Crib Notes: The Great Equalizer

Abigail Green By Abigail Green

One of the things I love about being a freelance writer is the variety. Over the years I’ve developed a few specialties — like health and parenting topics and essays — but mostly I’m a generalist, writing about anything and everything. And that’s the way I like it. Of course, this also means that I frequently step outside my comfort zone for assignments on subjects that I previously knew nothing about — like neuroscience, faux painting, and football. But I’ve discovered that scientists, painters, football fans, and work-at-home moms have something in common: kids.

Most people love to talk about their children, grandchildren, nieces or nephews. Before interviewing a world-renowned brain researcher at a prestigious university, I was nervous. I crammed for days, trying to familiarize myself with neurotransmitters and synapses. During our interview, I asked the scientist about his family. Turns out, he’d just come from visiting his grandchildren. He was thrilled to talk about them, and even admitted that he sometimes made up silly songs for them. Not only did this subject break the ice and ease us into the interview, but it provided the lead for my story.
Not every topic lends itself to this strategy, of course, nor will the conversation necessarily result in a good quote, but sometimes small talk about family can establish common ground, and even lead to questions you hadn’t thought to ask. So if it seems right, why not mention that you’re a mom?

When I started freelancing again after having my baby, I tried to keep up what I thought was a professional appearance. My voicemail said I was “out of the office,” I checked e-mail during play-dates, and I never, ever made a phone call when my son could be heard in the background. But at some point, I dropped the façade. “I’m sorry, late afternoons aren’t good for me. I’m usually with my son then. How about 10 a.m.?” I’d say when scheduling interviews. More often than not, the reply was “sure,” followed by questions about my child.

And I noticed that other people did the same thing. A source called me once to say, “Can we reschedule? My kids have a snow day today and I thought I’d take them skiing.” Did this make her seem unreliable or any less professional? Of course not. If anything, I liked this fellow mom more for putting her family first.

Even now, I sometimes get nervous when I have to interview a CEO or a celebrity or anyone with a long string of letters after their name. It can be easy to feel out of your league when you spend the rest of your time covered in Play-Doh and fingerpaint. If this happens to you, remind yourself that if they have kids, odds are even CEOs have been spit up on. Hey, that might even make a great lead.

Abigail Green is a freelance writer in Baltimore. Over the past 10 years, she has written for national, regional and online publications including AOL, AAA World, Bride’s, Baltimore Magazine, Cooking Light and Health. Her latest project is raising her first child, which she chronicles in her blog Diary of a New Mom Abby teaches the class, Personal Essays that Get Published for Writers on the Rise.


2 Responses to “Crib Notes: The Great Equalizer”

  1. 1 Kelli September 14, 2008 at 1:43 pm

    That would be a great lead! Being a mom creates a bond between women no matter what profession we are in. Great post.

  2. 2 joy September 15, 2008 at 5:37 am

    I just had my first baby and am pursuing a similar career! Thanks for the encouragement.

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