Tina Fey, I hear ya. As working moms, we’re asked an unfair question when we are asked about “juggling it all.” And I’m with you on the angst about working and parenting, except your triannual sob is my quarterly crisis.
Tina Fey, about-to-be-Momma-again-hilarious-comedian-“ridiculously-successful-and-famous”-deserving-it-girl, was showcased in an article in yesterday’s New York Times. It was in The Sunday Styles section, a portion of the paper I fondly refer to as the “Ladies’ sports section.” I can’t remember who coined the name, but the section is defined by wedding announcements, articles about junky TV, and snapshots of random strangers carrying coffee or poodle accessories in Manhattan. But I sincerely don’t mean to marginalize it. Often the section houses little storytelling gems that sit with me all week. Yesterday’s piece about Ms. Fey got my heart pounding. There she was, one of the funniest people on the planet, saying the same things that I do. Well kind of. Our only similarity really may be that I’m just another working mom. But it made me want to listen to her even more.
Tina, like the rest of us, is asked to defend her work, her “juggle,” her parenthood differently because she’s a mom. Curtis Sittenfeld writes that in Ms Fey’s new book Bossypants (dying to read it–can you find me 4-5 hours?) Ms Fey asserts, “‘The rudest question you can ask a woman’ is, ‘How do you juggle it all?”” Simply put, it’s archaic to think of life this way. Women are continually reminded to question their choices differently than male counterparts in the work place even when we share parenting responsibilities. The questions alone arguably bring the working-mom struggle back to our windshields. And it ultimately perpetuates gender inequality. Why is it any different for me than it is for my husband? He works just as many hours as I do. But no one asks him about balance. Or commitment. True, this struggle really doesn’t tug on him like it does on me. I believe cultural norms play a role in this.
You know how I talk about my quarterly Working Mom Crisis (sitting in circles, being smoooooooshed, mother’s day, for example)? It’s not going away. Because ultimately juggling/balancing/negotiating working and parenting is an unsolvable riddle. How to do good, feel good, work hard, parent exquisitely well, and feel comfortable with your choice all the while enmeshed in a culture which continually asks you to question your role. Ms. Fey mentions that when people ask her how she “juggles it all” she says, “Of course I’m not supposed to admit that there is triannual torrential sobbing in my office.” And then smarts, “But I have friends who stay home with their kids and they also have a triannual sob, so I think we should call it even.”
A Mommy Wars truce then. Perfect.
What about you, do people ask you? With what frequency do you question how to work and parent? Quarterly/monthly/weekly/daily?