Although coronavirus has upended life for everyone across the globe, Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Connie Schultz can't stop thinking about the struggles it's caused for working mothers in particular.
For Schultz, who was a single mother for many years to two children, the nagging worry that she was in some way harming her family by working was constant, even though, she added, having a job was necessary, both personally and financially.
As she watches so many working women in her life battle the same feelings of inadequacy during the pandemic, she feels a responsibility to ensure them -- and women everywhere -- that despite their concerns, their children will be just fine.
"I've always loved what I do, and so I started thinking about all the times where I didn't allow myself all the joy [that my job brought me]," Schultz told "Good Morning America." "We've always worried that we weren't doing enough, and worrying that you're not measuring up robs you of the joy of your milestones, both career-wise and in your in child-rearing."
Schultz, who just published her first novel, "The Daughters of Erietown," in June, has an adult son and daughter, and is the stepmother to two adult daughters from her second marriage to U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio. After countless conversations with her children, daughter-in-law, and many women like them, she decided that she would make it her full-time job to "make it easier for women ... who want to be ambitious about their careers." And then, last month, Schultz tweeted two images that went viral, along with a note of encouragement to mothers everywhere.
One photo depicts Schultz in 1988, wearing a bathrobe and typing frantically with her daughter Caitlin perched on her lap. Beside it is a second picture of Caitlin, in 2016, testifying before the Rhode Island State House Committee on Labor for family leave with her infant son Milo strapped to her chest. "Feeling guilty about our ambition is such a waste of time. You’re doing all that you can. It’s enough," Schultz captioned it. The message struck a chord, and hundreds of women responded, thanking Schultz for sharing it.
"It was an emotional moment when I thought about the juxtaposition of them and I thought, 'All right, this is the story to tell,'" she recalled. "For years I didn't put up that photo [from 1988] because I was ashamed of it. I worried, 'This is what she's getting?' And now it's in a frame in my office because it reminds me of how much time I wasted worrying about the wrong things. It was of wonderful importance for her to see that not only did mom work, but mom loved what she did."
This reminder becomes especially important in the age of social media, when so many people project a curated view of their lives that can make others feel inadequate, she added. Life, Schultz said, "is always messy."
"I think you can never have too many toys on the floor," she said. "As a parent, people are gonna think you don't have it under control. I do not know a happy home with children that is immaculate."
1988: I’m on deadline with baby Cait in my lap. “What am I doing to her?” I used to wonder.
2016: My Cait fights for families, baby Milo strapped to her chest.July 24, 2020