June 14, 2011
While she recently received an onslaught of attention for the strict parenting techniques depicted in her book “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother,” during a recent panel discussion, Amy Chua ’87, promoted the idea that “there are so many ways of producing happy, healthy, strong children.”
Chua joined novelist Julie Buxbaum '02 and Slate senior editor Emily Bazelon (who graduated from Yale Law School in 2000), to discuss their experiences as working mothers as part of a May 23 panel titled “Motherlode: Lawyering, Parenting (and Writing About It) in the Age of ‘Having it All.’” The event was held at the New York City Bar Association, which cosponsored the discussion with the Harvard Law School Law & Arts Initiative.
Watch the video of the event here
According to Buxbaum, herself a new mother, parenting anxieties are often manifest in criticism and intolerance toward others’ parenting styles.
“I think there’s this really big fear that if someone is doing something differently than us, then one of us must be wrong,” she said. “But the truth of it is, there’s a million right ways to raise a kid—at least I hope there are. And I really believe there are very few wrong ways,” she said, echoing Chua’s sentiment. Buxbaum is author of two novels, “The Opposite of Love,” and “After You,” and at work on a third, “The Modern Girl's Handbook.”
These three law school graduates-turned-writers also discussed the difficulties of making their families their subject matter, including concerns about how their writing may affect their families.
Another central theme in the discussion was the challenge inherent in pursuing a career while raising a family. Chua, now a professor at Yale Law School, had her first child while practicing with Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton. She spoke about the difficulty of becoming a mother while working as a corporate lawyer.
“It was tough. I didn’t see any role models that seemed to fit for me,” she said. Describing the external and internal pressures at play, Chua recalled her decision to fly to Mexico City to finalize a huge international privatization deal when she was nine months pregnant.
Chua spoke candidly—about ways some readers have missed the humor and “self-incrimination” in her memoir and about the twists and turns in her career path. She described choosing the legal profession by default, feeling her first corporate job was not a perfect fit and stumbling upon her topics of scholarly expertise. She teaches Contracts and International Business Transactions, and she wrote two books prior to penning her memoir, “Day of Empire: How Hyperpowers Rise to Global Dominance—and Why They Fall” and “World on Fire: How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred Global Instability.”
After becoming a law professor, Chua said, her decision to be an “active parent” forced her to make certain choices—for example, sacrificing socializing with her peers, so she could have more time for her children.
Said Bazelon: “It seems to me like we sometimes create a lot of work for ourselves by having expectations about every single facet of our lives,” she said. “And maybe one thing to do is to choose the things we really want to put our energy into and let ourselves off the hook for the rest of it.”
The panel was moderated by Theresa Park ’92, founder and principal of the Park Literary Group, based in New York. She is herself the mother of two boys, ages 7 and 11.