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Can women 'have it all' when it comes to work and family life?

Published: Monday, June 25 2012 6:29 p.m. MDT

That survey suggests, says D'Arcy, "that mothers who consider themselves feminist are now more likely to embrace more intense child-focused parenting," including extended breast-feeding and co-sleeping.

The survey found that a sort of society-imposed silence regarding choices left many of the feminist mothers feeling atypical, when they were actually in the majority among those surveyed. "Culturally, we have too often told ourselves that there are certain types of parents: Either passive, professionally underachieving and child-obsessed or self-centered, cold-hearted careerists," wrote D'Arcy.

"It’s so ingrained that we tend to think that since we don’t personally fall into either group, we must be atypical, our work-life problems must be unique. We have a hard time recognizing that none of us, really, fit either stereotype."

In a Q and A, Slaughter told the New York Times' KJ Dell'Antonia: "I’m hoping we can make space for women and men parents to ask for what they need. Men are equally constrained by career expectations from asking for room to have their family lives. The whole idea that you can’t cut it if you have to go home is hard on any engaged parent. When I was dean [of the the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs], I was very conscious of openly saying 'I have to go to a parent-teacher meeting. I have to go home for dinner.' What kind of society doesn’t let us say these things? People who have to pretend they’re doing something else are just going to be miserable, and ultimately they’re going to drop out."

Dell'Antonia responded that "It seems like we’re not talking about a change in policy, but a change in social culture."

Slaughter's essay and the response in other articles, in turn, has prompted animated online discussion, like this from Jamee Tenzer of Shesarealmother.com after the New York Times piece: "There is no answer that works for all women and for us to say a woman can "have it all" is kind of silly when we don't really know what "all" means to each woman. Instead, we should be asking what is most important for each of us and how can we meet the needs of our work and family? Let's let go of perfection and try for good enough — so that we can have less stress and guilt and more time for ourselves and our families."

EMAIL: lois@desnews.com, Twitter: Loisco

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