A Cup of Ambition is a weekly newsletter filled with thought-provoking essays, interviews, links, and reflections on all things related to working motherhood. If you are here because someone shared this with you, I hope you’ll subscribe by clicking on the button below.
Waiting at a Texas hospital for children who never arrive (The New Yorker)
This gut-wrenching piece was written by Rachel Pearson, a pediatric hospitalist at UT Health San Antonio, the closest Level 1 trauma center to Uvalde. Dr. Pearson describes the frantic rush to discharge patients and ready the unit for—what they assumed would be—the inevitable influx of trauma patients from Robb Elementary School. As we all know now, those children never arrived.
How I am stepping back from workism to nurture my broader ambitions (Science)
Another great article about ambition ambivalence (this time, written by a dad). I work with so many parents who are grappling with big question like: “How do I honor my commitment to both my work and family?” and “How do I build a balanced and meaningful life?” There’s no silver bullet, but clarifying your values, asking tough questions, making peace with the inevitable trade-offs, and knowing that your needs may change over time are all important considerations.
“I haven’t abandoned ambition; I have expanded it to encompass physical, emotional, spiritual, and familial goals [. . .] As my relationship with ambition evolves, I keep returning to the word “alignment,” which my favorite definition describes as ‘proper positioning … of parts in relation to each other.’ I suspect that aligning my ambitions will be a lifelong effort. By working to channel my attention toward what really matters to me, I hope to find appropriate balance for the different life phases to come.”
How to forget about work when you’re not working (HBR)
Raise your hand if you have a hard time disconnecting from work while you’re on vacation. This is the article for you! Here are some concrete suggestions:
It’s easier to change your behavior when you think about what you will do, instead of what you won’t. “In the morning I will sit on the balcony and drink my coffee” as opposed to “In the morning I will not check my email while I drink my coffee.”.
For those times that you can’t help but think about work, take 10 minutes to focus on whatever is bothering you and then stop. Make sure you stick to your time limit: set a timer, tell your partner to cut you off, throw your phone into the ocean (only half serious about that one).
Turn your phone off. If you get twitchy just thinking about that, at the very least, un-sync your work email from your phone. If you aren’t getting pings, you won’t be tempted to reply.
Why corporate America is afraid to talk about abortion (Fast Company)
This is a well-reported and thoughtful article about corporate America’s relative silence on abortion rights. Fast Company issued a survey to 200 companies, asking for their stance on abortion access and only 15 responded. This silence is in stark contest to the inundation of (performative?) corporate support for racial justice in the wake of George Floyd’s murder.
But, as these authors argue, corporate silence on this issue could be to their own detriment: “It’s hard to overstate the impact this ruling will have on workers. Corporations have, sometimes belatedly, found their voice on many other pressing issues. If companies care about their employees—and their bottom line—it’s time for them to find that voice again.”
Raising us may have wrecked her career, but my mom is thriving in her second act (Romper)
The author’s mother put her playwriting career on the back burner after becoming a mom. After her youngest went off to college, her creativity flourished. She is now a renowned composer. The author reminds us: “Life isn’t as short as we think it is. Youth is short. But there’s a hell of a lot more to life than youth.”
Additionally, our parenting experience matters: “Toni Morrison, Isak Dinesen, Elizabeth Strout, and George Eliot didn’t publish their first novels until they were 40 or older. Penelope Fitzgerald did it at 60; Laura Ingalls Wilder was even older when she wrote the first Little House on the Prairie book. These were women who knew something about the world. Recently, my mother finished a libretto for a brand-new opera [. . .] After he read it, my father says he looked at her and said, ‘If we hadn’t had children, you could have written a hundred of these’. No, she told him. ‘There’s no way I could have written any of it if I hadn’t.’”
Two weeks ago, US Soccer finally (finally!) agreed to provide “identical compensation” for members of the women’s team, who have—up to this point—been paid significantly less than their counterparts on the men’s team. This victory provides a tangible and important opportunity to talk to kids about the gender wage gap.
Before launching into a conversation on a big topic like this, I always recommend doing some preliminary research yourself. Read a few articles (like this and this) to familiarize yourself with the statistics and current research. Young kids tend to be naturally focused on “who got what”, so lean into their innate sense of fairness. This article provides specific tips for talking to kids and this video makes the topic easy for kids to grasp:
Have you ever heard yourself saying statements like these?:
“These dishes have been sitting here all day”
“Expense reports need to be submitted on time”
“We really need to respond to this”.
Though there is an appeal implied in each of these sentences, they are ultimately not requests—and, thus, they are unlikely to inspire commitment from others. We sometimes worry that making clear requests can make us seem pushy, nagging, or demanding. This mindset is not serving us.
An effective request contains a few components:
Direct the request to a specific individual. “Mike…”
Use the first person. “Mike, I need you to…”
Ask directly. Don’t invite, suggest, or hint. “Mike, I need you to send me the draft…”
Specify a timeline. “Mike, I need you to send me the draft by end of business tomorrow.”
Secure buy-in. “Mike, I need you to send me the draft by end of business tomorrow. Does that sound doable?”
So, I ask you: Reader, over the next few days, I would like you to ask for something you need in a more direct way. Can I count on you to do that?
I want to cover what’s important to YOU. I welcome reader input in deciding what and who to write about. Email me at email@example.com and put “newsletter idea” in the subject.
Jessica, this was helpful in a variety of ways -- thank you!