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Anne Marie Slaughter, an American international lawyer, foreign policy analyst, political scientist, and public commentator, brings a bold statement to surface in her 2012 article, “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All”. Faced with countless questions of her balance between work and home life, accusations of having her choice of becoming a business woman while maintaining a healthy and active role in her children’s lives be disappointing or even unfortunate, and implications of her commitment to the two responsibilities being performed is “unsatisfactory” were enough for Slaughter to pose the question.
The article was met with an overwhelming amount of responses coming from countless working business women, yet the most surprising counter came from a British historian, Richard Dorment, who wrote an article entitled, “Why Men Still Can’t Have It All”. Slaughter firmly states that women rising to the top is not an easy feat, as a direct result of women being expected to act as the primary caregiver at home instead of attempting to lead a well-balanced life. Meanwhile, Dorment enthusiastically provides evidence in his counter argument, declaring that Slaughter’s writing is based off of social stereotypes which he seamlessly disproves. The two acclaimed writes go head to head, each insisting neither gender can “Have It All”.
Many women face situations drastically different from Slaughter’s, with many being single mothers, “many struggle to find any job; others support husbands who cannot find jobs. Many cope with a work life in which good day care is either unavailable or very expensive; school schedules do not match work schedules; and schools themselves are failing to educate thier children”. These women in question are not at all worried about “having it all”, but are more concerned with being able to “hold on to what they have”. While this is not the women Slaughter’s article is generally written for, she still writes that in order to solve the problem of women struggling to find a well-maintained balance of work and home life, it must be addressed at its root- closing the “gender gap”. Slaughter believes this gender gap would not only solve the working woman’s ability to commit to a work and home life, but would also create a society which works for all women.
Slaughter proceeds to examine clichés women are told about their work and home life structure, such as “It’s possible if you marry the right person”, which Dorment later scrutinizes in his counter article. “It’s possible if you marry the right person” addresses the issue that women can only have a balanced life if their partner shoulders half of the responsibilities at home, which in turn would allow women to feel more comfortable being away from home knowing that their partner is taking care of the household duties. Slaughter claims this is only a half-truth, as she finds that “men do seem more likely to choose their job at a cost to their family, while women seem more likely to choose their family at a cost to their job”. Dorment, in turn, writes of Slaughter’s complete lack of evidence regarding her claim, stating that the trouble with men and women’s emotional relationships with their children is littered with stereotypes.
Dorment argues his proposal with a fair share of evidence, not only drawing on his own experiences as a father and a son (stating that in his life, the relationship between one parent and a child is not “inherently richer or deeper than another parent’s, but is instead different), but also providing statistics, saying that, “with more and more fathers spending more and more time with their kids today — nearly three times as much as they did in 1965…Men want a different relationship with their children than men have had in the past…. They don’t want to be stick figures in their children’s lives. They don’t want it on their tombstone how many hours they billed. That ‘Cat’s Cradle’ song is very much alive and well in the male psyche.” Slaughter, on the other hand, relentlessly sticks to her argument of women being categorized as the household’s primary caretaker, pointing out that the average woman “likely rises in the dark hours before she needs to be at work, organizes her children’s day, makes breakfast, packs lunch, gets them off to school, figures out shopping and other errands even if she is lucky enough to have a housekeeper—and does much the same work at the end of the day. Cheryl Mills, Hillary Clinton’s indefatigable chief of staff, has twins in elementary school; even with a fully engaged husband, she famously gets up at four every morning to check and send e-mails before her kids wake up.”
Dorment fairly takes and addresses Slaughter’s claims of women having an unequal relationship with their children than men, and raises the exact issue his article is named after; “Men Cannot Have It All” as he believes as more men are rising up to the role of being actively involved in their children’s lives, they too are unable to balance work and home commitment.
However, both Slaughter and Dorment’s articles point out the same issue: work schedules should be more flexible for parents. “You know what would help the vast majority of women with work/family balance? Make school schedules match work schedules.” The present system, she noted, is based on a society that no longer exists—one in which farming was a major occupation and stay-at-home moms were the norm.” Slaughter argues the simplest solution for many working mothers, to which Dorment surprisingly agrees with, stating, “there is the issue of flex time, with some suggesting that men should demand more options for when and where they can do their work”. The two authors settle on being able to balance their work and home lives with being able to work around their children’s important school schedules. While Dorment’s article has been published in Esquire, “the magazine for men”, he managed to address similar points to Slaughter, who wrote her article specifically addressing concerns of the modern-day working woman. Several of Dorment’s ideas are so surprisingly similar to Slaughters (such as the ability to give men and women a chance to choose for themselves how they would like to balance their own lives), the article may appeal just as well to women, provided the examples he provides are changed. Dorment states, just as Slaughter, getting to the top while balancing a healthy family relationship is no easy ordeal. The two writers posed incredibly similar responses to the question of parents not being able to “have it all”, both being able to relate to the opposite gender audience.
As working parents, both Dorment and Slaughter took it upon themselves to speak out to millions of other working families and informing them that they simply cannot “have it all”, but also offering alternatives as to how they can try and maybe succeed in being able to balance their lives. Slaughter and Dorment both push other working parents to be able to make a change and create a society that will be better for everyone, creating a level playing field amongst them. Properly focusing on maintaining a healthy relationship amongst work and family will create a better future for everyone.
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