A few weeks ago I was speaking on the phone with a woman who works as a consultant with big corporations. She is also a mom of two kids. She has some great ideas about how to make the workplace more flexible and work-life balance friendly, so I invited her to blog on Work It, Mom! There was an awkward pause and then she said the last thing I expected her to say: “I really like what you’re doing but I try to not be associated with mommy sites. I don’t want to be pigeonholed asÂ a mommy blogger.”
I literally didn’t know what to say (which is rare, as those of you who know me would attest to). The woman I was speaking with realized that I was surprised and went on to tell me about the horrible stigma she encounters when she mentions her kids or being a mom to some of her clients. “It’s like all of a sudden, they take me less seriously,” she told me.
Two days later, I was having an email exchange with a prominent author - also a woman and a mom - about contributing to Work It, Mom! She was excited to work with us, she said, but she wanted me to assure her that Work It, Mom! would not turn into “one of those mommy sites.” When I asked her to clarify, she said that she wanted to work with us because we struck a good balance between focusing on both the mom and the career aspects of being a working mom. She was approached by a few other sites for moms and felt that if she worked with them, she would be termed a “mommy blogger” and it would hurt her career.
I am not going to name these two women - both are bright, hard-working, incredible moms who have managed to successfully (at least from the outside) juggle work and family. But what they talked about really struck me. They didn’t want to be prominently identified asÂ moms because they thought it would hurt their career. Their clients would take them less seriously, their opinions would be given less weight.
This is scary. How many other working moms out there are hiding in the closet so that their co-workers, bosses, clients, or readers take them seriously?
As I was thinking about this, I read this articleÂ by Eileen Goodman about how moms are consistently penalized in the workplace for being momsÂ - they are seen as less competent and are paid less. Smart, educated, hard-working women accomplishing the same tasks and reaching the same objectives as their male counterparts are being seen as less competent for no other reason than the fact that they have children.
I’ve been a mom for three years and I am lucky - I made the same money as all the men at my firm who were at my level and I did not feel any type of judgment from my male colleagues or bosses for beingÂ a mom. But I did endlessly run into situationsÂ where other people I interacted with in my industry asked me about “my life as a mom” before they talked to me about whatever professional issues we had to deal with. Most of the time, this was innocent, but often, it was demeaning and infuriating. One situation in particular made me so angry that I wrote about it for Work It, Mom! (click here to read the story).
And I know I am not alone in trying to find that delicate - and perhaps unachievable balance - of how much of my momÂ identity to bring into my professional interactions. Mir writes about it in her blog posttoday, and Elana Centor talks about it in her interview.
I think this a really important conversation and one we should have collectively as professional moms. How many of us are hiding in the closet and limiting how much of our “mom” life to include in our professional interactions? We can talk about work-life balance until we’re blue in the face but if we’re afraid that coming out as a mom at work makes us appear less serious or less professional, can we really achieve any type of progress?
Please share your thoughts and reactions, as well as your personal experiences, by posting a comment.
And because I think this such an important topic, I am going to do something we’ve not done before - I am going to “tag” several great bloggers who are working moms to share their perspectives on this issue. Sara, Charlene, Susan, Penelope, Elana, Pam,Â BusyMomÂ - you are it!