This week saw an interesting article in The Atlantic from former CBS News broadcaster Julianna Goldman titled “It’s Almost Impossible to Be a Mom in Television News.” The piece detailed not only the personal challenges Goldman faced as a mother in the industry, but also spoke to others about the challenges they faced and cited studies about bias against mothers beyond tech, and it’s well worth a read. But ESPN sideline reporter Kris Budden (seen above bringing out her own “Turnover Chains” on a Miami broadcast last October) had an interesting response; she wrote a piece for her personal Touchdowns and Tantrums blog in response titled “Juggling being a working mom and why we should be encouraging the next generation,” and then further shared her perspective in an ESPN Front Row video:
— ESPN Front Row (@ESPNFrontRow) December 6, 2018
Budden makes some good points in both the video and the blog post, and her conclusion to the blog post is perhaps particularly notable:
This article started several conversations on social media with young women in my business saying they want to quit already because they don’t see how it’s possible to have their career and a family. I have several friends in my industry putting off starting a family because they’re afraid of how it will affect them. I hate that we are telling women that they can’t do both.
I’m not saying “I have it all”. I don’t. I miss A LOT. I’ve missed holidays with my family. I miss my son’s birthday every year because it falls during basketball tournaments. You might decided after having kids that it’s too hard, your don’t want to miss those moments. That’s fine. That’s your choice. But don’t tell women that it’s impossible in our career. We need mothers in this industry. They make better story-tellers and better interviewers. Now that I’m about to have a baby girl, I don’t want her to think she has to quit a job because it’s going to be really hard. Guess what- motherhood in general is really hard. You know what I find harder than managing my career? Being a stay-at-home mom. That’s the hardest job out there.
Budden has some valid arguments there. Absolutely, the message shouldn’t be that women can’t have both a career and a family, and there’s significant value for media outlets in having more diverse perspectives, including having more female employees and not ditching those employees if they become mothers. But at the same time, Goldman’s piece wasn’t really saying (especially considering the whole piece, not just the headline) that women in television shouldn’t choose to have children, but rather pointing out some institutional biases and structural challenges that have caused problems for women who have children. (And also how many media executives have been much more supportive to fathers than mothers.)
And Budden is certainly aware of potential challenges in the industry. In 2017, she wrote about how she hid her pregnancy in 2015 during her baseball work for Fox Sports Southwest, her college football work for Fox Sports, and her search for a new job. And while Budden said that was thanks to her internal thoughts rather than any pressure from bosses, Goldman’s piece illustrates that there are many women in the media business who have felt they needed to hide pregnancies thanks to bosses’ appearance concerns. And Budden’s current piece illustrates many of the challenges media jobs pose with frequent travel (she’s covering three different bowls for ESPN this holiday season, for example), something brought up in Goldman’s piece as well.
In the end, there are perhaps reasonable points found on both sides here, and maybe both arguments can combine to make a better world for women in television down the road. Goldman is right that there are plenty of structural challenges that make it difficult for many mothers to stay in television, and perhaps things can be done on the institutional side to aid with that. But Budden is certainly right that women shouldn’t take away the lesson of “Well, I can’t work in television if I want to have a family”; Budden and many others are proof of that, and her post about how she juggles her work and her family is valuable (and kudos to ESPN for giving her work that works for her, and also giving her a further platform on this front with the Front Row video). The takeaway from reading both pieces may be that it is a particularly challenging world for mothers in television, but that some, like Budden, are able to combine television work with raising a family. And maybe further structural changes could help make it easier for Budden, and for others who hope to be mothers while working in TV.