Call her an “opt-in-betweener.”
In a column titled “I’m not ambitious, and that’s okay,” Salon writer Elissa Strauss comes clean about being “an example of a life of a working woman that is not doused in burden and angst.”
Despite the declarations of authors in today’s big work juggle genre – Sheryl Sandberg, Anne-Marie Slaughter, Judith Warner and most recently, Wonder Women author Debora Spar among them – apparently not every woman wants to have it all, lean in or opt out: Some just aren’t that ambitious, writes Strauss.
The writer offers this candid snapshot of a life mid-ladder:
I am not a perfectionist. I wouldn’t consider myself highly ambitious. I am content only writing about the stuff that interests me and have no interest in scoring a job that would land me on the top of a masthead at a prestige publication. I didn’t try to lose my baby weight in 10 months. I have nothing planned for my son’s first birthday. I let him fall sometimes, and supplemented my breast milk with formula, and am not kept awake at night by my guilt. I accept that these next five or so years ahead will not be the most professionally fruitful or glass-ceiling-breaking for me because I only work 30 hours a week ...
Strauss wonders what is missing when highly ambitious authors fail to portray women who “long for much less,” or as Jezebel calls them, “Beta ladies.”
“Sometimes reading the newspapers, you would think that the whole female population was involved in juggling a full-time job and five year old. And actually the reality is that it’s a period which is very tough, and it is a juggle but it’s a small part of one’s adult life,” Alison Wolf, author of the XX Factor told me in a recent interview.
Perhaps most powerfully, Salon’s Strauss suggests that the current neuroses around over-scheduled lives may be chosen, not inflicted: “Busyness, particularly for those who think of themselves as peers of high-achieving women, has become a new status symbol, a more potent signifier of success than a luxury handbag or a week in the Caribbean.”
Many readers praised Strauss for her refreshingly honest take. But as is typical in this debate, others questioned the writer’s personal life, with a few chastising Strauss for being more ambitious than she’d care to let on. How truly blasé could a relatively new mother be when she counts The New York Times among her clippings and works a 30-hour-work-week, which inches perilously close to full-time, they crowed.
Not opting-in-between enough?