I Want it ALL

It’s time to change the conversation on working motherhood.

As far as we have come in equality on many fronts, working mothers – particularly women executives – continue to face undue scrutiny and battle the perception that they are not as committed to their careers as their male or childless female counterparts. If you avail yourself of a company’s flexible work policy by working from home one day each week (or even once in a blue moon), you have to fight the perception that you’re coasting. Stay home to care for a sick kid and risk the perception that you’re not reliable.

I’ve had endless conversations with female executives who’ve had to put up with passing comments from colleagues questioning their ability to continue to climb the corporate ladder simply because they have children. The comments vary from pseudo-helpful to downright infuriating:

• You travel so much for your job. Don’t you miss your kids?
• It must be so hard to have someone else raise your children
• Why did you even have kids if you’re never going to be around?
• You seem to have a lot going on. I don’t think you’re ready for that new job
• Aren’t you the one who has to stay at home if your kid is sick?

The challenge with these type of comments is not just that they are discriminatory (when’s the last time someone asked a man any of these questions?) It cuts both ways. As working mothers, the perception of our professional potential may be minimized simply by having children, while at the same time we are criticized for not being even more “motherly”, more accessible to and present with our children.

Now don’t get me wrong. We’re not all angels. There are some working mothers out there who spend more time on the phone arranging the next PTA meeting than actually doing their jobs (just like there are childless employees who spend more time planning their dinner parties than working from 9 to 5). But the biggest hit to working mothers is that whether the perception is true or not, once it has taken hold anything we do can feed into the myth. Take a day off to attend a special event or mention almost anything about your kids in a professional setting, and you run the risk of reinforcing the perception that you are more “mother” than “worker”.

A dear friend of mine shared an incredible article from The Harvard Business Review last week that addressed this very topic. Titled “How Female Leaders Should Handle Double Standards”, its core premise is that while a double standard does exist, women should focus on kicking ass rather than changing these deeply-ingrained-though-wrong-headed perceptions. While I agree with the innate rationality of this argument, I can’t help but be pissed off that were still having this conversation. Women – including working mothers – have risen to the rarest of air in public, private and corporate America. Yet we are still having this conversation. If anyone suggested that there was a “perception” that I was not as accessible as my colleagues because I am a black person, most people would scream discrimination. But, make this assumption about a working mother and no one bats an eye.

As a female executive, I want it all. I want the corner office, a fulfilling family life, healthy body and mind, time with girlfriends as well as a loving relationship with my husband. I am a writer, a blogger, executive, coach, sister, daughter, wife, friend and mother. I will not be limited to just one thing. I want it all, and I will not settle for less. True, I may not be the best at all of these things, every day – but no one is. Male or female. Parent or not.

It’s time to change the conversation on working motherhood.

[Find Sherice on her blog, TheBadAss Mama Chronicles and visit her on Facebook]