Ariel Kaminer: An Honest Voice

This is the first in a series of posts called Celebrating a Whole Life. I’m thrilled to be writing tonight about Ariel Kaminer, who’s warmth and encouragement gave me the confidence to start with her.

Ariel and I met through our children, two toddlers who picked each other out to become friends.  I’ll never forget the two of them, 2 years old, holding hands at a Halloween parade. It’s not always wise to assume that the friendship of small children will correlate with the potential for friendship among their parents, but as my husband Marlowe and I got to know Ariel and her husband better, I started to really look forward to our random park meetings or playdate discussions. And when Ariel and I conveniently became pregnant at around the same time, we had even more to talk about.

Ariel is a widely read and extremely talented writer and editor who writes The Ethicist for the New York Times Magazine, and has also been the NYT’s City Critic and Editor of the Arts & Leisure section.   I love The Ethicist, and it’s always the first thing I flip to in the Magazine, but I wasn’t going to go and admit that.  What I always wanted to ask her about was how she juggled writing multiple extremely popular columns for the New York Times while being so clearly dedicated to her family. But I felt like I shouldn’t go there – our common ground was not work, but those two little ones that had essentially introduced us. So I never really brought it up.

But then our second children, both daughters, made a secret pact before they were even born to arrive on the same day. And when we found ourselves on April 22nd at the same hospital, just down the hall from each other, with our older children playing with balloons together in the hallway of NYU’s maternity ward, I sensed that our friendship would grow deeper. And it has.

As I’ve gotten to know Ariel, I’ve come to really admire her unfussy approach to embracing motherhood and a career as a successful editor and writer on ethics, culture and the city.

She may be responsible for wrestling major ethical dilemmas to the ground, but she doesn’t act like it. She has an approach to the ups and downs of life with a career and family that reminds me to take things a little less seriously. I ran into her shortly before a one-night trip away from her family, the only one she’s ever had, after her second daughter was born, and rather than talk about feelings of guilt or worry, she shared her excitement about a rare opportunity to sleep past six am. A new, and better, twist on traveling for work.

It’s impossible to know what all the daily challenges are for any particular person are, but Ariel is among the most candid people I know about the juggling act, and also the most humorous. I find the more time I spend with her, the more I reflect on how these dilemmas are truly the side-effect of a privileged life where having a family and pursuing satisfying work co-exist. So we should smile about it. I celebrate Ariel for bringing humor to this wild ride and reminding me in ways both subtle and direct that we who get to make these choices are the lucky ones, and also how funny this stuff can be.

Here’s how Ariel answered the 5 questions I’ll pose to all of the women I highlight in my Celebrating a Whole Life series.

1.       How do you define success?

Accomplishing the goals you set forth for yourself. Btw I’m terrible at setting forth goals for myself.

2.       What is your greatest struggle?

See above.

3.       What are you proudest of?

My friendships and my family. I’m proud of the work I’ve done, and I’d like to do more work that I’m more proud of. But in truth, lots of people could have done it. Which is to say, if I’m useful to my employer, or to the world of journalism in general, terrific. But I’m irreplaceable to my daughters, and I’m proudest of all that I’ve been there for them.

4.       Who inspires you, in terms of how they live their life?

My mother was my big inspiration. She founded and ran an innovative company that helped thousands and thousands of kids. But she was home every night for dinner, and she always made her own children feel that they were the very center of her world. She was the happiest person I know.

5.       If you had a free 8th day of the week, what would you do with it?

Exercise, read books, do my modest part to help heal the world. Where do I apply for this 8th day, and how long does it take to kick in?

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4 Comments

Filed under Careers, Celebrating a Whole Life, Work and Life

4 responses to “Ariel Kaminer: An Honest Voice

  1. Nic Bartlett

    So true…how lucky we are to have to grapple with such issues. My mother gave up her career in art education to be with us until we went off to school, and I grew up knowing that she was never able to get back into her chosen profession, despite her obvious talent and passion for it. I’m glad I can make a difference with my work, and that my daughter will grow up seeing me do what I am passionate about. I also check in w myself regularly – is what I’m doing personally satisfying, invigorating and worthwhile? Anytime the answer becomes a convincing NO, then it’s time to look for something else. Time away from my family must be justified. Just don’t make any major life decisions while pregnant or nursing — can’t trust those hormones. 🙂

  2. Amy

    Thanks, Yasmina. I especially love the questions. I’m going to aim to live everyday as if it’s the 8th day of the week 🙂

  3. Adam Davis

    I love this post, Y, and shared it with my lovely wife… I loved the comment that Ariel made that she’s “irreplaceable” to her daughters. It’s just the right perspective, as the needs of the world go on forever, while the time that our kids really need us is short… Shorter than you can believe when you have toddlers 🙂 Our girls are 21 and 17 now, and the younger one is about to hear from colleges… Carpe diem!

  4. Amrita

    I love your post and the overall theme of celebrating women and their choices. Even though I’ve been working a lot more these past few months and felt an un-expressed guilt about being away from the kids, my daughter made it all better when we had a conversation about jobs – I asked her if she knew what my job was and she said “being a mom!” I was beaming (and then tried to explain what management consultants do). Keep the posts coming!

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