<Editor’s note: This is the first in a weekly series entitled VOICES, which will run until TEDxMHWomen on December 1.  The series will hear from various local women on a variety of topics and seeks to activate the community in discussion. If you have a thought on the article,  join in the conversation.>   I’m 28. I’m married and my husband and I both work. We don’t have any kids, though it’s definitely something we think about.  The challenge is my job….I really like it.  I don’t want to completely give it up to have kids, but I also don’t want to send our kids to daycare, missing out on their lives while coming home tired. How to balance the desires? In recent months, there has been much discussion amongst the women in my office and in my friend circles about an article in The Atlantic called “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All”.  In the piece, Princeton professor Anne-Marie Slaughter tell the story of her role as the Director of Policy Planning at the State Department, the job she always hoped for—her dream job.  She also tells of how when it came to decide between time with her family, and time with her job, she stepped down. Speaking with NPR in June, she said, “After two years, I very much wanted to go home. And that recognition of wanting to go home was a revelation, in terms of my own ambitions and sense of identity, as somebody who’s always been a career woman and very proud of that and committed to my career, to realize, ‘Wait a minute, we had children. And this is a huge part of my life that I don’t want to miss.’ … I never expected to have that division; I have always been able to integrate work and family. … I didn’t realize that I would feel torn in two.” In my office, we passed it around and commented on it.  It really struck a chord with many of us young working professionals who hope one day to start our own families. If you haven’t read the article, here’s the basics: If you love your work, want a family, and aren’t Hillary Clinton (current Secretary of State) or Sheryl Sandberg (the current COO of Facebook and so-called “super women”—see her TED talk below), you are likely facing a big decision.
Option one:  Get married and have kids early, around 24 or 25, raise your kids, then jump into a career when the kids are more self-sufficient and you hit your mid-40s.  With people retiring beyond age 65, that still leaves a solid 20+ years of work opportunities. Option two (and the one I’ve apparently involuntarily chosen since I’m older than 25): Establish a solid career, then have kids later in your mid-30s. You’ll be close to 50 when you can jump back into the workforce, but again, you’ll still have time to build upon the career you left before slowing down for retirement. Anne-Marie Slaughter directly points out that these two options only apply to families that can actually afford to have only one salary.  That’s a whole other challenge my husband and I have analyzed, and we’re lucky that we can even consider the option of having one of us stay home.  Many families don’t ever have the option and don’t get the chance to decide. Then there’s the whole other issue of age.  The older women get, the more complications can arise with pregnancy. Additionally, many women have told me that raising kids is harder as you get older because, well, you begin to lack the energy to chase youngsters around. So apparently Ms. Slaughter is right: women can’t have it all.  Or can we? What are your thoughts? For women, what decisions did you make about your career and motherhood?  Would you change anything if you could?  If you don’t have kids yet, what are you thinking about doing with your career, and why? And for men, do you see a good way to balance it all?  Does the arrangement in your family work? Why or why not?