There was a time in my life when I was trying to run a little magazine in my small town, and so I found myself having to go to these networking events. The most helpful of which was a breakfast meeting on Thursdays, hosted by the businessmen in town. Because they didn't have to worry about getting their kids to school on time, I guess. I could never make it, my magazine never took off, and yes, I think it was because I was a working mom. Which is why I related to this New York Times' writer's painfully honest story about why it's so damn hard for working moms to "have it all."
Sheera Frenkel is a hugely successful cyber security writer for The New York Times. She's also a mom to a 1-year-old baby. In a recent Twitter thread, that I truly hope gets piles of attention, Frenkel shared the details of a recent morning when she was asked to do a 5-minute segment for MSNBC in an unexpected guest slot. Obviously, it's generally considered a huge coup for a writer to be asked to speak on television about their work, and Frenkel was presumably delighted to make it happen. But that doesn't mean it was an easy gig for her. Frenkel started the thread by writing on Tuesday, "Here’s a story about what it took for me to appear on MSNBC this morning for five minutes to talk about my front-page story in the NYT. Or: Why it is so hard for working moms to have it all."
Frenkel went on to explain that she was woken at 5 AM by her 1-year-old in her crib having a bit of a meltdown, which was when she realized she had six missed calls on her phone from a few television studios who wanted her to appear on the air to discuss her front page story about Russian hackers. They needed her on the air between 6-7, which she noted would be "impossible for most working moms, unless they can afford live-in or round-the-clock help. Most daycares and nannies start between 8-9. So immediately, the morning shows were out."
Fortunately for Frenkel, her mom was in town and could come to watch the baby, which means that she could make it to a studio close to her house by 8:30. Only the studio turned out to be further than she realized, and the slot has been moved to 8:00. She gets there with barely any time to spare, slaps on a little of her own makeup since there's no makeup person, and makes it on the air in a panic.
This is actually something of a success story. Because, as Frenkel noted, there have been plenty of times when she's been unable to share her expertise because she's a mom and her schedule is complicated.
And yes, this is what gender inequality looks like, folks. Because this is the reality of trying to be a working mother. And plenty of working moms were quick to thank Frenkel for her honest story about trying to "have it all" in her own way.
For the record, Frenkel made it clear that she doesn't blame the studios. But she also noted that the "system isn't set up for moms" and she's absolutely right. There are a thousand little micro decisions a mom has to make in her working day, a whole lot of this or that but never both. And while Frenkel made it clear that her husband was out of town for this event, she also pointed out that he goes to work at 7 in the morning and wouldn't have been available to help.
Because the emotional labor of trying to "have it all" still falls on the shoulders of moms. And we need more intelligent, successful women like Sheera Frenkel to share their behind-the-scenes stories to give a clearer picture of what their success really looks like.