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Thread: Can women have it all? Do they even want to?

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    Default Can women have it all? Do they even want to?

    Gaby Hinsliff and Amelia Hill
    Sunday November 27, 2005
    The Observer


    The myth of the superwoman 'having it all', juggling a stellar career and children with breezy efficiency, has given working mothers inferiority complexes for decades. From Shirley Conran arguing life was too short to stuff a mushroom, to Nicola Horlick two decades later on the ferocious planning it took to balance a City career with six children, women have hardly lacked advice on how to organise their lives.
    But now, the Having All It All generation are giving way to the Actually, I Don't Want It All - or at least, Not All At The Same Time generation. And their champion comes from a somewhat unusual quarter. The government's minister for women declares today that modern women are increasingly unwilling to bear the stress of trying to do everything at once - and calls on men to share more of the responsibilities at home.

    A move towards equal relationships could be the greatest hope not only of more balanced lives but of narrowing the pay gap between the two sexes, Tessa Jowell told The Observer, with women freed to work to their full ability if they wanted to - but at differing paces at different times in their lives.

    More than half of British women are currently working in a job for which they are overqualified, often because domestic responsibilities leave them too little time or energy to pursue more senior positions. 'What seems to be clear is that we have moved beyond the "have it all" generation,' Jowell said. 'There was a sense that if you worked hard enough you could have it all, you could have time for your children and do a demanding and interesting job.

    'Now women are much more prepared to own up to the fact that they would like to work, and they think they are better mothers if they both work and have time at home with their children. But there seems to be a much clearer assumption that the trade-off is one that has to be made, and that's one of the reasons why women work below their levels of qualification and skill.'

    Jowell's comments, ahead of a national tour this week consulting British women on what they really want from politics and politicians, are bound to trigger fierce debate about working motherhood.

    The phrase 'having it all', first coined by the Cosmopolitan editor Helen Gurley Brown to suggest Cosmo girl could do anything she wanted, is a feminist tenet and the yardstick by which many women guiltily judged themselves.

    But Jowell, who has raised two children and three stepchildren en route to the cabinet, admitted she had at times pushed herself to the limit in a way her daughter's generation would not.

    'When my children were little I used to work through the night twice a week, in order that I could have three days at the weekend with them. I used to start work at 10pm and work through until 4am,' she said.

    'My daughter wouldn't do that. I did feel at times that the balance was very precarious. I would hope that she would be able to just be as ambitious as she wants to be, with a bit less kind of juggling stress.'

    Last night she was backed by Horlick, now running a financial consultancy for women, who said she had never believed it was possible to have it all. 'What women have to accept is that if they become mothers there quite simply is not an equal playing field. Having children brings a huge responsibility with it and your career can no longer come first.'

    Conran, author of the seminal 1975 book Superwoman which taught working women how to get away with less housework, said it was a 'damn good thing' if modern women were rejecting their mothers' obsessions.

    However, the trend raises difficult questions for the government about how to help women step on and off the career throttle when they need to, without sacrificing their financial prospects. Women still earn around 13.2 per cent less than men, and research to be published by the government's Women and Work Commission in January is expected to show that much of the gap is due to women's career choices - if all women were working at the level of which they were capable, it is estimated that the national economic output would rise by £25 billion.

    Which is where, says Jowell, men come in. 'In the longer term there are a number of things that will begin to close the pay gap and perhaps the most interesting is the greater sharing by men of parental responsibility,' she said. 'As men do more at home, women can do more at work. That, I think, is the next stage of the revolution. It's a stage that may be laughed at by older men, but most young men will [do it] - they want to be more part of their children's lives than their own fathers were part of theirs.'

    Government priorities, she said, should include extending the right to ask for part-time hours to parents of older children - currently the rights only apply to parents of under-sixes - and to men and women caring for elderly relatives. Both of these measures would help men be more involved in child-rearing, but could also help mothers of older children cope with a teenage crisis.

    This week's tour, kicking off in Birmingham, will test whether ordinary women agree. But Maeve Haran, author of the best-selling book Having It All, said the dilemma of balancing work and home was the hardest of modern times. 'Women do want - and indeed need - to work. But they want a lot more besides,' she said. 'Women have a much wider notion of what a fulfilled life involves than men and for most women, nurturing is still central to their idea of being female.'

    Others, however, are more sceptical. 'Superwoman isn't dead. She never existed,' said Allison Pearson, author of I Don't Know How She Does It, a novel about a stressed City mother.

    Most women wanted part-time work when their children were small 'and the chance to reach the top when they're older,' she said.

    'The "Don't Want It All" generation has seen the toll that juggling has taken on their mums and have concluded that someone else can roll the sodding rock up the hill. And who can blame them?'
    'Those who sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither.' Ben Franklin

    "When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross."
    --Sinclair Lewis

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    Default Re: Can women have it all? Do they even want to?

    They're probably not trying to have it all because of the shocking prejudice that exists in this country against women of child-bearing age. Just try getting a job if you're 30. I dare you.

    At my last job interview I was asked the following questions:

    * Are you married? (Yes)
    * Do you have children? (No)
    * Do you want children? (Yes)
    * How long would you take off work if you had children? (I don't know)
    * What would you do if you got pregnant accidentally? (I don't see how that question is relevant)

    It's not legal to ask those questions in the United States, but apparently it's A-OK to do it here. Don't get me wrong; it can be hard to get a job in the US if you're of childbearing age for the exact same reasons, but here they just put it all out on the table and you know WHY they're scrutinizing you twice as hard and probably wouldn't offer you the job unless you were the only candidate who applied over a 12-month period!

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    Default Re: Can women have it all? Do they even want to?

    Wrong DH, it's illegal to ask them here, and if only you'd known, you could have pointed it out to them, or even reported them for it.

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    Default Re: Can women have it all? Do they even want to?

    Quote Originally Posted by Rogue View Post
    Wrong DH, it's illegal to ask them here, and if only you'd known, you could have pointed it out to them, or even reported them for it.
    I consulted a barrister friend of mine who told me that the 'are you married' and 'do you have children' questions are permitted here but that the others crossed the line. In America, you can't even ask a candidate if they're married, if they have kids, what their ethnic background is, how old they are, what religion they are, what their political affiliations are, etc.

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    Default Re: Can women have it all? Do they even want to?

    married and kids is fine, they'll want to know if you'll want to work flexi etc. But if you already knew that the other questions were pretty much illegal, why post and say "they asked me these questions and it's A-OK to do it"? Stop trying to points score by bashing the UK, you're just making yourself look ignorant.

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    Default Re: Can women have it all? Do they even want to?

    Quote Originally Posted by Rogue View Post
    married and kids is fine, they'll want to know if you'll want to work flexi etc. But if you already knew that the other questions were pretty much illegal, why post and say "they asked me these questions and it's A-OK to do it"? Stop trying to points score by bashing the UK, you're just making yourself look ignorant.

    Oh, excuse the fuck out of me. I AM ignorant of this country's laws and its culture. Do you know why? I've been here less than FIVE YEARS and I've never had a fucking civics lesson. They don't exactly hand out guides to living in the UK when you immigrate here, you know, and the locals have been LESS THAN WELCOMING. They don't tell you a goddamn thing, they just expect you to know and roll their eyes at you when you don't. Real welcoming. There aren't any 'Adjusting to life in the UK' classes down at Future Prospects either. Nope...they just throw you in the deep end and laugh at you if you start to struggle...JUST AS YOU ARE DOING.

    Perhaps they ask me those questions because they know that as an immigrant, I am less likely to know which ones I may refuse to answer. Hmm? Ever think about that? Ever consider the fact that I've had to put up with horrifying xenophobia since I moved here? Nooooooo, that can't be right...because it's all MY FAULT, isn't it?

    Did it ever occur to you that I moved to this country ON PURPOSE? Would I give up a good job and a great life in the United States to move here if I already hated it? Gee, that's a tough one. Think that one over. My views of the United Kingdom and its people have been formed through EXPERIENCE. I have been treated like absolute shit from day 1 in this country, and it took me about a year and a half to start hating it, and another year and a half to contemplate moving back to the United States. I didn't just get here and start bashing...but of course that wouldn't occur to you, would it? For someone who wants to be a lawyer, you sure as hell don't dig very deep.

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    Default Re: Can women have it all? Do they even want to?

    Horrifying xenophobia lol. Xenophobia causes the deaths of people like Anthony Walker. You come across as a bad tempered old cow on here, and you hit out at anyone and everyone. Get over your "woe is me" attitude.

    There are no "adapting to live in" courses in Italy or France, in fact I've only heard of them in America. You're a smart woman, you should have picked up a few things in 5 years, or at least figured out where to find the answers.

    Question: how is it horrifying xenophobia when you get picked on by the mean British people, yet it's utterly justified when you act the bitch with anyone British? Is xenophobia an educated thing, does it make you better than the people you think laugh at you?

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    Default Re: Can women have it all? Do they even want to?

    Quote Originally Posted by Rogue View Post
    Horrifying xenophobia lol. Xenophobia causes the deaths of people like Anthony Walker. You come across as a bad tempered old cow on here, and you hit out at anyone and everyone. Get over your "woe is me" attitude.

    There are no "adapting to live in" courses in Italy or France, in fact I've only heard of them in America. You're a smart woman, you should have picked up a few things in 5 years, or at least figured out where to find the answers.

    Question: how is it horrifying xenophobia when you get picked on by the mean British people, yet it's utterly justified when you act the bitch with anyone British? Is xenophobia an educated thing, does it make you better than the people you think laugh at you?

    I'm through talking to you, Rogue. I don't like you or your attitude. You're on ignore from now on. Have a nice life.

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    Default Re: Can women have it all? Do they even want to?

    There are no "adapting to live in" courses in Italy or France, in fact I've only heard of them in America. You're a smart woman, you should have picked up a few things in 5 years, or at least figured out where to find the answers.
    We have these courses in Canada, too and the goverment gives out a guide booklet on how to adjust to a new country.
    There are quite a few non government organizations here that help immigrants as well.
    It sometimes takes longer than a year or 2 for immigrants to really adapt to a new country (I've lived in 2 different countries, NZ and Canada).

    If you think it's crazy, you ain't seen a thing. Just wait until we're goin down in flames.

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    Default Re: Can women have it all? Do they even want to?

    Quote Originally Posted by moomies View Post
    We have these courses in Canada, too and the goverment gives out a guide booklet on how to adjust to a new country.
    There are quite a few non government organizations here that help immigrants as well.
    It sometimes takes longer than a year or 2 for immigrants to really adapt to a new country (I've lived in 2 different countries, NZ and Canada).

    I think that's a good idea. It's not possible to fully adjust in the time I've been here; adjusting to a new country is something that takes a lifetime. It's especially difficult when you are given no help whatsoever.

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    Default Re: Can women have it all? Do they even want to?

    Aw come on DH - it's not THAT different. It took me 3 months max to adjust to living in Oz. If I was moving from the UK/US to back of beyond Uzbekistan or Rwanda then that would be culture shock. It's all about attitude.

    The questions you were asked at the interview were technically illegal, but if you call them on it (a) you won't get the job anyway and (b) if you had the job in the bag, they'd make your life hell so you'd resign.

    And to be honest, and PC/legal stuff aside, if I was employing a married 30yr old childless woman I would want to know her domestic plans for the next 5-10 years. Apart from anything else you are returning to the US in a few months time anyway. In your circumstances, would you employ you? Employers have to make major compromises for maternity leave, and have no guarantee that after paying a women for the statutory period of leave she won't jack in the job anyway. I did.

    And on the broader question of whether women can 'have it all' the answer is NO. Sorry to the sistas, but if you think you can be a competent full-time employee AND and a competent parent you are deluded. You either divert most of your salary to childcare, ie, paying someone else to bring up your child, or you have to take time off work to deal with your child's illnesses, Nativity Plays, school holidays, etc etc and no employer is going to tolerate that.
    If all the women in this place were laid end to end, I wouldn’t be surprised - Dorothy Parker

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    Default Re: Can women have it all? Do they even want to?

    Quote Originally Posted by A*O View Post
    Aw come on DH - it's not THAT different. It took me 3 months max to adjust to living in Oz. If I was moving from the UK/US to back of beyond Uzbekistan or Rwanda then that would be culture shock. It's all about attitude.

    The questions you were asked at the interview were technically illegal, but if you call them on it (a) you won't get the job anyway and (b) if you had the job in the bag, they'd make your life hell so you'd resign.

    And to be honest, and PC/legal stuff aside, if I was employing a married 30yr old childless woman I would want to know her domestic plans for the next 5-10 years. Apart from anything else you are returning to the US in a few months time anyway. In your circumstances, would you employ you? Employers have to make major compromises for maternity leave, and have no guarantee that after paying a women for the statutory period of leave she won't jack in the job anyway. I did.
    I guess we're just cut from different cloth. I think that only a person's merits and abilities should be considered when interviewing for a job. My personal plans are none of their business. I also did not take the permanent job offered to me because I'm moving, but in this economic climate if it had been the only job offered to me, I'd have taken it and fucked them over 8 months from now without one shred of guilt. My bills have to be paid, too.

    And on the broader question of whether women can 'have it all' the answer is NO. Sorry to the sistas, but if you think you can be a competent full-time employee AND and a competent parent you are deluded. You either divert most of your salary to childcare, ie, paying someone else to bring up your child, or you have to take time off work to deal with your child's illnesses, Nativity Plays, school holidays, etc etc and no employer is going to tolerate that.
    I dunno about that. I got put on a lot in the US having to cover for colleagues with children, and I saw them get promotion after promotion, raise after raise, while *I* did most of their work. They were all MEN, though. It's cute when a man wants to see his kid in a school play, but a major inconvenience when a woman wants to do it. Hypocrisy. I guess it's a good thing I'm not really after a CAREER, because I know that realistically as a woman I cannot have a career and a family. I've accepted that, but it doesn't mean that I like it or that it doesn't piss me off.

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    Default Re: Can women have it all? Do they even want to?

    i think women have to stop beating each other up and trying to be so godamn perfect. or feeling guilty about having a job and not letting the fact that you have children be the only thing that defines you? since when did being a good mother mean being with your kid 24/7 and being a self-sacrificing martyr? i'm not saying you should hire someone else to raise your kid, but there is nothing wrong with having a life on the side or a job, and demanding your husband do his share of the child-raising, or getting babysitters or having a nanny if you can afford it. i grew up in a family of 5 kids and we always had a nanny, but that doesn't mean my mother wasn't very present and hands-on.
    i think women have put a lot of this pressure on themselves. of course limitations still exist and hiring practices are sometimes disgusting and mothers will be held back professionally becasue they can't devote their entire lives to their work, but there is definitely a lot of masochism involved as well.
    Last edited by sputnik; November 27th, 2005 at 08:30 AM.

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    Default Re: Can women have it all? Do they even want to?

    You're on a roll today, Sputnik. Could I just send you a list of threads I'd like to post on and let you do teh talking for me? Hehehe.
    'Those who sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither.' Ben Franklin

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    Default Re: Can women have it all? Do they even want to?

    Quote Originally Posted by buttmunch View Post
    You're on a roll today, Sputnik. Could I just send you a list of threads I'd like to post on and let you do teh talking for me? Hehehe.
    haha
    it's the hangover talking, i have nothing to do with it

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