Working the Double Shift with Katherine Goldstein
We hear lots of stories about motherhood and parenting. But not very many about moms themselves—except for ones where they feel guilty and exhausted all the time. Journalist Katherine Goldstein wants to change that. She joins us to talk about what it’s really like to be a working mom—and how she’s challenging the world around her, not conforming to it.
Katherine is a journalist whose work focuses on women, work, and parenting issues. She’s also the creator and host of a new podcast called The Double Shift—a show that explores the intricate lives of mothers who work. She joins us to share her own experience, and the amazing stories of working moms—from a 24-hour daycare provider in Las Vegas to a candidate who’s running for office with three small kids in tow.
The conversation about working mothers is very dominated by mostly middle class, white collar, urban people in big cities… usually through a lens of a lot of privilege. And those concerns that are raised by that group are completely valid and need to be talked about, but those are only a very small slice of the experience.—Katherine Goldstein, journalist and host of The Double Shift
We talk about:
- How Katherine went from print journalism to reporting via podcast, and how she developed The Double Shift
- Why “leaning in” doesn’t work as advertised for moms, and, well, lots of women
- Why men are essential in the work of protecting and supporting women and mothers
- Why angry moms make such great activists
- The Double Shift podcast
- Elizabeth Warren’s universal child care plan, explained
- How Democrats Plan To Make Child Care More Affordable For Working Families
- Sara gets showered with glitter at a Robyn show and there’s just still so much glitter everywhere
- Katel and Sara discuss how their friends and families are navigating child care, from the wildly varying ways it takes shape to how much it costs—and what universal child care could mean for American parents
- And a big fuck yeah to…poetry! More specifically, lovely poetry books (and more) from Small Press Distributors
This episode of Strong Feelings is brought to you by:
Harvest, makers of awesome software to help you track your time, manage your projects, and get paid. Go to getharvest.com/strongfeelings to get 50% off your first month.
SWB Hey, Strong Feelings listeners! Do you ever send invoices? How about track your time or manage projects? If so, you should check out Harvest, my favorite tool for keeping track of all of that. It’s super easy to use, it integrates with all kinds of other software, and it works great for teams of all sizes, including teams of one. Try it free at getharvest.com/strongfeelings, and when you upgrade to a paid account, you’ll get 50% off your first month. That’s getharvest.com/strongfeelings. [theme music plays for 11 seconds and fades out]
KL Hey, everyone, I’m Katel.
SWB And I’m Sara!
KL And this is Strong Feelings! A podcast about work, friendship, and feminism—and what happens when you bring them all together. So, Sara, how are you?
SWB I am tired! This daylight savings time thing is killing me! [both laugh]
KL Ohh man.
SWB Ughh! Also, I had an exhausting weekend and I’m definitely not recovered yet. [KL laughs]
KL Oh gosh, why?
SWB Well, I went down to DC with my husband to see Robyn, which was great.
KL Uh… nice!
SWB Yes, she’s so great! But also…so, we’re at the Robyn show and, you know, there’s a lot of youths there. [KL laughs]
SWB I love going to a live show still, I can still hang—kind of! [KL laughs] But there’s a lot of jostling, it’s very busy, it is extremely sold out, and people are very, very excited to be there, including large packs of women, who are very excited to take a lot of selfies with wigs on. And all of that is fine—
SWB —love it, have a good time. Except…[KL laughs] at some point, this pack of women behind me got out a vat of glitter—
KL Oh. No.
SWB —and then accidentally dumped the entire thing on me.
KL Oh my god. [laughs]
SWB All of the glitter.
KL So much glitter.
SWB It was so much glitter that at first I couldn’t process what had happened because the weight of it didn’t feel like a quantity of glitter that exists?
KL [laughing] Yeah.
SWB It was like somebody dropping sand on me—like what’s happening? It was glitter. It was covering my back, it was all in my hair. I shook my hair out in the venue and there was just glitter falling out of it. [KL laughs] It was…everywhere.
KL That just sounds like way too much glitter.
SWB So, the show was great, but also that glitter was itchy!
SWB So, I finally got back [laughs] and I took a shower—I was like, “I have got to get this glitter off of me.” [KL sighs] And, of course, I then took another shower in the morning and I’m still finding glitter because it’s glitter.
KL You’re going to find it [SWB sighs] for a long time.
SWB So, it was a great weekend, but it was a little bit tiring. And I just…I feel like I’ve been doing a lot lately. [laughs]
KL Yeah! And last week, we went to see three different author events in one week. It was amazing, but also a lot! [laughs] [SWB sighs] We spent a lot of extra curricular time doing amazing stuff, but it was really tiring.
SWB Yes! Okay, we went and saw Ijeoma Oluo—it was awesome!
SWB Then we went and saw Brittney Cooper, the author of Eloquent Rage, in conversation with Rebecca Traister—
SWB —the author of Good and Mad. And then we saw friend of the show, Nicole Chung.
SWB [sighs] She was so sweet! It was so great to meet her in person. She wrote an inscription in my book—
KL We got a photo, it’s on our Instagram. It was very fun.
SWB I will say though, I was reading Michelle Obama’s memoir a little while ago, and [laughs] she has this concept in there where she talks about “up days” and “down days.” [KL laughs] And what she’s talking about is how much work it would take her to get her hair and her makeup ready for all of the appearances she had to do, and all of this high pressure expectations put on her as a black woman particularly.
SWB And, obviously, I don’t have that exact experience by any means. I am not in the kind of spotlight she was in, [both laugh] nor do I have to deal with the extra racial expectations.
SWB However, I do feel like the number of “up days” I’ve been having is too many. [both laugh]
SWB And I really like the idea of “down days”, where it’s not just that you’re slothful in your yoga pants, it’s like “no, I can’t invest the time every day in being ready to be out in the world.” [laughs]
SWB I need some down days! [KL laughs]
KL Exactly. Well, we do have a few “down days” coming up. After this week’s episode, we’re taking three weeks off—coming back April 11th. But before we go on a little Spring Break, we’ve got one more show for you. Today we’re talking with journalist Katherine Goldstein, who just launched a new podcast called “The Double Shift” all about working moms.
SWB I loved talking with Katherine about being a working mom, and reporting on working moms. Because one of the things she mentioned is how people usually expect her to be talking about parenting and families, but what she’s doing isn’t just talking about parenting, she’s talking about the stories of the moms themselves. And something she reported on is childcare, and that’s something I really want to dig into here because I have just watched so many friends struggle with childcare and feel like there’s no good answers for them.
KL I texted my sister-in-law yesterday to ask what she does for childcare because I just wanted to confirm—I thought I had an idea. And the first thing she responded back with was, “oh my god, childcare is so stressful.” [laughs]
SWB Yeah. It seems like no matter what arrangement people have, I always hear that same kind of vibe from them—it’s just hard! I have a lot of friends who send their kids to a private childcare. And so I was looking at well, how much does that cost? I feel like I’d heard them say numbers before, but I couldn’t quite remember all the details and I really wanted to think about it fully. So, there’s a place in South Philly where a bunch of people I know go, and it can cost as much as $380 per week, per child.
SWB That’s if you have a little kid.
SWB It’s a little less as the kid gets older, but still! That’s between $1,000 and $1,500 a month for one kid!
KL & SWB That’s a lot!
SWB And then, of course, if you have two children, and you do that math.
KL Yep, yep.
SWB And I know a couple people who have things like employer provided childcare, but that’s pretty rare. I have a friend who works for the federal government who has a pretty good setup, but most of the other people I know, it’s just so cost-prohibitive. And then at the same time—and we’re going to talk more about this—but daycare workers are not paid very well.
SWB And that’s often a job done by women of color. So, on both sides, people are getting a really shit deal.
KL Yeah. [sighs] I think about how close I am to, of course, people who have kids. Like my sister has two young kids, and since the first one was a baby, when my sister had to go back to work—she actually works for the federal government too, so she had a decent amount of leave. But when she had to go back, my mom started helping—and has been since then—with childcare Tuesday through Thursday every week. And since my sister works for NIH, the other two days that she’s not in the office at work, she’s teleworking, which is not easy with kids at home. And I remember when my first nephew was born and Jon and I were still living in DC, I genuinely thought that “oh yeah, I’m going to go and help out and babysit once a week and run a business” and there’s no way that that would have been possible.
SWB I really wonder how anybody does anything else while they’re caring for small children because it’s so constant—the needs and attention that little kids need. It’s really hard. I have a friend who works for herself, and her mom lives a couple of hours away. So, what her mom does is come and stay with them. So, she literally stays the night with them, but it’s a similar thing. From Tuesday morning through Thursday night, she’s there. And that gives my friend those three days a week where she can get a lot done, and she just scales and structures her business so that she’s not totally full time those other days. And that’s what she’s figured out is the best for her right now, but that relies on you having family who can do that. And that means not only do you have family that lives nearby, but also that that family has time—
SWB —and doesn’t have to do other kinds of labour for money during that time, [laughs] which is—
SWB —totally not the reality for a lot of people. And I have friends who do kind of alternative options. I have a friend who is involved with a play school coop—
SWB —which is a lot cheaper, but it has some limitations. It’s not meant for daycare for babies, it’s only for older kids, preschool age kids. And because it’s a coop, you have to volunteer a lot for it, so you also have to have some time for it. So, she couldn’t have just done that and then gone and taken a regular, full time job—
SWB —because that wouldn’t work at all.
KL Yeah. And then I also think about the women who end up staying home even if they don’t necessarily want to. I have one friend who has four kids now, the youngest two are a set of twins. [laughs]
SWB Wow, yeah.
KL Yeah. And when her first was born about six years ago, she was planning on returning to work. But before he turned a year old, the whole family had moved down to Charlottesville for her husband’s job. And by the time the second one came along, she was kind of like, “okay, am I going to go back to work? Am I going to find a job down here? We’re already/still trying to figure out childcare for the first one, and I’m staying home, and now we have two. So, how much harder is it going to get?” And then the twins came and she was like, “yeah. Nope. I’ve got to stay home.” And they also have family helping because there’s four kids, but that’s not always even the case. So, it really makes you think about how different the setups are.
SWB Yeah! And just how much of child rearing is really a community exercise that we don’t treat like a community exercise.
SWB Obviously, I’ve also known well off people who had nannies, but that’s not a normal setup for most people in America at all.
KL No, totally. I mean, we live next to a set of new construction row houses, into which basically only and all young families moved into. And two of them have nannies that come every day, and I can’t even imagine how much that must cost.
SWB Yeah. So, I’ve heard really wildly varying figures from stuff that’s like an hourly rate to things that were like—somebody told me that you needed to have $80k plus benefits and vacation time in New York for a nanny. And I was like, “I don’t think this person lives in any universe I understand at all.” [KL laughs] Maybe someone can write in and tell us about how it works when you’re paying for a nanny in New York. But what she was describing to me was a very certain segment of society that I was definitely not part of! [both laugh]
SWB But the other thing is nannying is a ton of work. And I know that there’s also this huge culture of overworking immigrant nannies and childcare workers, and that you can end up with these people who are on call 24/7 or effectively at your beck and call all the time. And then there’s this other piece of it where even when you have the money to pay for labor to help you with childcare, the system is such where you end up outsourcing to these exploited black and brown women to solve professional women’s problems. And that is not…that is not the feminist dream.
SWB That doesn’t solve anything for us.
SWB So, when everyone has to duct tape a solution together alone, and when everyone is figuring it out all by themselves in isolation, either you have to rely on the privilege of having money or family around or you have to exploit someone with less power than you. And that is the only way to make the system work. And that’s not a working system though! [laughs] That’s still a failing system.
SWB And I just think also about all the time it takes. It takes so much time to cobble together a plan, and it’s so inefficient and precarious to have to piece it together that way when this is a big, societal thing. Humans have babies… [laughs]
KL All the time! [laughs]
SWB …they’re not going to stop! So, how do we deal with that in a way that’s actually functional?
SWB Also, do you know any dads who have been really struggling with the childcare thing and decided to do things like stay home and become primary caregivers?
KL No. I don’t know any dads who have decided to stay home, which actually bums me out, now that I think about it. Before Jon and I decided we weren’t going to have kids, we’d sort of joke that if we did have kids, that he would stay home. And hypothetically we both really loved that idea, but really knowing how or if we could actually make something like that work.
SWB Yeah. I know one friend whose husband did that. So, she was really hitting her professional stride and loving it, and he was just not loving his job. And so they kind of swapped! She had been freelancing a bit while staying home with a little kid, and when she got into this position that was really, really, really great and that was a lot of opportunities for her, he started working part time. And I think their kid is in kindergarten now. And it was a big shift! She was describing how she had to also really get used to not managing the household in the way that she used to, and not have to remind him about things like laundry or dishes or whatever because those just needed to be the thing that he was on top of, and he needed to learn that he had to be on top of them, whether she said anything or not. And I think that that shift is hard in a lot of couples, and I’m glad that they’re doing it because it sounds like it works really well for them. But I feel like I know families where I swear everybody would be happier with that arrangement, but it just doesn’t come up. Between gender norms and egos, it’s not even on the table.
KL Totally. Beyond being bummed that I don’t know any families where that’s happening, I can’t think of anyone I know for whom it hasn’t been a given that if a parent were to stay home, that it wouldn’t automatically be the mom.
SWB Yeah… So, there’s a lot to unpack there, but I also want to talk about how this issue is now becoming part of the 2020 presidential conversation. At least on the left! [KL laughs]
SWB And that’s really good because over the past few years, we’ve heard a lot about things like college costs and student loan debt. And that’s important, but it’s always struck me as sort of problematic that we’re paying a lot of attention to kids that are getting college degrees, and not very much attention to kids getting pre-k education to their most crucial, early years. So, last month in February, Elizabeth Warren made universal childcare part of her 2020 campaign. So, she wants a plan that helps with three things that she has identified as problems: the cost of care to families, which yes, we’ve seen that, the wages of childcare workers who make an average of $10.82 an hour, and then the quality of childcare, which is often really low.
KL Yeah. There’s that Vox article about Warren’s plan that we’ll link to in the show notes, but god, one of the parts of that article talks about the quality, and they use the word “Dickensian.” And, fuck, that just made my stomach hurt.
SWB Yes, yeah. So, what Warren’s campaign proposes is a plan where basically the government subsidizes costs for childcare, especially for low-income Americans. And the idea is to cap costs at 7% of a family’s income. And then she also wants to have new quality standards for the childcare centers and have wages that look more similar to public school teachers—which also, public school teachers [KL laughs] aren’t paid that much, [laughs] but it’s a start! So, obviously this costs money. That’s the big thing, right? This would cost money. You have to spend money in order to make childcare better, and the work less exploitative, and the cost more manageable.
KL Yeah, it sounds really good.
SWB Okay! So—also very interesting—a few days after Warren released her plan, the Senate democrats re-introduced a 2017 bill, which is the Child Care For Working Families Act. And so that died the first time around, but the Senate was in a different place then, so I think it’s interesting to see it come back. And all of the 2020 democratic candidates so far have signed onto this bill. And this bill calls for some similar stuff. Again, they want to make sure that families aren’t spending more than 7% of their household income on childcare. Some of the rules are slightly different—150% of median income in your state versus max of 200% of the poverty line—there are all these different numbers floating around. But there’s this idea that your childcare budget shouldn’t eat up your budget. And then they also want to make more services free to low income families, and universal preschool for three and four year olds, which would be huge for people.
SWB So, I don’t know how viable this particular bill is right now, but I do know that making it part of the campaign really matters. I want to see every 2020 presidential debate talk about how do families handle childcare!
KL I know, me too! I mean, we don’t have kids, but we know a lot of people who have kids. I love a lot of people who have children and I love their children. [laughs] So, even though I’m not a parent, it’s really encouraging to think that I can still help change things for the people I love by voting to put someone in office who will prioritize issues we should actually all care about.
SWB Yeah, and that’s why I think Katherine’s reporting is so important. She talks to people who are really navigating these issues. We’re going to talk about that a lot in this interview. And I feel like it’s a really important educational piece for all of us, whether we have kids or not.
KL And we’re going to hear from Katherine right after we hear about some new books. [short transition music plays]
Promo: Graywolf Press
SWB So, today we’ve got another book chat segment for all of you. And that’s thanks again to Harvest and their favorite publisher, Graywolf Press, a non profit publisher of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and genre-defying literature, which…hell yeah to that. So, once again, we have Yana Makuwa from Graywolf on the line to tell us what’s new. Hey, Yana!
Yana Makuwa Hey, how’s it going?
SWB I think we’re doing pretty good today! It’s always a great day when we get to talk about books. So, tell us—what is new right now at Graywolf?
YM Well, you mentioned genre-defying in the spot and this is definitely one of those books. We have a novel out by Kathryn Davis, and her new novel, The Silk Road, is completely indescribable. It’s sort of like a journey, but it’s also sort of like a journey through the afterlife. And it’s a story of childhood and siblinghood, but it’s also the story of just one individual, and it’s a really difficult to describe book. But if you let Kathryn Davis’ style sweep you away, you won’t be sorry.
KL That’s sounds so interesting. I’ve got to get my hands on that as well. What else is on the horizon for the Spring?
YM Well, out in April we have a poetry collection called Brute coming up by Emily Skaja. And this is a really moving collection about the end of a relationship and about violence, and struggle, and about regaining control of oneself. And I think that this winner of the Walt Whitman Award will be a really good pick if you’re looking for something to read.
SWB So, the problem with books is that I always want all of them. So, I’m always like, “yeah, I’ll read that one too!” Which is actually really great for a lot of reasons—I get to read so much great stuff that way! And I definitely am going to check out more books from Graywolf Press this year—that’s at graywolfpress.org. So, I’ll be looking for The Silk Road, Brute, and pretty much anything else you put out. So, Yana, thank you again for joining us. It’s always a pleasure to have you.
YM Oh, thank you so much for having me.
SWB Yeah! And thank you to Harvest for supporting our efforts once again. [short transition music plays]
KL Katherine Goldstein is a journalist who reports on women, work, and parenting issues. Her work has been published in Slate, The Guardian, and The New York Times, and she was a Harvard fellow. She also just launched an incredible new podcast called “The Double Shift”—all about moms who work—and we’re so excited she’s here with us. Katherine, welcome to Strong Feelings.
Katherine Goldstein Thanks so much for having me.
KL So, The Double Shift just launched in February—congrats!
KG Thank you.
KL So, tell us a little bit about the show.
KG So, the show is about a new generation of working mothers. The idea behind it is that it’s not about parenting or kids, it’s about us—the actual experience of being a working mother, not how it relates to [laughs] other people or parenting ideas or strategies. And we’re talking to women from all over the country. What they all really have in common is that in some way, they’re challenging the status quo of what it means to be a working mother in America. So, we’re talking to politicians, to musicians, to sex workers, to executives. So, we’re really running gambit, and I hope bringing some really fresh stories that you really haven’t heard to the discussion about work and motherhood.
KL So, when did you first start thinking about creating a show like this and what made you want to do that?
KG I’ve been working on bringing the show to life for over a whole. I am a working mother myself, I have a three and a half year old son. And I had a really tough sort of first year of his life; basically, he was born with some serious health problems—he’s doing great now—but it was a very stressful early time in his life. And then I also lost my job the day he turned six months old. So, the kind of combination of how difficult that was really led me to feel this existential feeling that I was just a total failure at what it meant to be [laughs] a working mother. So, I was dealing with all of these new identities and feeling like a failure. And I’d been a journalist for over a decade, but as I started to turn my journalist focus towards issues around motherhood, and work, and family leave, and those larger workplace issues, I started to realize nobody had this all figured out, and that so many other people all felt like a failure too. But as I started to research more and more, I started finding things like if a woman has a baby between the ages of 25 and 35, her earnings never recover. And there’s an epidemic of pregnancy discrimination, anti-mom biases rampant in workplaces. So, what I started to see as personal failures, really I started to see there were much larger, social, societal, much bigger, bigger picture issues that working mothers face. And I realized as a journalist, as I was writing about these issues, that people weren’t taking this seriously. People weren’t talking about this in in depth ways; it wasn’t really treated with journalist seriousness. There are personal essays and op-eds, but not a lot of real reporting or enough real reporting goes into these issues. So, I came to the idea of a podcast because I wanted to develop a much more in depth conversation about these things, and not just have a one-off article here or there, but really try to create a whole new narrative about new ideas around work and motherhood and challenging the status quo.
KL Yeah, this is really fascinating. And even long before The Double Shift, you’ve been focusing on issues related to women and work. How did you start honing in on that as a primary topic for you? We read that you used to be a big Lean In fan, but then you felt disillusioned, like it had failed you. Tell us about that and how that is related?
KG Yes! I was all in on Lean In, as a hard-charging twenty-something professional. I was in my late twenties when the book came out. I started a Lean In circle, and I blogged about it while I was working at Slate, and I really felt like I definitely understood the critiques that came out at the time that it was sort of aimed towards more white collar workers, and it wasn’t speaking to every woman’s circumstance. By the way, I think most business books don’t speak to everyone’s circumstances, but seems like Sheryl Sandberg got the most critique for that for being a woman and [laughs] speaking not to every woman’s circumstance, but I felt like it had a lot to offer me. But what I realized in the coming years—I faced really tough situations professionally—and I, again, realized I really wasn’t alone. Especially like I ended up writing about anti-mom bias in The New York Times, and sort of the open secret, and how widely bias against mothers is practiced in the workplace. And the response I got to that article was unlike anything I have ever experienced. Just hundreds of emails from people, and many sharing their own stories of being marginalized in the workplace, and discriminated against after becoming a mother, or really feeling pushed out. So, I feel like the idea that I really came to with Lean In, is that the problem with it is that the idea that if you work really hard, and you negotiate, and be sure you’re raising your hand, it’s going to work out for you. And my research and in-depth reporting shows me in the case of mothers, that’s just not true. There’s a lot of systemic obstacles that mothers face, and I think just telling mothers to lean in is like handing a rubber ducky to someone hit with a tsunami. I just don’t think [laughs] what we face is going to be fixed by telling mothers to try harder. And so that was some from my own experience, but also just what the data and the research shows about how tough it is for mothers in the workplace. The conversation about working mothers is very dominated by mostly middle class, white collar, urban people in big cities. Basically, what we hear about the working mother experience is through that lens, and usually through a lens of a lot of privilege. And those concerns that are raised by that group are completely valid and need to be talked about, but those are only a very small slice of the experience. So, I definitely feel like working on this show has really expanded my mind a lot about what the challenges are, and how people in different parts of the country think about it, and how people in different professions think about it. For example, our second episode was about a 24-hour daycare in Las Vegas, which caters mostly to single mother shift workers, who go to school during the day,and then work the casinos overnight, or as nurses or dancers or waitresses. And those just aren’t the people that we hear a lot about when we talk about working mothers. And my really strong belief is that by telling more stories and doing more reporting, we can really learn from each other, and start to come up with more creative ideas and solutions, and challenge the status quo. Because I think there’s also this idea that being a working mother is really sad and hard, and there’s nothing anybody can do about it to make it better. And I don’t believe that. Working on the show has definitely inspired me to feel like there are things we can do about it, and there are ways that people are challenging how social norms work, and challenging the ways things are in their workplaces, and running for office, and all sorts of things that don’t just mean things have to be bad and hard for working mothers.
SWB So, I’d love to actually talk a little bit more about that story of the 24 hour daycare in Las Vegas. Can you tell a little bit more about that for our listeners who haven’t heard it yet?
KG Yeah. So, we profiled a woman named Nydia Sanchez, who runs a daycare in Las Vegas called Peace Garden. They have 108 kids enrolled; it’s a pretty large facility. She’s been in daycare for about ten years, and she sort of noticed that there was increasing need for different kinds of shifts because daycare is very much still set up with the idea that there are two parents, and they work a 9-5. And that’s just not a reality for the modern American economy and how modern families are structured. And certainly not in a place like Las Vegas, where it’s a 24 hour city. And what I found so inspiring about her is that she’s very committed to keeping her prices affordable, and she also really works—most of her clients, a lot of them are single mothers and are shift workers. And when you’re a shift worker and you work in a restaurant, your schedule can change from day to day and week to week. And daycares are not typically set up for that. You sort of have to pick your time and your hours, and if you don’t show up, you have to pay. And she really believes in serving this group in a way that I think is both really compassionate and really creative. And one of the ways she makes it work as a business is actually because they have kids overnight, it’s much less expensive to run overnight because you can mix the ages, and you need less staff. So, it actually helps the business be more profitable because it’s overnight, which is really counterintuitive. And I just learned so much from her and I thought it was also amazing that she’s running a business, not a charity or a non-profit, that serves this group that just a lot of people aren’t thinking about, and have really important needs, and I think need to be a bigger part of these conversations about childcare.
SWB Yes, absolutely. I know most childcare is like if you’re not there by six o’clock, they are mad because they’re shutting it down!
KG It’s a huge issue, especially because we’re living in a 24-hour economy, and I think that the daycare industry has not at all caught up with that. So, it’s a really important way to start thinking more creatively.
SWB Yeah, absolutely. And it really speaks to sort of what you’re talking about where there’s this assumption that when we talk about working moms, we’re talking about a certain kind of middle class working mom that is working that office job and does have bankers hours, you know? Which is, of course, not real. So, I love that story a lot and I’m curious—what was it like to put that story together? You went to Las Vegas to report on it, right?
KG Yeah. Our Executive Producer, Sarah Ventre, lives in Phoenix, and she went to Las Vegas for that story. And it was really interesting. How we found Nydia was I was really interested in the idea of 24-hour daycare, so we started cold calling daycares that advertised as being open late or 24 hours in different cities across the country until we found her. So, it was a very old fashioned journalist shoe leather reporting [laughs] kind of thing. She’s not a friend of a friend, she’s not someone who has a big social media presence, she actually doesn’t do social media, we just had to find her through making a lot of phone calls. And we really got a sense from that visit that you wouldn’t have necessarily gotten just from a two way conversation is that she is a non stop person. And part of what makes this daycare successful is that she works super hard, and does not let up, and is working sometimes 12, 14, 16 hour days to make it work. So, that’s the sort of thing that you don’t always know when you don’t visit someone in person. [laughs] So, yeah! And she’s also really compassionate with her staff, which I think is another element that sometimes people are like, “oh, they’re doing great work,” but then they treat their workers terribly. [laughs] So, I think that’s another extension of what is amazing about her and why we need to talk about other models for childcare.
SWB How did you start doing this kind of audio reporting? This kind of packaged, produced audio reporting? And how did you learn to do that?
KG So, my background is in print—well, I like to say text journalism because [KL laughs] I’ve actually only ever worked on the internet, [SWB laughs] so it feels very strange [laughs] to call myself a print journalist because I spent so much of my career fighting against print journalism. So, I’d always worked in text, but I really felt strongly that these stories would be able to also not only tell different kinds of stories in a more involved way, but also build community around these stories and this conversation through a podcast. So, for me, it’s all about the idea, and it’s all about the message. I’ve learned a lot in the last year from the producers that I’ve worked with, and I also took a course at The Centre for Documentary Studies at Duke, which is just a mile from my house in Durham, North Carolina. And that was a really great, week long crash course on just the very basics of audio recording, and reporting, and producing, and using editing software and stuff like that, which I think definitely gave me a lot more confidence. It’s one of those things where it seems really intimidating, but once you learn the basics, you can excel quickly. And I’ve learned a lot from my producers. Our Executive Producer is a former NPR journalist, and our Editor had worked at NPR for a number of years as well. So, I like the idea that—talk shows are really great, and interview shows are really great—but I do like the idea of presenting someone with some reporting that feels very curated. We’ve really decided what the most important parts of this are, and we’re creating a whole story for you. But yeah! I think we have an episode coming up on [March] 25th that’s about working mothers in legal brothels in Nevada. And I decided I wanted to leave some of those interactions longer and more unfiltered, so we’re going to see how that works out, and that episode will be a little longer.
SWB I am looking forward to that.
SWB We are very interested in hearing more voices from sex workers, so I am definitely going to tune into that one.
KG I learned so much from that episode. I really didn’t know very much about sex workers or brothels before we did this, and I’ve learned so much. And also, it’s really expanded a lot about how I think about sex work and also how stigmatized that group is, when what they do is actually very similar to many other professions. It was a very eye opening episode.
SWB I definitely feel like reading and hearing from people who have done sex work has just changed how I think about work period.
KL Yeah. So I wanted to talk a little bit about some of your [laughs] “text journalism.” You wrote an opinion piece last month called “American Moms: Let’s Stop Feeling Guilty and Start Getting Mad.” Let’s talk about that. What do you want moms to allow themselves to really get angry about?
KG That op-ed really came out of a lot of the thinking I’ve done over the last year of working on this podcast. So, I think that if you talk to moms, and if you are on mom-oriented social media, mom Instagram, mom Facebook, you hear a lot about guilt. Guilt is a very, very common theme, but what I’ve realized in my reporting is that as a society, we are very comfortable with mothers expressing their feelings through a lens of guilt. We are just 100% okay with mom feeling guilty all the time. [laughs] I also found in my reporting, guilt is really a withdrawal motivation, so it operates in a different part of the brain than anger. So, when you feel guilty, it basically means you want to withdraw from things, hide, sort of keep yourself quiet and close. And actually when you’re angry about things, it means it’s an approach motivation; it operates in a different part of the cortex and it makes you much more likely to tackle challenges, speak up, stand up for yourself. So, what I realized is that as we’ve talked about a little bit in this episode, being a working mother is really, really tough in America. There’s pregnancy discrimination, the maternal death rate is on the rise, and increasingly, workplaces aren’t nearly as flexible or accommodating to both mothers and to all people as they need to be. And parenting expectations are becoming increasingly outrageous in terms of what we’re expected to do, what we’re expected to spend money on. Basically, there’s not a lot of evidence that this kind of hyper intensive helicopter parenting makes happier or more successful kids, but it does seem to definitely make moms a lot more miserable. [laughs] So, I just think the combination of all these things—I think it would be great if mothers tapped into things like not having enough family leave or not feeling like they are being valued in the workplace or not having equal relationships at home, and spoke up about that. Because angry people—if you tap into that from an anger place—angry people go to protests, angry people work on legislative solutions, angry people challenge their workplaces, and angry people stand up for themselves in all sorts of different ways. But we see moms right now in very active activist place with issues like Black Lives Matter, and gun violence, and the teacher walkouts, but we don’t see moms really activating and being activists on behalf of ourselves. We’re much more comfortable being activists on behalf of our children or other people. So, I’m very interested in the idea of moms starting to be activists on behalf of ourselves.
SWB What do you think that that might look like? So, if moms specifically were out there angry and advocating for themselves, what do you want to see happen?
KG I think people would find that really scary, and that’s kind of exciting to me. [laughs] Because we are comfortable with mothers being nurturing, we are comfortable with them helping other people, and supporting other people, but we are not comfortable with the image of mothers being angry. So, I think if mothers started to really express that anger, I think people would immediately take notice because it’s not an emotion we see expressed very much. But a lot of relationships now—heterosexual relationships—are pretty egalitarian until a child is born, and then things can revert to very, very traditional gender roles. When both parents work, mothers still do more than their fair share of childcare and housework. So, I think one of the very micro ways that people can get angry and start standing up for themselves is in their own relationships, and say, “We both work, I’m doing more than my fair share, and this dynamic has to change.” Because I think the revolution at work is basically going to begin with a revolution at home. Because women can’t do it all. They can’t charge ahead in every aspect of their career and with child rearing if they’re not getting support when they have a partner. So, I think that that’s one way. But also, I’ve reported on groups of women, who in their workplaces, are getting together to basically demand better family leave policies. This has happened at a number of different companies—New York Times, Amazon, Lift, The Boston Globe—and that’s really exciting to me because they’re coming together and not just saying, “oh, let me see if I could possibly negotiate something better for myself,” but “let me get other women together and advocate for everyone to have better policies.” So, I think that that’s more of a private sector solution to the family leave problem that I would love to see addressed at a governmental level. But that’s a smaller thing that women definitely can say. “I’m not accepting this nine weeks of paid leave or this ten weeks of paid leave or this two weeks of paid leave. That’s not acceptable and I’m going to organize to change it.” That, to me, is a great way to sort of use anger to motivate into positive change.
SWB I love that so much because we’ve definitely talked with friends that we know who have gone on maternity leave and who have negotiated individual, special packages for themselves. And that’s great! If that’s something that you need to do in your workplace, by all means. But I also think it’s really helpful to be able to say, “this is something that we need to be advocating for in a broader, more systemic way because it is not an individual issue, it is a systemic issue.” So, I am really excited to hear that. And the other thing that I always think about is that I want to see men asking about that when they’re in the interview process. Or if they are asking about all the different policies in a company—why aren’t men [laughs] asking about these questions too? I just feel like it needs to be a normalized thing that people talk about.
KG I’ve actually found that when fathers ask about family leave, and are transparent about their family responsibilities in the workplace, it actually has a hugely positive impact for working mothers. So, I wrote a couple of years ago about Vox Media—Vox News specifically. And the first person to have a baby there was Matt Yglesias, who was one of the cofounders of the company. And he was very, very transparent about leaving to go pick up his kid from daycare, having family responsibilities, being offline. And I talked to other women who felt like it really set the tone that they could be open about their family responsibilities, and one of those women is now the Editor in Chief of Vox News. So, I think that men not only doing their fair share at home, but talking about it, and being transparent about how they’re fitting it into their work life is really important. Men are very, very important allies in this fight. It should not just be left up to women. This is not just a women’s issue, this is a family issue, this is a public policy issue, this is a community issue. And so, sometimes men can use their positions of authority and power to really make the whole workplace better for everyone.
KL We talked earlier a little bit about how you’re a mom yourself. What has it been like for you to navigate your career?
KG Oh, man. How many hours of the podcast do we have? [laughs & KL laughs] So, this is a constant and live issue for me. When I first started putting the ideas for this podcast together, I pitched it to a number of prominent podcast outlets and major media companies, and got to varying levels of seriousness with them. But what sort of kept happening over and over is that people either couldn’t understand there could be a whole show about working mothers that wasn’t about parenting—they kept being like, “well, we have a parenting show” and couldn’t understand that what I was talking about was not about the actual art and science of parenting, it was a completely different thing. And so, it was interesting because my whole thesis is that mothers are marginalized out of the workplace and aren’t taken seriously. But then I also really wanted the validation of a big media network to say this show was going to be valuable and important. So, it was really interesting as I sort of put the show together, I ended up feeling like that path of partnering with a big media company wasn’t going to work. So, I basically created my own small journalism company to make this show. So, I’m on the Critical Frequency Podcast Network, which is a fantastic place to—Amy Westervelt, who I know you’ve had on the show, is a tremendous partner. I couldn’t ask for a better partner in making the show; she advises us on the show as well. But basically, I’ve had to raise all the money for the show through foundation grants. And part of going this path is also being a working mother myself and just saying, “I don’t necessarily want a super high profile big media company job” because those jobs are really hard and awful—I’ve had them before. And so I want to create my own small company and my own way of doing this. And so I’m constantly navigating that. I also left New York City after over a decade and moved to North Carolina, so I can do things remotely and have a much less expensive life that enables me to put more effort into my work. So, it’s all these constant levies and levers of trade offs. And I actually have a very personal episode about some of these issues coming up later in the season.
SWB I definitely want to hear more of those personal stories, and I’m excited about all the different things you have planned for The Double Shift. So, I’m curious if you can tell us a little bit about what else is coming up? You’ve got something super personal coming up, and then what else are you hoping to be able to cover over the next few months or in its first year?
KG We just released an episode called “The Candidate Who Carpools,” which is a really amazing and intimate audio documentary about what it’s like to be a mother with little kids, running for office. And I think that in these political conversations, everyone including myself is so excited about seeing all these women running for office, many of whom are mothers. But I don’t feel like there’s been a lot of, “what is this really going to look like if we’re living in a new world, where so many women and mothers are running for office when running for office with little kids, until very recently, was considered a taboo, and that voters wouldn’t want to vote for you, and that you need to wait until your kids are older.” So, I think it’s a very cool episode that looks at this brave, new world, and what it’s really like. And then, as I mentioned, we have the sex worker episode coming, and we visited a workplace that really is about someone who felt like there was no both workplace and childcare situation that worked for them, so they created their own, which is based here in Durham, North Carolina. And we also have an amazing episode we’re working on that is sort of existentially about self care, but it’s actually through the lens of a black, Muslim sex educator. And there’s some really, really fresh ideas about how standing up for yourself and asking for your needs sexually and beyond is like a very high form of self care. So, I’m very excited to introduce some really, really new ideas into the self care discussion.
SWB Yes. We are always into sort of complicating the conversation about self care beyond, you know, face masks. [laughs]
KG Yes! [KL laughs] Face masks are wonderful, but I’m also very interested thinking about postpartum bodies, and desire, and how you nurture yourself. It’s such a complicated issue that we have to think about deeply, and I think this woman is going to really, I hope, explode some of our thinking about that.
SWB That’s awesome. And I also love this story about the candidate who carpools. We interviewed someone who was running last year, who is now actually my Pennsylvania representative in the legislature here—
KG Very cool!
SWB —who started her campaign when her older kid was a toddler and her younger kid was like four months old.
SWB And people were just like, “what are you doing? You’ve got this baby in a baby carrier at the fundraising event.” And you know what? She’s doing it, and it’s freaking great, and she has a partner who is supportive of all of this, and they make it work. But it is so great to see her out there with her kids because I see her all the time literally in my neighborhood. And I am so excited to see more kids basically everywhere, right? [laughs & KG laughs] Active parents doing parent stuff in all aspects of life, and moms doing mom stuff in all aspects of life is really powerful to me. So, that’s great!
KG I think that this issue of mothers getting into politics and more women getting into politics is so, so important. Because [laughs] if you think about who has power, and who makes our laws, and who changes—even at the local level and city level, there’s a huge amount of power in how we support and protect women, and pregnant people, and sort of encourage the next generation. And a lot of people think issues facing mothers are basically niche issues, and that they’re only really of concern to a small group of people, and that other people who aren’t mothers don’t care about them or shouldn’t care about them. I personally think electing more mothers is our best tool against fascism, honestly. So, [laughs] I just feel like we need way more new political energy, way more thinking, and way more people in power who understand some of these intersectional struggles, and have had children recently. I think that could really, really change the whole country, so I’m super amped about it and I’m excited that we’re able to contribute to the conversation with this episode.
KL Ughh, I love that. Katherine, we are so excited you joined us today. We are just about out of time, and it’s been so awesome talking to you. Thank you for joining us! Where can listeners find out more about you and your work?
KG You can listen to The Double Shift wherever you get your podcasts, as they say. If you want to sign up for our newsletter, go to TheDoubleShift.com. Also, we have a very lively, exciting Instagram page that is like a hotbed of conversation about motherhood and feminism that is very different from a lot of other mom Instagram, I find. So, if you are into Instagram, you should definitely check us out there. And you can find out more about me on The Double Shift website, and I have my own website, but really, what am I if not a conduit for The Double Shift? [all laugh] So, you can see my work there. [all laugh]
KL Awesome, thank you.
KG Thanks so much.
Promo: If These Ovaries Could Talk
[music starts to play with voice coming in over the top]
Guest “At my open desk with 47 millennials around me, I’m going, ‘no, how do I get the sperm through customs?’”
Guest “I grew up with two moms. I’m an ambassador for same-sex families.”
Robin Hopkins & Jamie Kelton “Ooh I love that.”
RH “Are you done? Do you want more?”
Guest “I’m not getting pregnant again, and Anne can’t, so…”
RH “Maybe you take one of mine!” [laughs]
JK “This is just part of the journey, folks.”
RH “It’s all part of the journey.”
RH Okay, guys, welcome to “If These Ovaries Could Talk”—our podcast where we talk about making babies, making a family the nontraditional way.
JK I’m Jamie. I am a lesbian—
RH So gay.
JK So gay. And a mother of one and a half. I have one on the way.
RH I’m Robin, and I’m a lesbian. Also, mom of two. Jaimie—
RH —it was your idea for the podcast.
JK Yes. I went through some infertility and I was like, “you know what? We need to tell our stories. And I know so many couples who have gotten pregnant the lesbian way.” [laughs]
RH Like me!
JK Like you. And here we are!
Guest “So, I go out with Robyn and on the second date, she’s like, “So, do you want to have kids?”
Guest “A guy hands us this piece of paper and he’s like, ‘it could cost 6,000 or 26,000.’”
Guest “So, we go to IVF, took out another loan against your pension.”
Guest “I just have to work until I’m 80 now.”
JK “The dad question— were you ever curious? I’m sure you were.”
Guest “Yeah, look. It comes up all the time and it always did. I have two moms, there’s not a vacancy.”
Guest “Right. We’re not ruining these little humans. Well…”
RH “Not for the gay reason.
Guest Just because we stink.” [laughs]
RH “Right.” [laughs]
RH & JK And with that, we’ll say, “eggs. Ovaries. Out.” [music plays out]
Fuck Yeah of the Week
SWB Okay, Katel, it’s your turn. What is your Fuck Yeah of the Week?
KL So, my fuck yeah is to… poetry. [laughs]
SWB Yes! Okay, tell me more.
KL So, I haven’t read that much poetry in my life, I just haven’t. So, I decided that I was going to try to read a little bit more! I just got a really, super lovely book of poems by an author named Morgan Parker. And the book is called Other People’s Comfort Keeps Me Up at Night. And I ordered it from this company called Small Press Distribution, and when the book arrived, they’d actually also included another book—just totally free—by a woman named Nicole Brossard, who I didn’t know anything about. And it turns out she’s a poet and novelist, whose work is known for exploration of feminist themes, and for challenging masculine oriented language and points of view in French literature.
SWB Ooh that sounds very up your alley! [both laugh]
KL [laughing] I know! I was like, “perfect!” But this book of poems by Morgan Parker, I’ve already read it twice. I’m on my second reading of it, it’s really wonderful. It’s just really exciting to get something like that in the mail.
SWB I love those little small press poetry chapbooks, I need to buy more of them! Okay, so what’s a poem in Morgan Parker’s collection you really like?
KL So, this one is called “Miss Black America”—there are several in here with that title that I really love…
Does she grind slow
on back-when harmonies
squint at Boyz II Men high notes
or mosh-pit in shit-kickers
Is she a flower in your mind
Is she bootylicious
Did her mama say
there’d be days like this
Is she rhythm
or blues Billie or Billie Jean
Do the white boys back it up
Are their mothers terrified
SWB Ughhh! Ohh, I love that!
KL So good!
SWB I’m so glad you’re reading more poetry, and I think you’re inspiring me to read more poetry.
KL Yay! So, fuck yeah to discovering poetry. And also, fuck yeah to Small Press Distribution—check them out!
SWB Ughh, I totally will! Well, that is it for us this week! Strong Feelings is recorded in Philadelphia and produced by Steph Colbourn from Edit Audio. Our theme music is “Deprogrammed” by Blowdryer, an awesome Philly-based band that you should totally check out at blowdryer.bandcamp.com. Thank you so much to Katherine Goldstein for being our guest today, and thank you for listening! If you liked our show, don’t forget to subscribe and rate us wherever it is that you listen to your favorite podcasts. And hey—you can get strong feelings right in your inbox! Get our newsletter at strongfeelings.co. We’re taking a couple of weeks off, but we’ll see you again in April! Bye! [theme music plays for 15 seconds and fades out]