Management Skills

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.

Anne Taintor is brilliant.

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:

"Irony" defined. (image: Anne Taintor)

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.

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4 thoughts on “Management Skills

  1. Hi Hilary!! I can relate to this. I have four boys and am extremely active in the community in my job, my volunteer work, and my political work. I get asked that question all the time but the one that bothers me more is, “Where are your children?” I just don’t know how to answer it without saying, “That is my business and not yours you big jerk. Where are YOUR kids??” The other question I answer just fine. I say, “Oh, I don’t. I do this and my husband does the rest.” HA!!

    Glad things are going well for you. There is no stopping your career, whether you are domesticated or not. You are amazing!

    • Thank you so much, Jamey. I am always perplexed by the question, “Who’s taking care of her kids?” It’s asked of nearly every woman who runs for political office, but I’ve never once heard the same question posed to a male candidate. I guess it’s just assumed that his wife is taking care of it all…because she probably is. Thank you so much for your kind words; and congratulations to YOU on all your doings. You are one busy, busy lady!

  2. hey there! this so resonated with me! i was asked to shoot a wedding in st. lucia, all expenses paid the same week i’m due. i was gutted. good to see you writing more again… what’s your wedding date? cannot wait to catch up once we’re both back in NYC!

    xoxo,
    Brooke

    • Gaahhhhhh!!! St. Lucia, all expenses paid…tough one to miss, I am sure! Wedding is May 7 (right around your due date, I believe). YES, emphatically looking forward to catching up back here soon. (-: xoxo

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