Recently, Time named me one of their 100 most influential people of 2022. It’s hard for me to express how honored and, frankly, surprised I was by this. For a while, I thought it might be fake. When I realized it wasn’t, it dawned on me to be happy, but also very, very grateful. Steven Pinker wrote a lovely blurb about me, which ended with “As one mother put it, ‘She restored my sense of being an adult with a working brain and not just a working uterus.’ ”
I want to say thank you. Thank you for supporting what I’m doing here, for contributing your thoughts, for asking good questions, and for your constructive feedback. Thank you for reading my books, for watching my wacky Instagram stories, and all the rest.
Eight years ago, I was at a very low point professionally. I had been unexpectedly turned down for tenure at a job I loved and had hoped to keep forever. I had written a book that I really liked but that had sold just — as my agent put it — “okay well” when it came out. In the spring of 2014, I thought seriously about leaving my career altogether. It seemed like it might be the only option.
But I was incredibly fortunate. Brown took a chance on hiring me. My husband, Jesse, and I were able to move. And slowly, I rebuilt my confidence and, in doing that, developed a better sense of the work I wanted to do. There was a decisive moment, in 2017, when I signed up to write Cribsheet. I took ownership of the transition from professor-who-once-wrote-a-book to someone whose goal was to use my professor skills in a broader arena.
I love academic research and the thrill of discovering something new, but I also love — probably more — the translation of data and research to outside of the academic world. There is so much of what we learn from data that is useful in our day-to-day, in parenting, but also in life more broadly. To get to spend time in this work of translation, in trying to help people navigate the evidence, separate the good from the not-so-good, is a true privilege. To think that it has an impact is even better.
If Expecting Better was the beginning of this journey, the newsletter is the continuation. Both have reshaped my life.
The most read post in this newsletter, and still I think the one that has ultimately shaped these past two years the most for me, is from May 2020: Grandparents and Day Care. That post talks through a five-step process for framing questions, evaluating and mitigating risks, and making decisions. In that case, the focus was on decisions about seeing grandparents and returning to day care in the very early period of reopening. Although that particular decision is mostly in the rearview mirror, this decision structure is one I have revisited over and over again in later posts, and in The Family Firm.
That isn’t my favorite post, though. My favorite is this one, from February 2021, in which I wrote about my backyard ice rink, the meltdown I had in my basement about a tangled hose, and my struggles in that moment with the loss of control. It was cathartic to write, and it felt like I was able to surface what many people were feeling at the time. The next day, another mom rolled her window down at drop-off to tell me, “Yes. That’s what I feel. Thanks for saying it out loud.”
In the end, that is the kind of influence I hope this newsletter, and my work in general, will have — that data is indeed humanizing. That it will help people work through hard decisions, or hard moments, and sometimes make them feel a little less alone. Hopefully this is just the beginning of these connections, of making us the most data-literate parent generation yet and, in the process, removing anxiety and bringing joy. If you want to bring a few more people along here, please consider sharing this. And thank you again.
P.S. I got to go to a really amazing party last night, so this is a bit later on the send. But here’s a picture…