Tuesday, June 26, 2012

A Latina Lawyer's Perspective on "Why Women Still Can't Have it All"

by Debra Mares

I was recently intrigued by the debate on “Why Women Still Can’t Have it All.”  Arguments and articles have surfaced after Anne-Marie Slaughter’s article was published on the topic in The AtlanticSlaughter, who once worked as the director of policy planning for Hilary Clinton had been warned against admitting that being a top professional and a mom was a constant struggle.  Slaughter admitted that she helped blame millions of women if they could not “manage to rise up the ladder as fast as men and also have a family and an active home life (and be thin and beautiful to boot).”   
Since the article broke, many have reacted.  Some argue women can have it all, just not at the same time.  Other’s argue women can have it all if they do things like find a spouse willing to share the duties.  I’m invigorated by the debate, regardless of what opinion is taken.  The dilemma reminds me of the annual New Years brunches I’ve been having with my two dear friends over the past five years.  One of my girlfriends is a stay-at-home mom and the other is a never-been-married lawyer, who has spent a good share of her career working her way up the corporate ladder.  I am a divorced lawyer that was on her way to having it “all” (husband, home, career, kids) before it was cut short six years ago by a divorce.  
It never fails that I leave our annual get-togethers with the reminder that “the grass is always greener on the other side.”  I listen to the stories of my married girlfriend who has a young son.  She envies our education and careers.  I in turn envy her role as a wife, her perfect husband and remarkable son.  I always leave with a fresh perspective - that you can’t have it all.  I’m forced each year to ask myself - what is my purpose in life?  Is it to be a wife, mother, family-loving, career-driven, community-serving woman, or all the above.  
It’s important to ask ourselves not whether we can have it all but rather, what is it that defines us at this moment of our lives.  Today, my purpose is to be a community serving, family loving and creative driven role model, to my thirteen year old niece and the young women I mentor.  Two years ago, that wasn’t who I was.  I was striving to be a career driven prosecutor climbing to the top of the ladder.  I was awarded top prosecutor of the year twice and managed a team of attorneys.  
As women and professionals, we cycle through phases of life and career.  Last year, community service, mentorship, and creative writing became more important to me.  So I left the “ladder” to excel in the others, just like Anne-Marie Slaughter left Washington to focus on her family.  “Having it all” is being in control of your decisions and honoring your future-self and your goals.  “Having it all” is nourishing your passions and goals, whether they are being a devoted wife, mother, sister, student, writer, athlete or career woman.
Once a year, I make a vision board.  On that board, it has everything I will strive for over the following year.  Last year, I cut out letters from a magazine and posted them to my board to spell out “Author” and “Novel by.”  Over the year, I made decisions to honor the goal of publishing a novel.  Sometimes those decisions dictated how or with who I spent time with.  Making a new vision board every year is critical because we are constantly growing as women and as professionals.  Our passions evolve.  Having it all means having a choice to pursue your dreams, whatever they may be at any given moment. 

What do you think?  Why can't women still have it all?  Or can they...at the same time? 

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