The message of lifting up other women has always been a staple of what we do at Is This Normal so when the opportunity arose to meet Ann Shoket, we jumped.
We’d be mistaken to identify Ann as simply the former Editor-in-Chief of Seventeen. Yes, she played a crucial role in crafting the magazine that many of us grew up on (AKA were obsessed with in our teenage years) but that’s just one chapter of her story. Today, those same women who spent hours pouring over Seventeen as if it were the teenage bible are coming into their own, blazing their own path, and having families…and Ann is still championing them.
Through new outlets, Ann is helping millennial women channel their power, and urging the rest of the world to take notice of a generation that’s redefining relationships, work, and motherhood as we know it…all while raising her two children, Leonardo, 7, and Isabel, 5 with her husband.
Ann’s career in publishing spans decades, as she was part of some of the most iconic female magazine brands. She was a member of the launch team for CosmoGirl where she led the CosmoGIRL! Born to Lead initiative in partnership with the Girl Scouts of America and The White House Project. The latter leadership campaign aimed to put a CosmoGIRL reader in the White House as President by 2024. Ann went on to lead Seventeen from 2007-2014 where she spent the better part of the 2000s listening to and guiding a generation of women who are now building their careers, lives, and families.
In 2017, Ann launched a digital community, The Badass Babes, for millennial women who were determined to create their own path in life, on their own terms. She also started hosting dinners, with the intention of creating a place where these women could have candid, in-person conversations about love, relationships, money, career, and other important topics in their lives.
That same year, Ann published her first book, The Big Life, which was largely based on these conversations that happened around her dinner table. Her book centers around the idea of taking ownership over your life, creating one you love on your own terms. “It is my mission to help the next generation own their power. Because I can see their power. I see the game-changing way that they are thinking about working, ambition, family and success,” Ann said.
As the women Ann has guided for decades begin to have children, she’s determined to show them that ambition isn’t a dirty word and they can, in fact, be mothers and maintain the careers they’ve worked hard to cultivate. “Work and life are so integrated. I say this all the time, it’s like all work all the time, all life all the time. And that is even more true when you become a mother.”
Defining Motherhood in Your Own Terms
“We used to talk about motherhood as if you entered the stage of like, otherness. It was like suddenly you became a mother and all of the past that you had before slipped away for this new, very important thing that you were going through. And that is true, but you bring yourself with you. You are going through a monumental change, but you bring yourself with you. Becoming a mother is complicated no matter what. Period. Complicated relationships. Complicated money. Complicated work. Complicated.”
Yes, you are now responsible for that tiny human 24/7 for at least the next 18 years, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t the same woman who needs her Friday night cabernet and a good novel, or the woman who has the ambition to build her own business before the age of 30. Or all of the above.
Find Someone Whose Eyes Light Up At Your Ambitions
“I was single and ambitious, rising in my career in New York City for a long time until I met my partner. When I was single, I was aware that as I continued to rise in my career, the guys I was dating would respond to me differently. Some of them felt the need to say, ‘Oh, that’s cute. You work for the girl magazine.’ Or some of them would feel the need to tell me all of the great things they had done.
But when I met my husband, it was so clear that he thought what I did was great. He thought my drive was great. He had his own big ambition and big drive. As we became deeper and stronger in our relationship, we had big ambitions for our family life and for our lives together. His eyes lit up when I talked about my ambition. I always tell women, ‘you should look for a partner whose eyes light up when you talk about the things that matter to you.’”
Millennial Women are afraid…Just Not About What You Think
“When I got pregnant…I didn’t for once question my ability to perform at work, my devotion to my job, or that I wouldn’t be able to figure out how I would make things work. It didn’t even occur to me. I was the editor in chief of Seventeen. I’d been there for five years. I had a team that was strong and we were all on the same page and devoted to the mission together. I had bosses that knew me and respected me. It didn’t even occur to me how complicated it would be. I just thought, I’ll figure this out.
I was so stunned when I realized that it wasn’t that millennial women were afraid of losing their jobs or losing their sexuality, but they were afraid of losing control over their career and their lives. That’s a new dynamic of anxiety around working motherhood.”
Turns out while some challenges in parenting remain universal, others change with the times. Today, having a baby doesn’t usually bring about the loss of a job like it may have in years past, millennial women fear losing their footing in their career path, perhaps bringing a slower journey to that next promotion. While older generations often had to choose between their jobs and their families, Ann is determined to help millennial women shatter this age-old expectation.
Mom Guilt Doesn’t Need To Be A Thing
“I didn’t feel a drop of guilt even once. I hired a nanny who loved my child, who I very quickly learned to trust. She was warm and generous and what our family needed. When I was interviewing nannies, she said ‘I want to be a partner for you,’ which is exactly what I wanted. I wanted a partner. I wanted someone who would love my child when I couldn’t be there. I did not feel guilty. I felt like my child was loved by me, by my husband, by the nanny, by the grandparents. I was a better mother because I got to be a human being outside of just being their mother all the time.”
Hearing this from Ann definitely struck a chord with us. We hear from working moms all the time about mom guilt and even the guilt for hacking a lack of guilt. We’re so hard on ourselves about well…everything. By acknowledging that her baby is loved and happy (and what’s more, she is happy), she so gracefully swept away any signs of unneeded guilt. Thank you, Ann, for this a-ha moment.
We Have Work To Do
“The world is not set up yet for millennial women, particularly when it comes to working motherhood. Companies are slowly creaking towards policies that will help women. We’re all getting our eyes open to the fact that childcare is so cripplingly expensive, particularly when you still have student debt and maybe you also have debt from fertility treatments and whatever else. It’s sort of like a toxic cocktail. I am thrilled that we’re having those conversations about how we help women continue to rise at work and continue to build their families.”
Dreams of Equality for Her Children
“I hope that as they continue to grow up into the people that they’re going to be they find partners who respect equality in a relationship. I hope they take another big step towards equality in relationships, equality at work.
I hope that they find love and partnership with someone who sees them as equals and wants to be equals.”
For the last decade plus, Ann has been someone our generation has turned to in times of need. From being a guiding light during the growing pains of our teenage years to empowering the badass babes we have become today, she continues to devote herself to helping millennial women find themselves, and their voices, in an ever-changing world.
Stay up to date with Ann and join The Big Life community by signing up on her website.