Society has ideas about women with children and where they belong. (Hint: It’s not in the boardroom.) Women who go back to work post-childbirth face derision by pearl-clutchers gasping, “Why would you let strangers raise your child?” No woman is safe from judgement, not even those in show business.
Comedy powerhouse and mom Amy Poehler has, quite frankly, had enough with the concern-trolling on behalf of her children having a busy mother. “I have these meetings with really powerful men and they ask me all the time, ‘Where are your kids? Are your kids here?’ It’s such a weird question,” muses the Parks and Recreation actress in the June issue of Fast Company. “Never in a million years do I ask guys where their kids are.”
With this, Poehler hits the nail square on the head. Any woman announcing a pregnancy in the workplace knows she will be asked, “So, are you coming back to work after the baby is born?” by all and sundry. For a bit of fun, start asking your male coworkers that same question when they bring up their father-to-be status — the reactions are priceless.
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Though she exudes confidence, Poehler’s self-awareness keeps her in line. She takes care never to let her ego get out of control, but she fears overcorrecting. “I fight constantly between those two things,” admits Poehler. “Between not apologizing for what I want and staying vulnerable and creatively supple and not thinking I know better than everyone else.” (But, come on. She totally knows better that everyone else.)
She’s attracted a lot of praise and attention over the last two decades, from her modest beginnings in improv comedy to her current stint as executive producer for Comedy Central’s Broad City, Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson’s masterpiece of subversive feminism. Everyone wants to work with her, especially female comedians, for one important reason: “She never apologizes for being a woman,” explains Orange Is the New Black star Natasha Lyonne. “It’s just her way of existing.”
Poehler shrugs off the applause for promoting female talent. “It’s selfish,” she admits. “I just like working with women.”
So how does she manage to take up space in a male-dominated field? “I’ve been doing this thing lately where I try to talk slower at meetings,” reveals the SNL alum. “I take a lot of meetings with women and we all talk really fast. But every guy talks so much slower. Maybe there’s a scientist who could tell me why, but I think men are just a little bit more comfortable taking up conversational real estate. So I’ve been seeing how slow I can tolerate talking. I’m doing it now. Let me tell you, it’s really hard for me,” she deadpans.
Take all the time you need, Amy. We’re listening.