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This Scientist Kept It Real About What Life Looks Like Juggling Parenthood And Doing Her Job

“It's entirely unsustainable. It's just laughably infeasible for parents to be working like this.”

Posted on September 17, 2020, at 9:19 a.m. ET

Gretchen Goldman

A scientist and mom who shared a behind-the-scenes look at life as a parent and as a regular news contributor told BuzzFeed News that her now-viral tweet was inspired by transparency. She also wanted to highlight the long-term implications that the pandemic could have on minority groups.

“I guess I just wanted to be honest about the situation because a lot of people are struggling right now, and I think it's helpful to be reminded that it's not you alone. We all don't have it together," Gretchen Goldman, 36, told BuzzFeed News.

After appearing on CNN this week, Goldman shared on Twitter what the CNN interview didn’t capture. She said she had "45 minutes to prepare and that's prepared both in terms of content and appearance."

"And because of expectations on women on camera, a significant part of that time has to also be spent on my physical appearance and then getting the right setup," she added.

As part of the Union of Concerned Scientists, Goldman's job often means that she is regularly called on to give her expert opinion or comment on news developments relating to science.

“Normally, if that happened in the middle of the workday, it wouldn't be as big of a deal, right? I would walk a few blocks to the CNN studio, go record and I wouldn't have to rearrange my house and make sure that children and their things were out of the camera view and out of the sound space,” she said.

From the waist up, Goldman appeared on The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer on CNN in a canary yellow blazer to discuss the dangers of appointing David Legates to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

From the waist down, she opted for casual black shorts with her laptop perched on a chair and a floor covered in children’s toys.

“We're not near any extended family or anything so we really needed that paid, outside-the-house care to give us that time and space to work," Goldman said. "Normally I would have a lot more freedom and the time and space to have uninterrupted time, and I think that's one of the biggest impacts on professionals now is the lack of uninterrupted time.”

Goldman, who has two sons, ages 2 and 4, highlighted the number of news segments that had been gatecrashed by surprise appearances from children over the pandemic and said how working from home with young children had various challenges.

“I think especially with my very young kids, that's magnified by the micro stressors of every time you hear a sound in the other room, if they are crying or screaming, you have to worry about whether it is, like, a threat to their physical safety because they're young enough that you have to actually watch them and I need to make sure, like, while I was distracted writing this email, did the TV fall on them? Did they choke on a toy? It's very stressful,” she said.

“By the end of the day, parents, employees are just mentally exhausted.”

Her tweet capturing the two very different setups has been liked more than 280,000 times, and the responses have been “overwhelmingly positive” and reassuring.

Gretchen Goldman

“I am amazed at how positive it is given that it's a tweet by a woman that mentioned climate change, and I have a Jewish last name. It's overwhelmingly — like there's not many trolls yet — it's actually impressive," she said.

While Goldman was able to revel in the lighthearted humor her tweet provided, she was also critical of the ongoing dynamic for parents and working professionals as a result of the global pandemic.

“It's entirely unsustainable. It's just laughably infeasible for parents to be working like this,” she said. “There's a lot of threats under COVID, and I do want to acknowledge that it's a privilege to be able to work from home safely with your kids. But at the same time, I am very concerned with how this is going to adversely affect women's careers, especially in science where women are already underrepresented, and people of color are underrepresented, and this is going to exacerbate and dismantle a lot of the progress that we've made on that diversity.”

The mom of two sits on the board for a grassroots organization called 500 Women Scientists and has developed a list of recommendations with the hopes of mitigating the career penalties they believe women could face as a byproduct of their working conditions during the pandemic.

“At the top level, I really wanted to emphasize that this is something that our leaders, institutions, and employers should deal with. It should not be up to parents to hack their way out of this,” said Goldman.

She believes the best thing employers can offer parents right now is flexibility.

"And that has to be balanced at the same time with making sure that that is not causing employers to withhold opportunities for employees that happen to be parents because people need flexibility right now," she said.


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