The Politics of Pausing
“Ultimately, there is no good or bad here, no right or wrong, feminist or anti-feminist. There are only our unique, complicated, and precious stories may we learn to embrace each other’s and our own. ”
My friend Lee Caraher and I met for lunch at the Hayes Street Grill, a San Francisco institution that dates back, way back, to when both she and I were in high school. Lee is founder and CEO of Double Forte, a well-regarded public relations and digital communications agency with offices in Boston and San Francisco. She is also the author of Millennials and Management: The Essential Guide to Making It Work at Work. I wanted Lee’s advice on writing a book. I also wanted to understand how my theme might resonate with successful women like her.
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Here’s what she said: “Sounds like it will be great for stay-at-home moms, but what about those of us who’ve worked like dogs all these years? We never got the chance to pause.” “Didn’t you?” I asked.
Lee, who is the primary breadwinner in her family, had written in her book about how she left her senior-level job as an executive vice president at one of the largest public relations firms in the world to care for her dying mother. Lee didn’t pause for parenthood, but she did pause for her mother. Lee spent months in limbo as her mother withered and finally passed away. During that time, to support herself, her husband, and her two young sons, Lee took on consulting projects that allowed her the flexibility she and her family needed.
After her mother died, Lee knew she couldn’t return to work for a corporate structure that denied her the flexibility and support she needed to care for those she loved, so Lee decided to launch her own agency. Although Lee’s pause was what gave birth to Double Forte, in her view, she had never paused.
Why? Because, as Lee explained to me, she was a “working mother.” She never considered herself someone who had taken time out of her career to focus on family. And yet, she had for nearly a year.
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