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What Anne-Marie Slaughter Is Urging Young Men To Think About

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Alonso Nichols/Tufts University

Anne-Marie Slaughter, who famously declared that women still can’t have it all, delivered the 2014 commencement speech at Tufts University on May 18.

In the New America CEO and Princeton professor's 2012 Atlantic piece, she articulated "work-life" balance as an oxymoron for working women. Slaughter acknowledged that this is not just a "women's" issue. Men, who also struggle to pair fulfilling careers with rewarding home lives, must be part of the conversation -- and part of the solution.

On Sunday, she built on those themes. Addressing the co-ed graduates, Slaughter asked them to imagine marriage as a partnership, where "breadwinner" and "caretaker" shift fluidly between both partners.

First, speaking directly to the male graduates, she asked them to consider a future beyond just "a job":

To the young men in the audience: Graduates and your brothers, cousins and friends, you are still in your early to mid-20s, too soon at least for most of you to be thinking about families of your own. But as you begin to plot your careers, you should be thinking about how you will combine your work lives with your family lives... If you imagine yourself as a father, how will you adapt your career to accommodate caring for those you love in what is gong to be one of the most rewarding phases of your life?

Think about the different phases of your career. How will you be able to be an equal partner with the person you choose to spend your life with? If you choose to marry a woman or a man who has equal career aspirations to your own, how will you adapt to allow him or her to reach as high as you hope to? Will you be prepared to move if your wife gets a promotion? Will you be prepared to defer your own promotion, so that your husband can take his?

Do not wait until the choice is upon you to establish and plan for your priorities. You will still be a provider. Providing care is every bit as important as providing cash.

Slaughter went on to discourage women from presuming full responsibility for their future families:

To the young women in the audience: Graduates, sisters, cousins and friends. As our society is currently structured, you are much more likely to have begun thinking about these issues than your male peers. That’s actually our first mistake. But as you think about your careers, do not automatically assume that it is primarily up to you to balance career and family. Do not choose a career or a specialty within a career on the grounds that it has the flexibility to allow you to do both. Choose a career on the basis of what you are passionate about doing, and then choose a husband or wife or life partner on the assumption that you will be genuinely equal partners, that you will both be breadwinners, but both also caregivers, perhaps for children, for those family members who took care of you, or for each other.

But then plan for the likelihood that it will not be possible for you both to be breadwinners and caregivers without compromises, no matter how much you lean in...

Slaughter also spoke directly to the parents in the audience, urging them to support their sons and daughters in redefining success:

To the parents and grandparents in the audience: You play a critical role here. Those of you who are here to celebrate the achievements of your sons and grandsons may be thinking that you did not pay for a Tufts degree -- and all of you have paid at least in some way -- for your boy to be anything other than a primary breadwinner throughout his career. But if you want him to be able to have a family of his own -- a healthy, happy family -- and if you want him someday to be able to take care of you, then you must support him in any role he chooses.

And for those of you who are here to celebrate the achievements of your daughters and granddaughters, if they marry a man who makes compromises in his own career to support them, do not question what kind of provider or husband he is. He will be providing what your daughter needs most.

Anne-Marie Slaughter might have proven women still "can't have it all," but unlike most college professors, she's hoping today's students will debunk her thesis.

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