I've been a working mother since I've been a mother, so the comments and questions and assumptions about my role as both employee and parent are all things I've, honestly and sadly, grown accustomed to. Once you push a human being out of your body it seems that the judgment is never-ending. It should end, though. Like, yesterday. Which is why I have no problem saying with absolute certainty that there are things men need to stop saying about working moms, and immediately.
I had a taste of this obvious sexism when I was pregnant. I was working for two brothers who owned their own real estate company and, honestly, I thought I was working for two of the best, most understanding people when it came to the demands of parenthood. After all, both of my bosses were parents themselves. My pregnancy was a difficult one, and around 16 weeks into my pregnancy I was hospitalized for a week with a serious blood infection. I worked from the hospital; a coworker dropping off my work computer so I could answer emails, plan meetings, and do whatever else my employers needed from me, all the while hooked up to IVs and worrying about my life and the life of my twins. I went to work the day after I was released from the hospital. Not long after I walked into my office, I found myself being fired. I was told my "condition" was "too unpredictable." In other words, I was being fired for being pregnant. It was a rude wakeup call, and one that I have carried with me outside of the home, into the office, and especially now that my son is a demanding 2-year-old toddler.
To those two men, motherhood was a hinderance. To those two men, pregnancy was a burden. Something they couldn't experience was something they didn't want to accommodate, so I was "let go." Never mind that I had worked in the hospital. Never mind that I was growing a human being and still doing my job. All those former employers were able to see were the possible complications of pregnancy, labor, delivery, (probably maternity leave) and motherhood. They bought into the sexist notion that mothers shouldn't work outside the home, and that notion is why I lost my job. Honestly, if we want to affect real change, men are going to need to do their part. So fellas, if you could stop saying the following things about working mothers, that would be just the best.
"They're Just Trying To Have It All"
I've never understood what "have it all" even means. I assume, after hearing it for over two years, that it means, "Live a fulfilled life," which makes the statement all the more infuriating. No one asked my partner if he was trying to "have it all" when he went back to work after his son was born. So, it seems that men can automatically live fulfilled, multifaceted, and complex lives, but women can't. If they do, they're "trying to have it all." Ugh.
Honestly, I'm tired of the notion that mothers must sacrifice absolutely everything in order to be "good mothers" and, if they don't, they're selfish. I would rather be "selfish," and carve out parts of my day that are for me, or make certain decisions (like the one to work) that benefit me and my family, than live this martyr-like life.
Plus, the double standard is just outrageous. A man who works and parents is making this gigantic "sacrifice" and is providing for his family. A mom who works and parents simultaneously, is just selfish. False. So. Much. False.
"Clearly, They Wear The Pants In Their Relationship"
Ah, gender stereotypes. They're the best, right?
My partner and I share our parenting responsibilities, as well as all the other responsibilities that go along with being an adult and contributing to society via taxes and whatever. We aren't in the '50s anymore, ladies and gentlemen. We both make decisions; we both share the burden of adulthood; we both contribute in numerous ways to our family.
"They Can't Focus At Work"
Whether it's "pregnancy brain" or "mom brain" or just a shift in certain priorities, they're people who think that once a woman procreates she can't be an efficient and effective outside-the-home worker anymore. That's a false.
In fact, I think motherhood has made me a better employee. I sure as you-know-what can multitask with the best of them now, I have a better work ethic and greater goals, and I know that working benefits my son as much as it does me.
"They're Missing Out"
Nope. we're not. Yes, sometimes sacrifices are made and that's inevitable. No one can be at two places at once. However, I spent plenty of time with my son, too.
Either way, the grass is never greener on the other side. I know that for me, personally, if I didn't work I would feel like I was missing out on the "outside world" and the workforce and the joy that is going into the office and having coworkers. I like working, so I would definitely have a serious case of FOMO if I didn't.
"They're Just Trying To Prove A Point"
Definitely not the overall goal, but it is a nice added bonus. When I kill it at work and at home, I feel the most accomplished. When I can meet a deadline, do well for my team, and go home and teach my son how to count to 10 in Spanish? Well, there's no better feeling in the world, especially because I'm smashing the patriarchy in the process.
"They're Not Full-Time Moms"
I just can't with this one. I really can't. Even when I'm not with my son, I'm still his mother. Just because I clock in somewhere else and work on projects that aren't centered around my son, doesn't mean I'm "taking time off" from being a parent. I'm just, you know, being a fulfilled human being with multiple roles.
Working dads are never called part-time parents so, again, why the double standard? (hint: sexism.)
"They're Hurting Their Kids"
This would upset me immensely if it wasn't horrendously false. A recent study showed that children benefit greatly from watching their mother work outside of the home. In fact, daughters of working mothers are more likely to graduate and attend higher forms of education, more likely to secure supervisor positions, and more likely to earn higher salaries, than daughters with stay-at-home moms.
"They'll Regret It, Eventually"
Maybe. Maybe not. Every woman (hell, every person) is different, so perhaps a working mother works because she has to, and not necessarily because she wants to. Perhaps she will look back on the time she spent in an office, and shudder.
I, however, am not one of those women. Plenty of working mothers are not only "fine" with their decision, they're happy with their decision. I know that I will never regret making my career a priority, and I know the things my job gives me (aside from the ability to take care of my son and provide for him) are paramount to who I am as an individual. I will never regret doing something that makes me feel purpose.