Follow Up Conversation: Balancing Our Work and Personal Lives

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

baby feet, parents, toes (flickr: John A Ryan Photography)

Anne-Marie Slaughter of The Atlantic, a professor at Princeton and a former State Department official, sparked a conversation about gender roles and the current state of feminism with her piece, "Why Women Still Can't Have it All". What emerged was a closer look at the specific choices and sacrifices families make to keep this balance.

Rebecca Traister, a writer for Salon, is the author of "Big Girls Don't Cry: The Election that Changed Everything for American Women." Her brother, Aaron Traister, is a columnist who writes about masculinity. The siblings discussed the juggling act between parenting and working, and what that struggle is like for both women and men. 

"We're dealing with upending essentially millennia of one way of doing things, in which women were responsible in the domestic sphere and men were in the public sphere," Rebecca says. "We're changing that, and it happens more slowly than people believe." In her article, for example, Slaughter recalls that when she was in graduate school in the 1980's, the general belief was that gender equality would be achieved in the near future. Complete equality, especially in the domestic sphere, has continued to be elusive. 

"Rearranging our expectations take so much time that it is generation by generation," Rebecca says. "My brother and I have completely different lives than our father and mother had, but then our children will in turn have different attitudes. It turns out that change is a lot slower and harder than we thought 30 years ago." 

Her brother Aaron agrees. "We came from a very traditional household. My mother was totally in charge of the domestic sphere, even though she was a tenured professor."

Aaron believes that the current state of the ailing economy is actually helping to close the gender gap in the professional sphere. "I know two guys, for instance, in the last year, who have had children born with medical issues. IT became an issue of practicality for them to stay home because their wives were the ones with better health benefits." The fact that a growing number of women are out-earning their husbands is one of the main reasons that fathers choose to become stay-at-home dads. 

At the end of the day, Rebecca believes, the gender gap is closing, albeit more slowly than people expect. "It is shifting. At the same time that we wring our hands about it and say, 'We need to do so much more and apply conscious thought', we also have to be aware that these things have begun to change," Rebecca says. "We have to acknowledge that we're somewhere in the middle, in the process." 


Aaron Traister and Rebecca Traister

Produced by:

Robert Balint, Rebecca Klein and Mythili Rao

Comments [3]

anna from new york

I am still fuming. While the overfed, overprivileged and over-over-over-primitive "ladies" babble about HAVING it ALL, CAREERS etc., most American women have one concern - how to feed (in more senses than one) their newborn. There is a significant percentage of women who get ONE week of paid maternity leave and HAVE to go back to work. I hear the "ladies" asking: "Why?" Dear "ladies, why don't you ask someone to calculate how a working woman (with or without a husband) can afford housing (the cheapest one), food, health care, etc. working full time, let alone not working.
Again, continue babbling, indecent morons.

Jun. 27 2012 07:00 AM
anna from new york

OK, I just listened for a moment to two comments and my delicate (and well educated stomach) ordered me to stop listening immediately. Predictably, people raised in the spirit of "America, America ueber Alles" and in a belief that nothing beats good old-fashioned sloganeering, babble about changing attitudes and taking time off, etc.
Now, dear illiterate Americans, let me tell an interesting story (I know you won't believe me, but I'll tell it anyway). Believe it or not, there are countries in the world where both men and women have (oh horror) vacations, sick days, family PAID leave, MATERNITY?PATERNITY paid leave (long, long, long - enough to raise a healthy toddler), etc.
In other words, I miss knowledge of such concept as "civilized society"/"civilized structures" and "civilization" itself.
Continue babbling, morons.

Jun. 27 2012 06:34 AM
Ed from Larchmont

The comparison can be made with Catholic priests: one reason they are not allowed to marry is so that they have all their time to devote to their parish and ministry. (Married clergy say how difficult it is to meet the demands of both.)

Jun. 27 2012 06:19 AM

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