Having the Choice to Not Have it All

Now that I’m home, but the BEA buzz hasn’t yet worn off, I decided to see what CSPAN had filmed for us (tip to BEA lovers: CSPAN films some sessions at BEA. They are then broadcast on Book TV on the weekends or available at their website. Also, PBS has Book Now Live, which records bookish events, including some BEA and Bookcon. Sweet!). On CSPAN I find a panel entitled: Women and Leadership in Publishing:

This rings all my bells. Well, women and leadership in almost any field is an interest of mine so.. Let me get some popcorn. though I know what I’m going to hear: that it’s hard to balance everything, that men are asked or expected to balance everything, that some men don’t realize any of this and expect it all anyway and that we can’t have it all, we have to choose. Still, bring on the horror stories, because we like to understand each other’s experience.

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The above is a shot of Bethlam Forsa and Madeline McIntosh after Bethlam described that she felt she had done something wrong by getting pregnant after taking on a new role and that she returned to work 2 weeks after giving birth (Mcintosh audibly said: “oh..” after). I immediately thought: that was her choice. No one could legally make her do that. And then she immediately went on to say it was her choice. She did what she thought was needed for her career. At this point, I turned it off. Just this and the earlier descriptions by Lisa Sharkey of previous jobs where men threw typewriters if angry and ‘sneaking out’ via the back stairs at 8pm was enough to sate my penchant for the horror stories.

But I kept thinking about it. Yes, Bethlam made a choice, and maybe she made that choice because it’s what she truly wanted, or maybe she felt she had to make the choice to return or her career would suffer. It is an unfortunate fact that the later is a reality in some workplaces and having recently watched quite a bit of Mad Men, I know that things have improved substantially, though there is a long way to go. But she’s fortunate because it was her choice, and no one should criticize her for it. She has a right to live her life on her terms. What makes me more sad if all the women who do not have that choice: lower income women, single moms, people without easily affordable child care. I originally started writing this as a whine about not being able to have it all, to have to make decisions, but in thinking about it more I realize it’s a luxury to have those choices. I’m sad that it’s a luxury, I wish that everyone could have those choices.
Maybe I’ll return to watch the rest of the panel. Perhaps these smart, successful women will have something to say that will make me feel better.

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