Apparently, Tina Fey already got a lot of good love about her piece in The New Yorker last month - from New York magazine and from the Wall Street Journal - but I still am adding mine b/c a working mother really cannot receive enough of it.
If, like me, you missed the essay b/c your copy of the February 14 & 21 issue of The New Yorker sat under a heap of other Things You Might Enjoy, itself heaped under Things You Must Do, itself heaped under Now (i.e., turtles all the way down), then let me tell you to find it, turn to page 64, and read "Confessions of a Juggler: What's the rudest question you can ask a mother?"
I was thinking the answer might be: "What's wrong with her / him?" Which to a mother is like asking: "What's wrong with you?"
Fey's answer: "How do you juggle it all?" and "Are you going to have more kids?"
I have to agree with her about the first question especially. I realize that when people ask how a woman how she manages to Do It All, they mean to sympathize or even pay a compliment of sorts, but I am being honest when I say: "Well, I don't."
I cut corners. I borrow time and never pay it back: Mostly from myself, but also from my husband and my children. I have been known to suggest to Beanie and Bubbie that they might want to watch a Disney DVD, just so I can steal a few minutes more to finish prepping a class or answer a few more e-mails (or write this blog post).
It is not that I put my work ahead of my family, but to be honest, work is less yielding.
I resent that it intrudes into the time that I ought to have for my family.
On the other hand, I think the work that I do is meaningful and important: For myself, for my family, for my community (in the various ways in which I could define it).
"How do you juggle it all?" is not just rude: It is entirely uncivil. Asking this question is one of those unexamined practices of everyday life that constantly reproduces gender inequalities. Women are expected individually to make the efforts to bridge the divide between family and work. Whether they succeed or fail is entirely on them.
What got the big buzz from Fey's essay was her comment that when women in Hollywood reach a certain age, they become labeled "crazy" and no longer receive work:
I know older men in comedy who can barely feed and clean themselves, and they still work. The women, though, they're all "crazy." I have a suspicion - and hear me out, because this is a rough one - that the definition of crazy in show business is a woman who keeps talking even after no one wants to fuck her anymore.
However, it was this part that resonated with me:
It seems to me the fastest remedy for this "women are crazy" situation is for more women to become producers and hire diverse women of various ages. That is why I feel obligated to stay in the business and try hard to get to a place where I can create opportunities for others, and that's why I can't possibly take time off for a second baby, unless I do, in which case that is nobody's business and I'll never regret it for a moment unless it ruins my life.
I want to believe that it is true that we are all not Just Doing Our Jobs, but trying to also to Make Change.
BTW, there really is a book called My Working Mom, written by two men, with a cartoon witch on the cover! I was hoping that this was just Tina Fey's comic invention b/c it seems so over-the-top obvious to make the working mom a witch. In fact, the customer reviews on amazon are worth perusing b/c they are not especially favorable.
On the second question - "Are you going to have more kids?" - StraightMan would like to let Tina and Jeff know that the gynecologist is correct: "Either way, everything will be fine."