June 22, 2012 at 10:02 am #137093asunshineParticipant
(Warning: 12,000+ words)June 22, 2012 at 11:07 am #137098SW to MDParticipant
I have it all.
Really, I think it comes down to the fact that *I* define that phrase.
Although I have the huge benefit of having had an excellent education, stable family growing up, and numerous other types of privilege that come with the territory.
Does this mean that I do not have lofty aspirations? No. I am most certainly a little high-reaching with my goals. But, I believe that my definition of ‘having it all’ changes over time.
At least that’s my perception, as a M2.99
🙂June 22, 2012 at 6:56 pm #137101newmommdphdParticipant
That article has been on all my friends’ facebook pages. Personally, I feel like my everyday life is less about grand principles and existential questions like those in the article (Am I good feminist? Am I supporting the work of women activists and pioneers who came long before me? Can I truly “have it all?” Oh, what does it all mean (bang head on table)?). It’s more about everyday realities (My husband’s a resident and I’m in med school too. My kid is sick. Who’s going to care for him? How do we find someone loving to take care of our child long-term and address his special needs?). I don’t rage about how my spouse isn’t a stay-at-home husband or how my employer won’t give me flexible hours. My life is what it is, and I don’t know any other way. So I make it work. Flexible hours, committing to having meetings only during the school day, and “working from home in the evening” (all things the author of the article suggests employers do to make life better for working women) are all impractical in medicine where you have to take care of real people, who get sick at all hours — not just during the school day. My perspective has become about doing the very best with what I have, and hoping that’s good enough. I really love my child and have slowed down my career to make space for parenting him — not because I “have to” and I’m a woman. But just because I wanted to have time to enjoy being with him. It doesn’t really make me feel like “I don’t have it all.” Honestly, my internal dialogue every day has nothing to do with “having it all” – I don’t even think about that topic. I think about having a good life and making a good one for my son. A life well-lived is something each woman defines for herself, and that has become my focus rather than trying to do everything or be everything to everyone. But I do work extremely hard and I am very dedicated to both my career and my family.
I do agree with the author of the article that many women of my generation feel like previous generations of women blame us for not advancing in our careers – they say we are not as “ambitious” – rather than focusing on structural barriers.
But I think SW to MD said it best – we each have to define what “having it all” means for us.June 23, 2012 at 3:03 am #137114tr_Participant
I thought she sounded like an out of touch, sheltered academic. So it took her until she was 50 before she had a job with a boss where she didn’t have total control over her own schedule, and *that’s* when she figured out she shouldn’t be going around telling people they could ‘have it all’ if they were just committed enough or whatever? And now she’s going on public radio to talk about this revelation of hers? Who gave her air time for this?
Presumably nobody with an ounce of sense would have believed her anyway though, obviously you cannot do two full-time jobs at once and do them both as well as if each were your exclusive occupation. Raise your hand if you haven’t figured this out already, anyone.
Her recommendations at the end of the Atlantic article make sense (maybe less useful for docs but good in general) but you sure have to wade through a lot of self-absorption to get there.
[quote=newmommdphd]I do agree with the author of the article that many women of my generation feel like previous generations of women blame us for not advancing in our careers – they say we are not as “ambitious” – rather than focusing on structural barriers.
Who gives a flying fig what previous generations of women expect from us in our careers (if anything)? I don’t live my life to fulfill others’ expectations, thanks. I’m making the choices that maximize benefit for myself and my family, given the situation in which I find myself. Anyone else can go take a long walk off a short pier.June 23, 2012 at 5:35 am #137117AmmaMDParticipant
I liked the article. I liked that it directly addressed something that I do struggle with, which IS actually the sense of “if I quit now, I’m letting down the entire movement that helped to bring me here” (tr, I’m just not as independent and enlightened as you =) ). I liked that it directly addressed the fact that this is overwhelmingly best tackled as a how-should-we-value-families question, not as a “women’s question”.
And I liked that it framed some of it in terms of “what do we value, and how does that play out in our workplaces in terms of our society’s laws and practices?” I think this is a very good way to frame it, and one that actually plays out well in medicine – do you want your physician, who will be among other things helping you during your moments of frailty and fear and vulnerability to weigh values and options and make hugely important decisions – to be someone who has chosen to remain aloof from their family and community and focus soley on career at the cost of all else… or do you perhaps want a few physicians in the mix who are the kind of people who also value their kids, and their own ailing parents, and take the time to think about the values of the communities as well?
I don’t begrudge her the “sheltered academic” path – I think if anything she undercuts herself there in a very stereotypically female way: she goes on and on about how sheltered she was there and how this means she didn’t have any sense of how hard it was for the rest of the world… and yes, there are things she didn’t experience doing it that way, but… y’all… making it in academia is HARD. What she had done prior to this job was no 9-to-5 + a few hours once the kids are in bed cakewalk. And having someone in her position talk publicly about the challenges is helpful for me.
A smaller thing I appreciated was her direct discussion of how hard it is to parent new teens – I’ve been doing a lot of seeking of career advice from older women-in-academic-medicine/research lately, and this is something that’s really stood out as coming from person after person: people say yes, the years when they’re very young are hard, and everyone knows that… but the years when they’re 11, 12, 13, 14 are also very hard, and they need YOU around, and at odd times, to boot.
The one thing I found less useful was the emphasis on working from home as much of a cure-all. I sometimes feel like my home life is being slowly bled to death by the idea of working from home – it just makes it that much harder to actually slow down from work-mode and live in the moment with your kids and family the way you need to. I find it SO HARD not to constantly feel like I should be working the moment my daughter pauses to take a breath or something. It’s a big problem.June 23, 2012 at 7:47 am #137120asunshineParticipant
tr_ and newmom, that is *exactly* how I felt. Nothing earth-shattering. Uh….duh it’s hard! Of course you can’t “do it all” the way she defines it. This article is 30 years too late!
Also: I “have it all” because someone loves me and I love them back. It’s as simple as that.June 23, 2012 at 7:59 am #137122megbooParticipant
I both like and dislike this article. I think she makes a valid point to remind women that it’s very likely that some things will have to bend in life to make way for others.
But I dislike how, as someone else pointed out, she fails to realize her idea of “having it all” is different from my idea. My idea is to be working full-time as a physician while my husband is home with the kid more often, and living in a family-friendly community that we like. That’s enough for me. No academic lofty goals. No research lofty goals. And I don’t think that’s asking too much as a woman physician.
I think women need to stop thinking, in general, that we are magnificent, ethereal creatures that men should bow to. Rather, I would like to be respected for my work and productivity than my gender.June 23, 2012 at 8:45 am #137124sahmdParticipant
I liked the article a lot. It was interesting to hear about how she was able to take on a high-status government job while she still had kids at home (in another state with her husband!). I think we focus a lot on the things (she calls them half-truths) we can do individually to succeed at work (despite having a family), such as being ambitious, choosing the right spouse, and sequencing things optimally — and people will judge us negatively if we don’t do all those things — but it is also true that the world needs to change a bit, too.
I agree with newmommdphd that her ideas for change were not all realistic for medicine, but I do see the point. Heck, if I could have a job that was just during school hours, I would not have to arrange for childcare and my husband would not have to do any childcare at all. It would be way less stressful than the way it is now. And being able to do anesthesia from home would just be so convenient. Oh well. But I think there are other ways that medicine could adapt to the increasing presence of women with families.
I also didn’t agree that women need maximum job flexibility when their children are 8-18. Uh, what about pregnancy, delivery, maternity leave, breastfeeding, and the demanding early years of childhood?
Thanks for posting the article, asunshine!June 24, 2012 at 1:45 am #137130
I’m with tr_. I was rolling my eyes through the whole thing.
The realization I’m coming to is that there are just some jobs (neurosurgeon/head of state/management consultant/high ranking government official whose children live in a different state) that are fundamentally incompatible with being a present/involved/adequate/good/whatever parent, mother OR father. And for better or worse, there are more men than women in this world who are willing to live with that.
Having said that, I also think her “half truths” are actually just true. They were working for her great until she took an intense and completely inflexible job in another state. (Again: facepalm.) And they’re working for me. I definitely feel like I have it all. All of it. Everything worth having, I have. Faith, health, marriage, children, meaningful work, microbrew. Who says we can’t have it all?June 24, 2012 at 1:51 am #137132
Also, I love it that Amma said “y’all”.June 24, 2012 at 3:43 am #137136southernmdParticipant
Someone other than me said ya’ll? I’m so proud. 🙂June 24, 2012 at 3:58 am #137137southernmdParticipant
My brief thoughts – why does “having it all” seem to be so male-defined still? What if having it all is staying at home and raising children? Why does “having it all” have to be one thing? I don’t like narrow parameters and single-definitions of nebulous concepts, and this whole thing sounds just like that.
Microbrews + great wine. Definitely having it all, Emily!June 24, 2012 at 5:03 am #137139AmmaMDParticipant
[quote=Emily2651]Also, I love it that Amma said “y’all”. [/quote]
=) My Okie roots showing through!
This is an interesting discussion. It seems like a lot of the negative comments circle around “but I have everything I want/need already” and “duh!”. I guess the “but I have it all” thing in my mind comes down a bit to what that means as a cultural catch-phrase in this context. Just like Mrs. Romney has worked in many ways but not the way people most often mean when they say “working mother”, there are lots of ways to “have it all”, but in this context – and she explicitly frames her context as a bit of the slightly old-school feminist movement of the 70s, not the version most of us grew up with – I think it doesn’t just mean having the things required to be happy in your individual life, but access for at least some of your members to the “top ranks” of major professions – and in particular, those places where our intellectual discourse is shaped and the decisions are made. At least, that’s how I think of it. So that may be part of why I have fewer “but I can be a doctor and see my kids just fine!” thoughts in response. Also, I’m feeling a lot more totally trapped at the moment – it’s feeling really, really hard right now to do justice to what my family needs without giving up on the entire research part of my career – but doing that feels like giving up on the part that was supposed to be “society-shaping” in broader ways than the individual practice of medicine. I’m even finding myself feeling over and over and over that I could make it work if I had a lot more money – but without a high-earning spouse, I just can’t do it on my (now part time) resident’s salary. All around, then, I think this echoed themes that are really big in my life right now.
In terms of the “duh!” complaints: I guess I may have entered this professional track with the idea that some of the most extreme pathways would be off limits if I wanted to have reasonable involvement wiht my family (whatever that means) – so, I didn’t even consider any form of surgery, for example. But the idea that there may be NO way for me to make it work in academic medicine without either just not sleeping at all or being subsidized by some yet-to-be-discovered external source is feeling like a bit of a shock.
Finally, I think it’s also important to look at her discussion of the generational forces at work, here, too. She talks a lot about how what she’s saying is discussed constantly by people our age – she’s not claiming that it’s all new to everyone. What she’s saying is that people in her position have tended to be demeaning of this talk, and also to see it as threatening to some of the ideals of feminism laid out in the 70s. So, I saw it as more that she’s reaching across the divide and saying “sorry, ladies – you know all that time I was acting like it was easy for me and if it wasn’t for you it was your own darned fault? that was wrong of me. we should be more honest about this with each other.” And that’s something I appreciate hearing, too.
I think this is all perhaps more significant for me as well given how much of my last 12 years has consisted of me getting very large amounts of money for my training by saying I was going to do research long term, based in part on the idea that this balance should be doable if I just try hard enough. Leaving me now feeling like I’m totally failing everybody if I end up scaling back on that part of my career just to keep the heat on, food on the table, my kids knowing my name and my marriage more or less intact. If the last generation could overcome the barriers they did with grace and strength and persistence, why am I struggling so much? This addresses this to me, right now, burning question, and I appreciate that.June 24, 2012 at 6:22 am #137140
I think my prior response may have been a bit glib.
[quote=AmmaMD] … in this context … I think [HIA] doesn’t just mean having the things required to be happy in your individual life, but access for at least some of your members to the “top ranks” of major professions – and in particular, those places where our intellectual discourse is shaped and the decisions are made.[/quote]
I agree. And I think part of the disconnect for me is that — from where I sit — it looks like we do. I get it that the numbers, on a national scale, aren’t there. But at the same time, fully half the faculty in the division I’ll join in a few months are women and many of them have small children. And the immediate-last chair of the department of medicine at my institution was a woman. Exactly half of the leadership in my department is female. Literally all of these women have very small children. And then thinking more broadly, the immediate-last rector of my parish (and quite an influential person in my diocese) was a woman. My bishop presently is a woman. Both of my senators are women. I must live in a statistical aberration, I don’t know.
[quote=AmmaMD]Also, I’m feeling a lot more totally trapped at the moment – it’s feeling really, really hard right now to do justice to what my family needs without giving up on the entire research part of my career – but doing that feels like giving up on the part that was supposed to be “society-shaping” in broader ways than the individual practice of medicine. I’m even finding myself feeling over and over and over that I could make it work if I had a lot more money – but without a high-earning spouse, I just can’t do it on my (now part time) resident’s salary.[/quote]
That sounds really difficult; I’m sorry you’re going through this. Honestly I can’t imagine combining (much/productive) research with residency. I’ve had a small clinical project on the back burner for six months now. Wanna guess how many subjects I’ve enrolled? NONE. Ha! I cringe when I run into my mentor around the hospital. I’ve also had the same revise-and-resubmit on my desk for, oh, three years. Yep. Three years. But I have two more or less protected research years coming up … anything like that on the horizon for you?
Re: academic medicine in terms of my own future, I’m still on the fence. I feel like, if it works, it works. If not, bring on the Kaiser 80% job and I’ll just live happily ever after. But I can see how having invested in a PhD might make the decision more fraught for you. One thing that I’m really interested to consider though, is the VA. I adore taking care of vets and I think a good amount of interesting (clinical and outcomes) research comes out of the VA. I suspect my future may be tied to the VA. Is that a solution for you, long term?June 24, 2012 at 7:23 am #137142newmommdphdParticipant
Amma, I empathize with your struggle to keep the research part of your career going. I sent you a PM with some thoughts.
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