The discussion of Having It All for women is the most important intimate conversation of our times. Marissa Meyer, the pregnant CEO of Yahoo, and Anne-Marie Slaughter, professor and author of the recent Atlantic article, "Why Women Still Can't Have It All," are on opposite sides of the discussion. Women, power and Having It All is a subject that needs resolution for all women today.
I am of the opinion that Having It All is very possible. Women and men have different bodies but equal hearts and minds, and deserve equal respect and equal opportunity. Having It All is a MINDSET for a woman. After that, Doing it All is a matter of working out the DETAILS.
Professor Anne-Marie Slaughter made a mistake when working out the details. She took a job in a city she did not live in. If she were truly committed to the government and working under Hillary Clinton as the first woman Director of Policy Planning, she should have planned better and moved to Washington.
She also had a child who needed special attention. That is not the case with every family. In my family, my two teenage boys couldn't wait for me to fly to New York so they could throw boums (parties) in our Paris apartment while the nanny slept.
Just because a woman gives birth does not mean she has to stop work. In the fashion world, both in Paris and in New York, unlike the corporate, academic, movie, or any other world, fashion folk have four collections a year at DEFINITE dates that cannot be postponed because of pregnancy, illness or death. I have presented dress collections for 45 years without missing one. How? Why? I'm not superwoman, rich or self-employed. I had good help (Arab grandmas) and I love my work. I really LOVE my work. I help women. I make the dress they wear on the most important day of their lives. The photo of that day in my dress stays on women's mantles until they die.
I was pregnant at 33 and due during October Paris fashion week in 1977. I held my baby inside my womb and willed my baby not to pop out until the show was over. The cooperative baby boy, my son Richard, was born on November 3rd. He was cleaned up and dressed in Baby Dior. Once he was in my arms for some bonding and cuddle time, I called the office to work on the recent couture show sales and I did not skip a beat.
In Paris, the stay at a baby clinic lasts five days. Five blissful days of French food, wine and cheese with meals, champagne for the visitors and for "mamam," as a little wine is poured in water for babies to sleep when they are growing up. (My French sons today are in perfect health, athletic and not heavy drinkers.)
I was out of the hospital and back at my desk in five days after his birth without two months off. The nanny brought my son and his 2-year-old brother to the office twice a day for me to breastfeed him and she continued to do so for several months as I always live where I can walk to work and avoid driving cars. DETAILS!
French sewers were not owners and were replaceable for short periods. They would get six weeks baby leave and five weeks paid vacation. Eventually, they got a 35 hour work week. The CEO and owner does not, but gets other benefits, as being the leader is a huge plus and they live to lead. My sewers always reminded me that they wouldn't EVER aspire to be the boss!
Ron Berkeley, husband number one and father of my boys, worked in movies all over the world and came home on weekends -- sometimes! Movie people do have months off between films and Ron loved to garden and cook. I have always maintained two homes, city and country, and always grow vegetables and roses, always made apple pies from our trees in Normandy, sewed, entertained, read Tin-Tin to my sons in bad French and painted naive landscapes.
I can not repair TV's or automobiles, but I can find a new husband quickly when my marriage breaks down, as it did after 21 years. My second marriage began with inherited teenage children, a country home in Key West and a city home in Paris -- a "two country marriage," but it worked. We are still together (apart a lot) for 25 years.
In my 48-year career in fashion, I have taken off on a long holiday only once for three weeks with my son Richard, then 30, who invited me to Africa, where he had finished as an assistant to the producer after a Leonardo DiCaprio film and he took me, at his expense, to the exotic safari hotels he had booked for Leonardo's tour. My other son Rex, who works making videos, is a happily married father of two, and just completed a website for his 93-year-old grandma's upcoming art show in New York. My sons are used to flying around, speaking languages and open to everything life has to offer. They also both cook, clean and repair cars!
My honeymoon to husband number two was three months after our wedding (Fashion Dictates), and our honeymoon trip was tied into the opening gala of Neiman Marcus in Hawaii. DETAILS! We had six glorious days in Maui (a tax write-off) before the opening and had so much fun we lost track of time and arrived at the Honolulu Neiman's party in gala attire, a day late! I am far from perfect. My weekends are my holidays, I only work when everyone's sleeping or watching TV (mostly sports). I learned to work while watching TV (Work for me is mostly drawing and verifying dress orders).
My sons, however, turned out perfectly with a workaholic mom. They are loving, compassionate human beings. There are no excuses!
I do it all because I WANT TO. Women must WANT to succeed as much as men who have been told they HAVE to WANT TO.
We really have to be equal to men. There are no excuses, just DETAILS.
Vicky Tiel began designing clothes forty years ago in Paris and still owns a boutique there. Her NEW Collection for HSN is available on TV and online, her couture at Bergdorf Goodman and Neiman Marcus, and her perfumes are carried in Perfumania. Her memoir, "It's All About the Dress: What I Learned in 40 Years About Men, Women, Sex, and Fashion" was published by St. Martin's Press in August 2011.
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