In May 2021, NationBuilder Books published Amy Henderson’s Tending: Parenthood and the Future of Work. In celebration of the recent release of the audiobook, we asked our staff to share their experiences with the book. Hear from Sarah McCord, our Sr. Director of Enterprise Sales and mother of two wonderful children, as she shares the importance of Tending in her caregiving journey.
It was three days before I was set to leave on a girls’ weekend trip—my first weekend away from both of my kids since my second child had been born. I was feeling very nervous and guilty (hello mom guilt!) for leaving my kids with my husband for two nights. I hadn’t really felt this way when I left my son for the first time when he was six months old but something about being at home and locked down together for the past fifteen months had everything in my body screaming: “Don’t go! Your kids need YOU.” I am a very logical, practical person and normally I could reason my way out of these feelings but this time that just wasn’t working.
That night, I sat down and finally started reading Tending. I’d been meaning to start it every single night since I first got my hands on a copy a few months earlier. I tore through the opening chapters and scenes as Amy painted the very raw and vulnerable parts of motherhood and her experience building her career amidst raising three small children. I finally got to the part where she discusses Sarah Hrdy’s research and one line stood out to me like it was written in red and screaming at me from the page:
“First, a woman’s ability to develop and maintain her ‘maternal instinct’ is highly dependent on the level of support she receives. If she does not have other people in her life who help her tend to her child, she may not unlock her own ability to bond with and care for her child.”
Of course I had heard the phrase “you can’t pour from an empty cup” before, but hearing that decree in the form of a conclusion based in decades of research on human evolution and the origins of human intelligence was somehow exactly what I needed in that moment to feel not only good, but positive about leaving my children with my very capable husband while I went on this weekend trip with friends.
Amy’s analysis of Sarah Hrdy’s research goes on to talk about how “career ambition and motherhood are not opposed to one another. Rather, they are inseparable linked and natural,” which provided it’s own a-ha moment that was equally logical and groundbreaking to me as I build my own career. But in that particular moment, the nugget from Tending that I needed and held onto was the one about maternal instinct and support. I have since gone back and reread different parts of Tending countless times. Each time, I find a new nugget or piece of research or story that resonates and makes me feel less alone in this journey. And to quote a mantra from one of my favorite Instagram parenting accounts, Dr. Becky at Good Inside: “It’s not our feelings that are scary or anxiety inducing but it’s feeling alone in our feelings that causes alllll the problems.” So if the anecdotes and lessons and mountains of research that Amy has pulled together for Tending can help even one more parent feel less alone and more confident in their ability to coexist as both a caregiver and a leader—then that’s a movement that I will shout about from the rooftops.
Want to read Tending: Parenthood and the Future of Work too? You can grab your copy here.