I thought we were free from mean girls after high school. THEN I became a working mom. The genesis story of MomSource Network includes a casual friend who decided to tell me when my son was 8 weeks old that she was impressed that I had gone back to work full-time because “she just loved her little bundle of joy too much to be able to do it.” Because, obviously, if I had loved Avery more, then I would have stayed home with him.
As International Women’s Day approaches this month, I’ve been thinking about what I’ve learned about being a working mom.
Mean girls can become mean moms. We judge other women so harshly. I’ve seen the best intentioned working moms lecture women who have chosen to take a career break about how they are sacrificing 30% of their lifetime earnings, their professional security and ruining the possibility of closing the gender pay gap in the lifetimes of even their grandchildren. It is true that the stats are not good for women who take a career break. But aren’t our lives and those of our families about more than metrics and money? Many moms analyze those stats and both knowingly and willingly decide that for themselves and their family that a pause (or sometimes a hard stop) is the right choice for their circumstances.
We reject, ridicule and even shame women whose choices are different from our own. But why? Because we are afraid to say that we desperately need and want the validation and support of the women around us. I wanted that friend to tell me that she was proud of me for going back to work and for her to ask how I was doing with it. And I should have told her that I admired her willingness to sacrifice a career that she loved (presumably) to stay home with her daughter.
One woman’s work is not harder than her peers. Being a working mom can suck. Being a stay at home mom can blow. Can we all agree that we’re trying our damnedest to raise healthy, happy, well-adjusted children?
So what can we do to band together and make a difference?
- Know what your ideal work-life blend is and believe that ideal is possible. If you want to take a career break, do it, knowingly. If you’re like many moms who want more flexibility, less travel, fewer hours, etc., then create a business case and pitch that idea to your employer. If you are most fulfilled plowing through full throttle, then be proud to do it and help the women who are doing the same.
- If you can’t find it immediately, search for it, or create it. We have a platform designed specifically to connect our members to flexible work opportunities. Consider part-time, remote or even freelance. You deserve to have what you need to be the best of both.
- Support others. Goodness, this should be easy. Resolve to be supportive and not judgmental. Offer to help others on whatever their chosen path is and avoid telling them what you’d do differently.
- Expect more. Be an advocate for paid family leaves, returnship programs and other agile workplace initiatives that make the choice easier and the consequences less severe.
I have personally felt the sting of judgement when I have had nannies or grandparents pick my children up from school or drive them to social events and I’m well aware that money does not make up for the precious time that I miss away from my children while I’m working. I also want my son and daughter to see that both of their parents juggle, flex and sometimes trip trying to create a balance for our family that allows us each individually and our family as a unit to succeed. After all, it takes a village, not a harem of Regina Georges…