Mother’s Day is upon us. Relationship status: #itscomplicated
Some mamas are THRILLED to honor their moms and thrilled to be honored themselves. For others, this season can stir up lots of big emotions.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that May is also the host month for Maternal Mental Health Awareness… It may seem obvious, but it’s worth repeating: however you are about Mother’s Day, you do you.
Given I run a startup for moms (and dads!), I am a mom, and I’ve spent nearly 20 years advocating for women’s ability to choose parenthood on their terms, I was recently asked to give my opinion on the topic.
I was honored and excited, and then bummed…
Sitting at my desk, I got an email with the event info and the title “CEO Mothers: The Superwomen of Startups”.
Dang. It just felt “off” to me.
I looked up from my computer and across the table to another founder who is a mom and asked her about the title. Same reaction. I asked another seasoned mama advocate and she just said “NOOOOOO!”. Yikes.
While I definitely believed the organizers and I were 100% on the same page to honor working moms who are also startup founders (several challenging paths stacked on top of each other!), we diverged on the framing of this conversation.
To be clear: if it seems like I’m being sensitive about this, I am.
I sent an email to the organizers:
- calling myself out for being “that person”
- offered some context for being “that person”
- and, intending to be helpful in asking if they’d considered some adverse reactions that they may or may not have considered.
After some friendly back and forth, it was clear we remained diverged, so I respectfully declined to participate.
TLDR: the event wasn’t right for me and the conversations we’re promoting at JuiceBox Hero.
Well, after a lot of thought, I have made the choice to share why setting us working moms/startup founders up as “Superwomen” gives me pause:
- The literal implication of putting moms in the startup world on a pedestal as SUPER women is that women in the startup world who aren’t moms are “less than”. Yikes. While there is a distinction between those with and without kids, I believe we can honor and design for the experiences of working parents in a way that honors anyone without those experiences. It’s not a Zero-Sum game; it’s “and” not “or”.
- I’d like to think we’re moving beyond the fantasy of Superwomen “Doing it all” aka The Myth of the CEO Work-Life Balance. I also understand the curiosity and legit interest in functional life-hacks behind the question: “how do you do it all?”. Spoiler alert: I don’t think anyone does it All. We choose what All is and “just” do that (some people with a lot more privilege and help for what All is). And, I really appreciate whenever men — many of them working parents themselves — are asked this question…
- Mother’s Day can actually be super complicated (pun intended) for many women: women who want to be pregnant/moms but aren’t, women who have complicated relationships with their mothers, or themselves as moms. I shared with the organizers my own struggles with pregnancy loss (been pregnant 6 times, have two kids) and know many others who have lost pregnancies or children. For a lot of women, the complications of Mother’s Day veer well beyond, “Who gets to pick their fave brunch spot: Grandma or Mom?”.
- Finally, beyond any personal gripes or preferences, here’s something I take really seriously: women literally kill themselves trying to “do it all” or live up to an expectation that is.not.real. American women, in particular, become mothers in a system that expects us to do it all and then we take it personally when we can’t — sometimes with deadly post-partum outcomes. (A life-long go-getter, I know I was really shocked postpartum with 2 kids under 2 that I could not do it all… I was, as it turns out, a human woman.) Enough. Enough with the lack of resources and enough with the unhelpful and dangerous conversations.
If you’re reading this and need help, reach out to these experts or us and we will connect you.
On a positive note, I’m inspired by and love love love conversations to normalize working parents. Because, well, we are in fact, the norm:
- The majority of households are now dual-income households.
- The majority of people in their prime working years have children under the age of six.
- Bread-winning women account for 40% of all households and, modern fathers are taking on new roles at home and at work.
- The most likely successful startup founders and business owners are over 40!
So, to all the humans out there that have created other humans and particularly all the Mothers of Invention out there bringing new life into businesses, especially startups, I see you, I salute you and I feel you!
Chin up, hang in there, you’re doing a good job.