Let’s stop knocking choices moms make
BY DR. LAURA BERMAN firstname.lastname@example.org July 31, 2012 9:36AM
FILE - JULY 17, 2012: Google executive Marissa Mayer has been poached by Yahoo as they appoint their third CEO within the last year; a move which is expected to see the company sharpen it's focus on technology and products. NEW YORK, NY - MAY 23: Marissa Mayer of Google speaks at TechCrunch Disrupt NYC 2012 day 3 at Pier 94 on May 22, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Paul Zimmerman/Getty Images for TechCrunch/AOL)
Updated: September 2, 2012 6:04AM
Marissa Mayer recently made waves recently when she announced she was leaving Google to become the head of Yahoo.
If that news wasn’t enough to get people talking, with that announcement came the news that Mayer is six months pregnant. A media frenzy ensued, with many conjecturing that a mom-to-be might not have the time or energy needed for such a important position.
Others angrily pointed out that Mayer is more than capable of fulfilling her job responsibilities, and that women should not have to apologize for having a family along with having a career.
Personally, I think it’s sad we need to have this conversation in the first place. When men rise up the corporate ladder, we don’t question whether they are fulfilling their responsibilities at home or accuse them of being bad fathers. Yet when women go after their career goals, eyebrows are raised and questions are asked, such as “Does she just stick her kids in day care all day?” or, “Can she handle this new client with two kids at home?”
Sexist thinking such as this does a disservice to men as well as women, because it presumes that dads aren’t important as moms are in their kids’ lives. However, according to a recent study from University of Connecticut, fathers contribute just as much as mothers (if not more) to a child’s personality and healthy development. The researchers found that paternal love was a key factor in a child’s self-esteem, and that a father’s involvement contributes to a child’s ability to establish healthy relationships and key goals.
Of course, the irony is that we can be just as judgmental of women who choose to stay at home with their kids. Suddenly, she is “just a mom,” and it’s assumed that she must spend the whole day on networking sites, watching television and making perfect animal-shaped peanut butter sandwiches. Yet as any stay-at-home mom knows, raising kids is harder than any other job out there, and to top it off, it’s often thankless and unpaid.
It’s time to stop the mommy wars and embrace all the different kinds of moms, women and families out there. Maybe women can’t have it all, all the time, but we can get pretty darn close, especially with a good support system in place. Consider these important survival tips:
† Practice good self-care. When you are juggling a million work responsibilities along with raising kids, it can be hard to find time for yourself. To find more time, you might trim your own needs off your to-do list, such as skipping your exercise class or canceling dinner with friends. Yet the truth is that practicing good self-care is an important part of succeeding at work and at home. If you aren’t taking care of yourself — eating right, making time to exercise, spending time with friends and getting enough sleep — you aren’t going to be on the top of your game. “Me” time actually isn’t selfish or lazy; it’s about recharging your batteries so that you can get back to your crazy life with full power.
† Show your kids your joy. Sometimes when women work outside the home, they think that they have to feel guilty or downplay their career. Instead of apologizing for your career, let your kids see the joy and passion you have for your job. Talk about why it’s so important to love what you do every day, and instill the value of hard work and discipline early on.
† Don’t be so hard on yourself. Every mom I know (myself included) struggles with guilt. These pent-up feelings of guilt and inadequacy, coupled with physical woes caused by increasing cortisol (the stress hormone), only serve to distract and prevent us from enjoying our kids when we do have quality time together. And, more than quantity time, children need regular quality time, even if it has to be at unique hours. Maybe you don’t make home for the bedtime story, but you can rock the 6 a.m. board game before leaving for the office, or you can have a 4 p.m. tea party before heading out for the night shift.
The bottom line is that whether we work as a full-time mom or a CEO of a major company, none of us are perfect. But the good news is that we don’t have to be: We just have to be good enough.
Dr. Berman is the star of “In The Bedroom with Dr. Laura Berman” on OWN and director of drlauraberman.com.