Journalist, Creator and Host of
The Double Shift Podcast
Mom to Asher
Start reading through articles about working mothers written by Katherine Goldstein, and if you're like us, you'll come up for air an hour later not knowing what hit you. Katherine is a powerhouse journalist who personally had a difficult return to work from maternity leave. This experience has motivated much of her reporting on mothers in the workplace, many of which are linked to below.
Women working and raising families is a complex topic, which inspired Katherine's latest project, The Double Shift podcast. The Double Shift is a show about a new generation of working mothers — women who are challenging how society sees moms and how we see ourselves. In Katherine's own words, “This podcast is about our stories. It’s not about parenting or kids. It’s about us — and challenging the world we live in today.”
We were lucky enough to sit down with Katherine and learn more about her return to work from maternity leave and what's she's learned devoting much of her career to reporting on women in the workplace - across industries, career types and socioeconomic status. The Double Shift launches on February 11. Catch the trailer here.
The Returnity Project: Tell us about yourself and about your experience returning to work after maternity leave.
Katherine Goldstein: My return to work was, in a word, brutal.
Before my son was born, 12 weeks seemed like plenty of time for maternity leave. But I quickly realized it was absolutely not enough for me. My son was born with some serious health problems, was hospitalized twice, and had surgery during my leave. I didn’t consider asking my employer for more time off because I was so worried about what my colleagues would think and assumed I’d be letting people down.
A lot of moms are told (and tell other moms), “Going back to work is so hard, but it will get better.” The problem with that advice is that it quiets our discontent about just how hard it is. It should not be this hard. Maternity/parental leave should be longer, flexible work should be the norm, and thoughtful re-entry should be required. We must stop accepting that things will (probably) get better, fight for the improvements we need, and object when we’re treated badly.
TRP: You’ve spoken publicly about leaving a job with flexible work culture filled with working parents for a higher-profile, higher-paying, more demanding job in a traditional setting during the time you were trying to get pregnant. And that you went on to lose that job soon after returning from maternity leave. What takeaways from that situation have guided and shaped both your life and your career decisions moving forward?
KG: As a new mom, I felt like a professional failure after I lost my job, because my identity was so tied to my work life.
And feeling like a failure can be either damaging or motivating. It forced me to turn off my autopilot, rethink my career, and choose a totally different professional life than I would have otherwise. My experience of motherhood opened up new areas of intellectual interest that I bolstered with research and reporting. Also, I’ve really committed myself to the craft of journalism and I’ve deepened my abilities as a reporter, storyteller and thinker. In my old life, I was much more involved in management and strategy. I’m now much happier doing meaningful work myself.
TRP: Did you find that your views about work and career changed after becoming a mom?
KG: Motherhood changed my priorities from status and money to doing meaningful work on my own terms. Basically, I don’t think I’ll ever work in an office for anyone else, ever again.
TRP: You’ve written about the discrimination that mothers face in the workforce - both within their workplaces and in the hiring process. What do you believe fosters this discrimination, and what needs to be done to eradicate it?
KG: Workplaces are not set up for people with caregiving responsibilities. If we make workplaces more flexible and humane for everyone, companies are going to get better work out of people, and perhaps we can stop seeing anyone who falls outside of this 1950s image of an ideal worker as a liability. But making more diverse, flexible workplaces is just one piece.
Actively disrupting discrimination against mothers is another important step. For example, if someone at your office says to you about another mom, “I think she’s too busy for this professional development conference, she has kids at home.” Challenge that assertion! It’s discriminatory. Say, “Why don’t we give her the opportunity and let her decide, rather than deciding for her?”
Finally, America has deeply held, damaging stereotypes about working mothers. For instance, people think mothers are less productive workers, when studies show this is simply wrong. And it’s not just clueless dudes who hold mothers back. It’s also other women, and even other mothers. We all need to challenge the assumptions we make about moms to each other and to ourselves. This is what my work is focused on now.
TRP: You’re about to launch a podcast called The Double Shift. Tell us more about the inspiration behind this podcast, and what we can look forward to.
KG: The Double Shift is the first reported, storytelling podcast about a new generation of working mothers. I created the show because I think too much of the conversation around working motherhood is one dimensional and boring. On The Double Shift, we don’t talk about parenting at all. In general, I think the working mom conversation is pretty dominated by relatively privileged white ladies who live in big cities. I believe the problems facing working moms are only going to be solved by listening to brand-new voices and collective creative thinking. That’s why we’re telling very diverse stories from all over the country.
We’re opening the season talking single mothers and a 24-hour childcare center in Las Vegas; we’re also telling stories of touring rock musicians, moms running for political office, sex workers raising families, and women who are testing whole new work models. This show will be like
nothing you’ve ever heard before, so I hope you listen. The Double Shift is out February 11th.
TRP: What do you value most about working while raising a family?
KG: My world is larger than it was before I had a child.
TRP: What are you most proud of?
KG: When I wrote The Open Secret of Anti-Mom Bias at Work in the NYTimes I got hundreds of emails from mothers sharing their own discrimination stories. But a few months after the story published, I got an unexpected email from someone who told me that my work had been a big factor in pushing her to take legal action against her former employer for discrimination. If my work can inspire people to fight for a better world for themselves and other mothers, I feel really proud of that.
Also, I think the highest calling of a journalist is to give voice to the voiceless. Too many mothers in America have no voice, and I hope to use The Double Shift to change that.
Journalist, Creator and Host of The Double Shift Podcast
Learn more about The Double Shift Podcast