Why scientist Gretchen Goldman’s tweet about a CNN interview went viral

SALT LAKE CITY — Scientist and mother Gretchen Goldman never expected her message to go viral.

On Tuesday, Goldman posted a side-by-side photo to Twitter of herself during a CNN interview compared to the messy reality of the work-from-home mother’s Washington, D.C. home.

“I was surprised how much it resonated with people,” Goldman said of the tweet, which as of Wednesday afternoon has more than a quarter-million “Likes” and 30,000 retweets.

Goldman’s tweet, the beginning of Twitter threads, reads “Just so I’m being honest.”

The first photo shows Goldman — who is research director for the Center of Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists and has a Ph.D. in environmental engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology — during a Monday interview with CNN.

She was on air to critique the appointment of David Legates, a University of Delaware professor of climatology, to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Legates has spent much of his career questioning climate science. But it wasn’t Goldman’s critique of Legates appointment that received all the attention Monday.

Goldman, a scientist and mother of two young boys, appeared in her professional-looking canary yellow blazer and is seated in front of a blanket-covered couch. Vacation photos hang against a cream-painted wall in the background.

A photo of Gretchen Goldman during an interview with CNN on Monday, Sept. 14, 2020. This photo was provided by Gretchen Goldman on Sept. 16, 2020.
Gretchen Goldman

The second photo shows the reality of Goldman’s cable news-studio-from-home surroundings. Toys are scattered everywhere. Her computer is resting on a chair stacked atop a coffee table. And the busy mom’s yellow blazer is paired with black shorts and sandals.

“It’s really neat to see the response, especially from moms and other parents struggling right now,” she told Deseret News in a telephone interview.

Goldman and her husband — who is also a working scientist — are raising 2- and 4-year-old boys in their D.C. home. She laughs when she say’s she and her husband are “just trying to put out fires” with the two boys at their demanding ages.

A photo of Gretchen Goldman’s work-from-home studio used during the CNN interview. This photo was provided by Gretchen Goldman on Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2020.
Gretchen Goldman

“I wanted to be honest about the situation that we are all struggling with now. It almost felt disingenuous to act as if I have this home studio and everything is great,” she says of her reason to the post the photos. “So I think I just want us to be honest about the reality of the situation and make it more visible that parents are dealing with these challenges right now.”

Goldman is no stranger to advocating for working parents, and especially for mothers. She also runs the “Sci-Mom Journeys” campaign (read: “science mothers”) for the grassroots organization 500 Women Scientists. The Sci-Moms provide resources and a support network for mothers in STEM ( science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields.

Goldman, herself a science mom, hopes her viral tweet can help normalize the existence of children in workspaces and the idea that people are caregivers, as well as employees.

The life of a working parent isn’t easy, but the pandemic has made things more difficult, Goldman said.

Parents, especially moms, have the “added challenges and burdens and mental load that is required to care for kids and also be expected to be in the workforce. And the way that parents have made that work is by having external support and that’s been removed in this situation for the pandemic” she said.

“I think the stress of all of that really makes parents exhausted by 5 p.m. everyday,” she said.

And have record wildfires and extreme weather this year affected parenting, too?

“The thing I was talking about on CNN was about how we are in a situation where — as we speak — the West is on fire and hurricanes are slamming into the Gulf Coast, and these are things we need to be paying attention to right now. And it’s an urgent problem that it’s now harder for us to respond to it in a world where we don’t have a lot of supports for caregivers.”

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