Why Meena Harris 'rejects' the idea of going bak to pre-pandemic 'normal'

Meena Harris is a mother, a lawyer, a former tech executive and the entrepreneur behind the lifestyle brand Phenomenal, best known for making clothing with progressive messages. She is also a children’s book author, and her most recent release, "Ambitious Girl," was an instant New York Times bestseller. Harris joined Yahoo Life to discuss her parenting challenges, the importance of female ambition and her hopes for life after the pandemic. “The idea of going back to normal is one I reject, because we know that normal was not working for so many people,” she says.

Video Transcript


MEENA HARRIS: I have a kid screaming right now. I mean, how have we made it work? We just make it work, you know, however messy and chaotic that may be. You know, I think the silver lining of it is that I'm just getting to spend a lot more time with them. They're three and four. And it's been really extraordinary just to see their development. I'm a kid's book author. And we read every night before bed.

It's sort of like quiet time. I wrote this book, though, "Ambitious Girl." It's my second kids' book. It's very much about the power of language and understanding that ambition is a really good thing. That it means purpose and determination and having a vision and being innovative and having a dream or a big idea and daring to go for it. And for me, with kids books in particular, it was a really personal experience of becoming a new parent and simply not seeing a family that looks like ours represented on the pages of or-- the books that we are reading our kids.

And it's an issue that I've really taken up. As a working mom or working parent, you know, you're over scheduled, like everything has to work like down to the last second. Yes, would I love to check out? Yeah, like all day every day. Would I love to just like literally use the bathroom in peace, like, and not have children at my feet? Like yes, I would love that. I also have support. My partner is a full-time dad right now.

Even with our kids being so young and having a lot of flexibility, there's no way that I could have continued working as I have been without that support. And the reality is that most people don't have that. And it is crushing. This idea of going back to normal is one I reject. Because we know that normal was not working for so many people. Normal was not working for working families.

We need health care for all. We need a minimum wage that is a living wage. We need child care. We have an opportunity to treat people better. And I hope that we do that. You know, a lot of us are cooped up at home with kids and life and work and everything happening all at once, all at the same time. This moment has helped me, at the very least, to be like a little bit more self-aware of just like where I am, how I'm feeling, how my mental health is.

And frankly, like, am I exhausted to the point of burnout? And just being better at finding ways, no matter how small, to just like step back. And sometimes it is just like the small thing of shutting my laptop or logging off of Twitter. I feel like a light at the end of the tunnel with the vaccine here and getting distributed hopefully quickly. So for me, I'm just taking it day by day. And you know, for a lot of us I think just we're trying to survive and just get through it.