In conversation after conversation, my colleagues and I puzzled over why Dr. Slaughter's experience had so contrasted with ours. Was it because she had tasted another life, that of an academic who had a level of control over her schedule that we could not even imagine? Was it because she tried out government work while living in a different city from her family?
Regardless of why our experiences differed so greatly, I was left thinking not only about my own experience, but about the responsibility we women have to create change by introducing a different environment for the younger, more junior officers -- both male and female -- whether in government or elsewhere. After a stream of officers in the bureau I lead stopped in to tell me that they wished I would weigh in, I decided to add some of my thoughts and experiences to the conversation.
Monday, July 2, 2012
A Happy, State Dept Parent's Response to Slaughter
Came across this great Slaughter response from Dana Shell Smith, a globetrotting bigwig in Foreign Service at the US State Department, titled "How to Have an Insanely Demanding Job and 2 Happy Children."
And what I want to say is A-fucking-men, sister. Tell it!
To me, Shell Smith's Both/And message of "With a lot of ingenuity and hard work, it can be done and your family can be happy" rings a whole hell of a lot truer than Slaughter's Either/Or message of "Despite my wealth, my family wouldn't make the arrangements that are necessary to have this particular job and make us all happy, so therefore no one else in the whole wide world can either."
Not to worry, Shell Smith's piece is much shorter than Slaughter's - in fact, you can read it in under 5 minutes. Dare I say, it is even almost as good as what most of my regular commenters could have written while half-asleep. ;) Yes, Atlantic editors, that's me taking a shot at you again.
Here's a flavor of the raison d'être for Shell Smith's response:
One thing about the reaction to this piece has struck me. That Shell Smith and her husband haven't seen a non-animated movie in the theatre in the last 10 years has apparently managed to make some people on the internets sad. But I say to each their own (obviously.)
Look folks, whether we choose to admit it or not, most (but certainly not all, insert privilege disclaimer here) of us are actually making time for the things that are truly the most important things to us. How do you spend most of your time? Then that's your actual priority right there. Ok, now consider my already dead horse yet again beaten. Honestly, what's so "sad" about a couple's filmgoing hobby taking a backseat to their family and careers for awhile? I'm sure they'll once again throw away their hard-earned cash at the cineplex when the kids are older! Can anyone ever win on the internets? Sheesh.
What I'm trying to say here is that Shell Smith's perspective is shared across many industries. My friend the successful surgeon and mother could have written this. And in my old corporate line of work, this is how the higher ups all make it work. Work and family are the top priorities. Friendships, hobbies, perhaps they're not as much of a priority, but they are also not entirely absent either. Take exercise for example - it often gets a lot of short shrift amongst this set. There's a reason you hear about people hitting the gym at 4:30am if fitness is a true priority.
They're happy to live like this. Really and truly. They're also telling the truth.
We all need to accept that not everyone shares our personality type. Not everyone likes the same things you do. We all define the term "priority" so very differently. The popularity of Ugg boots and the Kardashians are living proofs of that one for me. But I don't go around getting sad that not everyone is prioritizing downhill skiing and reading like my family does.
Hit me with your best shot...