“I believe Mothers standing up for themselves is the highest form of self-care. Higher than any massage or relaxing sound machine,” Said Katherine Goldstein, an award-winning journalist and Founder of The Double Shift podcast. She added, “…Getting in touch with your anger, with your experience, is a powerful form of self-care. Forcing yourself to accept unfair treatment, unequal relationships and bad workplaces is what’s really causing people to feel like ‘I need self-care, I’m so stressed.’ If you have a partner, tell him he has to do some f*cking housework okay?” I laughed in agreement. Katherine said, “I know it’s easier said than done. It’s easier to recommend a face mask but that’s what I think about. Feeling like you’re doing your life’s work and that you have mission and purpose is a really high form of self-care.” Amen! How does she unwind when not fighting the patriarchy?
Recharge with Adult-Time & Connection
Katherine shared, “I spend a lot of time working alone in my house, by Friday, I’m like a caged animal clawing at the walls. Get me out of here!” She said, “Once a week, my Mother-In-Law takes our son overnight, so we can have a date night and not get up early the next day. I don’t know if I could do what I do (professionally) without this. Once a week I can go out, have an adult conversation and reconnect with my partner. If we were in New York we wouldn’thave that, it’d be a monthly or less special treat, which creates so much pressure for it to be amazing.” So true. Katherine lamented, “It’s so expensive (that) if your entrée is bad you’re like ‘my night is ruined.’ (Going) weekly takes the pressure away. I know it’s not replicable for most parents. Parents can have a hard time, even if they have those options, accepting them.” Why is this still the norm?
Let. Mom-Guilt. Go.
Katherine laughed, “If anyone offers to watch your kid, take them up on it.” I laughed too. Although, as Katherine acknowledged, having ready access to grandparent-care is rare, Moms still feel guilty about any time away from our families. She agreed, “I study unfair expectations of Mothers for a living. I understand that someone might look at me and say ‘do you feel guilty for taking that date night?’ Of course not. Are you kidding?” Love it!
Katherine added, “My work Is focused on Mothers but we’re in a time where it’s politically important to take a stand against outrageous parenting expectations. There’s no evidence our parenting culture makes for healthier or happier children, but it absolutely succeeds at making Mothers miserable. We’re very comfortable with Mothers talking about guilt. It’s a socially acceptable way to express feelings. Mothers are basically an oppressed group, there’s no reason to feel this is our fault.” Absolutely. Why aren’t we sharing our feelings?
What’s Behind the Guilt?
Mom’s Hierarchy of Needs studies about sources of stress, including the mental load, reveal we also feel sadness, anger, depression and resentment. Few Moms have safe spaces to share this. Katherine’s eyes lit up. She said, “What are the systemic causes of sadness? Are you so sad to leave your baby at daycare because you’re in a family without paid family leave and you aren’t ready to go back to work? That’s one emotion. Or are you feeling sad because you can’t go to your kid’s school play because you have an inflexible work environment that doesn’t value you as a person? Or are you doing too much at home and you don’t have the time you need to thrive? Is that really about renegotiating the rules with your partner?” She pointed out there are often systemic and social dynamics behind the feelings.
Have What’s Important Without ‘Having it All’
When I complimented Katherine on balancing advocacy with a more sustainable and joyful life, she shook her head, “I have many privileges in my experience of Motherhood and am still figuring stuff out. I don’t feel like I’m someone that falls into this ‘having it all category,’ I completely reject that. There’s not such a thing.” Here, here! Most of us struggle with the ongoing tradeoffs. We’re haunted by the Mom-life we imagined.
Katherine said, “A huge problem is a lot of the media (about Motherhood.) I want to tell very real stories.” She’s doing exactly that, The Double Shift has covered everything from 24-hour childcare in Vegas for Moms who work all night, to how political Moms running for office make it work. Imagine how different Motherhood will be when the our collective experience is more visible?
Many thanks to the talented Katherine Goldstein! If you missed it, read part one of this interview, “What Happens If You Lean in and Fall?”
Katherine Goldstein, the creator and host of The Double Shift podcast, runs Double Shift Productions as an independent journalism company. An award-winning journalist and 2017 Nieman Fellow at Harvard University, Katherine is an expert on working mothers. Her track record for conversation-setting work includes the viral New York Times op-ed, “The Open Secret of Anti-Mom Bias in the Workplace,” “I was a Sheryl Sandberg superfan, Then her “Lean In” advice failed me” and “Where are the Mothers?” Katherine lives in Durham, N.C., and is the mother to a four-year-old son.