An awful lot of Slaughter’s piece is as urgently important for men as for women. All of us work too hard. We all shortchange our kids. We all buy a lot of stuff we don't need. We are all pretty much a mess when it comes to balance. The difference is women agonize over the menu and men just order and live with it. Jan Rodak and I wrote a piece a few months ago that argued that as long as women see life as a sum of choices they will always fret and regret. Slaughter is right that for most women the juggle just FEELS worse. As one of those 4-a.m.-train moms who missed my sons star turn as "Monkey No. 2" last week at the camp play, I am aware that most of the guilt and regret are self created. But Traister is so right that anyone who tries to have it all has a problem: That's the stuff of Disney and soap commercials. We need to make it easier for women at every level to balance work and home. But balance isn't about constantly weighing what you have against what you don't have. That isn't balance—it’s a recipe for a life spent longing for all the things you bargained away.
I think there is some truth to this but there are plenty of men who agonize over the menu, particularly about the price of some of the options and on how the options on the menu got selected, which doesn't seem so different from women agonizing over the menu in some ways, does it? I mean, sure, it is different for all sorts of reasons but the decisions of people who have the financial, social and cultural capital to buy the more popular and common items on the menu will have a different set of anxieties and concerns than those who realize they have ended up in the restaurant and they don't have enough money to order anything. :)
There is a problem with having it all, whatever "all" may get defined as. The author of Ecclesiastes, well, Koholeth anyway, declared that he had it all and did it all and it all became as nothing to him because he realized everyone dies and nothing lasts. The problem with having it all is that when you die you lose it all, sometimes you lose it all even before you die.
I'm particularly struck by the final sentences in what I cited, that balance isn't about constantly weighing what you have against what you don't have, because that is nothing but a recipe for spending your life longing for everything you bargained away.
If men order from the menu and live with it then perhaps what this means is that men, for whatever reasons, get some kind of message that there are opportunity costs to anything you choose to do, want or be.