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I had always assumed that if I could get a foreign-policy job in the State Department or the White House while my party was in power, I would stay the course as long as I had the opportunity to do work I loved.But in January 2011, when my two-year public-service leave from Princeton University was up, I hurried home as fast as I could. When people asked why I had left government, I explained that I’d come home not only because of Princeton’s rules (after two years of leave, you lose your tenure), but also because of my desire to be with my family and my conclusion that juggling high-level government work with the needs of two teenage boys was not possible.Then I said, “When this is over, I’m going to write an op-ed titled ‘Women Can’t Have It All.’”She was horrified. “You, of all people.” What she meant was that such a statement, coming from a high-profile career woman—a role model—would be a terrible signal to younger generations of women.By the end of the evening, she had talked me out of it, but for the remainder of my stint in Washington, I was increasingly aware that the feminist beliefs on which I had built my entire career were shifting under my feet.It’s time to stop fooling ourselves, says a woman who left a position of power: the women who have managed to be both mothers and top professionals are superhuman, rich, or self-employed.
C., where I worked, back to Princeton, New Jersey, where he lived.
She has two sons exactly my sons’ ages, but she had chosen to move them from California to D. when she got her job, which meant her husband commuted back to California regularly.
I told her how difficult I was finding it to be away from my son when he clearly needed me.
But it was the second set of reactions—those implying that my parenting and/or my commitment to my profession were somehow substandard—that triggered a blind fury. All my life, I’d been on the other side of this exchange.
I’d been the woman smiling the faintly superior smile while another woman told me she had decided to take some time out or pursue a less competitive career track so that she could spend more time with her family.