Personal Finance: Career and family -- can you have it all?

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Michelle Singletary
Thursday, May 20, 2010; 9:47 AM

Many women, and men, know the daily challenges of balancing family and a successful career. Soccer practice, doctor's appointments, business meetings--there aren't enough hours in a day.

If you are a parent with a career, would it be easier to strive for success without a Rugrat? (for the uninformed, that's the term used for little ones on a popular Nickelodeon cartoon by the same name. I like it so much that it's what I call my kids, especially when they are getting on my nerves.)

Would it be easier as a woman to climb the ladder of success without a family?

These are questions posed by Lauren Ashburn in Childless: How the Most Ambitious Women Choose not to Be Sidetracked by Family.

Ashburn applauds the successes of recent Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan and Justice Sonya Sotomayor as they ascend to the pinnacle of their profession, yet argues that the corporate culture must change so that advancing one's career doesn't mean having to choose between family and work.

Seventy-one percent of women in the workforce have children ages six to 17, and for the first time in history, there are more women working than men, Ashburn reports.

She writes: "Some speculate that there is a fear among ambitious women that they can't rise to a preeminent position if they start a family because of the intense job pressures -- late nights, long trips, the need to be available 24/7. Let's face it, could Justice Sotomayor really schedule car pool from One First Street, N.E.?"

Ashburn's article is an interesting read, and of course goes down that road of whether parents (mothers, in particular) can have it all.

Personally, I don't think you can have it all, at least not at the same time and do everything well. Something will suffer. Or you will try to do it all -- ambitious career, be adequately available for your family -- but will eventually drop from exhaustion or exasperation.

I can't have it all and do it all well.

Ashburn says the solution is the following: "If being childless is not an option for you, it's time to raise your voices, demand flexibility in your workplace and show the world that, yes, you can work full-time and be productive members of a corporation without being chained to a desk just because that's the way it's always been done."

So what do you think? Can a woman (or man) have both professional and personal success at the same time? Send your comments to colorofmoney@washpost.com. Put "Working Parents" in the subject line.


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