Every so often someone asks me about my story, my “how,” as in how I became a news publisher in the Queen City. Most recently, the question came a few weeks ago during a bootcamp for journalists, something the Inklink cooked up along with HOPE for NH Recovery to give folks working in the recovery community some tools to use as they become advocates and agents for change.
In talking about the how, I realized it is my why…***
When asked, I instinctively went way back to 1976. I was 16, a junior at Woodrow Wilson High School in Levittown, a middle-class suburb of Philly. I was an honor student and a rebel beginning to think about college, but no solid plan. I loved writing, making art, going on adventures, pushing boundaries and, most of all, understanding people. I thought about teaching and social work, career goals I inherited from my parents.
Instead, I found myself a teenage mom, graduating with honors and an adorable 9-month-old daughter.
A few years after graduation I married my high school sweetheart and we bought a house — just in time, it turned out, for baby No. 2 who arrived nine months after our wedding date.
I worked a few different jobs, trying to balance motherhood and home economics while supplementing my husband’s blue-collar wages. But without a college degree, it was mostly an exhausting ritual of waking, rushing out the door, scooping the kids up from my mom’s house after work, scrambling to cook dinner, help with homework, process laundry, and then tuck the kids in on time before collapsing so we could wake up to do it all again.
In hindsight, that is life with young kids for working families. But I imagined that if I had a better job, things wouldn’t be so hard.
It would be nearly a decade before I made it to community college for an associate’s degree in journalism, transferring to the College of New Jersey. I landed a part-time job at my local newspaper and got my bachelor’s degree in Professional Writing just in time to welcome Baby No. 3.
I had switched from the news department to the features department, worried that if management found out I was having a baby they would take me off the news beat anyway. It was a preemptive strike on the underlying fears many women harbor, which is that our professional value is somehow diminished because of our other mandatory role, as birthmothers of the human race.
A full-time journalism job was opening up around the same time baby No. 4 was due. I’d finally accomplished what I set out to do, which was graduate from college and enter the world of journalism.