Looking for good books to help your children (and you!) navigate the emotions and heaviness of the pandemic lockdown times? Lisa Virtue and Fionna Wright both had the same idea during COVID lockdown: encapsulate the experience they had with their daughter and feature their own family as inspiration. They both have a one and only daughter and are determined to have them grow up in an environment of choice – where women are treated equally.
And so I tried to make sure that my daughter knows that her voice matters. Not only that it matters, but that we need it. We need to know how you feel. The world needs to know how you feel – the world needs to know what your goals are. – Fionna Wright
Welcome to career mama stories, where we talk to moms who not only have one career, they have two: raising their children and doing the work that they love. Please enjoy hearing about Fionna Wright, a fellow children’s book author and self-publisher. We had an awesome book exchange!
Check out both books below:
My name is Fionna and I am a performance marketing manager for a family of apparel brands. My daughter’s name is Madison and she’s seven and a half – and the half is very important. I had started a new job right before the pandemic in January 2020. With the pandemic, everyone had to go home in March. The job that I was in was so not aligned with me. It just felt very toxic and I don’t mean to bad mouth anyone, it just didn’t align with anything. I was working really long hours, even though it was remote. I ended up quitting in May 2020 during the pandemic. And I remember making a joke to someone that if I quit a job during a pandemic, when everyone is gripping, like holding on for dear life to any job, you know it was bad. I freelanced for a while and then I got another job, which is where I’m at now. We are now at the office. I had never been to the office. So now I’m really just starting there.
My daughter’s in camp, but she did go back to school the last like month or two of the last school year, which was really good for her, she really needed it. She needed to interact. It was good for her mentally. I wasn’t ready. It only happened because her dad was pushing, the school was pushing. And my mom who is just as much as a Nervous Nancy as I am said maybe? So that was made it be okay to go back. Not okay. But it made me make the decision to let her go back.
Our living situation is now changed from what it originally was during the pandemic because of the pandemic. When the pandemic happened, she and I were living in an apartment and it was just a loft. She’s my only girl, we just shared the bed. She had a cousin from New York who moved to California a little bit before the pandemic. And they were living in the same complex but in another building – that was rough. And so when the pandemic hit, we didn’t really see them cause everyone was just being really separate. And so we were kind of alone. And my daughter, as an only child, it’s even harder. She was doing school at home and she depends on social interaction with her friends because she’s an only child.
And then I was working from home. So in August 2020, her cousin’s mom (who is also a single mom) and I decided to get a house together so that our daughters who are close in age could have a backyard and have more space and have that room. And so that is how our living situation evolved because of the pandemic.
Yeah, we created our own little village and it’s so non-traditional. I feel like in society, oftentimes you expect to get married and then you get a house together, and when that doesn’t work out, then what do we do? I had to deal with some things internally to make it be okay that I was moving in with another mom, but it was, I don’t know. It was interesting.
My daughter is now in summer camp, she’s doing like a coding camp for roadblocks, which she loves and I’m back at the office. So yeah, it did take an emotional toll because there was the toxic job, trying to be parent and learn this new job that was really overwhelming. Also being a teacher because now we’re having to navigate virtual school while trying to figure out and protect our mental health and physical health too. And to tend to my daughter’s mental health too. Like any emotional health through the process and help her not be so scared.
Lockdown really did take a toll. I think now we’re in such a better place and I don’t even know that we’ve had time to like sit back and reflect and breathe and kind of heal from that or cope with that or identify it.
I feel like it’s still, I don’t know the right word. It’s still in the process of still figuring it all out.
That one is multilayered. So we wrote a book together that is based on her experience during the pandemic, but included in that is her experience as an only child within a co-parenting dynamic and us being really ethnic and diverse. It’s rooted in so many things, like obviously the pandemic and then the other major component is the representation. We’re black and I’m half black and I’m half Latina. Then her dad’s black and she’s black. That’s something I’ve always known we would have to talk about when she was born. I knew we would eventually have to have this conversation, but what I was not prepared for was how young that would start. And it started at three when someone made her aware of her differences. I’m going to try not to get emotional, no matter how many times I talk about it’s just like… um, so we had to start really young talking about all of that.
It’s such a heavy, layered, seemingly complicated, but not really – but humans make it complicated – being that is really hard to explain and break down to a three-year-old. How do you simplify this so that you can help her rebuild herself? So that’s something we’ve been dealing with in the way that I try. There’s no rule book. We don’t know how to do this. So the only thing that I could think of was to try to restore her confidence and self-image by letting her see herself reflected in the world around her, which is what the big missing piece was. I’ve always been really conscious of making sure she sees her aesthetic. And she’s darker-skinned, so that was an added layer.
Because of that, she even started to notice and call out differences between her and me and she just felt very alone in her world. That was a big reason for wanting to create the book to have representation of our specific family and aesthetic, because I know we’re not the only mixed family. I made sure to include in there her grandparents, my parents, who are a biracial couple, my mom is Ecuadorian, my dad’s black and she calls my mom ‘abuela’. And she calls my dad grandpa. And so I included those into the book and just tried to really focus on the representation aspect of it. But then also I wanted it to serve as a time capsule for her because she’s still so young and I don’t know how she’s going to remember this time.
The pandemic is so monumental, right? This is huge. We’re gonna be talking about this forever. And she lived through it in such an important foundational time of her life. And I don’t know the impact that’s going to have. I wanted to have this reference of the emotions that she felt during this time because I’m sure it’ll show up later in some way. And she’ll have this reference like, oh, we did this, I had this feeling and we dealt with it this way and hopefully that helps. And even if it doesn’t help just to have it as a reference, like this was my experience during that, that I probably won’t remember all of the details. And then, the last aspect of it was just the business part of it, like helping her to start something and then finish it. See it through to completion and then monetize it and understand the logistics of running a business. So she was involved in the entire process from helping with the copy. We had an illustrator, but she and I both would review the illustrations and tweak it and, you know, ask for changes too, so she saw it through from beginning to end and then having it go on the website and looking at how to track the orders. When they come in, how much breaking down, how much she gets, and that whole process too.
I love it. My gosh. We’re like on parallel wavelengths. I always say women empowering women begins at home. We can’t take that for granted because there are some families where girls and women are disempowered at home. And so it sounds like you have that same drive in you like you have your beautiful one and only daughter just like I do where we want to make sure that they’ve got great examples and they get the opportunity. And, so the coining of the phrase Career Mama is what we came up with here in our house, trying to figure out how to phrase it or name it a little bit differently. Because it’s one thing to be a working parent. It’s another when you have a career with a mission behind it. And so that was part of the reason we wrote our book together too. And so yeah, very similar situation and where I wanted to get her experience in there. We worked with an illustrator as well. So we went through all the renditions and the edits. And I don’t know if you found this to happen with your daughter. My daughter started drawing her own pictures, putting together stories.
Yeah. My daughter made a book and I think that might’ve been the inspiration. She was making a book, like drawing on paper and writing little stories, stapling it together. And I was like, oh, we should do that. For real. I mean not for real. That is still for real. That is her for real, but on to the next level, I think that might’ve been the very beginning of it actually.
I love that. That’s again, something we can’t take for granted because so many people have ideas to write books, but they don’t follow through or get to that point. And so good on you, mama you made it happen. It’s not easy. I found that out too.
No, it happened through Instagram, very randomly through a DM and it just happened. I thought it was spam. I thought someone had hacked an account. And so I went on LinkedIn to the casting agency to their verified page. And I was like, Hey, I’m getting this message. You should know. Cause they’re duplicating your account. And they were like, no, it’s legit. And I’m like, oh!
Five and four, definitely. But then also three and two, but it was like four and five were the dominant ones during the pandemic of trying to balance motherhood and work and being completely stressed out by it. And then three and two are like the ones where you’re having to make a concerted effort to spend that time and include my baby in my daily process.
When you get the book, you’ll see it’s told through the daughter’s eyes. I’m hoping this will be the first in a career mama series of books talking about career changes with moms because we don’t really have a way to normalize that conversation within the household. As you said, there are so many things unprecedented in representation. And so I might turn to later to get your story as a – do you go by black woman or black Latina woman?
I go by black Latina. I fully embrace both of my cultures and my dad, my daughter, because she’s black and she identifies with black.
Okay, awesome. Yeah. I want to have better representation in the future of multiple families being featured. Obviously this one was pandemic. Like we’re locked down in our home. So we only were the characters.
Love, love, love, love this. Congrats! I love the illustrations. They’re so cute.
Hmm. That’s such a good question. Definitely. Yes. I feel like we’re starting to see the shift. We’re now starting to listen more to women and at least acknowledge that there are gaps that need to be closed when it comes to women versus men and how we make our money, how we move through life, like the titles and the expectations that are placed on us as women that are not fair oftentimes. I think that’s something that I really try to communicate to my daughter just in the sense that she doesn’t have to carry that burden that society has placed and that it’s a societal issue and it’s a symptom. It’s something that needs to be resolved.
And we don’t have to co-sign that narrative that we’re less than
or we’re not as worthy, that we need to be this, this, this, and all of the things and be perfect and not complain and not ask for more money. And so which translates to me into being brave and courageous in the sense of owning your voice and doing it scared.
When you’re conditioned in the way that most women have been conditioned, sometimes it’s hard to speak up and to speak against and to advocate for ourselves. And so I try to make sure that my daughter knows that her voice matters. Not only that it matters, but that we need it.
We need to know how you feel. The world needs to know how you feel. The world needs to know what your goals are. You need to know, you need to be able to identify like “this is what I want in life” and not be discouraged by ignorance and fear.
But then also making sure that she understands that it’s not always going to be easy, like knowing what you’re up against. I think that’s an important part. Cause if you go into it blindly, it can knock you down. So if you understand that there are these roadblocks, but you didn’t create them and they’re not your burden alone. It’s not just you because I think that’s an important thing to not feel so alone in our challenges and struggles. And I think that’s where the “women empowering women” comes in. I think a lot of times in different industries before it was almost like a competition. Like you couldn’t help the next one because you might be sacrificing the little bit of rope that you have. And we’re now collectively as women, I think I’ve seen more and more that now we’re starting to just not co-sign with.
We’re like, no, but we can help each other. And together we are more powerful. So the unity that we’re seeing across like social media and just even, you know, like in life when you’re out and about recognizing, acknowledging and celebrating women, all of our differences, all of our commonalities and like supporting each other through our endeavors and just like that overall cheerleading, I guess for one another is so important. That is how we move mountains slowly. Like that is how we start this process of changing and growing and evolving. In terms of as it relates to raising our children leading by example.
So when my daughter sees me celebrating, supporting, acknowledging, and just loving on other women in the sense of support and friendship and all of that, then she’ll know to do the same thing. So it’s just as with everything it starts at home in the sense of the way that you move, like they’re watching what you do.
So if you’re exemplifying those behaviors, then it becomes the norm like, oh no, this is what we do. We support each other. Like moving in with her cousin. We came together as women. We’re like, all right, we’re going to better your situation here.
Completely love everything you just said. It totally resonates with me because one thing that can happen too, for instance, some women have the tendency to gossip.
I always say positive talk about other women is good gossip. Let’s do that!
But the bad gossip, what could happen in the workplace too, is exactly what you said where one woman maybe even have jumped on the patriarchy wagon and that’s how she got to where she was. And so yeah. Other women come along and she doesn’t help but competes.
There are words out there too that can be very controversial, such as drop the SHEEO it’s a CEO, I’m a CEO. That’s one example of where it can be confusing because it’s like, I agree that it needs to be more equalized, but are we there yet? It’s very similar to the black lives matter conversation. Would you remove the black lives out of black lives matter? No, because we’re not there yet. So you still have to announce it in a way.
Specific to the black lives matter, which can just kind of translate into anything that still requires growth. And evolution is, the goal is all lives matter, but until we get there, it’s black lives matter. So it’s just recognizing and acknowledging. Just don’t be dismissive. And that in any, in anything, in any injustice, like recognizing and acknowledging that there is an injustice and that there is work to be done and yes, this is the goal, but here’s the work that we still need to do to get there because otherwise it becomes gaslighting. Then it’s just dismissive. And you’re like, no, this doesn’t now everyone’s equal. Everything’s fine.
We have now affirmation cards for kids. And the whole idea was for them to be inclusive. They represent kids from all walks of life. Check it out here.
Wanna know more about who Lisa is and her mission? Check out this post!