Do Childfree Couples Have it All?
A little more than a month after The Atlantic ran Anne-Marie Slaughter’s cover story asking whether or not women can, truly, “have it all,” we’re still talking about whether or not she’s right. According to a new piece at the Huffington Post, Laura Carroll posits that we are overlooking a huge option in the work-life balance. It would seem, according to Carroll, that it’s the couples who have no children at all that strike the best balance and, therefore, have it all. Carroll writes:
Why is parenthood always in the work-life equation? Because we assume that at one point or another, our personal lives will involve raising children. And we make this assumption because for generations, we’ve been taught to believe that parenthood is the ultimate path to fulfillment in life. We may have successful careers and do many other things in life, but becoming a mother and father is what’s going to make life truly worthwhile.
She goes on to expand on three reasons that childfree couples are sitting pretty. First, she says, they have the time and space to devote to their relationship and, therefore, their relationships thrive. Second, they are better able to support each other’s careers. Third, they are able to strike a balance between what is in their own best interests and what is in the best interests of their partners.
Sure, it might seem that not having children is a great way to more easily balance your work and personal lives. One of the easiest ways to free up time, after all, is to get rid of an activity. It is, also, vitally important for us to change the narrative surrounding motherhood; if a woman doesn’t want children, we shouldn’t judge her like we as a society do now. However, Carroll misses the point of Slaughter’s article. By arguing that we should eliminate things from the work-life equation, she might as well argue that women can have children and a husband, but should stop trying to work or that women can have a job and children, but shouldn’t try to maintain a healthy relationship. If the answer to the question of whether or not we can have it all is, “No, you must choose only a few things in your life,” you might as well argue that women without jobs are much happier than those with them.
The point of Slaughter’s original article was to change the way we think about women, their careers and what impact that has on their ability to be mothers, wives, and have personal lives. The United States still does not have comprehensive paid maternity leave, often forcing women to choose between their children and their careers — a choice men are almost never criticized for making. If women solve this problem by choosing either children, partnerships, or careers rather than fighting for legislation that allows them to be able to have it all, they are treating a symptom rather than the disease.
If women want both children and careers, they should be able to have it all, but, the way society is going now, they still can’t, and that’s not fair. That is what Anne-Marie Slaughter was trying to say in her article. She wasn’t trying to persuade us to choose one over the other.