I got a call from my agent last week. Apparently, a Big Deal Movie Star is preparing to do a nightclub show and a Big Deal Casting Agency wanted me to audition as a backup singer. Woo-hoo! Alas, my fantasies of performing and becoming chummy with the Big Deal Movie Star came tumbling down as my agent told me the dates of the show’s upcoming run: smack dab in the middle of my wedding. I listened, downcast, as my agent assured me there would be other auditions.
The sting of missing my chance to audition for the Big Deal Movie Star had just started to subside when I got an email from a singer/songwriter friend. She is getting ready to do a Big Deal Gig at (you guessed it) a Big Deal Downtown Venue, and she’d asked me to sing a song or two. She was writing to tell me that the only rehearsal date that worked for everyone involved was…uh-huh. Smack dab in the middle of my wedding. I read, downcast, her assurances that there would be other opportunities for us to perform together.
Twice in one week! I felt like sulking. I felt like pouting. I felt like this:
Now, in a decidedly more rational state, I can see that both my agent and singer/songwriter friend were correct. Life is not a zero sum game. There will certainly be other fantastic career opportunities that will not require my missing out on my own wedding. I can also see, though, that my frustration and disappointment were rooted in the simple fact that women are still socialized to choose–or at least to believe we must choose–between a happy home life and a gratifying career. And while domestic bliss and professional achievement are by no means mutually exclusive, women who dare to pursue both perform balancing acts that would put most Cirque du Soleil performers to shame.
Consider a recent New Yorker article by Tina Fey. With her trademark intelligence and humor, Fey admits to late-night agonizing over “baby-versus-work life questions.” As she contemplates the complexities of her life as a mother with significant workplace responsibilities, Fey 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?”
This recent tweet from Amanda Hesser offers a pithy explanation as to why such a seemingly innocent question is maddening to working wives and mothers (admittedly, a redundant term). A prominent food writer (erstwhile of the New York Times), Hesser is married to Tad Friend, another prominent writer; they’re each maintaining dynamic careers while raising their young twins in Brooklyn:
With her hit television show still going strong, Tina Fey recently announced her second pregnancy. Amanda Hesser, mother of two, is on her way to publishing another cookbook. As for me, I’m happy be getting married. I’m happy to be pursuing my career. I’m especially happy to have the support of a partner who champions equality at work and at home. And I’ll be even happier when women are no longer asked to explain ourselves for aspiring to–and achieving–both domestic fulfillment and professional success.