Author: Michelle Travis

Back to Work

Back to Work


Frustrated when she couldn't find a children's book to explain her return to work to her young kids, a law professor wrote her own

Michelle Travis relished spending time with her two daughters during her maternity leaves, but she also looked forward to returning to her job as a USF law professor. When it was time for Travis to go back to work, she searched for children’s picture books that might help her daughters with the transition.
“I was looking for something that painted working moms in a positive and inspiring light, that would help my kids be curious about the work I did outside the house, and encourage them to be proud of that work,” said Travis, who focuses her teaching and research on employment law, employment discrimination, and work/family balance.
But in a search that she called “both frustrating and illuminating,” Travis discovered that most books painted working mothers in a negative light, focusing on how children could cope without their mother present during the day, as if the mother’s job was a detriment. Travis says she even found a few books where the working mother was a witch, as opposed to having a real-life job.
The experience stayed with her as her daughters grew, and as she witnessed her USF law students balancing school and eventual careers with motherhood. So she decided to write a book of her own to change the narrative.

Changing the conversation

Travis’ picture book, My Mom Has Two Jobs, published in July 2018, depicts how moms care for their children while also making the world a better place through their careers. The book features a range of occupations, such as doctors, engineers, police officers, secretaries, and waitresses, as well as diverse ethnicities.
The book is called, My Mom Has Two Jobs. On each page, children proudly describe how their moms care for them in a special way, while also improving the world through their careers. The book includes moms in many different jobs, including a doctor, teacher, engineer, police officer, secretary, dentist, firefighter, nurse, lawyer, waitress, military sergeant, veterinarian, and pilot. I hope that the book will give moms the chance to talk with their kids about whatever job they do.
“As a lawyer and law professor, I believe that the law is a very powerful tool in advancing women’s equality, but I realized that I need to get to children before our stereotypes about working moms are fully established and start disrupting that,” Travis said.
“From her own experience and research, Travis knows that working moms are more likely to be passed over for promotions or seen as less competent by colleagues at work. Outside the office, they deal with guilt for how they balance work and motherhood, as well as perceived judgment from people who think they should be with their children full time.

Supporting other working moms

In the law school, Travis is an adviser to the Parents and Advocates Law Student Association (PALSA), a group that aims to make law student parents and their children feel welcome on campus and promote parental/familial rights and support.
Lizett Rodriguez ’18 — who carried her sleeping daughter to lectures after giving birth during her second year of law school — was one of the founding members of PALSA. She says she looks up to Travis as both a lawyer and a mom.
“When my husband and I were thinking about having a child, I actually spoke to her and asked when the right time was,” Rodriguez said. “And she told me that there is no perfect time, and it is different for everyone. Professor Travis inspired me and told me, ‘Don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t do something because you are a woman of color, or because you decide to take on motherhood.’”
Today, Rodriguez is a fellow with California Rural Legal Assistance, a nonprofit that supports migrant workers and the rural poor, in her hometown of Watsonville, California. And her daughter, Lexie, is a thriving 2-year-old who loves Travis’ book.
[First posted at University of San Francisco]

Finally, a Children’s Picture Book that Celebrates Working Moms!

     At the end of my maternity leaves, I found myself dealing with very conflicting emotions. On one hand, I felt scared and guilty about leaving my two young daughters with someone else. On the other hand, I was looking forward to getting back to teaching future attorneys in my wonderful job as a law professor. Of course, that feeling itself induced another wave of guilt as I wondered how I could help my kids understand what it means to be a working mom.
     Both of my daughters adored books. Books were how I launched conversations, shared new ideas, inspired them to ask questions, and fueled their curiosity. So at the end of each maternity leave, I searched for children’s books that could help us talk about my return to work. I was looking for books that would encourage my daughters to be proud of the work that I do outside our home and that would help them connect my mommy identity with my professional identity.
     My search was both frustrating and illuminating. I found quite a few children’s picture books about working moms that seemed to assume that kids must be sad and lonely while their moms are at work, and that offered various ways for kids to cope until their moms returned home each day (which didn’t do much to allay my feelings of guilt). I also found a lot of books about witches, which seems to be the working-mom prototype when it comes to children’s literature. Needless to say, neither of those book categories had quite the message I was seeking.
     So I vowed to write my own children’s book to fill the void. I wanted my book to celebrate diverse working moms doing a wide range of jobs. I wanted my book to show how the work that women do as moms is connected to the work that we do outside the home—that we care for our children and our societies with the same love, dedication, and commitment.
     But despite good intentions, my own two jobs took over and the idea of writing a children’s book got pushed to the back burner. Somehow, a decade passed. But the idea kept nagging at the back of my brain, and I’ve finally made good on my vow. I just published my first children’s book, which celebrates working moms for all that we do both inside and outside of our homes.
     The book is called, My Mom Has Two Jobs. On each page, children proudly describe how their moms care for them in a special way, while also improving the world through their careers. The book includes moms in many different jobs, including a doctor, teacher, engineer, police officer, secretary, dentist, firefighter, nurse, lawyer, waitress, military sergeant, veterinarian, and pilot. I hope that the book will give moms the chance to talk with their kids about whatever job they do.
     My daughters are now twelve and ten, well beyond their picture-book years. But they have enthusiastically supported this project. For all the working moms who still have little ones at home and who are searching for a children’s book to help their kids celebrate all of our many important jobs, this book is for you.
[First appearing on the WoMo Network]