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'Having it all' is so 1980s

The debate about Anne-Marie Slaughter’s Atlantic cover story on women and 'having it all' – career and family – is out of touch with the modern family. As a young couple, our question is how can we have just enough? We’re attuned to core joys, not status and acquisition.

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We don’t want the impossible. We don’t want to have it all. We want to be happy and helpful.

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Our newest role models for this kind of “it takes a village” lifestyle come from an unlikely place. We’ve had two close friends recently have babies on their own by choice, and it’s been inspiring to watch as their motley crew of friends and family members weave in and out of their lives – taking night shifts here, planning baby showers there, being on call for whatever, whenever.

Even with four hands on deck, we hope to adopt that kind of interdependent ethos when we have kids. It will require some vulnerability, some spontaneity, but the reward we expect is profound – a sense that your community is wide and willing.

The day after Thanksgiving last year, John’s parents rented out a whole bowling alley in Milwaukee, Wis., and his big, Catholic family took it over for the day. There were 18 of us – everyone from Grandma Audrey, 84 years old, to baby Audrey, 2 years old, Courtney’s brother, a poet, to John’s, a sports agent. Our scores weren’t very impressive, but it was one of the best days of our year.

If having it all means bowling alone, as sociologist Robert Putnam would put it, then consider us uninterested.

Courtney E. Martin is co-author of “Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters: How the Quest for Perfection is Harming Young Women,” among other books, and a TED speaker. John Cary is editor of and author of “The Power of Pro Bono: 40 Stories about Design for the Public Good by Architects and Their Clients.” Follow Courtney on Twitter at @courtwrites. Follow John at @johncary.


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