Step into Mama’s Work Shoes: How the story got started.
“Why do you have to go, Aunt C?”
My niece frowns, my heart melts, and I want to cancel my adult life so I can stay. But I can’t. “I have to go back to Brooklyn, to work.”
“Oh, yeah,” she nods, “to make more books for kids.”
“Okay. But write very fast, Aunt C, so you can come back.”
It’s so emotional for young children to transition when a beloved caretaker must “go away” for any reason or amount of time–so it is of course a special and specific challenge when a primary parent returns to the workforce.
A few years ago I had several friends of different ages and financial stature all navigating the complexities of returning to work after being at home with a young child. I listened to them approaching the big emotions and logistics of returning to work with care and frustration. Some of them asked me for books recs about navigating this separation process—and one generously suggested I write one! Around this time my young niece had started taking careful note of her working mom's "click-clack" shoes. She was always trying them on—often just as mom was about to the leave the house. As it turned out, mama's shoes by the door didn't just signal mama's going but the promise of her return too; one of my favorite videos is of my niece's babysitter singing as my toddler niece salsa dances in mama’s zip-zup shoes, awaiting her arrival home.
I am so thrilled with how the talented and passionate Vanessa Brantley Newton turned the text into a tender and stylish story. I knew she would fill this emotional story with positive energy and create a specific family who reminds us of all families. I am grateful that she shared my vision that this book contain a special shout out to the single mama's out there making it work, everyday. While working on this story, I was earning my LMSW and discussing the lack of support for working families, the large numbers of single working mothers raising children, and the new family leave policies NY State had just passed, which is not enough, but is a step in the right direction.
Big feelings abound for both the parent and the child during this transition to a new routine. As an educator, social worker, and friend to many a working parent, I’ve seen how kids courageously and creatively make this important step with help of their parents and family teams which include grandparents, aunts, uncles, nannies, day care workers, and more. Creative language, routines, and a lot of hugs seem to see everybody through just fine—but if this book can lend a bit of extra arch-support to famlies, then I will dance in my happy-author shoes!