Excerpt: 'The Comeback'

Cynthia Leivie, the editor of Glamour, once pointed out that women don't want to have it all, they want to do it all, and I think she is closer to the mark of what drives us. From the vantage point of sitting and writing this introduction two years after Alice defined me as a gym-going mother, I think it is possible to do it all, or have it all, if you want to. Just not over the course of one working day or a week. Start to think in terms of your whole life. Here you are in your twenties, energetic and a dedicated careerist, working hard and probably traveling for your job. Now you are a mother with babies and small children. If you want to stay at home and take care of them full-time (and not every mother does), then do it. It doesn't mean you will never get another job. It's a finite stage.

Eventually those children will start kindergarten and you'll have some hours to yourself during the day. Perhaps you'll volunteer with those hours or find part-time work. You won't want to disappear completely as a mother. Children still come home from school, want help with homework, and have games and practices that they have to get to. Their needs change, but they don't disappear. They'll still cry and need to be comforted. They'll want your praise. They'll look for your answers to their questions. During this period of your life, you'll need some flexibility. You won't be alone.

Today nearly 30 percent of the entire workforce in the United States (both male and female) have a flexible work schedule that allows them to vary the time they begin or end work, according to the latest study released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. A breakdown of the study shows that flexible schedules are most common among what the bureau calls "management, business and related occupations"?that is, career workers.

A desire for flexibility has always led many women to try to work part-time. Some of the women in this book eased back into work on a part-time basis either by working shorter working weeks or by taking temporary projects. Others are looking to ease back down to parttime from full-time as they get older. These days a shortened schedule is a definite choice. But there are pros and cons, and you should remember that the cons can be hefty. As other books have shown, most notably Arlie Hochschild's The Second Shift, women who work still have primary responsibility for both child and home care.3 Somewhere lies a balance between having too much time and too much to do. The idea?or maybe the ideal?of working part-time is that you have enough time during the day or the week to do it all. In order to chase that ideal you should be able to define what parttime is. What's your definition? Actually, what's your definition of full-time? Are you still thinking in terms of the traditional fortyhour week spread from 9:00 to 5:00 over five days? I bet if you are working full-time in a competitive career, you're working longer hours and possibly more days than that. In December 2006 an article titled "Extreme Jobs: The Dangerous Allure of the 70-Hour Workweek" ran in the Harvard Business Review, and the title alone tells you everything you need to know.4 One of the women profiled in this book considered asking her employers if she could go to a "reduced schedule" of leaving the office at 5:00 instead of 7:00 p.m. This at the end of a day that begins at about 8:30 in the morning.

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