Family comes first: Elisabeth Hasselbeck leaves Fox for kids

A Fox News TV host is stepping down to spend more time with her children, as the debate within feminism continues between 'lean in' and 'you can't have it all.'

Richard Drew/AP
Elisabeth Hasselbeck appears in her debut as the new co-host of the "Fox & Friends" television program in New York. Hasselbeck says she's leaving as one of the three co-hosts on the "Fox & Friends" morning show to spend more time with her three children.

A Fox & Friends co-host is leaving television to focus on her family, joining the ranks of high-profile women who are guided by principles other than "leaning in" when it comes to planning their careers.

Elisabeth Hasselbeck, formerly of ABC's "The View," has three children. She did not say her workplace was inflexible to motherhood, but she did say that leaving was the best decision for her family, CNN reported:

Throughout my 14 years working in television, I have never experienced a more positive and thoughtful atmosphere than Fox News Channel, thanks to the strong leadership of Roger Ailes, who has created the best working environment a woman and mother could ask for. His understanding, compassion, and kindness was exemplified when I shared with him that I am entering into a season where I want to start my day with my children first, and he offered his blessing to do so.

Facebook CEO Sheryl Sandberg's 2013 book, "Lean In," a touchstone on the subject of female advancement in the workplace, argues for a different line of action. In her book, Ms. Sandberg urges women to "lean in" to their careers to combat a lack of feminism in the workplace. 

While many women have enthusiastically rallied behind Sandberg's book, others say they find it out of touch with their reality. In reviewing "Lean In," Susan Adams of Forbes said she agreed with many of Sandberg's central points, but wrote that her personal experience and that of friends was that mothering and work demands conflict. She wrote that she agreed more with Anne-Marie Slaughter's 2012 article titled, "Why Women Still Can't Have it all."

In the article for The Atlantic, Slaughter shared why she left her position as the first woman director of policy planning at the State Department to focus on her family. She expressed her new conviction that while her generation was determined to help women advance in the workplace for the cause of feminism, it was not working for most women.

"The women who have managed to be both mothers and top professionals are superhuman, rich, or self-employed," she wrote.

The conflict of ideals is more than hypothetical, Jodi Kantor wrote for The New York Times. Slaughter and Sandberg have acknowledged the disparity in strategy.

"[Sandberg's] made a real contribution with the book, but it’s only half the story,” Slaughter told The New York Times.

This comes partly from a recognition that even in two-career households, family demands weigh heavier on mothers. According to a Pew research survey, 60 percent of working moms say balancing work and home life is difficult compared to 52 percent of working dads. Many working mothers also feel they end up with the lion's share of homemaking, especially where the children are involved. 

For his part, Fox News chairman and CEO Roger Ailes said Hasselbeck has been "a great addition," and he acknowledged the challenges of her decision.

"Elisabeth and I discussed this at length over several weeks, and while I would love for her to continue here, I respect her incredibly difficult, yet deeply personal decision," Ailes said in a press release.

[Editor’s note: The original version of this story incorrectly attributed a Roger Ailes statement.]

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