As I write this, my wife, Karla, is on a business trip to Chicago, and I am in the 15th hour of a day that began at 6 a.m. with some work at home, a 9 a.m. trip to the doctor for my daughter’s post-appendectomy checkup, more work on my laptop in the waiting room, some text updates to Karla, a work-filled commute, a full day of pedal-to-the-metal cranking on deadline, a commute back home, a rushed dinner with my daughter, and a few more hours on the laptop, pecking out this editor’s letter. How’s that for work-life balance? I’m whining, but not complaining: My wife has made most of the career sacrifices, and I’m fortunate to have at least some control over my schedule. In a new essay in The Atlantic, Anne-Marie Slaughter writes of her chagrined discovery that a dawn-to-dark job isn’t compatible with family life (see News: Talking points). This just in: It’s not possible for women—or anyone—to “have it all.”
Most of us have already figured this out. On days like this, I think back to seeing my successful dad walking home from work nearly every day at 5:30 p.m. My stay-at-home mom had dinner in the oven; my brother and I ate with our parents, and we all spent a leisurely evening together. How 20th century. Today, the world is globalized, profit-driven, hypercompetitive; our employers run lean, demanding more and more hours from those of us who haven’t been pruned (yet). We must carefully ration any time spent on our kids, our spouses, ourselves. In return for our relentless productivity, our “standard of living’’ has risen: We get to buy cooler devices, nicer cars, more stuff. We are so much richer and more fulfilled. Aren’t we?
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