Beliefs Opinion

Supporting mothers through conversation: A Q&A with Elizabeth Tenety Galle

Elizabeth Tenety Galle, her husband, Colin Galle, and sons Henry and Grant. Photo courtesy of Lindsay Olsen Photography

(RNS) Elizabeth Tenety Galle is a former religion reporter and editor who recently founded a new online venture dedicated to helping mothers learn, grow, share and evolve. Ahead of Mother’s Day, which falls Sunday (May 8), we sat down to talk to her about journalism, motherhood and her Catholic faith. The interview was edited for length and clarity.

Q: You started out with a high-profile job in religion journalism at The Washington Post. What’s your take on the state of religion journalism?

A: Religion journalism remains one of the most exciting and dynamic beats in the media. What could be more important than reporting on the point of human existence? I loved it.

In 2016 alone, stories about transgender people in restrooms, evangelical support (or not) of Donald Trump and Pope Francis’ symbolic actions towards refugees have led news headlines around the world. A religion reporter’s job is never done.

Q: You ultimately left religion journalism. Why?

A: I actually came very close to enrolling in divinity school and committing even more deeply to a career in religion journalism, but I ultimately decided instead to take the plunge into the digital media/startup world.

Living in Silicon Valley for a few years, it became clear to me that great ideas and important information weren’t going anywhere.

I realized that I needed to get way outside of the box to figure out how human beings in the 21st century are going to get and share content — and that I wanted to play a role in that world being created.

Perhaps someday that might include work on the religion beat. But for now I am happy to have a new project and direction.

Q: As a young mother of two — with another on the way — what is your take on being a young, professional mother today?

A: For many women in my generation, there is no conflict between being a devoted mother and being successful at work. This generation of women is highly educated, empowered by technology that allows for more flexibility in when and where they work, and sees professional fulfillment as core to their identities.

And thankfully, this generation has truly moved on beyond the “mommy wars.”

Millennial moms might freelance for a few years while their children are young. They might become a consultant or start their own businesses to have more ownership of their schedules. They might go back to work after maternity leave. They might take some time off to raise children out of necessity or choice — and they might roll in and out of these roles over the years.

One thing they don’t do is spend time judging other women for the personal choices they make. It’s really refreshing to have a front-row seat to such a supportive conversation around motherhood.

That doesn’t mean these choices are easy for most women. The United States’ lack of paid maternity and paternity leave, in my opinion, is an injustice that leaves women and their infants vulnerable — and is incredibly shortsighted.

In addition to working, women still perform a majority of household tasks and often bear the “psychic burden” of parenthood — accumulated duties like filling out permission slips and planning snacks for preschool, which mothers often happily do, but the reality is it typically defaults to them.

In short, women are caught between tradition and change, and they’re finding their own ways through it because too many social and political structures don’t support them in the world they live in today.

Q: Can you tell us more about Mother.ly?

A: Mother.ly was born out of a sense that digital conversations around motherhood did not reflect this new, modern mother. My co-founder, Jill Koziol, and I wanted to create an online home to empower women with expert information and mom-to-mom inspiration.

We knew that Mother.ly would never shame women for making specific choices that work for them, or try to scare them with hyperventilating, anecdote-based articles.

Instead, we tried to focus on what would be truly helpful — expert tips on conversations to have with your boss before maternity leave, date night ideas with your spouse during the exhausted weeks of new parenthood, and reflections on when to have another baby.

We launched Mother.ly in December 2015 as a week-by-week guide to new motherhood. We send weekly email newsletters to women based on where they are in the journey — and who they are as women. Our content focus is on how the mother’s life is evolving.

What I’m most passionate about going forward are the video workshops we’re creating—which will live alongside the newsletters. We’re creating a suite of expert-led classes on everything from how to leap ahead at work as a new working mom, to breastfeeding lessons for pregnant women. This is information that women are perpetually seeking online, but it’s been too hard to get.

Q: You are a strong — if complex — Roman Catholic who cares deeply about her faith. In fact, you have an important contribution in a new book on the church coming out this August. How has your faith influenced your beliefs and choices?

A: I have always felt a strong sense of vocation — that my role is where the gifts I’ve been given meet the needs of the world. When I was covering religion, there was an obvious connection.

But in my new role at Mother.ly, I get to advocate for women and children, and find tangible opportunities to help make their lives better. In many ways, it feels like the vocation I’ve been building towards my entire life.

(Charles C. Camosy is associate professor of theological and social ethics at Fordham University. Twitter: @CCamosy)

About the author

Charles C. Camosy

Charlie Camosy, though a native of very rural Wisconsin, has spent more than the last decade as a professor of theological and social ethics at Fordham University. He is the author of five books, including, most recently, "Resisting Throwaway Culture." He is the father of four children, three of whom were adopted from the Philippines.

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