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Monday, March 16, 2015

Review: First Day Back Podcast


I've been listening to a few podcasts lately and have found some I really enjoy. Some of my favorites are Sawbones, The Sporkful, Another Mother Runner and BookRiot.  They all cover topics I'm interested in: health, eating, running and reading. 

But about a week ago, a friend from my college years (we didn't actually go to college together, he went to school with my husband, but we did attend a rave and several Terps basketball games together) sent me a podcast recommendation. I started listening to First Day Back today and it already has my brain working on overdrive. In fact, something in the second episode quite literally made me stand stock still in shock.

The narrator of First Day Back is Tally, a mom and freelance filmmaker. In the podcast, she very honestly shares her struggles with being a woman with children in today's society, how we define and value work, what is expected of mothers and what mothers expect of ourselves. Since she's not an American woman, she clearly explains her "mat leave" was a year long.

A year long. 

What was that like? For my first child I had a luxurious six weeks of unpaid leave. Then my baby son, like so many other American babies, started daycare. My husband and I were lucky to have the opportunity to each stay home with him one day a week. We worked from home, but at least we were home with him. He went full time to daycare when the second baby arrived, and again we stayed home with Baby #2 for two days a week. By the time Baby #3 arrived, we could not stay home two days a week. When Baby #3 was a year old, I quit my full time job and became a freelancer. 

Back to Tally. She says she didn't plan to stay home with her kids, it just happened. But her boys are now 6 and 3 (I believe) and she's trying to get back to work. Her podcast covers the anxiety of submitting a grant proposal and her idea for a new documentary film. 

But she also interviews family and friends about their views of motherhood. Sometimes I feel like she's trying to justify her own views, sometimes I think she's looking for new ways to view motherhood and womanhood. 

She covers the topics many mothers are familiar with: why is only work outside the home referred to as work? Why do more women stay home than men? Do men ever worry about the schedules and tasks as much as women? 


In addition to those questions, since Tally is a freelancer like me, she thinks about things I do. She worries about the momentum that seems to be required for freelancer success. If you disappear from 'the game' because of maternity leave, is that a less valid reason to be gone than traveling the world?

I recently struggled with a decision to reduce a certain kind of freelance work because I wanted to free up more time for my own fiction writing. But right now my fiction writing doesn't pay. But I wasn't enjoying the client work at all. Was it selfish of me to just stop doing paying work because I didn't enjoy it? Did choosing to work on writing that didn't pay (now) mean I wasn't really a freelancer? It's hard to validate your efforts to be a writer when none of your fiction work is published yet. 

Those are some of my personal struggles. But like I said, in the second podcast, I heard something that truly shocked me into a standstill. 

One of Tally's friends, a single mom, said something that made me freeze and thorough search my brain.  This mom told her nine year-old daughter that she cannot have a successful career and a family.

Here's a pretty close transcript of the mom's quote:
"It's not equal. Just so you know from the beginning, you can have a career and have a family, but you can't have it all...You may have to make a choice between having a super career and having a super family."

She tells her daughter this. Her nine year-old daughter. I can't imagine ever saying this to my children. Is it because I have boys? Is it because I'm a freelancer and I'm not a single mom that has to rely on my own income? Am I deluding my children? Am I not expecting them to face the same family and career challenges that girls and women will face? Am I deluding myself that I somehow have both the career I want (or almost have it) and a successful family?

This statement threw me for a serious, serious loop. I can't stop thinking about it. I can't stop wondering if I am living in an ignorant, delusional bubble about either my career or my family. Because I feel very happy right now with both, but I'm wondering if other people would look at me and say, "You've done a fine job with the family, but let's face it, your career isn't worth much right now. It's more like a hobby."

There. That's it. I've admitted it. I'm worried people will think I write as a hobby and not as a career because I haven't reached some arbitrary level of income that proves this is a real career. 

Is it weird I'm worried that I'm less successful as a writer than as a mother? Is this mother-hubris?

I fully intend to be a writer for as long as I am able. The line between career, calling and activity I love is so blurred. What is that income level that validates my career choice? If I took on a different job that paid a little better than my current writing income I still wouldn't identify that job as my career. 

Tally's podcast is often about motherhood, but it's really about identity. I love podcasts, books, articles and conversations that make me think. And I'm looking forward to future episodes and to standing perfectly still thinking about something shocking and profound. 

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