F*ck Mom Guilt! A Night With The Double Shift
The Pinhook, Durham
When the journalist Katherine Goldstein became pregnant in 2014, she was on a career hot streak.
“I was like, nothing’s going to hold me back, everything is going great for me,” she says. Her son was born with health complications, though, and within a few months, she also lost her job—events that threw everything into question for her. She wondered if she’d failed at being a working mother. Upon being awarded a prestigious journalism fellowship from Harvard, she began to look harder at the discrimination and steep obstacles that working mothers face.
“I’ve come to see that we are not failures,” she says. “America is failing us.”
Enter The Double Shift, Goldstein’s new podcast about being a working mother today. Although the podcast has so far focused on motherhood in America, the international reception proves just how widely resonant the topic is: After only three episodes, the show had been downloaded in all fifty states and in one-hundred fifty countries, with international listeners comprising 20 percent of the audience. Recent episodes have followed the frontwoman of a punk band, a sex worker in Nevada, and Tiffany Frye, the founder of Nido, a coworking-meets-childcare space in Durham.
Recently, the INDY visited Goldstein at her Durham home, where she had just finished wrapping a second season, parts of which were recorded in the studio she’d constructed in her basement using moving blankets. It works perfectly well, she says, although the drone of lawnmower season has occasioned some recording breaks.
The second season of The Double Shift will be available in the fall; a listening party at the Pinhook this week, “F*ck Mom Guilt,” will include clips from the show, an interview with Goldstein by WUNC’s Anita Rao, and performances by the comedy group Eyes Up Here.
INDY: What was the impetus of The Double Shift?
KATHERINE GOLDSTEIN: Being a working mother intersects with public policy and healthcare and politics and gender roles—all these complex ways of navigating society—but there’s very little journalism about it. Most media only sees working mothers as either being interested in parenting or a discussion about work-life balance. All these other issues we face, like discrimination in the workplace and navigating the world as independent people, are almost never talked about, and when they are, it’s usually through op-eds and personal essays, which can be great but generally only give voice to people who have access to writing op-eds and personal essays. I felt like there was a need for more diverse stories and reporting on the rich experiences of working mothers that doesn’t just give mothers advice, which my show doesn’t do, and doesn’t assume that the only thing we care about is our kids.
How did that idea then turn into a podcast?
The origin of the show, I could say, was me becoming a working mother myself. My son was born with some very serious health problems, and he’s doing great now, but it was a very difficult start to the experience of being a mom. And then I lost my job when he was six months old. Both experiences were pretty traumatic and challenged my sense of self. I had been a very successful, hard-charging New York professional. I was convinced that everyone else had the working-mom thing figured out, except for me, and I was personally defective.
But then I started to turn my journalistic lens toward the experience of working mothers. I realized nobody had this all figured out, and everyone felt like failures, and I started to see how much working mothers have stacked against us. There is so much that this country does not do to support us. It marginalizes us and tells us our experiences don’t matter and that it doesn’t value our work and contributions. How our workplaces are set up, it’s so backward and stuck in the 1960s, when there was one earner who had a full-time stay-at-home spouse. I wanted to do a podcast because I wanted to have a much longer and more involved conversation about these issues.
You’ve mentioned getting some pushback from podcast executives when you were first pitching the show—people had reservations that it would just be one story, over and over, about how being a working mother is hard. How does the podcast counter that narrative?
I feel the show is a great rebuke to that critique. [It] does not hit on a lot of the clichés about working moms—they are totally frazzled, it’s really difficult, nothing can change, they’re just martyrs. I don’t think any of our stories really get to that. All of the women we feature are doing truly extraordinary things that are really challenging the status quo. The woman that is doing the twenty-four-hour daycare is doing it as a profitable, financially sustainable business that is serving this group of people who have been totally overlooked in the childcare crisis. She’s not out in Silicon Valley making an app, and she doesn’t have a PR person pitching me to be on the show, but she’s doing something really important in the national discussion about childcare. I’m very inspired by the women on the show, in that they’re not just adhering to a lot of the tropes—they all work really hard, but none of them fall into the notion that it’s so sad and hard to be a working mom. None of them talk that way about themselves, and we don’t treat them that way.
That episode about the daycare was really interesting. Can you talk about the ways in which the workplace has changed and how this unique daycare reflects new needs?
In the episode, we have an expert from the Center for American Progress who says that a lot of daycares are still set up for people who work banker hours. If you come after five, they charge a dollar a minute. There’s no flexibility. Las Vegas has always been a twenty-four-hour city, but I think we’re seeing the world economy shift to become much more 24/7, and commutes have gotten longer. People have different needs, and the childcare industry just hasn’t caught up yet. Very few people are thinking outside of the box about it. The main people who use the service [in the episode] are single mothers who go to school all day and work overnight. Those voices aren’t heard very much in the childcare discussion, and these are some of the hardest-working people on the planet.
Equal Pay Day was last month. What are the statistics around wages and maternity leave like?
Too often, people just present this idea that, for every dollar a man makes, a woman makes seventy-three cents. There’s a lot of wonderment, like, how did this happen? What’s missing from that discussion is that the pay gap is almost 100 percent attributable to motherhood. It’s basically a pay gap between mothers and everyone else. Of course, there are different levels for women of color and mothers of color, but motherhood is the absolute biggest factor. If a woman has a baby between the ages of twenty-five and thirty-five, basically, their earnings never recover. To me, that’s unacceptable. Men’s earnings actually go up, because people see them as a stable provider.
Two episodes feature women who live in North Carolina. Can you tell me about them, and what they do?
“The Candidate Who Carpools” was about Ashton Clemmons. We’re seeing so many more women running for office and a really exciting amount of diversity. The idea of mothers with young kids running for office is basically a brand-new phenomenon, and that’s why I wanted to tell the story of what that looked like beyond just, “Here’s a cute photo of election night with the kids.” Ashton Clemmons was an amazing subject. When she ran for office, there were no mothers with young children in the North Carolina legislature, and now there are three. If you think about how much our state legislature impacts families and mothers and education and healthcare, we need more mothers’ perspectives in our government.
Tiffany Frye, the executive director [of Nido], has some really exciting and revolutionary ideas about work and childcare. To me, Nido is part of a much larger national trend that is challenging what traditional work and office life looks like. It’s important to tell the story about people who are doing these things on a smaller grassroots level, because it’s not just about big cities or huge companies. What she’s doing is very important in an understated way, and I was very happy to highlight a story in a city that I live in.
Looking toward 2020, what kinds of platforms would you like to see candidates campaign on?
I’m not personally decided on which candidate I’m supporting; it’s very early. But I’m amped that there are so many mothers that are running for president. It changes the dynamic of whose experiences are valued and heard. Family leave is going to be a big issue in 2020, and I’m very excited about Elizabeth Warren’s childcare policy. Whether or not she’s the nominee, the conversation around that is so needed, and I’m hoping that that will get working mothers even more politically engaged and energized.
Contact associate arts and culture editor Sarah Edwards at email@example.com.
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