My wife leans in. A year ago, after nine hours of labor, she received an epidural and immediately asked me to pass the iPad so she could send a note to work. I suggested that this time should be for us and for the little girl who was making her way into the world, but it’s hard to argue with a woman who’s eight centimeters dilated. Besides, why not send the note? Soon enough the baby, our second, would be out. The pause for an epidural was the most calm we would see for months. We are all in the thick of it, in the mash-up of work and family, in the confounding blur of everything, instantly, at once, the way life happens now. Why waste a moment?
A year after The Atlantic published Anne-Marie Slaughter’s “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All,” the plutocratic wave of feminism continues to roll in. Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In looks to dominate the best-seller lists for months to come. Both accounts are full of stories like the iPad in the delivery room, stories of women furiously multitasking, worrying about family over champagne at a United Nations event, or diagnosing children with head lice while aboard a corporate jet. Men are mostly offstage. Slaughter, to her great credit, talks repeatedly about her husband, noting that he has done everything possible to support both her career and their two sons, including taking on the lion’s share of parenting duties while she commuted for two years from Princeton to Washington, D.C. Sandberg, too, talks about her husband’s role at home (in her book’s dedication, she credits him with “making everything possible”). But in the ensuing discussion of gender politics, which has been conducted almost entirely by women, for women, men are far more anonymous—implacable opponents of progress in the upper echelons, helpless losers elsewhere. Meanwhile, the good husbands—the selection of whom is “the most important career choice” young women can make, according to Sandberg—are as silent as the good wives once were.