University professor emerita and New America Foundation President and CEO Anne-Marie Slaughter ’80 joined Huffington Post Media Group chair Arianna Huffington in a discussion about Huffington’s book “Thrive” on Tuesday night. Following the event, Slaughter, former director of policy planning for the U.S. State Department and author of The Atlantic’s most-read online article “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All,” spoke to The Daily Princetonian about work-life balance.
The Daily Princetonian: What was your reaction when you first read “Thrive?”
Anne-Marie Slaughter: Oh, I loved it. It’s very much along the lines of a number of the things I wrote about in my Atlantic article, you know, the part about creativity and just slowing down to be more creative. But it’s also just consistent with things I deeply believe.
DP: How did the book affect the way that you live your life?
AMS: It just reinforced things I’ve believed for a long time. I mean, I take walks. People always say to me that when I’m on, I’m very on, but I have always taken a lot of downtime. So it didn’t change my life, but it provided evidence for things I already believed.
DP: What would you say are the benefits of taking downtime for yourself?
AMS: It just makes you far more productive and much more creative. All my best ideas come when I am taking a walk. I realized quite a long time ago that as a creative person, if you don’t build in downtime, your creativity just doesn’t flow.
DP: You published “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All” almost two years ago, and so based on your experiences since then, what would you add to or change about your original article?
AMS: You have to wait for my book. [laughs]
DP: OK. And what are some of the most important lessons that your children have taught you?
AMS: Patience. Humility. Leading in a way that is empowering rather than controlling. Seeing the full potential in people. You think you see what someone can be capable of, but, in fact, you’re often wrong. And when they’re your kid, you know, they don’t leave your lives, they’re still in your life and just watching them go through different phases. I’m a much better leader, I think, because I’m a mother.
DP: On the flip side, how has working in international relations and government enhanced your parenting?
AMS: That’s a much harder question to answer. I’m not sure I have an answer. People always say we study negotiation and you study, you know, conflict. I don’t find that it helps. I find being a parent is much more helpful in my job than I think my job is helpful in being a parent. What’s good about my job is that it makes me a happy person, and then I think I’m a much better parent because I’m happy in what I do and because I love what I do, and I think that makes me a better parent. But there’s not much from [international relations] that translates into parenting.
DP: Do you think that the idea of parenting teaching you to be a better employee works across fields, even outside of international relations?
AMS: I do. I do. I think people who are caregivers generally – it doesn’t have to be a parent. Giving love to other human beings or to important people in your life, and I think some people would say they’re animals, right, that that part of you is a core part of what makes us human. And I think people who have that in their lives are more whole and more balanced, and it does give them more perspective, I think, and it unlocks a side of who they are that I think makes them better in their jobs, I think pretty much across the board.
DP: What advice would you give to yourself as an undergraduate?
AMS: Oh God, where to start? I think I would say, ‘People will take you as seriously as you take yourself.’ And that’s really about confidence and believing in yourself. So I would say people will take you as seriously as you take yourself.
DP: And you should take yourself seriously?
AMS: Well, that’s a harder one because I’ve always said Princeton teaches you to take your work seriously and yourself lightly. And taking yourself seriously does not mean thinking you’re God’s gift to mankind, right? But it does mean believing in that you have something to contribute. In other words, you just can’t look for validation from others. You have to validate yourself, and then you’ll get validation from others.