I am just fresh from reading an article from the Atlantic: Anne-Marie Slaughter’s article Why Women Still Can’t Have It All. I am struck by how her article is connected to the shootings at Sandy Hook.
In this article, Ms. Slaughter carefully details the realities and the hopes she has for integrating the gifts of both men and women to the culture at large. She describes these benefits in terms of not just the innovation of this country’s productivity in the domains of business, academia, and government, but of benefit to present and the future workers, namely our children.
Her long essay is not a male-bashing work – indeed otherwise. She points out as some of the changes that technology has afforded workers to be at home and still productive – and she credits acceptance of this ‘work from home’ mentality to the men who not only saw and appreciated, but experienced the flexibilty technology granted to themselves as well as to those who valued time with their families. These men gave voice to and demanded what women already knew about harnessing technology in service to work-life balance.
She in no way denigrates the options of choosing only between being to be a full time parent or a full time career person without a family. What she offers us is the gray area in-between – an space wherein we can ‘make it work for us’ – men AND women. While she challenges us to be creative, she charges the leadership of the culture with the task of creating that space wherein such a space is possible.
In the wake of the tragedy in Connecticut, we are keenly reminded of the importance of our being able to be present to our families. We nod and say to each other how important it is to raise our children in an atmosphere of care and love, how important it is for us to have time to be with them. We are quick to name the guns as something we should control. The guns are an immediate culprit. We can feel safe if we name ‘access to guns’ as the thing we must control.
Eventually this horror will die down, and the stories will make their way to the back pages of the papers and onto the lists of national tragedies this country has endured. Teachers, day care workers, and first responders will return to being considered takers in contract negotiations for higher pay. Children will return to being unseen on the bottom of our collective awareness until they are 18 or 21 – when independence is conferred on them by virtue of chronological age. Then we will expect them to be responsible, adult, having reached the legal age of majority. They will be ‘seen’ and judged – less than acceptable behavior ‘tsk-tsked’ as having been raised by a working mother, or a non-working father, or in a single parent home.
The culture has an account – and we are the culture.
In my work as a therapist, I frequently find that there are so many influences upstream of “the reason” something went badly. The guns may be the reason, the surface cause in the Sandy Hook tragedy – but that is not the whole story. Perhaps in the shadow of this event we might consider the cultural responsibilities and cultural ramifications of how work-life balance affects families. Ms Slaughter’s article brilliantly details the underbelly why we can’t have it all while Sandy Hook demonstrates it’s cost. These are the upstream influences, the precursors of what the future holds for all of us.