“My entire life is unfinished business.”

I have these thoughts, these big, evolving and powerful thoughts. They’re etched into my brain and daily life and it’s hard not to process most everything through the lens of them. I don’t write about them though because they’re complicated. They mean too much. And I don’t know everything – all the facts and history and studies – and I fear that to misphrase any part of this would be a disservice. Fortunately, though, others are paving the way.

I’m talking about the way work culture in America fails to flex to the needs of caregivers.

When I read this interview with Anne-Marie Slaughter last week, it felt like someone had extracted sentences from my brain and put them on paper. Like I had been spied on.

I hope that you read it. My favorite excerpts are below:

“What’s really going on here is we are discriminating against people who have to care for others, which is a role that society needs people to play. Right now we’re focusing on the problem that, if you’re at the top and take time out to take care of others, you’re knocked off your leadership track. But much more important is that, if you are a woman in the middle class or a low-income woman and you take even a day or two off to care for others, you could lose your job. You get docked pay. You don’t have access to affordable day care.”

“If you talk to a woman between 30 and 50 who is taking care of kids and holding down a job, she will say, “My entire life is unfinished business. I never get to finish anything. I never feel like I’m ever doing anything all the way.””

“We should get rid of “stay-at-home mom” and “stay-at-home dad.” I find that to be very offensive. It says that the place you’re supposed to be is the workplace. If you’re at home, you need an adjective.

We should also talk about “working fathers” as well as “working mothers,” right? We constantly say a woman has two jobs: She’s working and she’s a mother. But we don’t say that about men. We need to make clear that they have a dual identity the same way women have a dual identity.

And let’s get rid of the word “help.” Let’s stop saying, “My husband helps”—because that is really saying, “It is my job to run the household, but he helps me do it.” No, no, no, no, no.”

“What I want to see is: How do we work flexibly enough so that people who have children or parents or spouses, or who want to care for themselves, have time? It’s not about how many hours you’re in the office. It’s about getting the work done on time with the quality that is demanded of you. And then if you take advantage of flexibility policies, you shouldn’t be stigmatized for it. Some companies have all these really progressive policies, but, the minute you use them, you’re not a player. Somebody just told me they were taken out of the bonus pool the minute they started working part time. That’s ridiculous.”

5 thoughts on ““My entire life is unfinished business.”

  1. A really interesting post that made me think about my own identity issues, and that I quite probably share them with my husband. Being on mat leave can turn that more to my end though, hmmm, but only in my own head. Great read, thanks!

  2. I came across the same Washington Post piece, and had just about the exact same reaction! I’ve had pieces of a blog post percolating in my head for some time, and wasn’t sure exactly how to frame them – Slaughter’s perspective really helped me make sense of the thoughts I’ve had ever since my maternity leave. Thanks for the post!

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