What does "having it all" mean to you? Having it all means being able to do scholarly, domestic and political work in a way that is fulfilling to me and benefits others—whether it is my students, people who read my writing, the wider world or my family. I often think of Anne-Marie Slaughter's reference to the idea that "You can have it all; you just can't have it all at once." As a temporary salve, this credo is helpful when I feel impatient or frustrated that demands in one sphere of life are preventing me from being fully attentive to another.
But ultimately, I think "having it all" isn't just a personal matter but a political one. At a broader level, having it all would mean implementing workplace and government policies, as well as working towards changes in cultural attitudes, to support equality between men and women, and people of different races and sexual orientations. It's not just about instituting "flexibility" or "family-friendly" policies, though paid parental leave and subsidized child care would help. Too often such policies simply affirm the lifestyle and productivity of a single, childless male, seeing anything that deviates from this "norm" as deficient and needing of "accommodation." For that and a host of other reasons, I'm very interested in the idea of "wages for housework," as Silvia Federici has written, as well as in historical precedents in collectivizing and reorganizing domestic work.
What is it like to be married to someone who does the same type of work as you? We used to run a design practice together before we had kids, but now we work more independently, which means there is more explicit negotiation about whose job will take priority at any given time. My husband shares many domestic duties, and we definitely co-parent, but we also joke (and sometimes don't joke) about how there is asymmetry in every parenting relationship we know, even the most progressive, including ours. I have hired every babysitter we have ever used, and manage the childcare schedule, and I think this is true in 95% of families I know.
Going back to the idea of not "having it all" all the time, the particular fluctuations in flexibility and intensity of an academic career mean that at some points, my husband is the primary parent and domestic worker (for example, the summer when I finished my dissertation). At other points, I am.
Still, I often joke, that I wish I had a wife—the person that is thanked in the acknowledgements of old academic books for having "typed my manuscript"—someone who would take care of all the dishwashing and cleaning so that I could focus on reading, writing, teaching and spending quality time with my family.
What do you want your children to learn from you about your balance of work and family? Devotion to family, high standards in both work and family life, personal perseverance, but also attentiveness to social structural inequalities—for instance, the solution isn't just "leaning in." That is baloney.
Portrait by Vivian Johnson