One of my best friends just shared a New Yorker cartoon with me that just hit me so hard…(see above) I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said to myself- I just need to figure out how to get my shit together and get everything done. As if the pile isn’t enormous enough, I feel like it’s all on me to push through and if I can’t, then something must be wrong with me. So when Katherine reminded me that it’s not my fault and that we need society and infrastructure to have the backs of mothers, I felt the weight lift just a tiny bit and definitely didn’t feel so alone.
Watch + Listen to the whole conversation:
Once Katherine Goldstein became a mom, she became acutely aware of how society was failing mothers. She, like so many of us, fell victim to blaming ourselves rather than acknowledging that the challenges that mothers face are societal issues. But then Katherine channeled her journalist skills to “stop feeling guilty and start feeling mad”. Katherine is a passionate advocate for mothers. She uses her platform as a podcast host of the award winning The Double Shift and as a writer to inspire other moms to advocate and take action.
How did you start writing about moms?
It all started when I had my first. My son actually had some health issues and was hospitalized twice during my maternity leave. He’s doing great now, but it was a very traumatic time. I ended up losing my job when he was six months old. This led me to ask myself- Who am I anymore? Now that I’m a mom, do I have anything professional to offer? I really started to feel like a failure. I thought that everybody else had this working mom thing figured out except for me and I was personally defective.
As I started to turn my journalistic mind towards issues facing mothers in the workplace, I started to realize I was not defective and that so many people felt like failures. I started to investigate that a lot more. Over the last several years, I started to do more research, and then I had twins on the eve of the pandemic. So personal and professional have always been very intertwined for me.
Where do you think this idea that everyone else has it all figured out comes from?
First of all, America is a very individualistic society. We place a lot of value on personal success and achieving things on our own. So I believe motherhood and family life is not meant to be an individual project, it’s meant to be done in community.
There are also huge systemic structural barriers in America that make being parents so difficult and therefore we immediately internalize the challenges as personal failures. For example, if we can’t find childcare we blame ourselves for not looking hard enough, or not getting on the waitlist early enough. We take social failures and internalize them as personal failures, that is an American phenomenon, especially.
Then we on top of that, we have so many media images of perfect motherhood. I think social media has become really toxic in enforcing ideas of individualism and motherhood and how easy it is to be a mom. Even when influencers are like- Things aren’t perfect. My kid threw a tantrum at Target but look at how beautiful we all look now and how put together the house is. I think it also reinforces isolation that mothers feel.
For a mom, who is fired up and ready to take action, myself included, what what can we do next?
There’s a new coalition that has recently formed called the Chamber of Mothers, that is all about sort of the idea that mothers should be an advocacy group, like the Chamber of Commerce. We should be a voting bloc and an economic bloc, that is as powerful as business lobbies. It’s a relatively new group in their first effort is to make sure paid family leave is included in the Build Back Better Act. I love this idea of mothers as a political and economic force. The groups has an Instagram presence and a website. So I’m very interested in watching where that goes.
I also think it’s really important to tap into what’s important to you and pick an issue that is meaningful to you. We can’t all be lobbying our senators all the time. It’s important for people to pick issues that are meaningful to you- big or small.
You might feel like you only have an hour a month to devote to a cause that’s important to you and your hour doesn’t even matter, but it really does. Think about what is important to you on your local level. Do you want to get involved with a school issue like advocating for better bus driver or universal pre-K?
It’s about coming together with people in your community. It’s not about a hierarchy or comparison, it’s about what you can do, what inspires you, and what you have time for. Everything matters.
Co-founder & COO
Bridget is mom to two little boys, Hudson and Brooks, and a champion of working moms everywhere. NeighborSchools itself was borne out of Bridget’s challenge to find high-quality yet affordable child care, and the realization that so many parents struggle with these same issues every day.
Read more from Bridget, follow her on IG, and check out her new series, Work Like a Mother.