Good morning SOTGC readers. Part of this post is inspired by a hike I took while up at Big Bear Lake this past weekend. The other part is based off of a Summit of female CEOs that Bridget (who does our “money” posts) is putting together to discuss Ann-Marie Slaughter’s article “Why Women Can’t Have It All” which is a hugely controversial piece that was published this year.
Anne-Marie Slaughter is a professor of politics and international affairs at Princeton University, and the mother of two teenage boys. She served as the director of policy planning at the State Department from 2009 to 2011. Her article was written after her term in the State Department and she expresses in the beginning that she deliberated for months before deciding to write it. I read her article a few months ago and have been trying to figure out how I wanted to respond. I had immediate ideas after reading the six page dissertation, and have gotten some more perspectives over the past few months, but still wasn’t able to cohesively bring them together until now. I’m sure that after attending the Summit and hearing what these female CEOs from around the nation will say, I’ll have some more ideas.
As stated in yesterdays post, I took a solo trip up to Big Bear Lake this past weekend. Saturday morning I woke up early, called my Mom to let her know I was taking a hike and did she have any worries that I’d end up as a newspaper headline: “missing woman hiker found, results aren’t pretty”…? She felt that I would be fine but wanted to know which trail I was taking. When I replied “Cougar Crest” there was a pause, followed by a “well THAT makes me feel better.” Hey, at least it wasn’t called “Mountain Lion Meal” or “Bloody Ridge.”
Two and a half hours later I stood at the top of the summit for this particular trail (I recognize that I was NOT at the highest point in the San Gorgonio Mountains but that is besides the point.) As I stood at the top taking pictures, then simply breathing in the clean mountain air and looking back down at the trailhead where I could see TINY little cars (one of them hopefully being mine) I felt this happy sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. Not once was I up there that I thought, “well $hit, I made it to the top, I attained this goal, now how the heck am I going to stay up here for an indefinite period of time?” No one ever hikes to the top of a mountain and looks down and decides they are a failure if they don’t stay up there. They realize that they accomplished something, revel in the moment, look back at the journey they took to get there, then they head back down to the trailhead and to their sustainable life.
When an athlete enters into the hall of fame, breaks a world record in the Olympics, or retires from a phenomenal career, no one looks down on them for not coming back the next year to better their previous year/Olympic performance. No one says: “well you should maintain that indefinitely or you are one big fat failure buddy!” No one looks at a male leader and says “yeah well are you at home for the family meal every night? Are you running that company/country AND making sure you’re also an involved and present father, husband, lover, brother, son, uncle, etc?” No, because at the end of the day, being ALL of that ALL of the time and maintaining it for an indefinite amount of time is NOT feasible.
How come we, as women, are constantly trying to attain equal rights/pay/recognition as men (emphasis on the EQUAL) and yet we set goals that far supersede the abilities, and current accomplishments that men have attained? Why is our definition of “having it all” an unattainable watermark that sets us up for failure because, let’s be honest, there are always sacrifices that we must make to achieve certain goals? How come Ann-Marie couldn’t have looked back at her term as the Director of Policy Planning at the State Department once she was back at Princeton and say “you know what?! Kudos to ME for having achieved what few women to this date have accomplished, and not having everything else in my life fall to the wayside. I set goals, I achieved them, now I am scaling back a bit because at THIS POINT in my life I need to focus less heavily on the professional career (although I would say her position at Princeton is NOTHING to be sniffed at) and focus more on my family.”
As I took the long hike back down to my car I thought about the goals I had set for my life when I was a sophomore in high school. I look at what I have set for the next ten years of my life. I smile at the accomplishments that I have achieved, of the focus that has led me to complete these goals, and I do not fault myself for not having secured the husband, family, AND career accolades all at the same time. I realized at a young age that the sacrifices I would HAVE to make to get to what I wanted in my career would cost me on a personal level. And I know that my personal goals will come with time, but that I prioritized based on what I had to focus on at that time in my life. And you know what? Even though I have yet to attain all my career and personal goals, you won’t ever hear me tell a young woman that she can’t “have it all.”
Ladies, we sure as heck CAN AND WILL have it all!! Perhaps not as soon as we would have liked, perhaps not all at the same time, and those of us lucky enough to attain our goals simultaneously may not be able to maintain them for an indefinite period of time. But do not ever think that we cannot or will not have it all if we keep aspiring to achieve our hopes and dreams. And do not let someone who has unrealistic expectations of what the “have it all” means, detract from your hopes, inspirations, and from charging forward in every effort to attain them.
So pick a summit you wish to climb, prepare yourself for anything that may come along during that hike, secure a good support system around you to help when you start to stumble, make sure you’re physically and mentally capable of climbing it, and head to the top without faltering.