Princess, Post-Doc, Publisher, Mom?

As the mother of two daughters, I want my girls to have dreams as big as the world. Fighter pilot? Astrophysicist? Go get 'em, girls. And yet one of the things that I love most about my own career is that I can organize my schedule to include a lot of mommy time. Half of the week I get home after the kids are in bed, but the other half I can cuddle the baby all day and be there to pick up big sister from preschool. Being a hands-on parent is a priority for me, but it does make for some hard choices when it comes to certain professional opportunities.

The balance that I've created is in large part due to the messages about work, family, and earning that I got from my own mother. When I was younger my mother was a teacher. She enjoyed her work, but even more importantly her career enabled us to survive those years when she was the custodial parent after she and my dad split. A few years later she remarried and continued to teach for awhile, but with a longer commute, another child, and a busier household the main message that I got from her was that it is very hard to be the mother in a two job, two kid family. As soon as we could afford for her to leave full-time work she did, and I remember that there was a lot less stress in the family when she was able to focus on home. 

Reading this piece about the "princess mentality" by Amanda Steinberg and referencing an earlier op-ed by Laura Vanderkam, I can't help but think of how complex (and wonderful!) our choices are as women. I am so glad there are voices like Amanda's and Laura's that urge us as women to protect ourselves, to participate in own own financial lives, and to never depend on someone else for our own security. I agree wholeheartedly. There is absolutely no job security in being a princess nowadays. 

But while that's undoubtedly true, it's still not exactly simple. My mother also encouraged me to dream big. Fighter pilot and astrophysicist were actually things I wanted to be when I was growing up, but as I got older I pivoted to something decidedly more family-friendly. I'm lucky that I am actually doing work that I adore, and pursuing a career path that fulfills me just as much as being a parent. But do I feel like I threaded the eye of a needle in doing so? Absolutely. And I wonder what message I'm modeling for my girls, even while I tell them to shoot for the moon.

Amanda Clayman