Several years ago, when my daughter was seven, she startled me with a question: “Why do only daddies work?”
It was nighttime, and her voice in the dimness was pointed. I continued tucking her into bed, stalling for time as I formulated an answer.
“You know a lot of mommies who work,” I finally chided.
I began rattling off the names and occupations of the working moms at my daughter’s school — the ones she didn’t often see at pick-up because they were still in the office: lawyers, businesswomen, museum curators, professors. Soon, I was including women with interesting jobs whom my daughter barely knew — a neurologist at Weill Cornell, a mother who ran a large non-profit… This was my attempt, I now think, to inundate my daughter with options, to lift her in a tide of possibilities: Look at all these working mommies! They are legion! No door is barred for you!
I kissed my daughter that night nagged by dissatisfaction — with my answer, which even then I sensed was inadequate, and, also with myself.
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