I work in public affairs for a major children’s media company. I oversee the company’s good-for-kids positioning and outreach.
Our brand is about making the world a more playful place, and a lot of what I do is about supporting that mission. But we’re also a business, and I have to support that, too. Currently I’m working on partnering with children’s museums, establishing relationships and developing programs using our properties. We also develop cause-related initiatives, around topics like families and diversity.
I went to DC after college. I was going to grad school in history but deferred for a year. I needed a job, so I basically knocked on doors on Capitol Hill. My dad had told me, start with the people from your home state; they have to help you. Sure enough, I got a job as a receptionist for a congressman from South Carolina.
When the congressman retired, I moved to Egypt, where I studied Arabic and did some project management. I was interested in the Middle East. My old boss from the Hill called one night and asked me to come to New York and work with her on a freelance project. It was for this children’s media company; they wanted to create a political-style campaign to get kids volunteering. I was looking for a reason to come back to the States.
I hated it at first. I didn’t like New York, and I was working constantly. But there was a lot to learn. They offered me a full-time position, and I couldn’t believe that I might actually make a salary that would allow me to live comfortably in New York. And now—here I am.
I’ve been doing this work for a long time. But I would say my identity is tied to working, rather than necessarily to this work. I like taking on challenges and doing well. And I’ve had the rather unusual opportunity to be with one company for a long time, to build up a life around it.
My parents had four kids within five years. My mom quit grad school so my dad could finish his Ph.D. Later she went back to school, did the consciousness-raising groups and all of that. Bought into the idea that women could have it all by doing it all. But I saw her struggle. And I heard her message: you have to be able to take care of yourself.
I’d been in New York around ten years when I met my husband. It was a year after 9/11. I couldn’t quite figure out why I was still here. I was sitting on a park bench, reading a book about the Middle East, and this guy caught my eye. He was a reporter for a newspaper in Washington State, in town doing a story about New Yorkers “one year later.” We ended up going on a date. Fast forward another year, and he essentially gave up his life and moved here.
He tried the freelance thing, then started working for a paper here the week our daughter was born. We had a nanny for a few years, but it just didn’t make sense with his salary. So he quit his job, became the stay-at-home dad, and started a small business.
I’ve never really taken a break, so it’s hard to pull back and contemplate what’s next, or what else I might do. I think this is a pretty good place to be “stuck.”
Interviewed on May 1, 2018