I’ve gotten to know author Shay Chan Hodges through blogging and wanted to share with HapaMama readers more about her work, including her ebook Lean On and Lead, especially as it will be available for free download today (12/17/2015) only. So read on…
HapaMama: Tell me a little bit about yourself and your background…
Shay Chan Hodges: I was born and raised in San Francisco, and have lived on Maui for almost 24 years. I went to UC Berkeley for two years and studied Peace and Conflict in Lund, Sweden for two years. I’m married and have two almost-grown sons (one is in his first year of college and the other is a senior in high school.)
Like most parents, I’ve struggled to balance earning a living with raising children. I’ve been a grant writer off and on (because I could do the work at home and to an extent, make my own hours). I also owned a children’s book and toy store during my kids’ early elementary school years (As a small town bricks and mortar merchant, I had countless conversations with other parents about the challenges of raising a family – and sometimes felt like the local free therapist!)
I’ve also been actively involved in local politics, most recently working to pass legislation supporting in-home child care providers and throwing my name in the ring for a brief state legislator race.
In many ways, writing Lean On and Lead has provided me with the perfect platform for utilizing skills and expertise that I developed throughout my life – while allowing me to work on something that I’m very passionate about. Now that my kids are almost out of the nest, it’s a wonderful feeling to be able to provide some support to women (and men) who are at the beginning of this journey.
HM: How did the idea for Lean on and Lead come about, and what work went into creating the book?
SCH: In early 2013, I was working for a group that was advocating for childcare providers in California. One of my tasks was to interview parents about how they balanced their professional careers with their childcare needs. These interviewees’ stories reminded me of my own struggles to maintain work-life balance when my kids were small. In fact, the stress of finding caregivers, figuring out child care swaps with other parents, and working late at night to make up for missed work during the day still felt like yesterday. And though my sons were now teenagers, the challenges of reconciling work and parenting (though less acute) were still a reality.
As I continued to collect interviews, I started to notice a multitude of common challenges and glimpses of potential solutions — and it became very clear to me that the “state of the family” cannot be separated from the “state of the economy.” After the contract ended, I decided to interview more parents to develop a comprehensive picture of the day-to-day issues facing families in diverse circumstances – as well as to better understand the link between parenting and the economy.
First and foremost, I was looking for stories of women “in the middle” – as opposed to the very rich or very poor. The women I interviewed had good enough jobs or some options and flexibility; or if they struggled a bit financially, they had opportunities to improve their educational and professional choices. Because the stories are presented as a first-person narrative, it was important to me that readers understood the context for the personal situations that the interviewees were describing. If a single dad spoke about feeling isolated, I wanted readers to know what percentage of caregivers were single fathers. If parenting college students discussed their childcare situations, I researched data about the surprisingly high number of college students who are parents, and how many colleges offer day care (and the relevant laws related to higher education and childcare). For every profession represented, I thought it was important to provide demographics about gender and race in that particular industry, and the average salaries for specific jobs.
So in addition to interviewing working women and men, I did an enormous amount of social, political, and economic research, relying on hundreds of resources. I also created the interactive widgets that present the data: slideshows, interactive graphics, charts, maps, infographics, videos, and audio.
HM: Why do you think the balance between career and family continues to be such a struggle for so many women?
SCH: Because it’s not possible to “balance” career and family.
In my final chapter of Lean On and Lead (entitled “In This Together”), I state:
“No matter how much we change our attitudes or improve our efficiency or feng shui our homes, there are still only twenty-four hours in a day. If the only day care available to our kids is fifteen miles in one direction and our work is twenty miles in another, no amount of self-improvement will make it easier to get our family home at the end of the day. Two adults working forty plus hour weeks means that no matter how efficient and elegant our planning, there is no time for housework, helping the kids with their homework, or exercise unless we give up the little bit of leisure time that’s left. If one or both parents travel for work, time and distance are immutable factors that have major impacts on our ability to reconcile the needs of work and home. And God forbid if someone gets sick.”
If you search for the word “balance” in Lean On And Lead, it will come up 85 times. That means every person I interviewed talked about it. And one of the most common adjectives that was used with “balance” was “tenuous.”
HM: Who is the book for and what can we learn from reading it?
SCH: Lean On and Lead is for anyone who is likely to ever have a job and/or care for another human being. Lean On an Lead is also for policy makers and business leaders. By providing authentic stories and well-researched data, Lean On and Lead serves as a much-needed authoritative and robust resource that is relevant for a wide audience—policy wonks, scholars, men, women, and parents.
Want to read Lean On and Lead? Download the e-book ($19.99 value) today, December 17, 2015 only, for free at the iBooks store.