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I’m one of those women who doesn’t want to “have it all”.*

*depending on the definition of having it all, that is

The internets have been sort of abuzz about Anne-Marie Slaughter’s article (uh, really it’s more like book-length!) about how women can’t have it all. She’s a resident of New Jersey, but she took a job working for Hillary Clinton, which meant that during the week, she lived in Washington D.C. while her son and husband stayed in New Jersey. This started to wear on her, and after two years, she came back home to her old job so that she could be more involved in her son’s life.

Some people are quite in agreement with her and others are quite put out with her for suggesting that having a high-powered career might interfere with parenting.

While I’ve never had a high-powered career, I have had a piano-teaching career for the last 20 years or so. It’s gone from part-time to full-time to part-time, depending on my life circumstances (high-school student, college student, married without kids, and married with kids).

The keys on a black Weinbach piano.

Piano teaching has been a great job for me…I love music, I like kids, I especially like relating to kids one-on-one, I like to help kids learn to love music, I can teach at home, the moms of my students have watched my kids for me, and I can make my own schedule.

I’ve always felt like teaching piano lessons has been a job that’s more than just a paycheck, and that’s something a lot of people don’t have.

However, as my kids grew and more and more of them reached school-age (I homeschooled all four of them this past school year), piano teaching became harder and harder for me.

So, last spring, I cut down my teaching schedule pretty drastically and kept just a few students. That helped, to be sure, but midway through this past school year, I decided that I needed to stop teaching altogether.

It wasn’t an easy decision, to say the least, but I really felt like it was the right thing to do. Teaching even the smaller number of students I had was making it tough to get school done with my children. I’m pretty efficient, but I just could not seem to make this piano teaching/homeschooling thing work.

That was making me stressed out.

And a stressed-out me makes for a not-so-fabulous wife and mom.


We were squeaking by, but I don’t want to just be squeaking by, getting the basics done. I want to do a bang-up job of homeschooling, thankyouverymuch.

On the hard days, it seems like I’ll be homeschooling forever, but in reality, it won’t be that long. Joshua will be in 8th grade this year, and in just a few short years, he’ll mostly be taking classes at a local college. Zoe just finished her kindergarten year, but I know in a flash, she’ll be Joshua’s age.

I had kids kind of young, so when Zoe’s 18, I’ll only be in my mid-40s. Barring some unexpected health problem or accident, I’ll probably have a good number of empty-nest years in front of me when my kids leave home, even if they stay here for a while during college.

If I want to start teaching piano lessons again at that point, I certainly can. Or if I want to pursue any of the many entreprenurial career ideas I have, I can do that.

But I will not be able to get back these next 12 years, the years I have until Zoe graduates from high school.

I don’t feel at all resentful that my piano teaching career is over or is on hold (whatever it turns out to be!), but that’s probably because my definition of “having it all” doesn’t necessarily include a career.

And that is what annoys me about “having it all” discussions. Sometimes, there is this insinuation that all of us ought to want to pursue a career as strongly as we want to pursue parenting or homemaking, and that we’re not living up to our potential if we don’t have a fulfilling career. I think that’s sort of narrow-minded, though.

I’m not going to say that every person should promptly dump their career as soon as kids come along, but I would like to say that choosing to stay home with children can indeed be “having it all” for some people.

Having it all could mean having more hours to devote to homeschooling.

Three girls sitting on a pier by a river.

Or having picnic lunches at the pier.

Or taking three trips to the pool in a week.

Children playing with a tube in a swimming pool.

Or having time to bake bread and make yogurt.

Or having time to browse the Goodwill racks with my kids.

Or having only one inflexible work schedule, which allows for more family togetherness (we can adjust our lives to match Mr. FG’s ever-changing work hours)

I know myself well enough to be sure that when Zoe graduates in 12 years, I will not look back and wish that I had worked more hours.

Instead, I will look back and think, “Yep. I am so blessed to have had it all.”

An overhead view of four children wearing Converse.

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Elly Toker

Wednesday 21st of August 2013

I ran across this blog while looking for the recent Time magazine article on childfree living.

The problem with the "not all at the same time" outlook is that certain jobs, including those that are most important to society, really can't accommodate decade-long breaks. For instance, being a surgeon, CEO of a corporation, or a leader in government. Everyone certainly has a right to make her or his own decisions, but I hope that not everyone takes the approach advocated here because I don't prefer for society's leaders to all come from the same demographic (e.g., men married to supportive women where the wife/mother decides that she needn't have it all at the same time, perhaps so that he can) I want to live in a world where the most demanding careers are, at least in some cases, occupied by women who have children.


I wish that some parents would open their minds to the idea that, as much as your emotions suggest otherwise, running a government agency is actually more important to society than spending additional hours with one's own children. Your family is not the alpha and omega of what matters in life, and that notion is downright selfish. As a society, we're striving to innovate, invent, and advance ourselves. You can be a part of that, or you can tell yourself that it's more important that you be around to make snack at 3 PM.

The whole "supporting the next generation" argument regarding the merits of prioritizing parenthood aren't compelling because what if your kids all choose to be at-home parents too? Then, you've just raised another generation of humans who are essentially free-riding off the inventions/accomplishments/innovations of others.

Further, there isn't a study on the planet that suggests that being around for your kids 24 hours a day causes them to grow up into "better" adults. Absentee parenting is no good but, once you reach a threshold of "enough" time spent, you're really just wasting your time and depriving the world of your talents and contributions.


Wednesday 21st of August 2013

In my own case, I was never planning to be a surgeon or CEO, so I'm not exactly feeling like society has suffered a great deal as a result of me staying at home/working at home. And anecdotally, my mom stayed home with my four siblings and me, but she did not raise four stay-at-home parents who are selfish free-riders. In fact, only one of the four of us is not currently bringing in any income.

I do agree that the family is not the alpha and omega, and I agree that we should be thinking about serving our communities. However, I think you're painting with a broad brush when you say that families with a stay-at-home parent are selfish and are free-riding, and I believe you're forgetting that stay-at-home parents often do lots of volunteer work that contributes to society and to their communities.

Also, I think your comments/thoughts are really more relevant for the upper quartile or so, because it would be hard to argue that it's better to work at, say, WalMart than to stay home with your kids and volunteer in the community, and when you're looking at lower-paying jobs, if often doesn't make financial sense for a parent to work during the years the daycare is required.


Wednesday 25th of July 2012

You make some excellent points!

There is a mentality in our particular society that our career defines who we are and must somehow, magically FULFILL us. In reality, work/career is only one aspect of our multi-faceted lives and it's unrealistic to think that it can fill our every need.

It is unfortunate that those who choose to stay at home with their children are often seen to be or made to feel as if they are missing out, or, possibly even worse, made to feel as if what they're doing is not WORK and does not hold the same weight as "building a career".

Cliff Luther

Thursday 12th of July 2012

I agree whole-heartedly with this statement! My wife posted this to her Facebook wall with the caption "This pretty much sums it up for me." I have been juggling Grad school, 3 odd jobs, my wife's photography business, and taking care of our rapidly-growing, now 7 month old. At the same time, I haven't put in as many hours as my wife has between her day job and her photography business, and she feels like she's missing out so much with our son. She was recently forced to choose and I feel that she made a BRILLIANT choice, as my Grad school is coming to a close, to leave that stinky old day job behind and really just focus on taking care of the soon-to-be big boy and her business. I, on the other hand, will hopefully find a steady full-time job with my new Master's of Education degree and be able to provide enough to pay the bills and put bread on the table while we use the money from her business to dig us out from under the ENORMOUS piles of debt that swallow any student (or students in our case). In any case, I know she will be much happier and better able to handle home life and business much better than being pulled in additional directions from a J O B. Thank you for standing up against the notion that We aren't living up to our potential if we're not juggling a billion things at once. The only reason that the notion ever existed in the first place is because people were striving for this picture perfect life that was beyond their means, forcing every able bodied adult to get into the workforce and abandon home life just to be able to afford the things that it would take to "make them happy," though I can't see how you could enjoy it if you're ALWAYS working to afford it.


Monday 9th of July 2012

I know we don't all want to be in the positions that some women (and men) put themselves in, but we need women in leadership roles in order for women's issues to be heard and for women to be represented in government and the workforce. So hats off to these women in powerful and influential roles who are trying to make a difference in this world and are also trying to raise children. They are the ones who can lead the mindset that having a family is NOT something to count against us in the work force! And balancing family with a career can be done for those of us who are single, full time working parents.


Saturday 7th of July 2012

I'm just catching up on my blog reading so I'm coming late to the conversation. I loved being a SAHM when my boys were young. When they got to school full time, my husband expressed the pressure he felt being solely responsible for our finances, the kids' future educational expenses and eventually our retirement. I went back to school, became a teacher and began contributing to our total finacial picture. It seemed right for us. My adult sons don't look back on their childhood and feel like they were cheated having me work. In fact they think it made them become more independent. It's interesting to see that their wives are SAHM for the most part for now while their kids are small. I agree that what is right for one family isn't always right for others. Just thought I'd add my two cents worth. Thanks


Sunday 8th of July 2012

I kind of agree with Barb O's earlier comment that we can't seem to leave each other alone in our society! We will never all reach consensus on one right way to raise children...nor is consensus necessary. What is needed, however, is more respect for the individual to make personal decisions which are right for her family. We women should respect and support each other, and show tolerance for those who have made choices that differ from our own. It's all good! As long as kids are loved and cared for well, everything will work out. Maybe 'having it all' is that freedom that allows your to carry out your life as you see fit. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. :) Happy belated Fourth of July!

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