Dare we say it? Will we jinx our newfound harmony? These days there are moments when we actually feel as though we've carved out something close to "Having It All."
Remember that tantalizing, agonizing phrase coined by Cosmo doyenne Helen Gurley Brown? And then that unforgettable Enjoli perfume ad where a sultry brunette strips off her prim Wall Street suit as she sings about her abilities: "I can bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan, and never ever let you forget you're a man?"
Well, that's not exactly the "All" we're talking about. That "All" was somebody else's vision—a distinctly masculine vision, if you think about it, on all fronts. And it's tripped us up for years. Even today's glum thinking about our choices is still a backlash against the old "All." The "mommy track" at work has been a lonely demoralizing road from which there's usually been no return. The path to the top has been paved by a few brave execs who've managed to squeeze in kids with considerable stress and against the odds. And many of the most educated women in the country have quit prestigious and powerful jobs after a handful of overstretched years and are now staying at home with their children. The pessimistic assumption is that we can't do both career and motherhood successfully. Well, we don't buy it.
When the term "Mommy Wars" entered our lexicon, we looked at each other, bemused. What wars? It didn't make sense to either of us. Women aren't battling one another based upon a mythical divide between working and nonworking mothers. Every single woman we know is far too busy sorting out her own path to have time left over to wage an ideological battle over whether working or not working is the Right Thing.
Most of us want to work—but on our terms, in ways that make it possible to have a life as well. That's the subject inspiring passion at lunches, in hallways, and around the watercooler.
"The New All"—that's what we like to call our aspirations, what we've managed to pull off. Over the years, the two of us worked out our priorities and professional lives so that we are neither tied to our desks nor our kitchens. We've taken unique routes, and there's one for every woman. Claire works for one company, with which she has negotiated her own flexible hours. Katty works for a few different organizations, which provides three different sources of income. She sees herself as a "consultant" to all of them, an arrangement that buys her flexibility and independence from all her employers. Neither work schedule is part of an "official" program anywhere, and we've had to steer through rocky territory to get there. We've had to redefine our own notions of success, ignore the judgments of others, and quite often make brutally hard career choices to get what we discovered we most wanted in this "New All"—enough professional success, balanced by time and freedom.