So, I originally wrote this post very specifically to be a comment on a post by Laura Vanderkam on "Millennial women and ambition." But my "comment" ended up as almost 700 words long. Hmm. Well.... So I decided to put it over here. Um... go read that link first, this one would be a little odd standing on its own. Heck, I feel like it's a little odd even if you read only that one post, I wrote it in the context of many posts and a few books by Laura Vanderkam. There are things I didn't need to clarify as a "comment" that I probably should clarify here. Meh.
Speaking of different kinds of ambition... Though it might not be as inspiring to the women in Zeno's survey response group, I'm really curious how a study of successful creatives (and mothers with kids at home) would compare to your study of women earning over $100,000 a year. It would be harder to create objective measures of who to include, but perhaps those who have won specific awards, for example?
This post made me wonder about that because of recently reading a piece by Shannon Hale on her blog about how she manages to both write and mother. She's published twelve books since 2003, including a Newbery Honor, and is successful by most measures... at least for novelists. But I'm sure she doesn't come anywhere close to making $100,000 a year. She also has four children, including toddler twins.
I know you've interviewed individual successful creatives before, like LeUyen Pham, but I'm still curious how they would compare as a group.
I guess this kind of study wouldn't do as much to topple the cultural narratives, as people think of high executive positions as being far more demanding and inflexible than artistic positions are. On the other hand, I feel like I've read SO MANY men put something in their acknowledgments about "thank you to my wife and children for tolerating my disappearance while I worked on this," and given how many people are trying unsuccessfully to publish even one book, I think of those who publish critically-acclaimed book after book after book as wildly successful, on a level in some ways with those top executives. (And one I'm far more interested in emulating, personally.)
Shannon Hale's piece was interesting in the context of your posts, because she does seem to subscribe to the larger cultural narrative, for example saying both, "By the time I had 5 published books and two non-napping children, I realized this writing thing was technically a career and I didn't have to be a martyr and I could give myself permission to get help," but also going on to say, "Originally I had a sitter that came over 9 house/week [sic]. This past year, it's up to 17 hours/week. And it's not enough to do all I could/should do. But it has to be. Because I don't want to have a full-time nanny even if that was feasible. I want to be a stay-at-home mom." That made me wince just a little bit, even though she's very clear she's talking about what she herself needs, not what she thinks other mothers should do.
Another wince moment is along the lines of the assumption you mentioned, "that men don’t care about not seeing their families." She says, "And all of that is a lot a lot a lot harder as a mom. Writer dads I know who aren't the primary care giver have a different situation. They can go off when they have a deadline to a hotel for a few weeks and write, or they work from morning to night for weeks on end and their wife picks up the slack. But I'm the primary care giver, and I don't have that luxury. I don't want it." Well, maybe her description of how to both write and mother can help the writer dad who doesn't want "that luxury," either. Meh.
Anyway, she does seem to follow some of your "most successful" patterns. She "makes the minutes count," saying "And for the most part, I seem to be writing as much as my non-parent full-time-writer friends even though I have a part time schedule." She rests on the weekends. She talks a lot about all the things she can't do because she can only manage to write and to mother, but it seems like if you just changed the focus a little bit, she'd be another one of your stories of a very prolific and successful professional who spends lots of quality time with her kids. Fascinating.
Okay, sorry for this novel of a comment, but I was really interested by the combination of these posts.