June 22, 2012
Moms, Dads, and Washington
Anne-Marie Slaughter has decisively demonstrated why she is one of America's most valuable public intellectuals with this thought-provoking cover story in the Atlantic. I recommend this article to any Washington professionals -- male or female -- looking to balance work and family over the course of a successful career. This article deserves to be read and debated collectively by couples over the weekend.
A few points:
1. I would love to read a companion piece to Anne-Marie's article by Andrew Moravcsik, who is not the only guy out there married to a woman whose intellectual gifts and professional promise often overshadow his own. How does he, as an accomplished and gifted professional, enable his wife? What went through his own mind as his wife took on positions of ever-increasing responsibility that placed more of the burden for parenting on him? For some of us, these questions are not hypothetical, and I suspect I am not the only one out there who would love to hear his perspective.
2. It might be because I know so many theologically orthodox Christians, Muslims, and Jews, but I know a lot of really well educated and professionally promising women out there for whom being a full-time mother is the acme of career success. These women, who do not necessarily think they have "lost" anything by choosing to raise children full time, are not represented in Anne-Marie's article. There is a starting assumption that positions of high authority in government and in corporations should eventually be split 50-50 between men and women because well educated women, if given the chance, want to be both mothers and high-profile executives. That is not necessarily the case, though. I know a lot of ridiculously talented women out there for whom their highest professional aspiration is to be a stay-at-home mother. I'm related to some of those women and go to church with others, but I suspect that there are women out there outside conservative faith communities for whom this is also true.
3. Don't forget the boys. Every conversation we have about women and their careers and families should be accompanied by a discussion of what we want for our boys who are growing up. What should it mean, for these young men, to be fathers and working professionals? Should their roles in families and at work precisely mirror those of women or should we have different expectations for their roles and responsibilities? When I was growing up, the only expectations for me that differed from those for my sister related to manners and the military: I was expected to hold doors open for women and stand up when they left the table, and I was also expected, by my mother and unlike my sister, to serve in the military. But that was about it. Only when I was in my twenties did I start having conversations with older men and women about what my role as a husband and (potentially) a father should be.
4 (counterpoints). Dan and Barbara's amazing kids criticize the article both directly and indirectly in Salon. I didn't think Rebecca's somewhat knee-jerk reaction to the piece really wrestled with much of its content, even though she is, in my mind, one of the brightest women writing on women's issues. Aaron's article, by contrast, wasn't about Anne-Marie's article at all. But Aaron starts to explore #3 on my list of points in a really interesting and oblique way that I appreciated. Read them both.