Working Moms Still Have to Prove Their Value at the Office -- in Addition to Being Good at Their Jobs

Since becoming a mother, I’ve spent time in and out of the traditional workforce. I found navigating the male-dominated world of finance law more complicated as a mother than as a woman. But all the while I’ve never lost my drive to have a life and success beyond my family. So when I read the headline “Want to Be Better at Your Job? Have a Kid,” I was cheering at my laptop. But it turns out the whole article made me sadder than ever. 

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Working moms still have to prove their value at the office, in addition to being good at their jobs.

First off, I completely relate to where the author, Heather Havrilesky, is coming from and what she’s trying to do. There are deep DEEP-seated ideas that mothers can’t hack it in the workplace. The stereotypes are dominated with frazzled women, likely to cry at the drop of a hat, who run home every time the school calls, and stay home frequently to care for sick children. These notions are not only tired and incomplete, but they also aren’t limited to mothers -- even though we’re the only ones that get the bad rap. Coworkers without kids still call in sick, have to take their cats to the vet, and leave work to train for marathons. So why is it only mothers who feel forced to defend their time and actions? Why is corporate America so quick to devalue our contribution? And we have to battle these stereotypes while still kicking ass at our jobs.

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The unintended consequence of having to defend ourselves and our contribution to work is one many commenters complained of in the New York mag piece -- that it makes it sound like without children your life is meaningless. Havrilesky painted a picture of her single self with navel-gazing self-absorption, obsessed with topics she considers trivial now, and her days filled with boredom and angst. This way of life transformed when her child was born as it sometimes does (sometimes doesn’t). The problem is when you’re pitching an ‘us’ (even in a positive light -- working moms are efficient!), you automatically create a ‘them,’ and to be fair, this isn’t an accurate portrayal of all women without children. In fact, I was highly ambitious and focused before becoming a mother, but it’s a better story when the author found all her drive and focus after kids.

The truth is I have become more efficient since becoming a mother. And I do value my work more than ever, mostly as a shield to protect myself from being consumed by the excessive neediness and filth that comes with young children. But I really don’t want to have to prove myself day in and day out simply because I’ve chosen to procreate.

 

Image via © Inti St Clair/Blend Images/Corbis

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