FAMILY UNFRIENDLY CAREERSAnne Tergesen
While I live in the most urban of cities (New York), my sister Didi has spent most of her adult life deep in the woods. It’s not easy to find a job that will allow you to both live and work in the wilderness. But my sister has managed remarkably well—first as an instructor for Outward Bound and more recently as an employee of the U.S. Forest Service, for which she builds and maintains trails in the Inyo National Forest in California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains.
But this summer, for the first time since Didi was in high school, she’s unemployed. After postponing parenthood for years, Didi and her husband, Karl, decided to take the plunge. Little Alden Anne was born in June. She’s adorable and sweet and has a great smile. And her parents (and aunt) are thrilled. The only problem (aside from sleep deprivation) is: How will my sister ever manage to combine parenthood with the wilderness work she loves?
While many fields have finally opened up to women, the harsh reality for my sister is that among the few women working on the trails of the Inyo National Forest, none are parents. It’s no wonder: Typically, trail crew workers spend their work weeks deep in the back country. They often hike in several miles and camp for up to nine days until they repair a bridge or clear an obstructed trail.
My sister has some ideas about how she might make it work. One is to propose that she coordinate the growing number of volunteers who work on the trails each summer. Since volunteers rarely work in the back country, Didi hopes that this might allow her to work outdoors all day and go home to her family each night. There’s got to be a way! After all, moms have been able to make inroads into investment banks and the army. Why not the Forest Service's trail crews?
If you know anyone who is or was a pioneering mom in her field, let me know. I’d be very interested in hearing stories about moms who have blazed a trail—so to speak—in the work world for other moms.