unmarried without children: qualified for the job?
President Obama has chosen Elena Kagan to become our next Supreme Court Justice. As she is going through Senate Hearings, her political career and personal life are, understandably so, under the magnifying glass. One of the areas of focus on the media has been the fact that Elena Kagan is not married and does not have children. Some wonder if she can bring a true woman's perspective to the table if she has not experienced marriage or motherhood.
In our nation's history, only 3 out of 110 Supreme Court Justices have been women. This short list includes Sandra Day O'Connor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and recently appointed Sonya Sotomayor. While justices O'Connor and Ginsburg were appointed while married with children, their children were already grown. Sonya Sotomayor is divorced and does not have children.
The question of whether a person who has not been married or had children can do a good job as a Supreme Court Justice is not what I am pondering today. The spotlight on Elena Kagan is highlighting how career and motherhood can collide, especially in high-powered, very demanding careers. Patricia Millet, a frequent advocate before the Supreme Court, refers to it as an inhuman juggling act saying "At least once a week, I do come pretty close to saying 'I just have to give up. I can't keep this going.'"
The question of whether a working mother can have it all is not new. I don't doubt that a married woman with small children can excell at such a high-powered job, but I do wonder if she can do so and sustain a reasonable quality of life. Does a woman need to postpone having children, wait until they are grown, or not have them at all to make it to the top?