Carina has been typing on the internets before there was a www in front of everything. This is why she’s cranky and wants to know when you’ll get off her lawn. She resides in a hopelessly outdated home in the Mountain West with a mathematician and three children hell-bent on destruction. Her laundry is not done, but her Twitter is totally up to date. Carina does not have a Tumblr, because get serious.

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Tina Fey on Working Moms

I don’t think I’m obsessed with Tina Fey as much as I think she and I would be best friends if she only knew who I was. I don’t want her to think I’m desperate (because I’m NOT, I have plenty of friends, thanks,) but if I lived near where she lived I’d probably stay late or go early to common places just in case she happened to pass by with her daughter. If I was obsessed I would have planned out what I was going to say, and I have totally not done that. I wouldn’t volunteer to throw her a birthday party or anything (over the line!) but I’d probably pretend like I was a cool mom so she would want to know me.

My situation was not helped when last month Ms. Fey wrote an article in The New Yorker called “Confessions of a Juggler” all about working motherhood. She writes:

“What is the rudest question you can ask a woman? “How old are you?” “What do you weigh?” “When you and your twin sister are alone with Mr. Hefner do you have to pretend to be lesbians?” No, the worst question is: “How do you juggle it all?”
“How do you juggle it all?” people constantly ask me, with an accusatory look in their eyes. “You’re screwing it all up, aren’t you?” their eyes say. My standard answer is that I have the same struggles as any working parent but with the good fortune to be working at my dream job. Or sometimes I just hand them a juicy red apple I’ve poisoned in my working-mother witch cauldron and fly away. The second-worst question you as a woman is “Are you going to have more kids?” This is rude…I debate the second-baby issue when I can’t sleep. “Should I? No. I want to. I can’t. I must. Of course not. I should try immediately.”…And what’s so great about work, anyway? Work won’t visit you when you’re old. Work won’t drive you to the radiologist’s for a mammogram and take you out afterward for soup.” The New Yorker, February 14th, 2011

It was a surprising look into the worries of a working mother who has an army of people who depend on her for their livelihoods, and yet struggles with the question of taking care of her child and expanding her family. I’ve had the same worries, the same fears. What if my children resent me for working? (They’d better not, since it keeps them fed, thank you.) What do I do with the talents and ambition I’ve been given? I’d better have another baby right away if I want to ever have another baby. How will I fit another baby into our family? They’re universal questions that mothers face; they don’t go away just because you have your dream job, are famous, or are super funny. It’s reassuring that we fear the same sense of failure and the weight of responsibility.

Does it help you feel more supported when you know that other working moms wonder the same things that you do?

P.S. My favorite line in the article is this one: “The definition of “crazy” in show business is a woman who keeps talking even after no one wants to [sleep with] her anymore.”

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Comments (13)

  1. Pingback: Advice for working moms from a 93 year old « « Utah Mama Utah Mama

  2. Karen Michaels 03/15/2011 at 4:37 pm

    OMG, Carina! Great article and perfect timing for me! It really is great to hear that someone who seemingly has all the resources possible, still struggles with the everyday. I am working to transition to self-employed Mom and it really is tough to balance it all! Thanks for “keepin’ it real” for me! I look forward to more great reading. Enjoy your week! 🙂

  3. Jennifer 03/15/2011 at 10:59 am

    I think someone who feels that a simple question like “How do you manage it all” is akin to saying “You’re screwing up” – probably feel this way regardless of any questions (and regardless of what other people think). I’ve had the good fortune to try all roles out. Working mom, Stay at home mom, and now Work at home mom. I’m happy in what I do now, and think it provides the best balance in my life right now – but it’s what works best FOR ME. For someone else, their balance may be totally different. When I ask this question of other people, it is out of respect and admiration. When people ask it of me, I take it the same way. I think 99.9% of us are all doing our jobs (mom, career or not etc.) the best we can. People who judge you aren’t worth the time or energy. So I disagree with her – this wouldn’t be the rudest question to ask me. I actually feel kind of bad for her that she does. I don’t think I’m perfect – far from it – but I don’t think I’m screwing it up. I think I’m doing the best I can. I didn’t get the manual on how to do all this. 😉

  4. Rachael Herrscher 03/15/2011 at 10:10 am

    My big problem is that talking about kids is like the default common ground that I talk about with moms, no matter what kind (SAHM, WAHM, WM etc.) I truly am curious about what other people are doing, how they feel about it, what their spacing is like etc.

    But I also find myself not really sorting into one bucket because I work at home, I travel, I go to meetings. Anyway – there’s probably not much that’s off limits to talk about with me anyway! I’m pretty sure I’m missing a filter!

  5. Cloth Diaper Mom 03/14/2011 at 9:57 pm

    Thanks for sharing this. I work from home so I have more time with my daughter than some moms. I can work around her schedule far more than most working moms can. However, a home business is also a recipe for working far too many hours without as much money as a more established business might pay me. I am fortunate that my daughter is with Grandma while I work – but that doesn’t make those many hours away from her that much easier!

    As moms, we all need to work on supporting each other more and judging less. I am fortunate to work at home – but my work is not as highly paid as other professions I could have chosen. There are those who think it is terrible that I work at all – and those who feel I should work outside the home so I can give her more financial stability.

    My little girl is a miracle – in every way – but also because I had trouble getting pregnant and staying pregnant. I would give anything for another baby – but I still wonder how I would manage to care for a new baby, my business, my mother’s failing health, and my preschooler.

    In the end, I can only cherish my time with my daughter and pray that another miracle baby will bless our home before it is too late. As moms, we do our best and pray about the rest!

  6. Belladune 03/14/2011 at 1:15 pm

    Now. As a SAHM I ask working mothers that question, not because I think they are screwing it all up, but because I’m in absolute awe that they still manage to do the dishes/laundry/help with homework/etc. and hold down full time jobs and generally seem to have it all together despite the extra work of work. So what I’m saying to all you working Momma’s is we don’t think you’re screwing it up!!! We are impressed and maybe a tad jealous that you can do it all. Maybe some people feel that way, but the SAHM’s I know are impressed. So kudo’s to you!

  7. Sarah Penrod 03/14/2011 at 12:51 pm


  8. Texan Mama 03/14/2011 at 12:22 pm

    This is a little strange. I think people ask that question because they, too, struggle and they want to know that they aren’t alone. They want to find kinship with other mothers who feel life is chaotic and wonderful and horrible, all at the same time. At least, not the people I hang out with.

    I guess it’s just sad that I do this, I find other women who I am reaching out to, and I ask questions like this, and they miscontrue it as me being rude or ugly toward them.

    Oh well, their loss. I am a really funny, supportive, generous friend.

  9. Nina 03/14/2011 at 12:16 pm

    Great article!!!

  10. [email protected] 03/09/2011 at 11:44 am

    Thanks. I love this.

  11. vanessa 03/07/2011 at 3:33 pm

    Ok now I have to stop asking those questions to people…I think I honestly have asked both those two questions and never thought of them as being annoying. Good to know, good to know.

  12. Rani Shah 03/07/2011 at 2:35 pm

    Locve Tina Fey and this article!! Thanks for sharing! And, yes, it does feel good to be in the company of like minded mamas!!!

    • Raquel 03/15/2011 at 11:44 am

      How you perceive this question when posed to you I think depends on how it’s being asked. I’ve had the ‘accusatory’ ‘how do you do it all’ question and I’ve resented it. But I’ve also had it posed where it was clear that it was asked out of a desire to know or learn some tips and some true admiration behind it.

      So for those who are curious…I think most moms are like the dog that climbs the tree. Why or how he did it is because he didn’t know he couldn’t. So like the dog, we do what we have to do because we want to do it. We’re motivated to be better – better moms, better wives, better employees. A lot of it is effort mixed in with a sense of humor and a good attitude. So don’t stop asking the question of us working moms who also bake, do laundry, iron, are the room parents and travel for work. We can all learn from each other.