I never said I wanted it all
Since when did working mothers have the phrase “wanting it all” tattooed on their foreheads? To which senior professional females (also mothers) can reply: ‘Well, you can’t have it all!’?. I’m a working woman, and a mother and I never said, “I wanted it all”, thank you very much.
Anne-Marie Slaughter’s insights in this month’s Atlantic Magazine have refuelled the mothers-in-the-workplace debate with the Twittersphere and other social media coming alight on the topic.
Similarly, senior or former female lawyers in the profession are happily giving presentations which tell me apparently “I wanted it all” followed by: “Sweetheart, really, you can’t have it all” without having proper regard as to the message which is really being sent. It’s like being dumped by a boy who you were never going out with, or being told you were unsuccessful in a job that you had never applied for.
Just to be clear, I NEVER SAID I WANTED IT ALL, and even if I knew what that phrase meant, I’d probably go and do it…
Ms Slaughter would suggest that having it “ALL” means having a successful and limitless profession or career while having meaningful engagement within the family as a mother. If that is “ALL”, don’t tell me that I want the same or that I can’t achieve what I want to do in life.
The most damaging part of these accomplished womens’ messages is that their stature and achievements adds weight to their argument - and with the greatest respect to these women, their generalisations give me (merely a punter trying to do my job) yet another label, and yet another target with which to define my success.
I can assure you that I have enough goals and expectations to meet as a woman in the workforce without additional assumptions being made simply because I’ve had kids. Perhaps these women need to be a little more aware of the message they are sending - not only to families trying to get through their working day, but to companies who employ working mothers.
An annoying outcome from the fire of this debate is silly little comments such as: “Women in the workplace should be one way or the other, in or out” (usually said from men who have not had the joys of pushing a child through their vaginas followed by the pleasure of needing to explain to your workplace that you are still capable of performing a role for which you were employed to do a year ago – which you could do on your ear!).
Actually no. I don’t have to choose, mate. I am no different in the workforce with or without kids, just like you. You’d never suggest working dads should be “in or out” or stamp “wanting it all” on their foreheads. Can’t we just get on with it? Go about our business and to get our jobs done as parents and professionals without the commentary, the tattoos on our heads, or the bloody generalisations?
It is commentary like this which does not help and which fuels the misconceptions of women in the workplace which adds to the discrimination we see so clearly agitated now in the courts.
Oprah Winfrey (not technically a mother but the way she looks after her cocker spaniels is close enough) is almost on the money by tweeting that: “You can have it all. You just can’t have it all at once.” She just forgot to add the words, “In case you wanted it…”. Time.com was spot on with its tweet: “Why are we arguing about women having it all when most parents have so little?”.
Ms Slaughter et al - your insights and sweeping statements do nothing more than move goal posts or create additional benchmarks for success for women in the workplace. We are a group that has had to push enough shit up a hill on these issues without the workforce matriarchy fuelling misconceptions.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m ambitious and I’m driven, just like the next bloke, but don’t box me in.
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