally have a passing thought about… Read more »

Dogs or Dollars
Dogs or Dollars
8 years ago
Reply to  Lauren

For some reason its this point of pride for workaholics. I work 60 hours a week! I’m beyond reproach. Boo. If you work 60 hours a week, that’s your. fault. Its your choice. And its a bad one. Because there is no way you can do that without sacrificing something. Something meaningful and important. Your family. Your health. Big things. Things that will be with you long after that job lays your @$$ off. We’ve let these martyrs set the bar in our work place. Success is now defined by a neglected family and staying indoors all day. I don’t… Read more »

Ramblin' Ma'am
Ramblin' Ma'am
8 years ago

Also, I think some people are stuck working longer hours because they’re not using their time productively.

KarenJ
KarenJ
8 years ago
Reply to  Ramblin' Ma'am

Because employers value “face time” and no matter how efficient you are at getting your work done (and more) during regular hours, it is assumed that those who put in the extra hours are more serious about their job.

Nicole
Nicole
8 years ago
Reply to  CAC

Laura Vanderkam has also been having a really interesting online book-club for All the Money. http://lauravanderkam.com/category/all-the-money-the-book/

Her school of thought is in line more with, “Work more, make more money, outsource more, save on the big stuff” rather than “Work less, do more at home, save on the little stuff.” Here’s our review: http://nicoleandmaggie.wordpress.com/2012/04/30/all-the-money-in-the-world-a-book-review/

Steven
Steven
8 years ago

Yes!

Jacq
Jacq
8 years ago
Reply to  Lauren

It’s the pointy haired boss phenomenon.
http://search.dilbert.com/comic/168%20Hours

Alice: I can’t keep working these long hours… I deserve a family life.
Boss: Alice, Alice, Alice… This isn’t the “me” generation of the eighties. This is the “lifeless nineties.” I expect 178 hours of work from you each week.
Alice: There are only… uh, 168 hours in a week.
Boss: I expect your family to chip in a few hours.

getagrip
getagrip
8 years ago

Welcome to being a high powered guy.

Why does anyone think it would be any different being a high powered woman?

Kristen
Kristen
8 years ago
Reply to  getagrip

… because society in general expects women to keep their traditional family responsibilities, but add a career to them. Men traditionally have had support at home.

abby
abby
8 years ago
Reply to  getagrip

Because society doesn’t expect men to balance a full time, high powered career, being the perfect parent, and keeping the perfect house. Men are expected to go to work, earn the money, and come home to a spotless house, well-behaved children, a smiling wife and a fresh martini.

Adam P
Adam P
8 years ago
Reply to  abby

I don’t think anyone thinks someone should be both a high powered career woman and stepford wife at the same time. Men don’t do both high powered career and stay at home dad, why should women do both? Or feel bad or unfairly treated if they can’t do both? That’s what this poster is saying (in my opinion). I’m Controller at my company. There was another accountant here who had been here longer and was just as qualified, but she had 3 children (and 3 years of maternity leave) over a 6 year period so I got promoted instead of… Read more »

Jen from Boston
Jen from Boston
8 years ago
Reply to  Adam P

“I don’t think anyone thinks someone should be both a high powered career woman and stepford wife at the same time. Men don’t do both high powered career and stay at home dad, why should women do both? Or feel bad or unfairly treated if they can’t do both?” Well, what should happen and what really happens can be two different things. Women are under a lot of pressure to work just as hard as men but still be June Cleaver. I think this will change, albeit slowly, but for now that’s the way it is. To flip things around… Read more »

Rosa
Rosa
8 years ago
Reply to  Adam P

Are you kidding? Lots and lots of people expect that. About 1/3 of my friends feel bad about working when they have small children, because their moms and mother in laws and random people on the internet and the street tell them daycare is bad for kids and they shouldn’t let other people raise their kids. Another 1/3 feel bad for NOT working because they feel like everyone else is successfully working and parenting and cooking and cleaning and canning and gardening and making it to the beauty salon and having alone time with their partner. The last third either… Read more »

sarah gilbert
sarah gilbert
8 years ago
Reply to  Adam P

Rosa, this is really in reply to you but I guess we can’t nest that far 🙂 I have been crazy these past few days and haven’t had time to respond but YES. the alumni magazine is so hard! and I get three, one for my undergrad and two for grad school (because they send separate mags for the institution as a whole and the business school). I have to read them while taking deep breaths and reminding myself that I am doing what I want to do.

Ely
Ely
8 years ago
Reply to  getagrip

THIS IS MY EXACT QUESTION. Why have men traditionally been so willing to give up time with their families and relationships with their kids, and it isn’t a big deal? Why can’t primary-parenting dads (such as in the original article) deal with the challenges of kids with ‘high-powered’ moms? Why do kids have behavior problems when Mom works but not Dad? Or do they, and no one notices/cares because dads aren’t important to a child’s success??? Why should it be different because of gender? Tradition? The necessity of maternity leave? (In some countries, BOTH parents take leave for childbirth. Why… Read more »

Mom
Mom
8 years ago
Reply to  Ely

Beautifully put. I once heard someone say that feminism failed when women tried to act like men instead of requiring men to shift their priorities to family life.

I hope you are correct and change is coming.

Jacq
Jacq
8 years ago
Reply to  Ely

Anecdotally, there’s quite a few guys in Canada that I’ve noticed lately are taking about 6 weeks paternity leave. This is something you never saw 20 or even 10 years ago. Although the US is usually far behind other developed countries in societal change, maybe there’s hope.

Sara
Sara
8 years ago
Reply to  Ely

Great questions, Ely! Anecdotally, my firm gives 3 months paid leave to a parent giving birth and 1 month paid to a non-birthing parent (fathers and adoptive mothers) — every mother ends up taking at least 3 months (additional time is unpaid), but the fathers rarely choose to take more than a week, if that.

NoTrustFund
NoTrustFund
8 years ago

I recognize myself in a lot of your post so this is a fun one to read. I feel lucky that I had the high paying, no work life balance job early in my career as it makes me appreciate my current job and lifestyle and motivated me to make some big changes. The best thing I did when I had crazier jobs was to save as much money as possible. This has made it easier to accept less lucrative jobs that have better balance. There are two things I see among my business school classmates as we begin to… Read more »

Jacq
Jacq
8 years ago
Reply to  NoTrustFund

No, it’s not hard to find the balance. It’s called “enough” – not “all”. “Enough” prestige and power as well as “enough” money. They’re not necessarily mutually exclusive.

Patti
Patti
8 years ago

I am really glad to see someone take on The Atlantic article here on Get Rich Slowly. I’ve read the article as well as many well crafted responses including my favorite Rebecca Traister’s article at Salon http://www.salon.com/2012/06/21/can_modern_women_have_it_all/ I do think the idea that “We are all Anne-Marie Slaughter” is misguided. This article is about one elite highly educated white woman’s experience. She references how few women there are in leadership positions, in part, demonstrating that her story really can’t be mapped on to others without her privileges and background. People who are struggling to make ends meet are not trying… Read more »

Nicole
Nicole
8 years ago
Reply to  Patti

I was going to point to that Salon article as my favorite response as well. 🙂

I don’t have a response to the actual Atlantic article because … my work-life balance precludes reading things that are so wordy.

I do think, however, that the long hours in government appointee positions are too long and too stressful and most academic appointees do not stay longer than a 1, 2, or at most 4 year term. That’s true no matter what their gender. Regular government employees have more reasonable schedules that they can keep at for decades.

Kristen
Kristen
8 years ago
Reply to  Patti

My husband and I own a business with seven full time employees. The law doesn’t require employers to provide any benefits – sick time, vacation, etc. We choose to provide PTO. I think sick days encourage bad behavior. For those who don’t get sick often, here are 10 paid days just waiting to be taken, that don’t get cashed out typically if you leave your job. Why not just call in sick to work to use one? It puts the employer in a bind. PTO makes more sense. If you’re sick – the time used means you can take fewer… Read more »

imelda
imelda
8 years ago
Reply to  Kristen

I work in Japan, where this is the norm – if you get sick, you use a vacation day. Boy, does it piss me off. Why? 1) Everyone is less likely to take sick days. Which means it takes them longer to recover from illness, because they’re not resting. Which means they are unproductive for many more days. 2) Because they come into work when sick, they spend their contagious days at the office, infecting the REST OF US. 2) Vacation days are a perk. They provide time for you to relax, spend a full day doing something you love… Read more »

Panda
Panda
8 years ago
Reply to  imelda

I agree. The PTO systems I’ve seen just seem to encourage people to come to work sick. My company has ample sick days available (absurd actually) but most people take only a very few when they truly need it.

Ricki
Ricki
8 years ago

Really confused as to why I am reading this here. Where is the relevence to personal finance and money? That there is a small hint of job seeking advice?

Kate
Kate
8 years ago
Reply to  Ricki

Because work/life balance is a part of getting rich slowly.

I’m self employed. The more I work the more I earn. This article is about what would my family appreciate more: me working extra hours and having extra income, or coming home for supper.

I have made the decision to get rich a little more slowly than what I otherwise could be doing. Yes, I need to save for the future, but I also want to enjoy the journey getting there.

Sam
Sam
8 years ago

If nothing else, the Atlantic series, and there are several responses to the original article now on the Atlantic web site, has sparked some good discussions. I am a high powered professional, highly educated, woman. I earn more and work more hours than Mr. Sam, who is also a professional with advanced degrees. We all deserve work life balance, single, married, kids, no kids, etc. And several articles have mentioned this issue. But, I don’t have any great hopes that the work world is going to get better. And while I’m a feminist and happy to help a sister or… Read more »

Marisa
Marisa
8 years ago
Reply to  Sam

As someone who plans to remain childless but still strives for work/life balance, I struggle with this as well. Why do I want a flexible schedule when I don’t have a kid I’m rushing home to see? Well, because I have a spouse and hobbies and things that I want to have time to pursue outside of work. Is having a kid the only way to justify this? I don’t think it should be, but sometimes it sure seems that way sometimes.

partgypsy
partgypsy
8 years ago
Reply to  Sam

I’ve been on both sides of the coin (unmarried no kids, not able to take time off even for my grandmother’s funeral), and now married with two kids, given conflicting advice what I should be using my sick and annual leave for. I totally agree with the idea of PTO days, that can be used for – whatever- don’t even have to specify, just that across employees everyone has and is encouraged to use every year. This would improve conditions for both workers with children AND all other workers who have outside commitments or simply need a better work-life balance… Read more »

Laundry Lady
Laundry Lady
8 years ago
Reply to  partgypsy

My husband’s job has PTO rather than traditional sick time or vacation time. I think it’s great because if I’m sick and the kids are sick he can stay home. (Though sadly last time that happened his boss made kind of a sexist statement about how I really didn’t need the help so my husband should just stay at work.) My husband took two weeks of his PTO as paternity leave. (He would have used more if he had it, but he only gets 15 days a year). Other employees have taken time to care for older family members, pets,… Read more »

Jenna
Jenna
8 years ago
Reply to  Sam

“So I’ve worked 2 jobs or 1.5 jobs at least three times in 10 years with no extra pay” Either your managers are lousy at managing work, or your company policies suck. I’m taking maternity leave in a few months. I gave my managers 6 months notice for me to take 6 weeks off. That is not an unreasonable amount of time to plan. When people quit, they typically give 2 weeks. My manager and I are working together to ensure projects are wrapped up by then, and no one will get stuck with extra work. Then again, I work… Read more »

Jen from Boston
Jen from Boston
8 years ago
Reply to  Jenna

I agree. I’m not familiar with the FMLA, but yor employer certainly has the discretion to include a broader range of relatives for caretaking, etc. When my grandmother died I thought I had to take a vacation day for the funeral, but fortunately an acquaintance in HR told that most corporate policies allow bereavement for grandparents. I double-checked, and she was right. I was able to take a day off for the the funeral and another for sorting through her belongings. I could have taken a third day but didn’t. And, if my mother or father were ill and needed… Read more »

Jenna
Jenna
8 years ago

FYI, according to the FMLA, you are entitled to 12 workweeks of leave in a 12-month period “to care for the employee’s spouse, child, or parent who has a serious health condition”.

It’s not just limited to maternity leave. The leave is extended to 26 weeks if you are caring for an injured relative who served in the military.

CandiO
CandiO
8 years ago
Reply to  Sam

Thank you, I agree completely. As a childless person (and I am 36 and have had no interest in kids since I hit puberty so I am not going to change my mind now that I am of an advanced maternal age), I get tired of picking up the slack for those folks who chose children. I love my career, I like my work. I do not want to do the work of 2 because someone else has a kid. I second the general fund PTO for any sort of family commitment rather than just those with kids getting to… Read more »

imelda
imelda
8 years ago
Reply to  CandiO

As a young single, I have felt the same way many times. It always felt unfair that parents get extra benefits. But let’s be real. They are looking after other human beings. They are not leaving early on Friday afternoons to pursue their artistic interests, as I would like to do. They are going because if they don’t pick up their kid from daycare, no one else will. I don’t care if it was or wasn’t their choice to have a kid. They have real responsibilities that people like myself do not. There is also the idea that, hey, they… Read more »

Amanda
Amanda
8 years ago
Reply to  imelda

I am willing to bet the majority of GRS readers are from Western countries. With that disclaimer:

* Having heterosexual sex which may lead to pregnancy is a choice.
* Using/not using/forgetting birth control is a choice.
* Carrying a child to term is a choice.
* Keeping said child is a choice.

This isn’t the 17th century. Having a kid is a choice, and it’s a choice made up of multiple steps. As much as some parents want to claim it’s this deep “need,” it’s still a *choice* they actively selected.

imelda
imelda
8 years ago
Reply to  imelda

…And if they didn’t make that choice, our species would die out. What’s your point?

Ely
Ely
8 years ago
Reply to  Sam

I am fortunate that my employer treats all family the same. One co-worker out for weeks with a new baby; another with a sick mother. This seems a reasonable policy.
Part of the problem is that there are laws governing maternity leave. Not that there shouldn’t be; just that they should be broader. No one should be punished at work for taking care of their family.

Rosa
Rosa
8 years ago
Reply to  Ely

That’s not random policy; it’s the law, assuming your company has more than 50 employees. FMLA isn’t just for parental leave.

Ely
Ely
8 years ago
Reply to  Rosa

Fewer than 20 employees, FMLA does not apply. We are fortunate to have a human being for a boss.

EMH
EMH
8 years ago
Reply to  Sam

Our office doesn’t have a vacation or sick day policy. You get paid your salary no matter how many days you work as long as you are successful at your job. If you are sick, then you stay at home. If you want to take three weeks off and go to Germany, make sure somebody is covering your job. The only “rules” are to make sure everyone knows where you are and how and if you can be reached in case of an emergency. For me, this policy has bred loyalty within our company and we are all honest on… Read more »

Chris
Chris
8 years ago

You state in the next to last paragraph, “I’m happy now – stressed and busy and not at all wealthy and happy.” So….are you happy or not?

Becka
Becka
8 years ago
Reply to  Chris

Stressed, busy, not wealthy, and happy. One can be all of those things. Simultaneously.

Chris
Chris
8 years ago
Reply to  Becka

The point was the syntax was awkward. Example, “…stressed, busy, happy and not at all wealthy.” Where, the other sentences was implying not wealthy and not happy.

Becka
Becka
8 years ago
Reply to  Chris

I would look for “not at all wealthy or happy” for that. I agree that your phrasing is better, but I still think it reads how the author intended it to.

graduate.living
graduate.living
8 years ago

I think what this article betrays (by way of the Atlantic too) is a certain privilege that comes with being able to forego work (or even full-time work) for family time. I can’t imagine someone from a low-income community who can simply quit a job in order to spend more time at home. What about the single-parents who work multiple jobs just to support their family’s basic needs? I know that’s not exactly the GRS community, but it certainly adds another level to this “can she have it all” business we’re talking about. That said, I appreciate the author’s perspective.… Read more »

Kevin
Kevin
8 years ago

I absolutely agree that there needs to be a healthy work-life balance. And working 10 hour days is obviously not a balance. However, neither is working 6 hour days and disappearing unpredictably, dumping your workload on unsuspecting co-workers because your kid lost his lunch money. As a child-free (by choice) individual, I would feel a little resentful towards a co-workers who frequently used their kids as an excuse to disappear from work, leaving the rest of us to cover for them. If they took the time unpaid, or used vacation, that’d be fine. But they take advantage of lenient supervisors… Read more »

partgypsy
partgypsy
8 years ago
Reply to  Kevin

Doesn’t happen in my workplace. But then again my 3 of my last 4 bosses didn’t have children (well 1 had 1 adult child not living at home).

Jenna
Jenna
8 years ago
Reply to  Kevin

Are they “taking time off”, i.e., working from home? I used to resent some people routinely leaving early for kids until I did projects with them. Their reports were done on time, and timestamped at 1 am, meaning they would take the work home to finish.

If not, again, that is lousy management, and breeds resentment in the workplace. Everyone, with or without children, should be entitled to the same benefits, and those benefits should be generous enough for people to be able to find a good work/life balance. Happy employees are loyal and do better work.

Erika
Erika
8 years ago

I also left a full-time (tho not high-powered) position for a part-time position, and eventually to a freelance-from-home position. I’m very happy.

However, while the decision to step out of the rat race feels right to many women (and increasingl men), will the upper echelons of business and polics be made up soley with workaholics and professionals without children? It makes me scared to think that’s who will run the world.

Maybe the increasing number of flex-workers can find some way to have a greater effect on the way things work…

imelda
imelda
8 years ago
Reply to  Erika

This is almost exactly what Slaughter’s article is about, though Sarah kind of skipped over that in today’s post. Her point is that the working world, especially at the higher-levels where important decisions are being made, is dominated by people who do not choose to spend time with their families. Because women are socialized to be caregivers, this means that they are dominated by men. Slaughter’s main point (despite the misleading title) is that the working world should be changed so that people like you do not HAVE to choose part-time work in order to balance their families and careers.… Read more »

Ellen K.
Ellen K.
8 years ago

Great post; thanks for sharing your experience, Sarah.

For those looking for information about how the workplace affects/inhibits an average-earning man’s work-life balance, this is a very good book (by no means a light-hearted read): “Reshaping the Work-Family Debate: Why Men and Class Matter,” by Joan C. Williams.

http://www.amazon.com/Reshaping-Work-Family-Debate-Lectures-Civilization/dp/0674064496/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1340975730&sr=1-1&keywords=reshaping+the+work+family+debate

Nicole
Nicole
8 years ago

Wandering Scientist has had a great series of articles (some of them linked to in her response to the Atlantic piece: http://www.wandering-scientist.com/2012/06/maybe-it-would-help-if-we-called-it.html ) about productivity and how as a boss she realizes that working long hours leads to diminished productivity because people start making mistakes.

Face time is not necessarily equal to productive time either. However, face time is often used as a substitute for productivity when productivity is hard to measure. http://nicoleandmaggie.wordpress.com/2012/06/04/why-academics-dont-have-lazear-contracts/ How to solve this monitoring problem is difficult. The answer is probably not 80 hour weeks.

CB
CB
8 years ago

This is such no-brainer stuff to me. I don’t understand the career women who struggle with this dilemma. Having children is an enormous commitment. Duh, yes, you’re going to have to make time for your kids. And so will their father. I’ve worked full time in a leadership role since my son was born 3 years ago always with the attitude that my son comes first. If that wasn’t okay with my supervisor I would find another one who could accept it. I’m a valuable employee, I don’t think that anyone should have to apologize for having outside commitments: sports,… Read more »

Genny
Genny
8 years ago

I think this post can be a warning against lifestyle inflation. My husband was asked to take early retirement from his software developer position, where long hours were expected from everyone. Because he never bought into the large house/fancy car lifestyle, he was able to start his own business and now has an income that is not dependent on a corporate paycheck. I worked at a large corporation also, with the 60 hour workweeks. I had the ‘lightbulb’ moment when I was at a 3 a.m. code drop and all of my colleagues (including myself) were discussing our stress related… Read more »

krantcents
krantcents
8 years ago

I find the comments interesting! There seems to be a critical tone with some of them. There is no road map to follow, life is more trial and error at best. Congratulations on finding what works for you.

sally
sally
8 years ago

As long as the almighty dollar determines workplace policy, things will not change. There’s a reason the department that deals with these issues is called “human resources”. The individual who can bring the most value to a company or organization is always going to have a leg up over the individual who chooses a more reasonable work-life balance… for any reason, be it mental health, to raise a family, or to pursue other activities or hobbies. In the capitalist model, people are generally treated like a economic figure, not as humans. Americans don’t take siestas, and we don’t believe in… Read more »

DanM53
DanM53
8 years ago
Reply to  sally

“The individual who can bring the most value to a company or organization is always going to have a leg up…”

In a way, the quote could have stopped there. Some people are more productive than others. Maybe they’re smarter or more focused or have better information. If you bring more value to your job, you’ll have an advantage over others in our competitive society, even if you work “only” an 8-hour day.

That’s one way to help your personal work/life balance.

Laura
Laura
8 years ago
Reply to  sally

Well, Romney’s kids are all grown up, so probably not. But I bet that when he worked in the private sector and his kids were young, that he did. Of course, he was the boss, so he could…

Mrs Hill
Mrs Hill
8 years ago

This sounds familiar. Had a nice paying job but never saw family due to the hours I worked in an intensive care unit at the hospital. I was constantly drained and slept mostly on my days off. Despite the money being good, Ii wasnt able to enjoy it with family. I was so busy making a living I forgot to have a life. I,too, quit my job and found a less stressful alternative. I get to see my family and spend time with them. Money doesnt buy back time, the missed birthdays and missed yesterdays. The pay cut was the… Read more »

Daisy6564
Daisy6564
8 years ago

I think some people have hit on this already, but lack of work-life balance is not limited to upper echelon jobs. For my first 4 years out of college I was a teacher in the inner city. Two of those years were literally volunteer and the other two I was making less than $30K.. I was working in the school building 10-12 hours a day teaching and coaching. Then I worked all night after I got home grading and planning. I used to call it my 24 hour job because I would also have dreams (nightmares)about it all night. Finally… Read more »

Jane
Jane
8 years ago

Interesting article. I am just jealous that you were able to transition at all into part-time work that payed anything. I am a stay at home mom looking for part-time professional work, and it has been extremely difficult to find anything. I don’t understand why more companies wouldn’t want to harness part-timers, especially because they wouldn’t have to provide me with benefits. Are all of these bosses demanding 110% not married or without children? I doubt it. I think that they need to acknowledge the spouse at home who makes it possible for them to work such ridiculous hours. Or… Read more »

KarenJ
KarenJ
8 years ago
Reply to  Jane

Jane, I don’t know what your skill set is, but try http://www.flexjobs.com. It costs $35 for the year, but if you use the code SAVE30, you get 30% off that. These are legitimate flexible and telecommuting jobs. There are numerous freelance sites out there, just google “freelance work.”

Jane
Jane
8 years ago
Reply to  KarenJ

Thanks for the tip, Karen, especially the coupon code. I was aware of the site but was turned off by the fee. This might sway me to actually join. I know other freelancers have said it is one of the more legitimate sites for at home work.

Diane
Diane
8 years ago
Reply to  Jane

P-A-I-D.

Anne
Anne
8 years ago
Reply to  Jane

Jane,

I totally agree with you. I have a BS in ChemE and a MS in Applied Statistics. I would love to find some short term project work, but I haven’t found anything out there. Luckily for me, with my Masters degree, I can teach at the college level. I teach face to face and online. This bring in some nice money, but it would be nice to have some different projects to work on.

Mom of five
Mom of five
8 years ago

There are lots of jobs that allow a decent work/life balance. There aren’t that many high powered/well paying jobs that allow the same. If you look around the upper echelons of the corporate world, what you’ll find is that the majority of the highest earning workers (who are parents) either have stay at home spouses or spouses whose work is very flexible and not as well paying. Our oldest is in a very pricey private school filled with families like that. I disagree with the cliche that nobody wishes they had worked harder on their deathbed. I have known lots… Read more »

Ely
Ely
8 years ago
Reply to  Mom of five

I too hate that cliche! No one on their deathbed talks about jobs or money, because they have no life left to pay for! It’s those in long term care, or living hand-to-mouth in retirement, who wish they had worked more or better. But no one cares about them for some reason…

Nicole
Nicole
8 years ago
Reply to  Ely

Also at our pre-marital counseling with the church, we had to read a book about women and careers (he was a temporary pastor who had come out of retirement, so in his career he’d done a lot of counseling of marital problems caused by men feeling threatened by their wives entering the labor force)… there were a lot of quotes from women who wished they’d worked instead of staying home while their children were children. I think maybe it wasn’t quite as taboo to say things like that as it is now because there wasn’t that aura of “oh women… Read more »

Holly@ClubThrifty
8 years ago

I don’t work in a “high powered” job but I do work full time…sometimes up to 50 hours a week. I also have two children. Maybe I am naive, but I do feel like I can give 100% to both. I love working and having children and I do feel like I have the best of both worlds.

However, I do feel like our social life suffers. After giving so much time to work and all of our energy at home with our kids, the last thing I want to do is plan evenings out with friends.

KSK
KSK
8 years ago

25 years ago, when I was looking for and interviewing for my first big advertising job after college, I was asked at the interview, point blank, whether I was married. I was asked this question by a conference table full of men. I wasn’t married at the time, and said I wasn’t. But, I’m sure I didn’t give them the answer they wanted to hear. They wanted to hear that I was willing to work extremely long hours and on the weekends in order to get a project done. I remember being disappointed that I didn’t get another interview. But,… Read more »

Nicole
Nicole
8 years ago
Reply to  KSK

I didn’t get a post-doc after lecturing my interviewers about how they were not allowed to ask that question because of state law (technically, under federal law, they’re allowed to ask, but not allowed to use the answer in their decision-making, so most places will not ask in order to avoid a lawsuit, but some states won’t let you ask). At that point I didn’t want to work there anyway. Jerks.

KSR
KSR
8 years ago

I’m 40 (no kids) by contrast to my 4 closest lady friends (w/kids). Of the 5, myself included, 4 of us are the “bread winners” and of the 4 ladies w/kids– 3 of the husbands were stay at home Dads up until school age. Stay at home Dads have doubled in the past decade. It’s a good thing except… some of the ladies do get very jealous–not resentful–of their husbands.

Katie
Katie
8 years ago

Thank you so much for sharing this perspective Sarah! I’m an expectant mother and it’s hard sometimes to think about how your life will change (time and money-wise) when you add a child to your life. Good for you for having the courage and understanding of your family to recognize your limits! We’ll be fortunate enough to have me stay home when the baby comes, because we recognized a need in our family for one of us to be home to maintain sanity. We know that comes with a LOT of trade-offs and challenges with our finances. I’d actually love… Read more »

Dana
Dana
8 years ago

Great article! Thank you Sarah for sharing your choices honestly. I used to work as a management consultant and saw plenty of partners (men) who had 3+ children at home but would spend Mon-Thur out of town, going from client to client. Without the support of a stay-at-home wife and nannies/cleaners/etc, it’s impossible to live like that.

Carla
Carla
8 years ago

I’m 33 and don’t have kids, but I learned a similar lesson three and a half years ago while I was working 50 hours a week at my day job while spending X amount of hours at night and on the weekend starting a web based business. It wasn’t children that slowed me down, it was my body. Though MS would have came regardless of my lifestyle choices (at least I would like to think), I cant help but to believe the stress of working so hard exacerbated it. You can say I eventually fell flat on my face prior… Read more »

A-L
A-L
8 years ago
Reply to  Carla

Reading this, reminded me of my own situation. Like the poster above working in an inner-city school, I was working 80 hours a week (and still expected to do more). Right after my 26th birthday I ended up having a stroke-like episode with one-sided body weakness. Though the doctors never exactly figured it out, those symptoms only appeared when I was under tremendous stress (and hours at work). That right there taught me more about life balance than anything else ever did. Good luck with the MS.

Carla
Carla
8 years ago
Reply to  A-L

Thanks, A-L! Though I’m not a teacher, I know many people who are/were including my sister who’s a principal, and I do appreciate how stressful it is. Most of the teachers I know worked in inner-city schools (I attended those!)and I frankly don’t know how they do it.

Sara
Sara
8 years ago
Reply to  Carla

It is strange to me to see so many young people having serious health issues in my field — attorneys at big firms (where there are the 110% expectations). I don’t know if there’s any statistical significance to it at all, but one of my best friend’s suffered a collapsed lung at 26, another one had a stroke at 25, and a third got appendicitis and put off some surgery her doctor said was important for more than 2 years. It’s not uncommon to hear these sorts of things.

Carla
Carla
8 years ago
Reply to  Sara

Hey Sara, the age of onset for MS is between 20 and 40 so its considered a “young peoples disease” in terms of when the initial diagnoses happens.

Its still always shocking when you see young people with chronic, serious, and at times fatal illnesses. I recently had a friend lose his son to melanoma at the age of 34.

Jen from Boston
Jen from Boston
8 years ago

“Later a man called in who said something like, ‘You mothers need to stop complaining about your kids and get to work! That’s your real life, work!'” I really, really hope that guy isn’t a father!! I think family friendly workplaces will benefit not only working moms, but workding dads! I work with mostly men, many of whom are fathers. Luckily, my employer has a pretty decent work-life balance, so I see the men flexing their work time so they coach their children’s soccer teams, attend parent-teacher meetings, etc. And these aren’t single dads, either. Their wives are either stay-at-home… Read more »

Tiffany
Tiffany
8 years ago

I quit a 6 figure consulting job to stay home with my kids. The only regret I have is that I didn’t do it sooner – my oldest was 4 when I quit.

At the end of the day, a company will continue to function without you (whether you like to think so or not) but your family will not. It’s a short term sacrifice for a life time of value.

Denise
Denise
8 years ago

Thank you. Between this article and Anne-Marie Slaughter’s, I finally feel like other people think as I do. As a childless woman at 29, and with no plans to have children, I get questions about this a lot. But I have not decided not to have children so I can work more. And I don’t move up in my career because I want a job that consumes me. I work to pursue my loves outside of the job- those activities and goals are what make me whole.
I very much look forward to your article about relationships and money.

Meredith
Meredith
8 years ago

I am a 42 year old professional in high tech industry who has two young kids. Since my industry is very sensitive to the economy, I learned pretty early on that you can work 60-80 hours a week and still get laid off. I have been laid off 2x (in massive layoffs that would take out 20-40% of the employees of the companies they occurred in). I have seen so many people work work work because they thought this was their way to succeed (whether thinking being the “last one to leave” meant they were valued or whatever) only to… Read more »

Carla
Carla
8 years ago
Reply to  Meredith

And “all” may mean not having a house, a car made within the last decade, vacations, even kids. You’re so right in that you have to define what “all” really means.

Rosa
Rosa
8 years ago

My husband (of 21 years) and I never really discussed who would do what – everything we earned was always just “ours”. As things have worked out, I’m the one whose career took off. He has worked but never earned as much as I did, and that’s pretty much a fluke – my field just blossomed. But we did end up in Kate’s (#2) situation – we left our home country, and he came with me. Kate, I don’t have any answers for your questions, about how not to worry that your decisions are critical for the whole family –… Read more »

Valerie
Valerie
8 years ago

“I can’t suggest making your job your “real life,” for any reason.”

Thank you love this! I’ve had the high powered job and as much as the money and traveling was great…..marriage and life suffered. I won’t do it again. Life if on “borrowed” time as none of us get out alive and not going to waste any more time.

Ryan
Ryan
8 years ago

I liked this article, but I can’t help but think it’s a little sexist, as if only mothers want a career and a family life. Fathers want those things too, but society tells THEM that they have to provide a paycheck first. I do wish more companies were family friendly and I wish the US guaranteed both paid maternity and paternity leave. In general, I think people are slaves to their job too much. That said, women (and men) can’t have it all! You can’t expect to be a top executive, have 3 kids, a perfect house, PTA President, etc.… Read more »

imelda
imelda
8 years ago
Reply to  Ryan

In her article, Slaughter makes an interesting point that people should consider career trajectories with periodic plateaus, rather than a constant upward trend. Meaning that, maybe when you have a kid, you take maternity leave, or even a couple of years off, but then you get right back on the career path when they’re a little older. Yes, I can see your point that high-powered jobs may be a little less flexible. But just because someone takes maternity leave, it shouldn’t derail their career paths forever. Workplaces should stop discriminating against people with gaps in their resumes, in addition to… Read more »

Sarah
Sarah
8 years ago

I think using personal example when talking about this issue is not a good idea, and may even be a bit off-putting when considering the vast majority of working people affected by this issue do not have many options. I am a working mother, and I understand my greatest responsibility is to provide my family with financial security — not luxury, just security. In my opinion, the real issue is helping the vast majority of individuals struggling to balance the demands of work and life, and very successful, highly educated women to do not represent the vast majority of workers… Read more »

viv
viv
8 years ago

I am so tired of these stories being written by and thought about by women. Women will never have equality at work or home until men start having to ponder the same thing and start making the same choices and trade-offs. I’m so tired of women “opting out” while men continue on with “breadwinnng” and not doing at least 50% at home. And I’m tired of the workplace continually being asked to make changes to accomodate women’s family obligations, which women need because men typically won’t do half of the childrearing and housework.

viv
viv
8 years ago

Also, I hate the concept that certain people – women or men – expect to “have it all” in specific jobs. There are certain job, particularly those that are politically appointed and very high-level, that aren’t meant to create work-life balance. And that’s fine. I might consider having a few years of a lot less focus on my family if it meant I could serve in a dream role, serve my country, and make the world a better place. Men do it all the time. If everyone expected work-life balance at all times, no one could serve in the military.… Read more »

Catherine
Catherine
8 years ago
Reply to  viv

Thank you, Viv, for bringing up the concept that the life/work does not necessarily mean a 50%/50% split. There have been times when I have focused on work and times when I have focused on the personal over my thirty years of working. What I have never done is impulsively quit a job when I had family responsibilities. Sarah Gilbert’s articles have increasingly annoyed me; I regret that I now find her irresponsible, entitled and self-centered. With Sarah I fear that it is always someone else’s fault. She has squandered an expensive education that could, in some iteration, have provided… Read more »

Krose
Krose
8 years ago
Reply to  Sarah Gilbert

I don’t know very much about Ms. Gilbert’s personal life other then what she has presented here, but she seems to me to have done a good job responding with grace to some of the hurdles life has thrown at her. Even people with high-powered goals and choices can’t control every outcome of their lives. And sometimes individuals are moved by forces of life/moral belief/necessity/ambition/you name it so compelling that they must be answered-I think children and military service could definitely fall under this blanket. Anyways, my point is that I think Ms. Gilbert doesn’t deserve to be attacked for… Read more »

Carla
Carla
8 years ago
Reply to  Catherine

Whoa there, cowboy!

Diane
Diane
8 years ago
Reply to  Carla

It’s snipes like these that make me wish there was a “thumbs down” button that I could hit about a hundred times. Have you never seen JD’s “be nice” instruction? Did you think that perhaps it doesn’t apply to you?

Elizabeth Lukes
Elizabeth Lukes
8 years ago

Life is going to be difficult, whether or not we chooose paycheck-based jobs, and we worry too much about everything. Women and Men, live the life you want and manage it on the fly. Some jobs are family killers,and we can arrange to leave them when they don’t suit us anymore. Love your family, like your job. Every year, someone writes about life/work balance and tries to reinvent the wheel. The sooner we accept the chaos of life, the better. I know this is a simplified response to a complicated topic, but I have been in the workforce for 20… Read more »

Joe
Joe
8 years ago

You lost me at Hillary Clinton, that’s when I puked. I’m sorry, I couldn’t resist. Very good article. This past month I was thinking the same thing. Similar situation, I had a tenant move out & this entire month my wife & I were working like dogs in the apt. Just finished on Tuesday. Meanwhile our 5 yr older got cheated out of a month. 10ants- can’t live with them, can’t live without them 🙂

Linda
Linda
8 years ago

I think that having the experience of not being able to balance work and family and having to choose has been necessary to cement my resolve. My younger self that tried to always please an employer would have never said, “I’ll do my best at this job but I will always choose family over you.” With my trust fully in Christ, I don’t fear the future if I have to leave my job for my family. I can always make more money. I can’t make more time.

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
8 years ago

Nobody has it all and we’re all Ann-Marie Slaughter because we’re all subject to the law of scarcity, which is (very roughly): we can’t have everything that we want in the amount we want, because of limited resources and unlimited desires. And so we must always choose, and there is no amount of ideology or societal change or 10-point program that can change that fact. I was having an argument with a Marxist the other day. He said under “real” Communism (as opposed to the various “aberrant” flavors of Stalinism of the last century) you and I would be able… Read more »

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
8 years ago
Reply to  Sarah Gilbert

Thanks, I enjoyed your article as well. Great food for thought!

Nicole
Nicole
8 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

Yes, we are all maximizing our utility curves subject to a budget constraint. And that budget constraint comes down to how productive can we be given our time constraints. We also have different values for the labor-leisure trade-off, and that’s ok. At the same time, there *are* structural problems that lead to lower productivity and/or to disparities for different groups. We don’t really live in a perfectly competitive world so things like discrimination, sub-optimal work schedules, etc. do exist. These are things that individuals have difficulty changing, but may benefit from change on a wider scale. Yes, we should all… Read more »

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
8 years ago
Reply to  Nicole

Yes, we are all maximizing our utility curves subject to a budget constraint. And that budget constraint comes down to how productive can we be given our time constraints. We also have different values for the labor-leisure trade-off, and that’s ok. Yeah, see, I don’t think that we all get what you’re talking about, not really, not completely. You’re an economist and you get “utility curves” and “budget constraints,” and there are business people who get that, and many civilians as well, but many of us civilians and also our politicians don’t necessarily operate that way. We want maximum rewards!… Read more »

Nicole
Nicole
8 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

I think I have to give Vanderkam’s most recent book, All Your Money, another plug here (someone provided the Amazon link above). She does just a fantastic job explaining opportunity costs, budget constraints, etc. without actually using the terminology. Her 168 hours (also linked above) is supposed to be good too, specifically about the work/life balance and productivity, but I haven’t read it. She didn’t have much to say to me: If there were a way I could change my work/life/spending balance to make myself happier, I would have already done it. But it’s been life changing for folks who… Read more »

Laundry Lady
Laundry Lady
8 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

“Similarly, the country with family-friendly policies will be able to sustain healthy levels of population growth and avoid the troubles of countries with a shrinking, aging population.” I would love to see the stats to back this up. i want this to be true, but I thought that I’d read that countries with such policies legislated actually tend to have fewer children. (i.e. Sweden). However, I am fully willing to admit that I might be wrong. I think it really has to be more about what people are willing to work for. Companies require 80 and 90 hour work weeks… Read more »

Nicole
Nicole
8 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

@Laundry Lady

You’re right. It’s a cause/effect thing. The policies are (thought to be) caused by the lower birth rates, but don’t seem to actually have an effect on birth rates. European countries and Japan are desperate to increase birth rates (without having to let in immigrants!), but have not yet found a solution. So they’re now attacking their entitlement program problems from different angles.

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
8 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

@ Nicole – Awesome reply, thanks! I’ll check out Vanderkam’s books. I support equal pay for equal work legislation actually, but I think the changing social climate will do more for equal pay. And I’d love to hear more about other kinds of structural changes and read that paper. Maybe email JD and he can email me? Haa haaa haa. JD the spy courier. But anyway, maybe I’ll contact via your blog. – @ Laundry Lady & Nicole: France! “France’s High Birth Rate Partly Due To Government Incentives” http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/52654.php Let me quote a bit of it: Europe’s second-highest birth rate… Read more »

Nicole
Nicole
8 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

@Nerdo

I am skeptical of that France study as the majority of studies do not find any positive effect of government intervention on birth rates. It would have to be a much better study than others for it to outweigh the rest. (And if it were true, then Italy and Japan would totally follow suit.) http://nicoleandmaggie.wordpress.com/2012/06/19/good-vs-bad-research/

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
8 years ago
Reply to  Nicole

Sure, correlation does not equate causation which is precisely why I questioned that unequal pay equals discrimination on a large scale– and I mean that today not historically. Of course if you look back at the 60s or 70s or even the 80s it’s going to be there. But anyway I am not an expert on the subject. Regarding the France study I don’t have first-hand knowledge of the subject but I know if my wife and I had guaranteed child care and government subsidies we’d start making babies immediately after lunch time today, instead of doing what we do… Read more »

Samantha
Samantha
8 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

(Tangential.)

Was the edit button sacrificed to the server speed gods? I would trade back if that were the case, and if I had any input.

BUT, if I could trade the edit button for consistent comment numbering, I would do that in a heartbeat!

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
8 years ago
Reply to  Samantha

I am not sure but I suspects that’s the case. Before they killed it, loading and page refresh were very slow. Ah! Numbering! Yes.

imelda
imelda
8 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

I think you’re getting a little carried away with the title of Slaughter’s article, rather than its contents. The bulk of her article is *not* about “having it all.” I imagine that title was foisted on her by a publicity-seeking editor. The article is actually about an office culture that does not value families, and makes work-life balance FAR more difficult than it has to be. For example, “face time” in our work culture is so important, even if we aren’t actually accomplishing much for the employer during that time. That’s silly, and harmful to work-life balance, and ought to… Read more »

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
8 years ago
Reply to  imelda

Hi Imelda, Not at all! It was the author’s idea to call it that. She was dissuaded from it temporarily and went back to it. Here’s a quote: …I told her how difficult I was finding it to be away from my son when he clearly needed me. Then I said, “When this is over, I’m going to write an op-ed titled ‘Women Can’t Have It All.’” She was horrified. “You can’t write that,” she said. “You, of all people.” What she meant was that such a statement, coming from a high-profile career woman–a role model–would be a terrible signal… Read more »

imelda
imelda
8 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

Ha, I totally forgot that part. That said, I still don’t think the title is representative of her whole piece! She does offer advice to women on dealing with the realities of the working world, and on not trying to have everything all at once. However, I think the CRUX of her argument is that, if the US had better working policies, people could come much, much closer to ‘having it all.’ You’re right that she spends 3/4 of the article explaining why women don’t have it all right now. However, she does not present those reasons as absolute truths… Read more »

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
8 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

I hope it’s not too late but I though I’d reply anyway. I don’t think anybody here is arguing that work-life balance is impossible. Slaughter went back to her academic job to regain this balance. Sarah left AOL to become a writer and look after her children. And many people are able to find some sort of work-life balance in their lives. What I think they are saying and I agree is that you can’t be world champion at everything, that some high-pressure jobs require total commitment, and that ideology can’t trump tradeoffs. She even mentions Chris Christie refusing to… Read more »

imelda
imelda
8 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

El Nerdo – not too late! Glad I came back to check on responses. You make great points. Personally, after 2 years of living in Japan, I believe in shared burdens. It’s why pension plans are better than individual 401ks – young people pay in even when the market is low, which allows retirees to maintain their SOL. It just makes sense to share risk! So yeah, I think things work better when governments and employers distribute the burdens among all of us. And – to tie it back to PF – larger safety nets allow everyone to take more… Read more »

SLCCOM
SLCCOM
8 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

El Nerdo,was that Thomas Sowell’s book? You might also want to check out John Stossel’s latest, “No, they can’t!”

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
8 years ago
Reply to  SLCCOM

Yes, Sowell– he’s great! Although I feel sometimes he glosses over or ignores some questions, like market failures, asymmetries, and other things I don’t understand. Regardless, a hugely eye-opening book. I’d like to read up more on economics after I finish rereading him.

JMS
JMS
8 years ago

I am so proud that my children are being taken care of by a high powered professional with a high level of motivation and earning potential. I am glad that that person is fulfilled in her career as it is challenging and highly rewarding. That person is me. I am grateful that I left a different high powered job to be with my kids in this other profession. How we view who takes care of our kids is what I think needs to change. We pay top dollar for childcare by me not working at a different job. It’s a… Read more »

Jenna, Adaptu Community Manager
Jenna, Adaptu Community Manager
8 years ago

Wow! Thanks for sharing your story and thoughts. We’ve been discussing this around the office lately, definitely a lot of different view points and interpretations.

LaurS
LaurS
8 years ago

I LOVE your article. It’s one of my favorites to date on Get Rich Slowly. What an incredibly well written exposition on why we should work to live and not the other way around. Nicely done. Congratulations.

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