It seems that mothers are faced with a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” scenario when it comes to juggling career and family. You’re a bad mom if you aren’t 100 percent focused on your kids, but you’re also a bad employee if you’re not 100 percent plugged into work. Typically, what ends up happening is that the pressure coming from both sides causes working mothers to feel inadequate, and they end up burning the candle at both ends as they overextend themselves as mothers and professionals. Eventually, they can burn out.
The good news is, we can all do our part – working mothers or not – to help eradicate common working-mom stereotypes so that our colleagues can have the same opportunities, support, and encouragement that every individual needs in his or her career.
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1. Working moms are bad, neglectful moms because they’d rather be at work than with their kids.
Building a successful career and being a good mother aren’t mutually exclusive, and doing both simultaneously should never be considered neglect. In fact, a 2015 Harvard study found that being a working mother actually encourages your kids to be successful – like mother, like daughter/son, apparently.
Women are actually killing it in the business world. According to American Express OPEN’s The 2014 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report, there were some 9.1 million women-owned enterprises in 2014. These companies employed nearly 7.9 workers and generated over $1.4 trillion in revenue. More impressively, the number of women-owned businesses grew 1.5 times the national average from 2007 to 2014, with revenue and employment growth for women-owned businesses topping that of all other types of business (with the exception of the largest, publicly traded corporations). With stats like these, working mothers aren’t being neglectful, they’re being exceptional role models to their children.
2. Working moms who leave work on time are slackers.
The sad reality (read: double standard) is, if a working father leaves the office early to pick up his kids, he is often met with praise by his co-workers because he is perceived as a caring, loving father. However, a working mother in the same situation is usually greeted with much disdain because she’s perceived as a slacker for ditching the office early. At the same time, if she were to stay late, then she’d be perceived as a negligent mother, as discussed above.
Thanks to the realities of the gender pay gap, women tend to earn less than men, so that means that they are usually the ones taking on the responsibility of caregiver, homemaker, concierge, and chef for the family during non-work hours – because someone has to do it, right? Instead of assuming working mothers are ditching their work for the “freedoms” of being a mother (because that couldn’t be farther from the truth), consider the fact that they may be hopping online to work after picking up the kids, fixing dinner, cleaning up, bathing the kids, and tucking them into bed. Just because a working mother leaves the office at 5 p.m. doesn’t mean she’s heading home to sip a margarita by the pool while you slave away at work. Trust me, she’s not!
3. Working moms don’t truly have their heads in the (career) game.
There’s a common misconception that working mothers can’t be fully committed to their careers, because they’re too distracted with family obligations. But, personal responsibilities can intrude on anyone’s career, whether they have children or not. Judgment can be a two-way street, so be careful not to be a hypocrite.
It’s time to erase this “all or nothing” mentality about working moms, because it’s incorrect and ends up hurting everyone in the end. When you become a working mother, it seems like you have fewer hours in the day, so you’re forced to become a productivity, efficiency, and time-management guru – there’s really no room for slacking off. When a working mother needs to leave the office at a certain time every day to tend to her family, it’s usually safe to assume that she’s already crammed in just as much work as her co-workers.
4. Working moms who take a day off to care for a sick child are getting preferential treatment.
First of all, if you’ve never had to stop your life to care for a sick child, then you probably shouldn’t throw in your two cents. I can assure you that the mom who is missing a day or two of work to nurse her sick child back to health has enough worry, guilt, frustration, and stress to go around the office and back again, so try to be compassionate rather than critical next time a working mom has to take a sick day.
Secondly, there is no preferential treatment going on when a working mother needs to miss a day of work for this reason – it’s just life. I guarantee that no one wants the alternative: that same working mother forced to bring her child into the office, exposing everyone else to their illness. Plus, you wouldn’t want others chiming in the next time you need a day off, would you?
The moral of the story is: don’t be so quick to judge. If you constantly find yourself griping about what the working mother in your office is or isn’t doing, then maybe you need to reevaluate whether you’re really just unhappy with your own job or career.
A woman’s decision to become a parent is her own personal choice, not one open for discussion and ridicule by her co-workers and peers. Likewise, a mother’s decision to pursue a successful career isn’t anyone’s business but hers and her family’s, so try to be supportive, rather than butting your nose into places it shouldn’t be and making matters worse.
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