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Why we published Leslie Bennetts’ article and why I am surprised by the reaction

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18 comments

As some of you have seen, we recently published an article by Leslie Bennetts titled 10 Reasons Working Moms Should Feel Great About Themselves (Reason number one: Working women are happier).

This post is not meant to defend our decision to publish the article but rather for me to personally explain why we did it and share my reactions to the reactions I’ve heard from several members (OK, that’s a mouthful, I know).

We published Ms. Bennetts’ article because:

1. We’re an open community where ANY member is free to submit articles, write notes, ask questions, and join in on the discussion. We’re not an editorial magazine and unless the content is inappropriate or irrelevant we don’t prevent it from appearing on the site.

2. Ms. Bennetts’ book is targeted at working moms, is based on research, and it caused heated discussion when it came out. I expected that her article would contain relevant information and be a good platform for discussion at Work It, Mom!. This second point is the reason why we featured the article in our newsletter and on the site yesterday — to invite our members to enter into this discussion and conversation with each other.

I am going to refrain entirely from saying how I feel about the article — I’ve not commented on the other 500+ member articles we’ve published on the site or any posts from our bloggers and I don’t see it as my place to do that. The reason I decided to write this post is because several members have suggested — both in their comments on the article and in their personal emails to me — that Work It, Mom! should not have published or featured such an article. A few members have told me that they are now leaving the community because we published the piece.

To be completely honest, this baffled me. In every interaction I’ve had with members on the site — and you guys know that I stay pretty active and involved and ask for feedback non-stop — what I’ve heard over and over is that we all want an open community rather than an editorial magazine. We want to hear from real moms through their real voices and we want a place where we can discuss things openly, express our opinions, and share support and advice with each other. While I know that the opinions of several members don’t represent the entire community their implication that Work It, Mom! should be editing or filtering what type of content we publish and feature gave me significant pause.

This goes to the heart of what we’re trying to build here at Work It, Mom! and the personal vision I’ve had for this company since the first day I got the idea to start it — which has now been augmented and enlarged by the rest of our awesome team here. My dad, who is my close life advisor, always tells me to try and fight my impulsive nature and not make decisions when I am upset. So I am going to think about this for a while because I’d be lying if I told you that I had a good night last night and that I wasn’t upset. Work It, Mom! is not some corporation that I work for — it’s a reflection of my personal vision, my passion, a labor of love and a huge piece of me. As I’ve written before, this is personal. And when members tell me that they feel we’ve done something that offends them and they are leaving the community because of it, it upsets me, regardless of whether I agree with them or not.

So I am going to let this simmer, as one of my favorite entrepreneurs once said about things that happen with his business. But I really want to hear from you, your opinions about what Work It, Mom! should be, and whether you think it is our role to filter content that might be controversial, opinionated, and even polarizing. So don’t be shy, sound off!



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18 comments so far...

  • I’ve been sitting on how to reply to this. I’ve decided I’m staying out of the fray over at that article and am just going to give you the feedback you want here.

    WIM works for so many reasons but mainly it works due to the diversity on these pages. We all have the opportunity to write notes, share our stories, give positive advice and interact. Our opinions can be stated at any time in any forum. That makes for a wonderful open community and some great debates.

    WIM also works because it’s a comfortable place. The minute someone crosses a line, whether it’s by soliciting people or making inappropriate comments then they are removed as a member. We all know that our space here is sacred and is being protected.

    I want to see it continue in this vein. I read most, if not all, of the articles around here. I read the majority of member notes. I’m active in forums. If I have something to contribute to any of these then I do. But if I read something that doesn’t read right to me or just isn’t my thing then I move on. I love that there are all of these views and opinions and experiences. For someone like me who has minimal client interaction and works from home it allows me a view of the world. And isn’t the world a better place for all of us being individuals?

    Mandy  |  March 14th, 2008 at 12:14 pm

  • I don’t know if Work It, Mom! should filter or edit controversial content or not, but I do know that personally I find articles with statements like “working moms are happier”–or “stay-at-home-moms are happier”, for that matter–offensive, not to mention tiresome. Because obviously a statement like that is ridiculously broad, and can never apply to all working (or stay-at-home) moms. Currently, though I do occasional freelance consulting, I characterize myself as a stay-at-home (mostly “non-working”) mom, and I am far happier than when I was working (part-time) outside the home in addition to raising my daughter; the stress of juggling parenting, household management, cooking, cleaning, shopping, AND outside work made me very unhappy (even with a supportive, helpful spouse). I am so much happier now, at home full-time with my two young children, spending as much time with them as I can now when they are small. I have no doubt whatsoever that this is the right situation for me right now, so yes, it irks me when someone else says that moms are happier if they are working.

    I admit I did groan inwardly a bit when I saw that Ms. Bennetts was featured on this site, because what bothers me (and I assume others) about Ms. Bennetts’ stance on this issue is that it feels patronizing and reductionistic; how can she (or anyone else) know what’s best for me, and my own heart and soul, when it comes to work vs. being with my babies? Can’t I be an educated, informed, intelligent, accomplished woman with a stellar career who understands the financial risks of staying home with my babies, but STILL finds it untenable to leave them each day to go to work? Can’t I be an at-home mom and still be incredibly happy?

    That said, I feel strongly about respecting everyone’s choices and knowing that we cannot know what situation will make other moms happy or fulfilled (or even safe or secure or smart or….). And I think that respectful discussion is fine. However, given that Ms. Bennetts’ book was so terribly controversial when it came out, I think it is to be expected that publishing her work here would be controversial as well, for better or worse.

    In the end, I think you are doing a great job with this site, Nataly, and I enjoy it immensely, even if I’m not working a whole lot right now (that is, not working for pay in the traditional sense!). I know I will return to the paid workforce in a greater sense eventually, and I find Work It, Mom! interesting and insightful in thinking about work issues and also simply in making my current life easier and more meaningful.

    Shannon  |  March 14th, 2008 at 12:37 pm

  • Earlier this week I noticed a banner on the WIM home page referring to her article. I clicked into it but quite honestly didn’t read it. I skimmed it and for whatever reason (maybe I was interupted, maybe I found the content uninteresting, who knows) I never read the article.

    But now I am curious so I will give it another look. But I agree with Mandy, I am active on this site and I appreciate the diversity in people and content. If you want to act as an editor you will need two sites: one for mothers that work from home and one for mothers that work outside of the home. And that, to me, seems ridiculous.

    KathyHowe  |  March 14th, 2008 at 3:08 pm

  • Nataly - I think your decision to publish was a smart one. And frankly, I don’t really care if you agree or disagree with what you publish - your intent for the site (which you are succeeding at, by the way) is to offer an online outlet for working moms. That article may ruffle feathers, but so what? Some may leave over it (??? baffling), but so what? Did you start the company and website with this goal: “All my content will always be agreeable to every person who happens to visit or join my site.” I’m guessing no on that one.

    I know this is a tough thing - because it is so very, very personal - but try to back up and think through your reasoning for starting this great community. You did it. And you did it based on your core beliefs and structures and tenets, etc. - you didn’t do it by trying to please everyone everyday.

    Thank you for publishing it. I don’t agree or disagree with the article. I just think it’s fabulous tidbits of info to add to my little info bank. I think we all need to continually be exposed to different points of view - otherwise, how could we ever properly argue our own point of view?

    You’ve done a great thing here. I’m lucky to be a part of it.

    Shannon  |  March 14th, 2008 at 3:18 pm

  • Well hot diggity. Those are some interesting comments on that article.

    I posted my response to the article over there on the actual article. As for the thread of comments I am a little stunned.

    I think there are some people on that comment thread that haven’t learned to the fine art of accepting the diverse views of other people.

    An opinion or viewpoint that you do not share/agree with is not a personal attack. There was not one point in that article where I felt like Leslie had slighted women that choose to stay home.

    I just figured out another reason why I like working outside of the home!! I am exposed to diverse views and ideas every single day and it seems that I have learned to not take personally those views and ideas that I do not agree with. GO ME!!!

    KathyHowe  |  March 14th, 2008 at 3:29 pm

  • My response to this was getting so long that I went ahead and e-mailed it to you, Nataly. But I wanted to chime in that KathyH. makes a great point here in saying “An opinion or viewpoint that you do not share/agree with is not a personal attack.” Sure, we all like to be around people who see the world, and live their lives, the way we do - it’s validating. But it’s the differences - the diverse viewpoints, as Kathy puts it - that keep things interesting.

    I really hope you’ll continue with the rest of the series.

    Florinda  |  March 14th, 2008 at 4:18 pm

  • Do you *really* want a debate on this site about whether we should be staying home with the kids or working? Wouldn’t you rather have a community of women who support each other’s choices, acknowledge that each choice has positive and negative aspects, and gets beyond the “shoulds” to focus on the “how to’s”?

    The article itself was one-sided but not horrible. Her book, on the other hand, is one of the worst SAHM-bashing diatribes I have come across. I would much rather you feature an author who has taken some time out, successfully returned to the workforce, and can relate to both situations.

    SoftwareMom  |  March 14th, 2008 at 5:54 pm

  • I appreciated the article for what it was, an article. I have often struggled with the guilt of wanting to work and not be a stay at home mom. I have tried both and have found what makes me happy. I agree with the others that a differing opinion is not an attack and what works for some may and will not work for all.

    Please don’t let over reactions to an article discourage you from WIM or its members. This site is the only place where I have ever felt welcome as a working mother. You are doing everything right for this Mom and I know many others.

    klg  |  March 14th, 2008 at 9:56 pm

  • Wow! I thought some people leaving the site because of this article was a little over the top. I enjoyed the article and hope you keep running the series. If you don’t I believe you’re going to go against your vision for WIM.

    Nataly, keep doing what you’re doing and running diverse articles like this. Listen to your dad! Don’t let your emotions get the best of you. You created this site as a way to share various views on all kinds of topics for moms, whether working or not.

    KathyHowe, I thought your last paragraph was so funny! I too am glad I get to interact with all types of personalities in my job. It’s made me a very open-minded, non-judgemental person!

    Anna B  |  March 14th, 2008 at 10:22 pm

  • Kathy nailed one of my points, and Florinda affirmed it: A differing opinion is not a personal attack.

    I would never leave a site because some of the articles were from a different perspective than my own. (I LOVED being a SAHM mother; those years were among the happiest in my life.) I would leave a site — a site intended to be an interactive community, at any rate — if I felt that my perspective was being ignored/unrepresented.

    Which led me to this idea: if an article like that is highlighted, you need, in the interests of balance, to provide another from the opposite perspective. BUT… then I got to thinking what that would look like: the anti-SAHM article followed by the anti-WorkingMom article, and there we are, smack bang in the middle of the freaking tedious boring relentless hateful Mommy Wars. Oh god, please no.

    So, *deliberately* seek out a balancing/opposing perspective to highlight in conscious response to Bennet’s article? No, thanks. Please don’t.

    However, future editorial decisions do need to be made with an eye to that kind of balance. You can’t please everyone all the time, so perhaps the best you can do is to spread the offense equally…

    And members need to understand that a free community will necessitate being expose to opinions you disagree with, even those you find offensive. Freedom of speech does not give someone the right to spread hate, but it also does not mean “you get to say whatever you like so long I agree with it.”

    MaryP  |  March 15th, 2008 at 7:58 am

  • I just want to say a huge thank you for the feedback — lots of food for thought which is EXACTLY what I was asking for. You guys always deliver:)

    A few people have brought up the point that we should be featuring other perspectives along with Ms. Bennetts — and I’d like to turn that into an invitation for all of you, our members, to submit articles sharing your perspectives, thoughts, opinions, rebuttals, feelings, and observations. I can’t really think of any other better way to encourage a “balanced” discussion on the site.

    Nataly  |  March 15th, 2008 at 9:10 am

  • I’m surprised that some felt the article was a personal attack *from WIM*. All viewpoints are valid and should be represented, IMO–that’s what keeps WIM interesting and useful!

    I’ve really enjoyed WIM and have responded to many different posts of totally different types–from recipes to traveling to surrogacy. WIM touches many aspects of my own life, and I’m sure the issues with which I resonate differ from the issues in others’ lives.
    There are articles on WIM I have no interest in, or can’t relate to. That’s fine too–if we were all the same, what a boring world it would be!

    Nataly, I have recommended your site to many of my working mom friends as a great resource and source of support. Please keep up the good work and keep the diversity going!

    spacegeek  |  March 15th, 2008 at 5:10 pm

  • I read and responded to Leslie Bennetts’ article prior to reading this post. Something about this post bugged me, more than the article itself, and after sleeping on it, I think I can finally explain it.

    I choose to be part of this community to find support and guidance from other working women like myself seeking the same support and guidance, free of judgment. I find it distasteful that someone who presents a highly judgmental, one-sided agenda was invited to join this community. She derides the decision and lifestyle of stay-home moms in a condescending manner. I am all for healthy debate, but I find her style of argument more incendiary than at all healthy.

    What’s bugging me has nothing to do with filtering content on this site. It’s that someone with no vested interest in the goals and well-being of the community has been given an ongoing forum within the community. It doesn’t seem to me that Leslie Bennetts wants support or guidance from us, she wants us to buy her book.

    As for me, knowing there are 9 more articles from her on the way, I will also let this simmer before coming back to WIM.

    cheryl  |  March 15th, 2008 at 8:29 pm

  • Cheryl,

    Leslie is not the first person (or organization) to become a member of WIM for the sole purpose of promoting the sale of a product. If you go search member names for the word “prevention” you’ll see that “The Editors of Prevention Magazine” are quite active on this site. I doubt they want support and guidance from us either and they have been active on this site for quite awhile now. Food for thought.

    KathyHowe  |  March 16th, 2008 at 11:02 am

  • Nataly, you know I’m a huge fan of the site, and I thought it was rather brave of you to publish her. I agree with some points of Ms. Bennetts, and from my comment on the article, found that post a little off-putting. That being said, however, I think it’s a strength of the site that you can push buttons and show both sides of the equation. I would love to see an expert opinion of the other side of the coin (the SAHM) one, because most of what I see seems to be so one-sided from the working mom POV.

    selfmademom  |  March 16th, 2008 at 3:48 pm

  • An open community is great. But the thing I find disturbing about Ms. Bennett’s comments is that there is no room for disagreeing with her in her world. She sees black and whote “facts” where other see shades of gray.

    As someone who worked as professional for over 20 years, I understand the arguments. What I don’t get is when people judge others when they change their life path or make a decision different from the one they are advocating. My perception of Ms. Bennett’s writing is that they tend to lecture or scold those of us who aren’t on or have veered from the path she believes is the only right one.

    I believe I’ve earned the right to figure out what works best for me and my family without having someone talk at me while shaking their finger in my face and insinuating that I should be ashamed that I’m not back in an office. I am smart enough to know what the possibilities of divorce and going back to “an office” are. Let’s skip the lectures and stick with respectful conversation about mothers and their choices.

    PunditMom  |  March 17th, 2008 at 12:41 pm

  • As someone with no prior knowledge of Ms. Bennett’s writing or agenda, I just read it as an article. That’s it. Some things in it to maybe agree with, others to disagree with. Not an attack, nor the only view on the subject.

    I don’t feel bad about staying at home with my son just because I read the article. I certainly don’t let someone I don’t know dictate how I feel about my choices.

    I read the article early on, so I guess I’ll mosey back over to see how the comments have shaped up.

    becky  |  March 18th, 2008 at 7:27 pm

  • Can’t we all get along?…

    I am a member of the Work It Mom Community. I subscribe to the blog and as I have time read entries. Some of them are relevant to me, some are not. Some of them are interesting, some are not. Some of them are in my opinion intelligent, some are not. Yo…

    Mommy CEO  |  March 19th, 2008 at 11:05 am

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