Without a doubt, the best thing I have ever done for my career was have children.
Going completely against the words of my advisers (“no one will ever take you seriously if you have a baby while you do a PhD”) and in contrast to my departmental peers (almost all of whom are not only childless but single) — I got married and had babies.
And it was the best thing I have ever done, or could ever have done, for my career.
I work in Public Health, specifically in International Health, where I study things like poverty, development, gender, migration, and disparity. In terms of methodology, I am a big believer in qualitative research in health; that we need people who actually unpack what all those health numbers mean so that we can be most effective in how we address health. So when I walked into a rustic birthing facility with my visibly bulging 6 month pregnant belly to hold the hand of a young mother and help her labor — that woman gripped my hand and trusted me. A year later, when Will crawled around the cement floor with other babies in the community meeting, women easily opened up to share stories of how they feed their children. People approached me in buses and street corners, pushing Will in his stroller through the streets of Lima. When I brought Kate into homes of newly arrived immigrants after Katrina, I compared nursing techniques with new Mothers struggling to figure out how to do it on their own.
What does it mean to be a Mother and work in International Health? It means everything. Being a Mother just breaks through all the differences that culture, faith, ideology, geography, wealth, and language build between us — although they may shape how we are Mothers, the visceral experience of pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, and simply having a child is universal.
So there are no better people in the world to speak about issues like social justice, responsibility, activism, and the work of creating a better world.
You know what light bulb brought me to this conclusion? Reading Jenny’s line about seeing Alejna and baby Theo for lunch, during which the baby “audibly soiled his diaper.” The universality of the experience struck me — how that could have happened anywhere with any group of women and all the Mothers in the room would know the sound and share the response. It reduces us all to the most fundamental of our qualities, that which makes us human: our ability and responsibility to care for each other.
To me, Jen and Mad‘s Just Posts are the internet representation of the important and relevant words of regular folks — and particularly of Mommy bloggers, who are routinely maligned and discounted as unimportant. I know that writing about my family is important. The personal is political — and the work I do living here, in this wounded city, is as important as any news about town, if not more. Seeing similar experiences, thoughts, and challenges from others through Just Posts helps me see those same personal and political actions in so many other communities. Finding them was a gift and has become something that I look forward to for inspiration.
So that is why Alejna and I, with the gracious blessings of Jen and Mad (and also Su), have teamed up to carry their legacy. We sincerely hope that people will continue to send us recommended reading from bloggers throughout the world who have written something that makes us all more aware, more committed, more involved.