Everything I've read about the interview has focused on the women/fewer wars discussion, but I found the second part of the interview, titled Power Women and Balance, more intriguing. Diane Sawyer asked the senators for their thoughts on everything from family to the differences between men and women. I loved it when Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) told us that the morning before her first floor speech she rehearsed while she made her daughter's peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch. I loved it even more when one of the senators admitted that she is addicted to Project Runway. But what really struck me was the response to Ms. Sawyer's question about whether or not it is possible for powerful women to "have it all"? The uniform message of every senator was that it is possible to be a powerful woman and have a family. Clearly, there are limitations. For instance, Mary Landrieu (D-LA) pointed out that women and men need support at home to do both jobs well. A response from Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) also gave me pause. She told Ms. Sawyer "You can't have it all," but then went on to say, "but you can be a mom and a senator." The aired portion of the interview didn't expand on Senator Murkowski's remarks, but I'd like to think that she was trying to remind us that we don't have to "have it all." We can't all be perfect mothers, work 80 hours a week, bake cakes, and shuttle our children to every activity known to mankind. But women can hold powerful positions and be good mothers at the same time.
I realize that not all of us are like those 16 amazing women, but I loved hearing what they had to say and I loved hearing their message about work and family. (And, yes, I'm about to start talking about a relatively privileged set of well educated women who have the luxury to "choose" whether or not to work. So sue me. I write about what I know.) All too often, I hear young women lawyers around me worrying about how on earth they will ever be able to have families. Already many of the women in my law school graduating class have dropped out of the legal world. Some of them wanted to be stay at home mothers but some of them weren't left with many options. When you work for a large firm that expects in excess of 2000 billable hours a year (more if you want to make partner) and expects you to be available on a whim 24/7, working part-time isn't really an option and working full time means never tucking your children into bed at night. But not all firms are like that. Mine certainly isn't and in fact prides itself on keeping its lawyers fat, balanced, and happy. (Well, maybe not the fat part but you know what I mean!) The powers that be at The Firm (my firm) understand that lawyers who have time for life are better lawyers and that it is in The Firm's best interest to keep its women from becoming part of the "opt out revolution." Being a lawyer and being a working mom doesn't have to be an all or nothing proposition.
The senators probably aren't the best examples of "balance" but they, and other powerful women like them, are part of a changing force in this country. If we want family friendly policies, part-time work options, flexible schedules, and a change in social attitudes that will make working and having a family easier, having high profile Senator moms pushing for them can't hurt. Now I'm not saying that all women must stay in the work force, family or not, and blaze a trail for future generations. Part of the feminist movement was about choice, wasn't it? But only when changing social attitudes push more and more employers down the family friendly trail will women truly have a "choice" about whether to work or not. I'm just happy to hear that the new Girls' Club agrees that the roles of mom and corporate/legal/medical/(insert profession here) maven are not incompatible.