Why Some Women Still Can't Have It All

Some moms stay home, some are CEOs, but class and politics make either option impossible for many.

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I have more issues with the Sheryl Sandberg types, who don't work class, race or political analysis into their exhortations to go for the brass ring. Yes, there are power moms at the top of their game. Take Shonda Rhimes, an ace television producer (Scandal, Grey's Anatomy). She's African American and a mother of two children she adopted. Sister is doing it for herself. But it takes a mix of brilliance, persistence, good luck and timing (plus steady child care) to make the businesswoman and mom worlds blend smoothly.

I'm not a mother yet, but I plan to be, hopefully in the next couple of years. There are a lot of ways to mother adeptly -- some very different from others. I do not believe that mothers who work long hours or travel often are necessarily making bad choices. The point is that parents always have to make decisions within the context of options they cannot always control, like federal policies supporting families.

For my part, I appreciate more than ever my mother's learn-by-doing style of parenting and her focus on thrift and self-sufficiency. There's much I'd like to emulate some day. Kids watch you do things. Even when you don't see them learning, they learn.

The fabric of life sometimes means producing things that nourish us, clothe us, support us. And most of the working mothers I know also want to leave their own footprint in the world, making it better -- through art, education and business, just to name a few means -- for other adults and children.  

It's a balance, right? And balance is always imperfect -- leaning one way and then the other to find the middle path. Men have been allowed to walk the family-work line without undue judgment. Don't women deserve the same consideration? (And politicians, how about throwing in some child care, too?)

Farai Chideya is a Distinguished Writer in Residence at New York University's Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute who has hosted television and radio shows and written four books. She was a spring 2012 fellow at Harvard's Institute of Politics. Follow her on Twitter.

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