I love being able to read books to my children that have helped them navigate life transitions and understand the world around them.  There was Big Enough for a Bed with our furry friend Elmo, when my son needed to transition out of his crib.  Joanna Cole’s I’m a Big Brother helped him prepare for the arrival of his sibling. And What Makes a Baby is a beautiful, inclusive book that got us through some inquisitive preschool-aged questions about where babies come from.

But when it came to finding children’s books about working moms, I found – as did Michelle Travis, who I’m featuring today – that there were slim pickings on the bookshelves.

I was SO incredibly excited to learn about Michelle’s amazing book, My Mom Has Two Jobs (to order a copy, the Amazon link is here, and the DartFrog Publishing link is here).  And I was even more excited to read it.  The writing is brilliant, the watercolors are gorgeous, and the message is spot on.

 Today, I’m thrilled to be able to share with you an interview with Michelle, who is not only the author of this wonderful book, but is also a law professor and mom to two daughters.

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Mindful Return’s Interview with Michelle Travis, Author of My Mom Has Two Jobs

Q:  Tell us a little bit about yourself and your career path.

A:  After studying psychology in college and attending law school, I started my career as an employment lawyer.  While I enjoyed working with clients to resolve employment disputes, my interest in workplace discrimination eventually lead me to become a law professor.  I wanted to study women’s equality more deeply and learn how the law could better support working women.  As a law professor, my research has focused on employment discrimination laws, family leave policies, gender stereotypes, and work/family conflict.

Q:  What inspired you to write a children’s book?  And what inspired you to write *this* children’s book?

A:  I first had the idea to write a children’s book about working moms at the end of my two maternity leaves, when I found myself dealing with very conflicting emotions. I felt scared and guilty about leaving my two young daughters with someone else, but I was also looking forward to getting back to teaching future attorneys.  Of course, that anticipation induced its own wave of guilt as I wondered how I could help my kids understand what it means to be a working mom.

Both of my daughters adored books. Books were how I launched conversations, shared new ideas, inspired them to ask questions, and fueled their curiosity.  So at the end of each maternity leave, I searched for children’s books that could help us talk about my return to work.  I was looking for books that would encourage my daughters to be proud of the work that I do outside our home and that would help them connect my mommy identity with my professional identity.

My search was both frustrating and illuminating.  Most of the children’s books that I found seemed to assume that kids are sad and lonely while their moms are at work, and they offered various ways for kids to cope until their moms returned home each day. Needless to say, those books didn’t have quite the message I was seeking (and they didn’t do much to allay my guilt).  So I decided to write my own children’s book to fill the void. I wanted my book to celebrate diverse working moms doing a wide range of jobs.

And I wanted my book to show how the work that women do as moms is connected to the work that we do outside the home—that we care for our kids and our societies with the same love, dedication, and commitment.

Despite good intentions, my own two jobs took over and writing a children’s book got pushed to the back burner. During that time, I also started realizing the limits of legal solutions for working moms.

While I still believe in the law’s capacity to advance women’s equality, we need to find other ways to change the gender stereotypes that often limit our success. So after nearly a decade, I finally decided to make good on my vow to publish a children’s book to support working moms.  The title of the book is My Mom Has Two Jobs, and its goal is to celebrate all that women do both inside and outside of our homes.

On each page of the book, children proudly describe how their moms care for them in a special way, while also improving the world through their careers.

Q:  The pictures are beautiful, and they represent the wonderful diversity of the working mom population.  Who is your illustrator, and how did you come to team up with her?

A:  I was delighted when my publisher connected me with international artist Natalie Loseva to illustrate the book. Her vivid watercolor images beautifully capture how diverse women of different races, backgrounds, and ethnicities all share the common bond of being both caring moms and dedicated professionals.

Q:  How did you decide what career paths and professions to cover in the book?

A:  Because working moms play such a wide range of important roles, it was challenging to select just a few career paths to represent all working moms in the book.  I hope that the book will help disrupt some of the gender stereotypes that bombard young children.  So I selected both careers that are commonly associated with women—including a teacher and a nurse—and careers that are still more frequently thought of for men—including a pilot, an engineer, a police officer, a firefighter, and a military sergeant.

I also wanted the book to showcase the important work that women do at all ends of the economic spectrum — from waitresses to lawyers — because we all experience the same joys and challenges of being working moms.  The book also includes some caregiving professions that parents might want their children to learn about, including a doctor, a dentist, and a veterinarian.

I hope that the book will give all women a much-needed platform to talk with their kids about whatever job they do, even if their specific jobs are not illustrated in the book.

Q:  Can you tell us a little about the process of designing and publishing a children’s book?

A:  For me, writing a children’s book was the easy part.  But the unknown path of navigating the publishing world kept me from moving forward on this project for years.

As it turns out, the publication process was far less daunting than I had assumed. As a first-time children’s book author, my first step was to get a copy of The Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market, which is an annual guide to finding a publisher.

I sent my book manuscript to several small publishers that specialize in children’s literature, and I was thrilled to get a contract with Splashing Cow Books, which has since teamed up with a terrific distributor, DartFrog Books, which helps authors from small publishing houses get their books into independent bookstores.

If I had known how fun it would be to work with my publisher to select the illustrations, edit the text, design the book, and choose a cover, I would have gotten started much earlier. I would encourage any working moms who have ideas for a children’s book to take the leap and reach out to small publishers, or consider the growing number of avenues for self-publishing.

Q:  How did your daughters react to the book?

A:  My daughters are now twelve and ten—well beyond their picture-book years—but they have enthusiastically supported this project.  Some of my proudest moments were when my daughters asked me to sign their copies of the book and texted their friends to announce its publication.  They definitely know a labor of love when they see it.

Q: What’s the main take-away you hope a child will get from reading this book with a parent (or reading it him/herself, as my 7 year old just did!)?

A:  I hope that My Mom Has Two Jobs will help young children understand how their moms can do important jobs to make the world better, while still being the most loving, most caring, and most special moms.

I hope the book will help kids be proud of the work their moms do outside of the house and fuel their curiosity about their moms’ careers.  I also hope that the book will help kids imagine women doing every possible kind of job, and that it might inspire them to imagine themselves in exciting careers as well.

Q:  What about the dads?  Don’t they have two jobs, too?

At some point, I would like to write another children’s book that focuses on dads, who are increasingly feeling the same struggle to balance career and parenting responsibilities.

I dedicated my first children’s book to moms because, even though things are changing, women still tend to shoulder the bulk of caregiving responsibilities and the lion’s share of parental guilt while they’re at work.  In part, this is because the social expectations about what it means to be a good mom often feel incompatible with being a dedicated professional.

The fact that we have the term, “working mom,” but don’t really use the term, “working dad,” speaks volumes about the unique double-bind that women face. The good news is that many hardworking men are also seeking greater balance by combining their careers with more engaged parenting roles, which also requires a platform for dads to talk with their kids about their two jobs as dads and as professionals. So I hope to write a similar book for fathers someday soon.

Q:  What inspires you as a working mom?

A:  I wrote My Mom Has Two Jobs because I am inspired by the grace, tenacity, compassion, and dedication of so many other working moms who raise their children while also serving their communities in so many important ways.  I am particularly inspired when women support other women through the ups and downs of our journey.

Q:  What keeps you sane as a working mom?

A:  Finding communities of other working moms—like the wonderful women who have connected through Mindful Return — helps keep me sane throughout this unpredictable journey. I’ve also learned the importance of not taking myself to seriously, learning from the wisdom of my kids, and not being afraid to check off dreams from my “someday list” (like writing a children’s book!).

Q:  Anything else you’d like to tell the Mindful Return community?

A:  For working moms who are searching for a platform to talk with your kids about your return to work, I hope my new book will support you along the way.

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Michelle Travis is a professor of law at the University of San Francisco School of Law, where she researches and writes about employment discrimination law and serves as the Co-Director of USF’s Labor and Employment Law Program. She lives in the Bay Area with her husband and two daughters.

 

 

 Back to Work After BabyIf you need more help getting your head in a better place to return to work after maternity leave, join us for the next session of Mindful Return.

Want more practical tips on working parenthood?  Check out my book, Back to Work After Baby: How to Plan and Navigate a Mindful Return from Maternity Leave.  

 

 

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