Can Moms Have It All? Real Dads Respond

Cheryl Lock

Can Moms Have It All? Dads Respond ...One age-old question has been in the news a lot lately: When a woman has a child, can she have “it all”? In other words, can she have that fancy corporate job and quality time with her children?

As this piece in The Atlantic by Anne-Marie Slaughter puts it, “I still strongly believe that women can ‘have it all’ (and that men can, too) … But not today, not with the way America’s economy and society are currently structured.”

The issue was reignited last week when Yahoo named Marissa Mayer as its new CEO the same week she announced her first pregnancy (and the fact she’s planning to take only a few weeks’ maternity leave and work throughout it). Suddenly the question became, “Will Mayer have it all?”

For obvious reasons, a lot of women have chimed in on the debate. But with the constant emphasis on how this affects women (“No one would even be asking that if Marissa Mayer were a man!”), we were curious–what do men think?

Below, four dads answer the question: “Do you think women can really have it all?”

“We Don’t Always Get to Do Everything We Want.”

Name: Anthony
Location: Annapolis, MD
NASA Systems Administrator
Child’s Age: 
1 month

Do you think women can have it all?
No, but men can’t either. There will always be something out of balance at any given time. Why should any one person have it all? There’s no point in living if you truly achieve it all. Women and men are in the same boat, it’s just that women have it more difficult if they’re mothers because they’ve spent nine months growing a child and creating a bond that no one else has. That makes her time away that much harder.

Do you think dads struggle with the same work-life questions that women do?
Yes, but making work-life decisions comes more naturally to a woman because of the time she spends actually carrying a child. As a father, all I could do was take care of my wife, knowing that she was taking care of our unborn child. Our thought processes are different because a woman has carried that child and has a special bond that a father can only hope to get close to.

How does this issue play out in your own marriage?
I do everything I can for my wife and child, and my wife does the same. She works as a project manager at a construction company. We don’t always get to do everything we want … but we make each other happy and compromise on things to better one another.

What did you feel while reading the article in The Atlantic?
The intro was all about this one particular woman … and she has money and all these great things that I know most women and men wish they had. From there I was biased, and I just couldn’t relate to her struggle.

“Men and Women Can Balance Career and Family.”

Name: Doonam
Location: New York, NY
Profession: Psychiatrist
Child’s Age: 3 years

Do you think women can have it all? 
I believe that with the right partner, workable compromises, a supportive work environment and a lot of effort, both men and women can balance having a successful career and raising a family. However, if “having it all” means trying to complete twice the amount of work (i.e. career and child rearing), in half the amount of time to do both, I do not think that women (or men for that matter) can have it “all,” nor should they want it. Being a good parent is difficult. Having a successful career is difficult. Combining the two does not create a harmonious and balanced blend unless significant compromises are made.

Do you think dads struggle with the same work-life questions that women do?
There are plenty of male examples of high striving professionals who attain pinnacle work achievements, but they also have weight gain, gray hairs, heart attacks, midlife crises, divorces, resentful sons and daughters and shortened lifespans to show for it.

How does this issue play out in your own marriage?
Before the birth of our son, G, my wife and I worked long hours. After G arrived, I found myself setting limits with my time and schedule in ways I didn’t realize I could, or even wanted to, before. I left my job at the hospital, I no longer scheduled work activities on Saturdays and I reduced the number of evenings I came home after 8 p.m. Before G was born, my wife struggled to decide if she wanted to be a stay-at-home mom or remain at her job. In the end, after her maternity leave she arranged to return to work part-time so she could work and have time with our son. She realized that staying at her job made her a better mother and more appreciative of her parenthood.

What did you feel while reading this article?
The author was able to have it “all,” albeit for a limited period of time, but she did not sound happy, healthy or fulfilled. It’s my opinion that she also would not have been able to maintain it in a healthy or enjoyable way. All I know is that I surprised even myself to discover that rather than further pursue higher academic achievement, I prefer to focus on the care of my patients, the ongoing teamwork with my wife and seeing my son before he goes to bed most nights of the week.

“Putting Kids in Daycare Can Be Unfair.”

Name: Luke*
Location: Memphis, TN
Profession: Law student
Child’s age:
 3 months

Do you think women can have it all?
If by “all” you mean climbing the heights of the professional ladder and mothering to the best of their abilities (especially with young children), my answer is a resounding no. Perhaps I’m a dinosaur, but I’ve always thought God (or nature) assigned distinct roles to the sexes. Women, by nature, are nurturing. Men are providers. This of course doesn’t hold true for every person, but I believe almost everyone feels that instinct.

Do you think dads struggle with the same work-life questions that women do? 
Yes, but not as much.

How does this issue play out in your own marriage?
We always thought my wife would stay home and I would work when we had a child. Since our daughter was a surprise and I’m still in school, it hasn’t worked out that way. It’s been tough to adjust, but when I get a job we will revert to that model.

What did you feel while reading this article?
Sympathetic. I think it’s absurd that society (through third-wave feminism) places pressure on women to achieve enormous success both inside and outside the home. Isn’t it unfair to children to be shoved in daycare from birth because neither parent (especially the mother, who has natural advantages) chose to sacrifice a career? Of course, if two incomes are necessary, I suppose that’s the only option. It does seem selfish, though, for women to climb the ladder at the expense of more emotionally healthy children. Plus, isn’t it more rewarding to raise a child than chase a career dream?

“Something Ends Up Taking a Back Seat.”

Name: Edgar
Location: Rockville, MD
Profession: Information Security Professional
Children’s Ages: 4 years and 9 months

Do you think women can have it all?
The perfect work-life balance can be very difficult to achieve, and even harder to maintain. Over the course of time, I believe something ends up taking a backseat … whether intentionally or unintentionally.

Do you think dads struggle with the same work-life questions that women do?
I do think dads struggle with these same kinds of work-life questions, no doubt. I’m at the office for ten hours a day, and many times I leave home early and come home late. I recently took on a whole new set of duties at work, on top of my old duties, and the workload is high. Eventually, I hope that my office hours come down to a more manageable level, because right now I’m not sure how I could spend more time at home.

How does this issue play out in your own marriage?
My wife is a stay-at-home mom, so she’s always with the kids, but she does need my help, especially because she does photography on the weekends. For me, work-life balance tools, like teleworking, don’t help because I still need to put in the hours, and the family tends to need me when I’m home. If my wife and I were both working full-time jobs, the kids would be in daycare, and we’d miss a large part of their lives. At least we’re lucky enough to get by on one income so my wife can stay home and not miss them growing up.

What did you feel while reading this article?
The article brings up a couple of good points about how to achieve more of a work-life balance, if things are done a certain way. I felt it was useful in showing that there’s hope … for all of us.

What do you think? Can moms have it all? Are you surprised by anything these dads had to say? 

*Indicates that name has been changed.

  • chulainna

    If Christopher thinks it’s more rewarding to raise a child than pursue a career dream, maybe he should be dropping out of law school to take care of his kid…

    • A Brain

      Silly. He wants to go to law school. His wife wants to be a stay at home mother. This solution you give forces them both to do what they don’t want to do. 

      • chulainna

        That’s a fair point. I’m just trying to put his sexism in perspective by turning his closing sentence back on him. I’m glad their arrangement works for them, but I’d never create a partnership with a guy who says things like “it’s selfish for *women* to climb the ladder at the expense of more emotionally healthy children.” If it’s selfish for women to do so, it’s selfish for anyone to do so. 

        • V

          To be fair, he’s also 25, things change…just sayin’

  • Cathswart

    I don’t think anyone (man or women) can “have it all”. If both parents work hard and make sacrifices, they can create a reasonable work / family balance, and one that each finds satisfying. But it depends on what things each person is willing to give up. In my opinion, Marissa Mayer is sacrificing a lot on the motherhood side to make the career side work – but if she’s OK with that, then power to her. 

    And for any men who thinks a woman’s place is to be a stay-at-home-mom: A woman doesn’t NEED to do that to be a good parent. This may have been more true when women were having 8 – 10 kids in their lifetimes, but with the modern american family having 2 kids (on average) – give me a break here. There is such a thing as smothering / overbearing parenting. Not to mention that historically, children have not only been raised by the mother, but by other family members as well (grandparents, siblings). Childcare responsibilities did not always fall only to the parents. What a child really needs is nurturing care, whoever that comes from. 

  • pk

    who married christopher.  I pitied his wife.  you know research has been done about maritial ifidelity and depression rates of stay at home mom.  Personally I say if I going to stay at home why even bother to go to school.  I’m just some baby keeping trophy.

    • Laura

      PK, I thought the same thing.

    • Sketch901

      This comment is not helping your argument

  • Connie_ann19

    I think Christopher is just extremely naive. Maybe we should go easy on him a little? Poor guy is in for a shock.

  • Gypsyrom74

    Not only do I feel sorry for Christopher’s wife, I pity his daughter even more. The poor girl will probably be raised to believe her only worth is as a baby factory.

    • Sketch901

      What if the wife wants to do that? Are you saying you know more about what her feelings should be than her?

  • Tara

    It would have been interesting to hear from a stay-at-home dad who enjoys it. I know men who are excited by the prospect of being the parent who stays home. If there are more women getting post-secondary education than men, eventually the tide will turn and it will make more sense for a woman to continue her career after having a child. Obviously, there are still inequities in pay in the workplace at this given time, but I know many entrepreneurial/executive women who make more than their spouses.

  • Kris

         I wouldn’t want to be married to someone who thought, my place, was solely at home with the kids.  I’m not sure that’s what Christopher is saying. He talks about a mothers nurturing instinct, akin to the bond that mothers have with their babies spoken of by other posting dads.  Christopher stated, he doesn’t agree with a woman “climbing the heights of the professional ladder and mothering to the best of their abilities (especially with young children)” I do think most moms want to, weather they can or not, stay home with their babies for more than the 6-10 weeks customarily allowed for maternity leave.  I think moms who can take extra time and do are usually glad they were able to elaborate on the bonding that occurs in that first year, then return to work and continuing to pursue a career.   I will give Christopher  the benefit of doubt in not elaborating on his views and agree with his perspective to an extent.  I think it’s fare to say it’s never cut and dry, which he does leave room for .  When parenting you can read all the book, supply yourself with the best physical tools, nannies and support system, but in the end you have to constantly reevaluate the needs of the child and family unit. A mother who assumes she will do it all, give 100% energy to her career and still have a loving nurturing relationship with her child/children is in for a rude awakening.  At times work will need to take a back seat and at other times the child will receive less time and parental attention if work becomes demanding, especially in the first year. Lastly on Christophers statements, I do think many men feel empowered by providing for their family, some have issue with making less than their female counterpart, and many have adapted to being equal breadwinners.  I have also been privy to far to many situations where men who are not contributing financially have a hard time with the dynamics. I wish I had a study to shine light on if this is continent-ally accurate. 
         I have two children and I have worked part time as well as stayed home with them.  I didn’t want to miss out on their precious moments as babies, but didn’t want to give up may career either.  I’m in a field where part time is an option, it isn’t for many.  I feel very fortunate that my husband and I were able to agree on and make this choice both from a financial and family balancing standpoint.

  • Laura T.

    It seems like Christopher, like a lot of people, are underestimating the role of being a “father.”  You can try and make the old-fashioned case of the mother/woman as the better nurturer, but that belief is just that old-fashioned. Regardless of gender both parents have something to offer their children and they should both make themselves present.  
    I have plenty of happy memories of being a child with my mom, but few that include my dad.  They both worked 9-5 jobs, but my dad too had these “old-fashioned” beliefs which meant that my mom did a lot of the actual parenting.  I just wonder, Is that what “fathers” really want to hear from their kids years later? 

  • Christopher

    Hello everyone. 

    I’m the infamous (apparently) Christopher. Glad I could stimulate some discussion. As you might expect, blurbs don’t communicate the subtlety or complexity of an argument. That’s the nature of pieces such as these. I’m fine with that and I appreciate the generosity of some of the commenters who remarked as such. For the sake of debate and my own personal insight (I could care less about defending myself from anonymous posters on blogs), let me elaborate on some of the common points here. First, I love being a husband and father and I am perfectly content sacrificing many personal goals in light of that. Frankly, I am currently working half-days at my internship to spend time with my daughter. Furthermore, my family was a critical component in my decision not to become a Marine Corps officer. Children are a gift and a responsibility and I am trying my best to practice what I preach. Second, there is no need to pity my wife. She wants to stay at home with our child. She would prefer not to work. Of course, money doesn’t grow on trees so we do what we can. Hopefully, I will have a job once I graduate and she can achieve her dream of serving our family as a full-time wife and mother. To belittle her or her dream, as some have in the past, is patronizing, mean, and close-minded. I’m interested to hear other perspectives. Granted, it’s easier to take cheap shots without your name or picture on the internet, but I’m looking instead for some honest, vulnerable discussion. Is it healthy for children (particularly very young children) to be placed in daycare soon after birth so that the parent(s) can pursue their careers? If so, what, in fact, are our responsibilities to children? Are women more biologically suited to nurture? I’m looking forward to the conversation with an open mind, as always. 


  • Kathayra

    Christopher, it is hard to overlook the language that you chose to use to convey your point, I will admit that. But in light of your comment I wanted to respond.

    I am perhaps one of the exceptions to your logic, which you mention happens. I think I missed the mothering, nurturing genes. Having a kid has never really appealed to me. Being a stay at home Mom sounds like a recipe for sure depression. I love my work, and since I don’t have a child I can only imagine that the satisfaction I get from my job would be entirely different from rearing a child. To add food for thought my mother stayed home to raise my siblings and me. I am thankful for what she did, but sometimes wonder if I was in day care could I be less socially awkward than I am now.

    I do have plans to have a child, but my fiancée would like to stay home. He is more nurturing with my niece and nephew than I am. I believe he will do a great job, just as good as if he were the mother. Over generalizations only further misconceptions, that then hurt women like myself, by making us think something is wrong with us because we aren’t naturally nurturers. I might not be the norm, but I hope my story will make you hesitate next time you share your opinion based on gender roles. It creates shame for some women like me, which then makes it hard to have an open discussion.

  • Clist

    I take offense to Christopher’s comments as it implies that working moms who choose to work are doing so because they are selfish, and that their kids will end up unstable because of it. I’m happy that his wife wants to be a stay at home mom – that’s a great choice and because she wants to do it, she will likely be great at it. But not all women are wired that way, and just because that’s the case doesn’t mean we should all be sterilized. I’m a working mom by choice. We could afford for me stay home, but after the birth of my son I quickly realized that I was not cut out to be a stay at home mom. I missed adult conversation that didn’t center around kids, I longed for the corporate work that stimulated my brain. I was not prepared for a sleep deprived life that focused on praying my kid would nap an hour longer and figuring out how to fit in a shower before my husband came home. I became a bitter mess who snapped when my husband would complain about a work lunch because at least he got to leave the house! When I went back to work, I became a better person and a better mom. When I spent time with my son, I cherished every second of it, focused on him entirely. When I was stay at home, it would be exhausting keeping up with him, so I end up trying to fit in chores and other duties with fleeting moments of actual interaction. Even though I work full time, there is no doubt he knows who is mommy.

    My point is not that working moms are better, I think every woman should make the choice that works best or their family.

  • Clist

    And as someone else mentioned, in the past it took a village to raise a child – it was never just the parents. Back then it was the extended family. Nowadays we don’t have the large extended families that live all in the same community – that’s where other caregivers step in.

    I hate the argument of stating that daycare is “raising my child.” If a husband/father works full time and rarely sees his kid because he is providing for the family, do people say he’s not raising his kid? Of course not. So why does that argument hold true if the woman goes to work? As stated before, it takes a village – caregivers are not raising my child FOR me, but WITH me.

  • Rachpetite

    I was a stay at home mom /wife for 18yrs. I was not allowed or encouraged to work even when my kids were in school. I can speak from experience. I went through a divorce and got a job. Got married and had a baby. My deepest desire was to stay at home and be with my kids again. I missed 2 precious years from my older kids. I missed school functions and games. I was exhausted keeping up with work, 3teenagers and 1 9yr old and baby. Where did my new husband fit in let alone me. We all suffered. When we decided for me to quit working Everyone is happy. Im not exhausted and Im relishing and enjoying every moment. Old fashion……No!!!!! Just a mom who loves her family deeply and knows first hand time goes by too fast. My oldest is a senior this year. Praise God I can be here for my children. Working at a job will just have to wait for me.

  • Ginger

    Christopher, I thank you for making this point: “To belittle her or her dream, as some have in the past, is patronizing, mean, and close-minded.”

    I am currently working full time as a successful engineer and expecting my first baby in just 4 months. When I mention that I plan to become a stay at home mother when the baby comes, I feel that I am immediately forced to defend my decision (am my husband – who is NOT forcing me to stay home) to leave a successful career to be “just a stay at home mom”. This is a choice I have made and have no reservations about the “sacrifice” of my career.

    And, I agree with your point here “I think it’s absurd that society (through third-wave feminism) places
    pressure on women to achieve enormous success both inside and outside
    the home.”  At what point in time did being a full-time mother become such a meek title?? This should be a point of PRIDE amongst women that only we can provide certain things to our children.

  • Ginger3139

    I spent over 25 years working (as active duty military) and raising children and have spent the last 3 as a full-time stay at home mom.  One of my older children is now a stay at home mom after being raised with me gone all the time.  The other older child is… a very unhappy and unbalanced person.  Because I did not have enough time to spend with them and their father did not care to?  My two younger children are teenagers and benefitting greatly from me being home with them.  If I could choose, I would always choose to stay home until my kids were grown and out of school, at least.  I don’t intend to ever go back to work, because now I am part of the village that helps raise my grandchildren as well.  You CANNOT have it all the same way as those who only do one or the other.  Been there, tried that, got the medal.

  • CleoBarker

    My husband and I are planning on getting pregnant very soon, and he will be the one to stay at home. I’m active duty and I love my job soooo much and I do not deploy. He is not as fulfilled in his job as being a stay at home dad would be (at least until the baby would be school age). I definitely feel the pull to be the one to stay at home, but I can provide a lot more for my child by staying where I am. I’ll provide a steady paycheck, healthcare, dental, opportunities, a solid 7-3 job, as well as my husband’s and my own, emotional well-being.
    My own mom had me at a very young age and both her and my dad worked, while I was raised by my grandparents on both sides as well as babysat by their close friends. I loved every single person in my life and loved my parents no less from that arrangement and felt very loved and secure. What impacted me was when my mom worked long hours after my father died and slept whenever she was home, so I never really saw her all that much for a number of years. I still love her of course and understand, but its a definite rift in our relationship and a great hurt I will always remember- and never do to a child of mine.
    I believe that if you work and have a family (man or woman or both) as long as you work your standard 8 hard-charging and are still home for your spouse and children it can definitely work out.
    Also for all those flaring up at Christopher, it is absolutely selfish to completely absorb yourself in work in order to reach the tippy top at the sacrifice of your kids well being, which is exactly what he was trying to say. If that’s what will happen, its not fair to yourself or your kid(s). That’s my take on it.

  • funnyangel

    I am expecting and I can’t imagine giving up my career to be a stay-at-home mom.  Maybe if my husband made six figures, I would feel more comfortable with it.  However, I am the breadwinner and I enjoy my career.  He is just getting started in his.  He is younger, and just recently finished graduate school.  I grew up with a career mom who worked 8 to 5, and a dad who sometimes worked and sometimes stayed at home to take care of us.  I had a great example of a mom who could “have it all.” Yes, our family made sacrifices sometimes, but my mom still has a great career. My brother and I are fine emotionally, despite going to day care or staying in after school care sometimes.  So I think you can have a career and kids if you want or you can stay at home. It’s really a personal preference. I just don’t think I could stay sane being around children 24/7 like some of my friends do. I know myself, and I need the outlet of a career. I do have a flexible job and I can work from home when I need/want to, which is a little better than what my mom had. I am grateful for that.