Entries in Ruth Marcus Anne-Marie Slaughter Marissa Mayer (1)


The "Can Women Have It All" Debate about Life Balance


Here is how Ruth Marcus summarizes the debate on whether “Women Can Have It All”, in the Washington Post, as it has run in American media over the last few weeks:

First up was Anne-Marie Slaughter taking to the pages of the Atlantic to proclaim not, on the basis of her experience at the State Department. Then came newly installed Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, seven months pregnant and announcing that she planned to take just a few weeks of maternity leave “and I’ll work throughout it.”

Now, Louise Mensch, a high-profile conservative member of the U.K. Parliament, has announced that she is quitting to move to New York, where her husband works, and spend more time with her three young children from an earlier marriage.

From the Advaita Life Coach perspective of balancing work, relationships and money, Marissa Mayer has decided to emphasize the work and money roles and postpone the relationship role. The apparent implication is that the relationship between mother and infant child is not as important. How was such a decision arrived at? Was it based on an assumption that enjoying the work experience and accumulating money now can buy a really deep and satisfying relationship with the child later? If so, an analytical modeling process was brought into play – to postpone relationship gratification and joy, as a result. What decision would we have arrived at, if we contemplated and meditated on the heart chakra, and allowed our intuition to be the guide?  

Louise Mensch, on the other hand, decided to give priority to relationships with her children and husband over work and money. Will this decision hurt her and her children later, as her social identity is subsumed in her home life and children do not have an achiever-Mommy role model to follow? And, what if, for women like Mensch, the relationship (with her spouse) evolves into one of dependence?  Will it become deeply frustrating for the woman?  The decision for Mensch, at least as reported in the media, appears to be a trade-off between the potentially positive current relationship experiences with the risk of a future life of imbalance. What, we could ask, would the decisions and current tradeoffs look like if both partners in a relationship go through a contemplative meditative process of visualizing the future in which their family is joyfully balanced?

Perhaps the best way to leave the debate is the way Ruth Marcus framed it: What I appreciate about both Mayer and Mensch, though, is their willingness to refrain from instructing others. “I like to stay in the rhythm of things,” Mayer explained, making the maternity leave choice firmly about herself. “Every family is different,” said Mensch, “and another mother might feel she can manage things.”

The decision is and should be made by the individual and the family. How that decision is arrived at - through what mix of conversation, analysis, contemplation and meditation - does impact the intensity of awareness that is brought into play while making such decisions. And the play of the intensity of awareness helps to make for more joyful balance for longer periods.

Jayant Kalawar is the author of The Advaita Life Practice, available at Amazon.