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Having it all – Just not at the same time

abimaster | May 31, 2013

This past month we celebrated our super hero moms and paused for a moment to give thanks to the special women in our lives. As a working mother myself, this moment was especially meaningful.

At the recent Women In Defense sponsored Real Women, Real Work, Real World workshop the topic of work-life balance came up many times. Here, a diverse group of women from the mid-Atlantic defense community came together to discuss triumphs, tribulations and meet with potential mentors in the predominantly male-dominated Defense work field.

The tone set by keynote speaker Ms. Amoretta M. (Amie) Hoeber, Former Presidential Appointee to the Under Secretary of the Army, was one of frank discussion on overcoming challenges set for women in this industry.

After her honest and refreshing discussion on keeping true to oneself and taking opportunities when they come, I took advantage of the Q&A session by posing a thought weighing heavy on my mind: “How do I leave behind the guilt of dropping off my five month old baby at daycare everyday?” Her answer was simple and empowering – You don’t. She explained that the guilt will never dissipate, but to let the guilt associated with the decision to work go. Being a working mom is a powerful thing, she noted, but also a sacrifice we make for our children.

Later that morning, I joined the breakout session focused on the recent book by Sheryl Sandberg, Lean In. Led by Harford County Director of Community Services, Beth Hendrix, the room was full of women ready to talk about their perspective of what it means to “lean in.” How empowering to be surrounded by so many strong women sharing their mistakes and successes in leaning into their own professional and personal opportunities. The common theme throughout the discussion was agreeing with Sandberg’s stance on “having it all” doesn’t mean that all aspects of your life have the same prioritization. She notes, “We need more portrayals of women as competent professional and happy mothers – or even happy professionals and competent mothers.”

As a member of Generation X, this seemed like the approach that makes the most sense to me, and as Anne-Marie Slaughter noted in last summer’s cover story of The Atlantic the younger generation of feminists paints “having it all” a myth.

Previously the director of policy planning for the U.S. State Department and dean of Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, she notes: “Women of my generation have clung to the feminist credo we were raised with, even as our ranks have been steadily thinned by unresolvable tensions between family and career, because we are determined not to drop the flag for the next generation. But when many members of the younger generation have stopped listening, on the grounds that glibly repeating ‘you can have it all’ is simply airbrushing reality, it is time to talk.”

And America is talking. It seems that every other morning there are women, and men, interviewing on the morning shows and talking to the “new balance” with the majority of households now boasting dual incomes.

So as we move onto June and make our way to Father’s Day let us take a moment and give thanks to men and women in our lives that choose to have it all – just remember, it doesn’t have to be all at the same time.

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