Having it all
Anne-Marie Slaughter published this long but worthwhile piece in the Atlantic last month (Why Women Still Can’t Have It All), setting off another round of discussion on the interwebz about what “having it all” means. I’ve also had a couple of conversations recently with young, eager, female students about how to balance work and life, families, careers, and achieving success.
The reality is, of course, we all only have 24 hours in a day and 2000 calories to burn. Nobody can “have it all” or “do it all.” We all make choices. Every hour that you spend watching Breaking Bad is an hour you are not training for Alaskan mountain search-and-rescue operations. You can be reasonably sure President Obama is not personally taking his daughters to the pediatrician when they get sick. Finding a work-life balance is less about “having it all” than it is about “having what matters to you in a way you are comfortable with.” That’s what pioneering women worked so hard for – having the choices. You alone can make them.
Off my soapbox, though, here’s an interesting, closer-to-home study on how men achieve work-life balance in academic jobs (Male Scientist Balancing Act). News flash: more than half do not have “balance” in the way women usually talk about it.
And not all men are ok with that, academic partners or not. At the LPSC Women in Science meeting this year, several men asked to attend (and of course were welcomed). Terik Daly from BYU kindly sent this note afterward, that I’m pleased to share.
“As a neophyte planetary scientist attending the Planetary Science Research Conference in March, I approached the “Women in Planetary Science” session with trepidation. I am not a woman, and I was naïve enough to doubt that I would get much from the session. I was wrong.
What I expected to be an explication of gender discrimination turned out to be an illuminating discussion about the balance between work and family, the tritely bantered “work-life balance”. While I fully support women in planetary science—and women in science generally—I was fascinated by the fact that the problem of balancing family and work only arose in a female-focused session. Panelists discussed the optimal time to have children, the timing on tenure clocks, and the importance of a supportive department, and I made many mental notes during the discussion because each of these topics applied to me, too.
Although I am not a woman, I am an equal partner in a marriage, and I am equally invested in my family. Work-life balance applies to each of us, no matter our gender. While certain challenges may be gender-specific (I will never have to deal with being pregnant, for example), the overarching theme is as relevant to me as a young planetary scientist with an 8-month pregnant wife as it is to my female colleagues. I sincerely hope that this issue can be discussed more openly, not only in “Women in Planetary Science” sessions, but in career planning sessions in general. Work-life balance is an issue that deserves our attention, regardless of our gender.”