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June 28, 2012

Dear Atlantic Magazine,

Thank you for the interesting counterpoint to the previous article re: having it all.  What a novel idea, pitting two women who have both worked for State against each other!  Fabulous, right?  

Well, not really.  In this last piece, we get to read about a career Foreign Service woman who has, by her definition, had a full family life and career.  This is wonderful for her, yet once again, the entire article still focuses on the idea that one MUST work in an insanely demanding job outside the home and have children in order to have it all.

Why?  Why do we continue to fuel the idea that one must do both in order to feel happy and satisfied?  Do those of us who don't have lower standards or a lesser intelligence?  Do we not have that need to succeed?  Do our volunteer activities (which could stand in place of a full-time job) count for so little in others' minds?

Maybe it's just the timing is not right for us to try that 70 hour work week, in addition to a busy home life.  Or, maybe by virtue of our spouses's career, we are already working 70 hours (or more) a week simply taking care of things on the homefront.  Yes, we could try to work full-time outside the home, but that would add more stress, alleviate few issues and add complications to an already full and happy lifestyle.  

I have to say, by far, the most salient point in the second article is that the obvious point that Ms. Smith "chose" not to do a tour in Iraq for the sake of her family.  It must be nice to feel that you can make that choice in order to achieve family/life balance, but not all positions within State allow one to feel they can ignore the AIP bid list.  In fact, some of us have given up a year with our spouse TWICE.

Maybe it doesn't matter in our case, because the person going overseas is male, thus he already has it all?  FYI, anyone who thinks that needs to have his or her head examined, as spending a full year away from your family, no matter which member of the family you happen to be, is not defined as having it all.  Living in a war zone, working 16 hours a day/7 days a week?  No, I would not define it that way.  Clearly the author of the second article understood that, since she *chose* not to serve an unaccompanied tour.   Maybe that is the creativity and ingenuity on her part that allowed her to have it all?

Then again, it really doesn't matter.  Atlantic Magazine really doesn't care about my thoughts, because unless I work full time AND have a crazy home life, I don't have it all.  I really wish, though, that they would have asked us first if we had it all, rather than publishing not one, but two articles that fuel the notions that we can or can't, AND that having it all only counts if one has what is considered a high-powered career.  There are plenty of stay at home dads these days.  Do they not have it all?  

Let's just stop already.  Let's quit comparing and deciding who does or doesn't have it all, and once and for all, make that decision ON OUR OWN.  Who cares what someone else does?  Atlantic Magazine, all you had to do was ask the right person...and, in my opinion, you missed the boat twice.

Sincerely,

Jen

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here here. Well said Jen.

Hi. I enjoyed reading your perspective on both the Slaughter article and Dana Shell Smith's response. With Smith's article, I do appreciate that she acknowledges "alternative" definitions of "work-life balance":

"The red herring of this conversation is the implication that work-life balance is all about kids. I speak on panels at the State Department about work-life balance, and I always try to point out that the "life" part of the equation means something different to everyone. If we are genuine in our desire to create an environment that allows balance, then we want everyone to have a life, whether that means running marathons, caring for aging parents, supporting a partner in his or her career, playing in a band, or getting a good night's sleep before going back to work."

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