PEG 2.0

Writer & entrepreneur. Bio.

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On Anne-Marie Slaughter’s Atlantic cover story

I can’t take it anymore. It would be easy to mock her trotting out of her credentials and her self-focus, but of course it’s the point: she was supposed to embody “having it all”, and thinks that she does not have “it” all. You can’t do that without describing “it.”

The true lesson of the piece is that it’s impossible to have “it” if the “it” you describe is impossible to have. 

Ms Slaughter downscaled her career because her 14-year-old son was “skipping homework, disrupting classes, failing math, and tuning out any adult who tried to reach him.”

Guess what? 

(Ahem.)

THIS IS WHAT FOURTEEN YEAR BOYS OLDS DO.

Jeez. No, it is not possible to be Amy Chua AND Head of Policy Planning at the State Department. Nope. Sorry. If that is the “it” you want to have, then you cannot have “it.”

What IS possible is to be Head of Policy Planning at the State Department and have children who are normal and who are on their way to becoming healthy, happy adults.

Maybe… Just maybe… Take a deep breath here… They won’t get into Princeton. (ERMAHGERD) Guess what! They can still, believe it or not, be healthy, happy adults, even without an Ivy League pedigree. They can EVEN have careers that are not only fulfilling but prestigious and remunerative. Yes, yes, it’s possible. (And take it from me, if they do get into careers where Ivy League pedigrees are the norm, they will take more pride from it due to the fact that they do not have an Ivy League pedigree.)

They can ALSO naturally grow out of their rebellious teenage phase and get into Princeton! But maybe they won’t! The point is: it doesn’t really matter!  

When I was 13, I was EXPELLED from one of the most prestigious prep schools in France for doing the sort of things Ms Slaughter describes, and then taking it to 11. Did my mother downscale her career as a result? I’m certain the thought didn’t even occur to her. (What is it she could have done, anyway?? Adolescence is adolescence. Teenagers want to be alone. Jeez. The worst thing you can do to “fix” a sullen teenager is to helicopter in. And do what?) And she couldn’t have, anyway, because she was the sole breadwinner of the family. Because I did poorly in high school, I ended up at a second-tier liberal arts school—where I had a wonderful time with wonderful, unconventional professors who expanded my horizons and changed my outlook forever. I did well and ended up attending the top law school in the country! And then the top business school in the country! And I turned down jobs at prestigious consulting and finance firms to embark on a startup career that I find extremely fulfilling and am not doing too badly at! (Stay tuned on that btw.) And I live in a nice apartment in one of the fanciest parts of town! And I have a wife whom I love and who loves me and a wonderful daughter! And, most importantly, I am a pretty healthy, balanced, happy individual!

Hey, if Ms Slaughter can tell her story, so can I. 

The point isn’t that you should let your kids get expelled from school (although, if they really don’t want to work or be disciplined—what can you do?), the point is that who gives a crap. 

There’s another point, here: peer judgement. Throughout my education, my mother was looked down upon, judged and patronized by all of her peers. Every other mother thought everything she did was wrong. And for a long time, it looked like they were right! I got terrible grades in school. I grew fat and grew my hair long. I went from being a boisterous, annoying brat to being a sullen, detestable teen. But guess what: it worked out. And when I look at the children of those women—well, let’s just say it ain’t necessarily a pretty sight. I typically have better degrees and a better job than them (yes it doesn’t matter, but MAN the Revengefreude feels good); but more importantly, I’m happier and better in my skin. 

I owe her more than I can ever express for staying strong and just LETTING ME BE. I had TV and the internet and video games in my room, and I was on them all the time, which is pretty much the picture of Bad Parenting according to the CW. And guess what, thanks to TV and the Internet I got to learn to use English fluently which is pretty much my only marketable skill.  

One gets the sense that what really prompted Ms Slaughter to downscale her career wasn’t so much the impact she thought she would have on her son’s life, but how she would look as a mother to her peers, if her kid kept having bad grades in school. WHO GIVES A SHIT. These people are WRONG. They only want to torture you about doing things wrong so they can feel better about themselves.

Just let your Goddamn kids be. Sorry, but the world doesn’t revolve around you, and the best times they’ll have in their childhood won’t be with you. And that’s fine. They are ACTUAL human beings! With their own rights and lives and INNER lives. They are not canvasses on which to project your own ambitions or mirrors to reflect your own self-understanding back to you. Right now the thing that matters most to your 14-year-old boy’s life is 1) getting laid; 2) being cool. Not becoming the person you want him to be. Not doing homework. That’s FINE. It’s NORMAL. It’s HUMAN.

Jeeeeeeeeez.

At a more macro level—is there any argument left that for the Davos class children AREN’T luxury positional goods? Your kid needs to get straight As for the same reason your mansion must have a car elevator. 

So, anyway, YES, you can have it all. You can have a successful career and a good family. Yes, yes, a thousand times yes, and there is absolutely no doubt about that.

What you CANNOT have is a successful career AND helicopter parenting. This “it” you cannot have. And if you want the best for your kids, you’ll choose the career and ditch the helicopter. They’ll be better off, and take it from me, they’ll be grateful.

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