The conversation about “having it all” has been exhausted in every way possible. Books have been written, magazine articles have been published, and everyone has weighed in on the topic on every social media platform imaginable.
But recently, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York brought new life into the ongoing discussion through her piece for Time Magazine entitled “We Need to Change the Conversation About ‘Having It All.’”
In her article, Gillibrand sheds light on the reality that many women face: having it all isn’t the problem because women are already tasked with doing it all. Working to support others, providing for family members in need, and trying to advance in our careers are real challenges that women face on a daily basis. The problem, as Gillibrand so brilliantly exposes, is that our society does not give women the support they desperately need to handle all of this effectively.
Women still do not make the same amount as men who work the same jobs as them, even though 7 out of 10 work and 4 out of 10 must contribute most – if not all – of their salaries to the needs of their families.
Many women do not have extended maternity leave available to them, forcing them to leave their newborns too soon and return to work.
Additionally, men barely receive any paternity leave, which would allow them to equally share the responsibility of caring for a new child. Even worse, daycare rates are so stifling that in some cases it could put a serious dent in the finances of a new family.
The lack of flexibility that women have with their work schedules is also a great cause for concern. When kids get sick, mothers have to take time off to care for them. In extreme cases, women are forced to choose between keeping their jobs and taking the time needed to ensure that their kids are in good health again. When a woman chooses the latter, she then has to find another job, start from the beginning, and work extremely hard just to get back to where she was with her previous job. The stress of this can be enormous, especially for single mothers or women living paycheck to paycheck.
Gillibrand rightfully makes the argument that for too long the conversation of having it all has missed the most basic issue of how to handle the fact that women in America already do it all – they work, they cook and clean, they take care of the babies and the elderly, they wear a million different hats at once, and the current system is not making it any easier.
Equal work for equal pay, affordable daycare, and gender neutral leave is just a start. It’s time that companies in America have policies that reflect what we as Americans value most – meaningful, challenging work and spending quality time with our families.