Picture by Michael Lake

Sarah Pinneo’s novel Julia’s Child highlights the many choices motherhood forces you to make. Here Sarah talks about staying at home vs risking it all…

How did you personally make the work vs stay at home decision?
I always knew I would leave the business world to write, I just didn’t know when. I hung on to the safety net of a full-time Wall Street job until I was pregnant with our second child. And then I let go! And half of my co-workers were in awe, and half of them thought I was a fool.

Tell us about your experiences on Wall Street.
I was a bond trader on various Wall Street trading floors for twelve years, and it was a terrific experience. In Bossypants, Tina Fey writes that “only in comedy would a well behaved white girl from the suburbs count as diversity”. But it is true on Wall Street too. Because I was so “different” nobody ever forgot my name.

Why did you go from ‘breadwinner’ to bread baker’? Was that taking a big risk?
There is always more than one way to look at risk. Leaving Wall Street was a huge financial risk, but now I see so much more of my family. My older child doesn’t even remember that I used to wake up before he did and leave the apartment for 11 hours at a time.

Why do you think there is so much friction between working mothers and stay-at-home mums?
Because the grass is always greener. On our darkest days we understand that there’s no way to truly have it all. No matter which you choose, the path not taken is still out there, winking at you from behind a post. Whoops! That answer got awfully dark. Wait, let me fix that.  Puppies!

How have you been inspired by mompreneurs?
Working on Julia’s Child gave me the good fortune to interview eight of the most successful foodie mompreneurs (and dadpreneurs!) in the country, and every one of them was impressive. Starting a food company from scratch is tremendously difficult, and only women (and men!) with a real passion for their products have the strength to see it through. The more research I do about food, the pickier I get. And parents who start a food company with the goal of having something decent to feed their children always emerge with spectacular results. As Nicole Dawes of Late July put it, “the world doesn’t need another mediocre product”.

Do you think women have more freedom than men in their options for balancing work and family?
I wish they did, but I don’t think so. First of all, there aren’t many men who feel guilty about choosing to work hard at their career. I don’t mean to say that men never feel guilty, that they don’t care about their children. Dads feel bad about missing time with their kids. But not many of them lie awake at night feeling guilty about wanting a career. And with Wall Street, it was very noticeable when a woman left early to make her one-year-old’s well baby visit at the pediatrician’s office. Women have had to invent careers which can accommodate their need for flexibility – as anyone who as ever gotten near a BlogHer convention can attest. But it isn’t easy.

Do you believe the saying ‘the greatest risk in life is not taking one’?
I’m sure that’s absolutely true. There aren’t too many people who say, in old age, “I wish I’d watched a little more TV”.

Sarah Pinneo is the  author of Julia’s Child (Plume 2012) and The Ski House Cookbook (Clarkson Potter 2007). Visit her at http://www.sarahpinneo.com or on Facebook and  Twitter.

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