‘I Wanted To Have It All And I Was Willing To Do The Work’

0315 havingI know, I know, we’re all sick of the term “having it all,” not to mention the contours of the debate itself. But let’s put that aside for a moment, because CNN has put together and actually-very-cool story in which 10 women, including politicians and activists, talk about the moments “when they realized they could — or could not — have it all.” The whole thing is worth reading, but here are some highlights, including wisdom from a senator and an ESPN executive.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA): “My office received a phone call from the school where my young son was attending, with the news he had a nosebleed. Without thinking, I grabbed my coat and headed towards the exit. On my way out, I was stopped by one of my male colleagues who asked, “Where are you going?” I explained the situation to which he quickly replied with disbelief, “Wow! You’ve gotta be kidding.” I simply brushed it off and told him my family takes precedence. Well, a few weeks later that same senator approached me and confessed I was the first person he had seen in the Senate that didn’t think twice about putting their family first.”

Roxanne Jones, former ESPN vice president:

“I recall the day I decided that I could have it all — that I could grab the power and success I envisioned for myself and still have a home and family. It was 3:30 on a cold winter’s morning when I tip-toed down the stairs, careful not to wake my husband and 7-year-old son. My driver was out front, waiting to take me to the studio.

ESPN brass had hand-picked me to help create and launch its first morning show, “Cold Pizza,” now called “First Take.” I was working double-duty as a senior news producer and on-air personality on the show. I’d asked for this dual role to experience both sides of television. The TV assignment was in addition to my main responsibilities as a founding editor of ESPN Magazine. For years, it was normal to put in 14-hour days and travel constantly. But I wanted to have it all and I was willing to do the work. I embraced it. …

That morning, there was no guilt about leaving my son. I knew I loved him more than anything. No career could ever change that. But I also knew if didn’t push myself to my full potential that I would be a poor example, a hypocrite. Today, he’s in college and we have a strong, loving relationship and mutual respect for one another.”

Katherine Lanpher, memoirist and senior seminar leader for The OpEd Project:

Like Sheryl Sandberg, I breezed into adulthood believing the heavy feminist lifting had been done. The seemingly unmanageable trifecta — career, marriage, children — was going to be mine.

This was in the 1980s. I would get married at the end of that decade, but even before then I began to hear rumblings from other women, friends of mine closer to the front line, who relayed back stories of otherwise wonderful men who thought of time with their children as “babysitting,” of promises to share housework that crumbled into, well, dust, of women who stayed in the workforce only to spend most of their salary on child care. …

A constellation of factors led to my eventual divorce in the ’90s, but I remember that it was fueled in part by my desire to not be that angry. If I couldn’t have it all, then I was going to make choices. If I was going to be angry, then it was going to be about something else.”

Photo: Africa Studio / Shutterstock.com

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