Saturday, July 7, 2012

having it all?

Two weeks ago a former high ranking State Department official and Princeton professor Anne-Marie Slaughter shocked working women across the USA with her article in Atlantic magazine entitled: Why Women Still Can't Have It All.

"It’s time to stop fooling ourselves, says Anne-Marie Slaughter, a woman who left a position of power: the women who have managed to be both mothers and top professionals are superhuman, rich, or self-employed. If we truly believe in equal opportunity for all women, things have to change."

I believe she is spot on - and here's why.  I never expected to have it all, although I am deeply grateful to the women who forged a path ahead of me to bust down the glass ceiling, I was raised by a mom who did not have those opportunities - and so I know that all people have limitations, my self included. 

Hannah, Lauren and I, around 1994.
I was a Sr Writer/Producer for TNT
While I did have a fairly successful career in television marketing and promotion, we have made sacrifices.  For a time I was the sole breadwinner with a stay-at-home husband.  To follow my career, and then my career change at 41, my entire family paid a price - my children have moved 4 times in the past 10 years and I have gone through a divorce.  

It is down right difficult to parent and work full time.  However , as a United Methodist pastor, I am blessed with a vocation that is fairly flexible and allows me to be with my children for the majority of their activities.  I fear my daughters will not be as fortunate.

My girls grew up hearing that they could be anything they wanted to be.  I read "Reviving Ophelia" when Lauren was elementary age, this book frightened me in so many ways!  I was very intentional about affirming their giftedness and uniqueness as children of God.  I celebrated their accomplishments and encouraged them to dream big.  Along the way, I am not sure that I did a good job sharing with them the sacrifices that I, and millions of other women, have made to have family and career.

"What we discovered in our research is that while the empowerment part of the equation has been loudly celebrated, there has been very little honest discussion among women of our age about the real barriers and flaws that still exist in the system despite the opportunities we inherited."  (Slaughter)

Now that my girls are older, they are striving to have it all and do it all - and I am frankly worried for them.  They both want to be mommy's, my eldest has a healthy 5 month old, but even with a bachelor's degree she is working 3 part time jobs to keep up with her student loans and car payment.  That career oriented full-time job that was supposed to come with a college degree is elusive, and given the economy, I am not sure when she will find her 'perfect' job.

I struggle with what to say to my 20 year old daughter.  I am not so sure that in this season 4 year degrees, with the amount of debt that is being taken on by many of our middle class young adults, will pay off in the short run.  She already has 2 AA degrees and is engaged to a be married next year.  Can  she find happiness and fulfillment as a wife, career woman and mother?  

I think we are in the midst of a huge shift, a shift that is necessary to correct generations of over consumption, poor fiscal management, and perhaps even unrealistic expectations.  I fear that the ones who are caught in the middle are the young adults, those who are currently in their 20s - who will be saddled with an enormous burden of debt (i.e. Social Security for the Baby Boomers), a job market that is shaky and a world that is changing so rapidly its hard to put a finger on things.

These young adults have been trained, and trained quite well, to look at the world through a different lens than folks my age, they grew up with Nickelodeon's rallying cry 'Kids CAN make a difference!'  They have been trained to think critically and to not just be consumers, but participants in the world.  Have we set them up for disappointment?  Or will they be our saving grace?

I think the church has a great opportunity to speak to the yearnings of their heart in ways that are affirming and encouraging, but we have to create spaces for young women and men outside of worship to find and build authentic, safe relationships, to push back, question, and find respite from those things of the world that are hammering them.  

This may be the most important thing we can do as the Church in the early 21st Century, and I think there is a lot at stake.   I don't care about saving the brick and mortar Church, but I do want to be relevant and share God's love, mercy and justice with young and old alike.  I hope we do it thoughtfully with lots of room for exploration and a whole lot of grace.  

in Christ, together,


  1. I agree with you and all this is important, but I was hoping to read more about PIE.

  2. duly noted, I shall indeed write about PIE very soon!