Career vs. Family: The Pressure to Have it All

There’s been a lot of talk lately about how far women have come and how far we have yet to go.  On the one hand, women are now having full-fledged careers and are seeing opportunities not available to our grandmothers 50 some years ago. On the other hand, we seem to be more stressed than ever, having to manage being a superstar wife, a dedicated mother and a top-notch employee. There seems to be just too much pressure to have it all.

Anne-Marie Slaughter wrote a post for The Atlantic on Why Women Still Can’t Have It All. Writers were quick to praise (Finally, someone admits that work environments still fail to adjust to the demands of motherhood!) while others were quick to bash (How dare she think that the work place needs to cater to her needs simply because she chose motherhood!).

During my college years, I too often looked down upon the women I babysat for–the stay at home mothers who sacrificed their careers for the all-too-demeaning task of raising children. Really, that’s it? You’re just a stay at home mom?

At 28, I have heard the faintest tick-tock of my biological clock and am starting to wonder where motherhood will fit into the career path I have created. I have spent the past six years since graduating college on working my way up the corporate ladder to get to the place I am now, making a solid five-figure salary doing a job I enjoy. And yet, one of my biggest fears is that I will have to place my children in daycare.

The all too often retort to women’s desire to have it all–and I must admit, it was definitely a response I may have muttered from my own mouth one too many times–is that women can have it all, just not at the same time.

Since we know that women’s reproductive years peak at 25, and decline dramatically at 35, what I am led to believe is during this time, I should be focusing on landing a husband and making babies. And after the age of 35, I should be focusing on career?

While I am busy reproducing, men my age are working their way up the corporate ladder, gaining promotions and earning raises.

That leaves women with a good five to ten years behind men–if we followed this fallacy that women can have it all but not at the same time. Sure, you can have it all–just don’t have children. Sure you can have children–just leave them at daycare so someone else can raise them. Sure, you can have it all–just invent something you’re proud of that you make tons of money off of and then raise your children. If only we could all be so lucky…or J.K. Rowling, take your pick.

I don’t know the answer to the $64,000 question: Can Women Have It All? I know that it seems incredibly unfair for women to have to choose between career and family. And yet, women seem to be incredibly lucky to be the ones to create human life within our own bodies.

I’m still at the beginning of the balancing-career-and-family stage. I haven’t had enough life experience to know if I’ll be able to do it or if I’ll cave to the pressure and become just a stay-at-home mom (even though I feel like it would really truly be one of the most rewarding careers). Let me get back to you in ten to fifteen years.