It took me a few months, but I finally got around to reading the much talked about article from the Atlantic, “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All,” by Anne Slaughter. My overall reaction was, “Bravo Wonder Woman, Bravo! You certainly out did yourself. Now go sit down, you’re stressing me out.” In all fairness, her reflection wasn’t for my types, it was intended for the upper echelon of society, in her own words, “I am writing for my demographic—highly educated, well-off women who are privileged enough to have choices in the first place. We may not have choices about whether to do paid work, as dual incomes have become indispensable. But we have choices about the type and tempo of the work we do. We are the women who could be leading, and who should be equally represented in the leadership ranks.”
I suppose I had no business reading the piece in the first place, but I just had to know how the other half lives. I shared the piece with a few of my pals and then told them that I planned to write my own piece about the middle/working class American woman. To my dismay, they all beg me not to, for the life of an “average” woman is far more depressing. “Don’t write it Chanda, you will expose too much!”
I couldn’t help myself, work-life-home balance has been a recurring topic. After reading Slaughter’s piece, I was reminded of an older woman who asked me one day, “Have you ever felt like you were tricked?” She had originally asked me about my weekend and I listed off the various chores I completed in my home and the things I did for my family. She laughed and said that she had done the same things and went on to say, “I suppose the women’s liberation movement just added more chores and now you have to work a job, too.” She stepped off the elevator before I had the chance to respond, “Hey lady, most black women have always had to balance it all, and we can debate about the merits of the movement. But alas, I didn’t get to say that and I was left alone to ponder about my life as a “career girl.”
Similar to the Slaughter types, I had a busy, demanding job, which frequently required me to work extended hours. However, unlike Slaughter, I often had to pick up my own takeout or prepare a late dinner, which was then followed by bedtime reading with my daughter. Once I placed her to bed, I would run around and do some light cleaning, plan her lunch for the next day, check my work email and then off to bed and repeat like Groundhog Day.
You see, when I was growing up in the late 1980s, my favorite television show was The Cosby Show. That show taught me so many life lessons and even to this day, I still reference various themes it, in particular, the theme of “Having it all.” The mother of the show balanced being a well educated, lawyer, attending speaking engagements, and cocktail parties, while being a nurturing, caring mother, who prepared daily meals, disciplined the children and maintained a healthy relationship with her spouse — Mrs. Huxtable did it all. Of course, having a husband who worked from home as a successful doctor, managing the day-to-day lives of six kids, seem more feasible.
As a child I was smart enough to understand that The Cosby Show was based on fiction, I mean who could turn the house into a market to sell Theo his furniture to teach him about money in a single afternoon –that part was surely fiction. However, I certainly felt that being a professional woman with a family was certainly attainable. My mother, a career girl of the 1980s was terrible at balancing it all. She owned a small business and barely had time for daily meals together, let alone putting on a well-choreographed dance show. SIDEBAR: How lazy of my mother, she only had three kids, seems like we could have at least one performance. I have digressed, I suppose the point is, as an “average” woman with degrees from modest institutions, somehow I ended up in the Modest Mouse Club and I actually have to do it all. So, I don’t appreciate Ms. Slaughter rubbing it in my face!
I know what you are thinking, “You had no business reading the Atlantic, it’s out of your income bracket!” Well, People was out of stock that day and I got a glimpse at the other side. I now feel ashamed. Somehow didn’t quite become Claire Huxtable and now I am realizing that I didn’t even become Anne Slaughter.