Anne-Marie Slaughter, 57, president of the think tank New America, ushered in a wide-ranging debate in 2012 with her essay in the Atlantic — “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All” — about leaving the fast track at the State Department to return to an academic job in Princeton that allowed her more time with her husband and two adolescent sons. She now divides her time among Washington, New York and the family house in New Jersey.
When we first met, you were in England, doing a degree in international relations. Did you ever imagine you’d get embroiled in the mommy wars?
No, never. In fact, I am looking at a recent release of Hillary Clinton’s e-mails. I sent her lots of things about foreign policy. And what gets picked up? The e-mail I sent her encouraging her to take a few days off before Christmas. Nothing on foreign policy.
You always assumed you’d have a career?
My father was a defense lawyer, and he saw all these divorce cases and husbands leaving wives with nothing. He vowed that his daughter would always be able to fend for herself.
Your new book, “Unfinished Business: Women Men Work Family,” is about revaluing care and liberating men. Did Andrew [Moravcsik, her husband] pay you to write it?
No! But he’s writing
a piece for the Atlantic
about being the lead parent, the way people have reacted to him.
Might you have felt differently about leaving your children with your husband if you’d had daughters rather than sons?
Interesting question. I’ve never thought about it. I don’t think so. It might have played out differently.
Are your sons feminists?
They know how to push my buttons something fierce with frat-boy talk. But they are strong believers in equality. Edward [the older son] is starting college. He keeps laughing about being “that kid” at his college interview.
Since you are an expert in international relations, where’s the best place to live for work-life balance?
Denmark. I do think European countries do a better job. But because we work ourselves to death here, there are more women in high places, though not the highest.
So if Clinton becomes our first female president, what would you like her to do?
Get family leave passed and high-quality, affordable day care and some kind of much broader understanding of paternity — as well as maternity — leave. Congress passed national child care in 1971, then Nixon vetoed it. It’s time to finish that business.
You’ll soon be an empty-nester. What next?
I have a foreign-policy book to finish. I call [this time] Phase Three. There are caregiving periods of your life and times when you can throw yourself in wholeheartedly.
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