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Having It All and the Stress of Parenting

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Anne-Marie Slaughter’s headline-grabbing Atlantic article, “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All” has set off a national conversation on the state of gender equality today.  Most revealing is data she shares from Justin Wolfers and Betsey Stevenson that shows “that women today are less happy than their predecessors were in 1972.”

According to Slaughter, the culture of work is placing unrealistic demands on women who are at the top of their professions even though technological advancements and progressive policies could make all employees more productive and less likely to burn out.

I am sympathetic to Slaughter’s position.  My wife and I often feel the acute stress trying to balance our professional lives and family lives with our teenage children.  Who isn’t familiar with these daily dilemmas?

At Evergreen School, we try to relieve some of the stresses our parents feel. Three examples: (1) we schedule many school events in evenings or on weekends so that most parents can attend; (2) we assign a grown up to each child whose parent cannot attend an event; and (3) we prioritize our communications so that busy parents do not need to parse wordy documents to find the need-to-know details.

Even so, I occasionally speak with exhausted parents burdened with guilt. They missed an important event or birthday, a bedtime story or a school performance.  Recently, a mother was utterly distraught because she missed a newsletter announcement about a minor last-day-of-school parade. Parents– including me– spend evenings running after camp medical forms or baking allergen-free organic birthday muffins.  I try to give parents permission to not be perfect. But as high achieving professionals and parents, we want to do it all really well– and make it look effortless, too.  Accept that its impossible.

As a school, we can’t take away the fundamental tension between work and family—but Evergreen parents can be relieved knowing that their children spend their days in a loving place, with experienced, gentle, master teachers.  We play a vital role partnering with parents to provide a stable emotional foundation for our children.  Here its a place of learning and love. Anne-Marie Slaughter may be right that women still can’t have it all, but our children know they are cared for at school and at home.

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