Maybe you have a fulfilling, financially lucrative, and flexible work situation. Maybe you have a kid who sleeps through the night, doesn’t nurse like a starving pterodactyl and never gets sick with the kid puking plague. Maybe you’ve reached that mythical asymptotic place on the curve of work and kids that gets as close to having it down as it possibly gets.
Or maybe you’re more like me and literally every woman I know when it comes to work and kids: you’re piecing it together, hopping off the crazy train then sort of wishing you were back on it, looking at that green grass on the other side of wherever you are, , trying to make one and one equal three and game the system and coming up short. Every woman’s version of trying to negotiate motherhood and a professional life (or pause from that life) is full of achingly common themes. Every version can be weighed down with so many unknowns, and every version can feel lonely.
These podcasts don’t offer any easy answers, but they do tell nuanced, complex stories, show triumphs and failures with grace and humor, and offer a glimpse of what’s possible.
The Longest Shortest Time: It’s A Real Mother (four-part series): The story of Jane Swift, who campaigned for governor of Massachusetts while she was pregnant and gave birth while in office, made me want to call my mom and thank her for getting through any version of being a working mom in the 80’s. There’s also a story of a working class mom trying to make ends meet, of parents in Sweden living the dream of paid leave and still struggling, and of a company where babies come to work with their parents. There’s an episode on the elusive, unattainable “ideal worker,” and another on “the cliff” women can face professionally in a culture that’s not built for moms to flourish.
Note To Self: Taking The Lead: This four-part series from 2016 follows Rachael and Leslie, two Brooklyn moms who put everything on the line to try and get an app called Need Done off the ground from conception to prototype to trying to convince angel investors to give them millions. The glaring irony is that this app is designed to help parents with demanding professional lives manage and outsource tasks. The series ends with foreign policy analyst Anne-Marie Slaughter, author of the Atlantic article “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All,” and her husband, Princeton professor Andrew Moravscik, telling their family’s story with an honesty and hard-earned wisdom any parent will hear in their voices.
3,2,1 iRelaunch: This podcast covers everything related to re-entering work after a career break. I love that they cover the emotional side of things, like an episode on not talking yourself out of opportunities and dealing with rejection, as well as the practical topics like how to talk about a career break in interviews and how to make your résumé stand out.
Hit Refresh: The Future is Flexible: Host Adda Birnir founded Skillcrush, an online tech-education company. I’ve taken their classes and love the availability of support and the curriculum’s challenge level and design. (And am totally gonna spruce up my WordPress site with my new skills if I ever stop listening to podcasts and cleaning up Play Doh). Adda interviews Annie Dean, co-founder of a company called Werk that helps companies attract, retain, and support talented women who want job flexibility. Today we drive on smooth, paved highways that cross the country, right? Well, they didn’t exist until the Federal Highway Act of 1956. Annie Dean is basically the Dwight Eisenhower of re-inventing work flexibility, and this podcast is so worth listening to.
Ali Wong on Fresh Air: There are a lot of (dumb) reasons there are not twenty Netflix specials with pregnant or recently postpartum lady comedians like Ali Wong telling jokes about the “savage rituals” of breastfeeding or how stay-at-home moms have it figured out because they get to take a shit in their own bathroom in peace, and it’s not because those things aren’t as gross and funny as every dime-a-dozen dude making a dick joke. I was laughing so hard hearing Wong talk about her expectations that nursing would be a “lily pad in a meadow and bunnies would gather at my feet while the fat-Hawaiian-man version of “Somewhere Over The Rainbow, ” versus the reality that it was more like “Leonardo DiCaprio in The Revenant” that I almost forgot all about the wage gap!
Startup Pregnant: The women who tell their stories on this podcast are more type-a and corporate-career-oriented than me, but as I listened to host Sarah Peck do a few interviews it became so clear that whether she was interviewing entrepreneurs, CEO’s, or non-profit leaders, their deeply honest stories and struggles were the same as mine in every important way. The podcast operates on 10 “Core Values” that show up consistently in every episode, including “Work life balance is a myth. There is fit and there is tension,” and “Culture change starts with stories.” I couldn’t agree more.