For years, society has tried to assure ambitious young women (most still in college) that if they truly worked hard enough, they could juggle both a high demanding career and a family quite harmoniously. Even Hollywood has tried to drill this idea in our brains-after all, if Sarah Jessica Parker can manage in I Don't Know How She Does It, then surely we can too. But a recent controversial cover story for the July/August issue of The Atlantic has definitely refuted the idea that women can "truly have it all."
In fact the author Anne-Marie Slaughter, former State Department official and current Princeton professor, says in her six-page article that those who actually do manage to balance both realms are the exception, not the rule and we need to stop planting the idea in young girls heads that being an executive and parent can be achieved simultaneously. Slaughter says that unless corporate America changes the workplace and the expectations that are placed on its female employees, then having the best of both worlds is almost impossible.
Maybe that's why statistics show that only a mere one third of U.S. women senior managers are married with children.
"It's time to stop fooling ourselves," says Slaughter who left her government job for a career in academia to spend more time with her teenage sons. "The women who have managed to be both mothers and top professionals are superhuman, rich, or self-employed. If we truly believe in equal opportunity for all women, here's what has to change."
But even women without fancy executive jobs experience the difficulties it is to balance family and work life. After all, some mothers have to make sacrifices and miss recitals and all of the other important events in their children's lives because they have to work over time or hold more than one job to make ends meet.
That said, Slaughter argues that at some point most women will be forced to make a difficult decision about what's more important to them-their career and success, or being a mother and having a family. She admits she still gets a tiny taste of both thanks to the career choice she pursued-professors have more flexible hours- but the average American woman is not as fortunate.
However Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO, says otherwise. In a recent TedTalk, Sandberg admitted that balancing both worlds is extremely difficult but a necessity if we wish to have more women leaders in the workforce. Otherwise, she fears that we will move backward and not forward in time. Sandberg, a mother of a 3-year-old child, says that she thinks she's found the recipe to help "make it work."
First step: "Sit at the Table"
Sandberg argues that women typically automatically underestimate their own skillset and abilities and thus choose to let men run the show in the workplace. Instead, Sandberg suggests that women should learn how to use their voice and be more active and involved, especially when attending meetings. "Sit at the table"- not in the seat in the corner. This technique she says can help you climb up the ladder.
Second Step: "Make your Partner a Real Partner"
Sandberg says that women typically choose to leave (or neglect) their careers because they feel as though their home would fall apart if they were not there. That's because statistics show most women do twice as much housework and three times as much childcare duties than their working male partners, Sandberg says. It's more of an "expected" obligatory duty to run the household if you're a woman. An easy way to correct the issue however is to make your husband have an equal share of responsibilities to lift some of the burden and then you too can pursue your career endeavors she says.
Third Step: "Don't Leave Before you Leave"
Last but not least, Sandberg says that women have to stop dropping out of the business world as soon as they begin to think about having a child. She says that some women have a tendency to begin to stress about how they're going to fit a newborn in their hectic work schedules even before they become pregnant and so they begin to take their foot off of the gas. They don't pursue promotions and aren't as driven. But Sandberg highly recommends that women should always continue to achieve and pursue job growth even with the thoughts of having child. This is because if a woman doesn't solidify a self-rewarding career before she goes on maternity leave, chances are she won't want to come back to the work force and fewer women leaders will emerge.
Do you have any other tips to provide? Or do you agree with Slaughter? Do you think it's impossible to "have it all?" Share your work-life balance tips and thoughts
A freelance writer and blogger hailing from the great state of Texas, Melissa Miller specializes in writing about the education field. If you're considering pursuing an associate degree online, Melissa's many posts on the subject can help light the way. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org with any feedback.