Friday, October 12, 2012

Having “Enough,” Not "All"

The following is a response to Dr. Slaughter’s article by Kara Baskin.  Ms. Baskin writes a blog at the Boston Globe site and has one child.

At times I think Ms. Baskin is a little harsh with Dr. Slaughter.  But many of her characterizations are very insightful.

Ms. Baskin describes Dr. Slaughter as one of “the elite” whose life “is all about economizing time, squeezing one more second from every day for preservation.”  Ms. Baskin writes that Dr. Slaughter and her “high-achieving peers” are “shuttling from obligation to obligation without any sense of true fulfillment.”  She summarizes: “Behold life at the top: One long astonishing feat of compartmentalization executed for fear [of] letting someone down.”  Ms. Baskin criticizes:

Slaughter is strong on mechanics, but there’s something missing from her story: a sense of joy. Before women ask themselves if they should work from home or opt out for a couple of years to have kids or wire their homes for video-conferences, why not take a step back and redefine fulfillment? Colleges prepare us to land the job, but they don’t teach us how to balance a checkbook. This is similar. Slaughter wants to tell us how to balance the marquee moments (Show up for work! Show up for soccer practice!) but not about actually living them. She is big on ideas but small on details.

Later, Ms. Baskin adds an interesting analogy:

I see this as an extension of the egalitarianism that has affected elementary schools across the country. These days, every kid is a winner at field day. Everyone gets the gold star, whether they deserve it or not—because, for some reason, the end game has become about winning.

This is field day for adults. Yet not every adult has to be crowned a “winner” in the classic sense. (And by the Atlantic’s definition, being a winner sounds pretty damn tiring.) In real life, not everyone will get the big promotion, land the fancy job, and produce the well-adjusted children. Men have dealt with this for years: In life, quite simply, there are trade-offs. Why can’t we accept that? Not every kid gets the blue ribbon at field day, and not every parent gets to be wonder-woman or superman. Doesn’t true fulfillment, a true sense of “all,” come with knowing that? This should be liberating, not a letdown.

Ms. Baskin concludes:

We’ve earned, after all these years, the right to ask that question. We shouldn’t feel compelled to fulfill some feminist obligation paved by our mothers to be and do it all because women before us didn’t have the option. The very point is that now we do have options; we can define happiness for ourselves. There is more to life, for some of us, than a briefcase and a baby. All is an old word. Enough is more to the point—having enough to make you happy and, hey, maybe actually enjoying the ride. Success is about more than just showing up.

I agree with many of the sentiments that Ms. Baskin shares.  But ironically, she too is really describing a female perspective that is privileged and relatively elite.  She is explicitly speaking for women who’ve been to college.  And implicitly, she is speaking for women who do not need to work for a living.  Ms. Baskin seems to condemn Dr. Slaughter’s comparmentalized, tread mill of a life unless Dr. Slaughter is actually enjoying it.  “[T]rue fulfillment” is the driver per Ms. Baskin’s perspective. 

But my critique of Ms. Baskin’s critique is that pursuing such fulfillment is a luxury.  Most people on this planet work hard to meet their basic needs (and those of their dependents).  Many parents would love to spend a day “calling in sick, eating cold pizza for breakfast, spending the day watching bad TV or playing with our kids,” but grumbling tummies don’t permit such indulgences.  Not everyone gets paid leave.  Not everyone has a permanent job.  Heck, not everyone even has a phone on which they can call in sick. 




1 Corinthians 12:8-11

A word of wisdom is given by the Spirit to one person, a word of knowledge to another according to the same Spirit, faith to still another by the same Spirit, gifts of healing to another in the one Spirit,  performance of miracles to another, prophecy to another, the ability to tell spirits apart to another, different kinds of tongues to another, and the interpretation of the tongues to another.  All these things are produced by the one and same Spirit who gives what he wants to each person.

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