Friday, June 22, 2012

Opportunity Cost


"One of the greatest myths told to women is that they can have it all. Nobody can have everything, and you especially can't have it all at once. There's an opportunity cost to everything."
- Julie B. Beck

I think about opportunity cost a lot. I think about it as I prioritize, make preferences throughout the day, choose one activity over another. I think about it on a more macro level, when I consider the CEC's I need to complete before September to retain my professional certifications. I think about it when I consider my shelved dream of pursuing a master's degree in creative writing. I think about it when I try to formulate what I will say to my daughters as they prepare for college and make career choices. I want them to fulfill the measure of who they are, dream big, accomplish much. And part of that dream, for me, is a hope that they will embrace motherhood and the joy of raising a family.

Here's a fascinating read for the weekend. An opinion we rarely hear from elite female academia or high profile professional women. Written by Anne-Marie Slaughter, first woman director of policy planning for the State Department, it is titled Why Women Still Can't Have it All.


I don't share it so women, like myself, who have chosen to stay home, can pat ourselves on the back. Each woman is living her own unique life path, trying to balance gifts, demands, and pursuits in the way she feels is right. I laud that and encourage it. I believe we ought to throw out the script (i.e. cultural pressure and stereotypes) and listen to what God wants us to do individually. It is never our place to judge.

But I do want to stand up and cheer when a strong woman (or man) chooses, to the disdain of those around them, to put family first and pull back for the benefit of those who need them most. (We are truly indispensable to only a few.)

No doubt it is a decision that will receive less applause, snide remarks, and some looking down the nose, but Slaughter thinks we can change that. And even if we can't, for those children or spouses for whom the decision was made, there is no question. It will have been worth the cost.

Note: Opportunity cost for writing this post @ 7:30 AM? Showering before my kids are awake. Darn.


  1. My mom says, "women can have it all; just not in the same decade."

  2. Cath you are simply beautiful! That is crazy because we live on Federalist way! at the ellipse apartments. And yes we LOVE Fairfax corner we walk there all the time!

  3. Hi Cath,

    off topic: in Dawn's blog I found this link to the Summer Brain Games a Museum in Chicago offers to download -- they have some really fun ideas for stuff to do with your kids:

    I haven't told my son about the water ballon catapult yet, but I'm sure he'll have built one in a heartbeat, ;-).


    So long,

  4. as always...thank you. another great post with adorable photos. xox

  5. Ellen - You have a wise mother. You might find Slaughter's discussion of sequencing interesting. She points out that all the varieties of timing for career, having children, a hiatus, and returning to work - how all of them come with trade-offs and challenges. I believe every woman must find the right balance of "yes and no" in her life. It seems to be a very dynamic thing, always changing as the needs of our families change. Thanks for your input Ellen.

    Kelsi - we lived right there. At the archstone ellipse apartments. You must be attending Fairfax ward. You need to connect with the Roberts, the Todds, the Johnsons, and all our other old friends. That was our ward for nearly eight years. I'll send you an email.

    Corinna - those Summer Brain Games are an excellent idea. Thank you! We actually added in a small experiment for our Thinking Thursdays, I'll definitely visit there for more suggestions. Bless you.

    Cristie - Need to see you in person one of those days. love you.

    M- xo

  6. I'm posting a few other comments from friends who responded to this post/article on facebook, to give the discussion more depth and personal experience. Thought you might find their thoughts interesting.

    From my friend Andrea, a microbiologist and professor. Andrea points out that snide remarks or looking down the nose (as I phrased it) can come from both sides of the working line. Whether you choose to pull back, or whether you choose to step in. I admire Andrea very much. You will see why:

    "I shared this article as well on Facebook because I wholeheartedly agreed with it. You really can't have it all as a professional woman. I realized after reading it that every career decision I've made has been defined by the needs of my children. I have given up offers for full-time tenure-track positions because I knew my children needed me more than I needed that job. I've just recently shifted to a freelance writing job partially based on the fact that my oldest disabled son's medical needs were becoming critical. It's especially hard, since I get pressure from the Mormon culture telling me not to work at all and dedicate my whole life to my family. On the other side, I'm somewhat looked down on in my professional life because I don't dedicate more to my career. It's a constant battle. Ultimately, I believe I've made the right decision."

    From my friend Erin, who works for the State Dept. and is currently living in Panama. She responds:

    "Regarding your comment about the pressure from the Mormon culture. I feel it, too. Maybe not so much in DC/Panama but there's an undercurrent. That's why I LOVE the blog does a great job of shattering the myth of the Molly Mormon and separating the gospel from the culture. I also figure that by trying to stay in good health I've got at least 40 more working years. :-) I'll probably take a decline in about ten years when my kids get into high school. Something tells me they'll need more then than now..."

    Ditto on the MWP. Visit for inspiring, non-traditional stories of faith.

    And from another friend, Rebecca, who works for the Dept. of Defense:

    "I was just going to make a video for my site about this very topic. It wasn't women related so much, but the fact that we all have 24 hours and must make choices. Love your blog post AND the article. Since I'm a woman in government (in DoD, in Washington, etc.), really appreciated hearing her say a lot of the feelings that I've gone through as I prioritize the rest of my life."

  7. I love this.
    And I especially loved the quote about being indispensable to only a few. That is so true.
    And I smiled when I read that you want to get a masters in Creative Writing. Me too, my friend.

  8. I am grateful for you and for this...especially tonight.

  9. Elizabeth - some day. Shall we apply to the same program when a new life with a little more time presents itself? :)

    Transplanted Italian - beautiful blog. beautiful stories. thanks for your comment.

  10. Thank you for reminding me of this article. My husband had mentioned it to me several days before, and I had forgotten to read it until you provided the link. The author's insights were powerful.

    Even if you never get that degree in creative writing, you ARE writing. You are stringing beautiful words together every week. I have no doubt that you will one day have a book or very likely many books you have authored.

    How I've missed you.

    Traveling Mercies…I see it on your sidebar…that is a book on my hold shelf at the library…I just found her Bird by Bird a few weeks ago and loved it. By the way, have you ever heard of Shauna Niequist? I'm in the middle of reading her Cold Tangerines and Bittersweet. Her books are collections of short essays she's written about living passionately, finding beauty in the everyday, and creating light in the darkness. I highly recommend her.

    My sons are waiting to get back on the computer. Gotta run now. Just please know that you are loved.


Related Posts with Thumbnails