Interview with Christine Michel Carter
What inspired you to become a writer for moms?
Since I was very little, I’ve been inspired by working moms and have always especially believed in the power, confidence, and resilience of Black moms! I’ve also always been a writer- I entered my first writing competition at five and won. Over the years, I’ve put more focus on other things and less focus on writing, but I have come full circle and realized how my words could truly support other women.
What moment in your professional career inspired you to become an advocate for working mothers?
When I gave birth to my daughter Maya in 2011, I barely had time to master the details of the nursing regimen I had embarked on — much less master my legal rights as a mother in the workplace. I felt on display in my open-plan office and continually feared that breast milk was leaking through my bra. That wasn’t all: There were those C-section stitches I worried might pop, and the real possibility that I would fall asleep at my desk from sheer exhaustion.
In a desperate attempt to understand my situation and explain my emotions, I typed my feelings and experiences into Google. And I quickly found I wasn’t alone. The lack of concern about nursing mothers seemed a general cultural phenomenon at both startups and well-established organizations. A lack of appropriate accommodations for this segment affected women from all industries, and of all levels of education and income.
During my next one-on-one with my manager, I presented the law, then immediately walked her to where I was pumping, in a bathroom stall with my giant Medela black tote balanced on top of my feet. “Federal law aside,” I asked, “when you think of a mother’s room at an innovative, forward-thinking startup, is this what you’d think of?”
Unexpectedly, that nursing experience became the catalyst for my current work.
What are your thoughts on stay-at-home moms vs. working moms?
“Working mom” is a popular parenting buzzword that’s getting a lot of negative attention in recent months. Some stay-at-home moms find the phrase alienating because the “working mom” phrase originated from mothers who worked full-time jobs in offices outside the home. However, in recent years, with the rise of remote work, flexible work, blogging entrepreneurs, and freelance creatives, many stay-at-home mothers are, in fact, working moms.
Even those who aren’t employed in the traditional sense, are responsible for a variety of tasks and have transcended into “lifestyle managers” for their family. After all, it has been statistically proven- when asked about the role parents’ influence plays in their career choices and employment journey, people are overwhelmingly more likely to learn soft skills like kindness and empathy from their mothers than their fathers- regardless of if she worked in an office or not. My thoughts on stay-at-home moms vs. working moms- regardless of the title, it’s important for society to understand that ALL mothers are, in fact, working mothers.
Who inspires you?
I always say mothers have immense power. Whether they choose to use it for the betterment or detriment of their children is up to them. I choose to use mine for the betterment of my children, so they inspire me. Oprah once said that a mentor is someone who allows you to see the hope inside yourself. My kids do that for me. I also do a lot of public speaking and professional development work for teenage girls, and I’m so inspired by this next generation of passionate, self-confident #blackgirlmagic.
How can working mothers feel empowered?
They must reflect on the current project they’ve undertaken with no manual or performance review- motherhood. I firmly believe it’s not motherhood that keeps us from gaining clarity and launch- it’s a female. For example, men apply for a job when they meet only 60% of the qualifications, but women apply only if they meet 100% of them. We’re terrified to launch because we’re terrified to fail, but it’s like Oprah said: “you get out of life what you have the courage to ask for.” If you’re not asking- no telling- the life you want to empower others and brand your skills, you’re not gonna get it from life.
Motherhood didn’t hurt my career; it helped it. And I think you should be defined by motherhood. I interviewed Tamera Mowry-Housley for a Forbes article and asked her how being a mother has affected her professionally. She told me it definitely provided her with more patience and insight when she interacts with others professionally and affects how she solves problems professionally. Motherhood shows leadership ability.
For your personal brand, it validates your patience and problem-solving skills. You ARE willing to take on new opportunities. You ARE willing to assess the situation and look at all possible solutions. That is motherhood on a daily basis! We are constantly approached by these little people, who are our internal stakeholders. We have to think of all of the possible outcomes to please these stakeholders and set them up for success. The skills you acquire as a mother are undoubtedly transferable.
Do you believe you have achieved a work/life balance? Why or why not?
I do not. I don’t think it exists. When I think of work/life balance, I think of having it all. I said on a recent podcast I did that the only way for a mom to have it all is to go to the store and buy a bottle of All detergent. There is no perfect work/life balance. There are times that you are not spending as much time with your kids for work, and there are times when your work is pushed to the side because you need to walk away from the company, recharge, practice self-care, and have time with your children. It always ebbs and flows.
Has there ever been a time when being a working mom was just too much?
I divorced in 2019. And I was forced to move my then 8-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son to an apartment in under eight hours while my husband was at work. I initially refused to let it affect my productivity at work and didn’t tell my coworkers. My productivity remained intact because I refused to allow a man to destroy my career, but I avoided emotions and unknowingly pushed myself to burnout.
I ended up finding comfort in a woman in my HR department, who helped me when I was confused and couldn’t navigate health insurance paperwork. My ex-husband had handled all that for the family, and now it was on me. Tired from being the strong Black woman, I broke down. She was so helpful and patient in letting me know what forms were necessary to complete and what to expect for my children and me from a benefits perspective. It wasn’t just her knowledge of her role but her empathy that really showed me I could confidently handle being the head of my new household.
Why do you do what you do?
If we don’t learn from history, we are doomed to repeat it. I look at the way Spike Lee drilled this message into our brains through film. How Beyoncé does so through her music. I’d love to be able to say I contributed to the conversation via my writing. It may sound trite, but Malcolm X once said, “The mother is the first teacher of the child. The message she gives that child, that child gives to the world.” I feel by giving working mothers positive, insightful content, I’m doing my part to reduce their stress, raise loving children, and thus- change the world.
I’m an advocate for working moms because they are ME! I’m passionate about seeing my tribe represented in a positive light. I have the opportunity to promote us on some of the largest platforms in writing, like Forbes and TIME. I do feel pressure to clarify misconceptions and make sure I get it right. I’m motivated to tell the story of a generation, a gender, and a race: our hopes, fears, challenges, everyday struggles, and wins… and having someone listen to the story and made a positive impact as a result of the story.