Real Life

Why Working Moms Are Mad

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"We're expected to do our jobs as if we don't have children — and then raise our children as if we don't have jobs." Katrina Alcorn, Maxed Out: American Moms on the Brink.

I have very strong opinions about the plight of working moms in America. My opinions are influenced by my own experiences, those of my friends and colleagues, and those that I coach. There are also stories that are published in the media that tend to validate my opinions. It’s been reported recently that women take reduced maternity leaves because of fears about retaining their jobs. Indeed, Ivanka Trump recently published a book entitled, Women Who Work: Rewriting the Rules for Success that in part discusses the need for working moms to change the paradigm and create their own rules for success. In my opinion, working moms need more than a little help to make their success dreams come true. Here are some reasons why…

1. Corporate America and home responsibilities do not benefit working moms.

Corporate America was designed for the childless, for men with full-time wives or for the wealthy who can afford full-time help. Corporate America wasn't designed for people in partnership marriages or those who have primary caregiving responsibilities. And it wasn’t designed for those who are on a budget who must pick their kids up from daycare by 6:00 p.m. or pay a $20.00 fine every five minutes they’re late.

Essentially, working moms are required to please their corporations and their families in the face of two systems that believe each job is their sole responsibility.

2. Corporate policies do not support families.

The existing policies at most companies aren't designed to help moms succeed in both areas. Because of that, the pressure — mostly on moms — is extreme. Many organizations, including the one where I work, function at warp speed. Crises erupt and all hands are needed on deck. These crises have no respect for time of day or day of the week. Because of that, our organization stays in constant crisis response mode even when it’s not necessary. The possibility of crisis gives excuses to those who prefer not to plan and instead schedule meetings with very little notice, with very little advanced information, and with no clear purpose. These types of environments are particularly challenging for working moms who bear the lion share of the responsibilities at home, even when they are married. And why is that?

3. American home life still functions like there is a stay-at-home mom.

I will say the thing that you shouldn’t say. Many men do not believe that they have the primary responsibility for raising their kids and keeping the house if they are married to a woman. Therefore they don’t function that way. The prototype of dad working and mom staying at home is deeply embedded into their psyche in a way that is almost undetectable. Still, you can tell by their actions that they lack a sense of ownership of household duties and childcare duties, which reduces their role to that of “helper”.

You can hear this even in the conversations that mothers have with their friends who observe their husband changing a diaper or cooking. They comment, “He’s such a good help to you!” The comment is meant as a compliment, but I find the entire concept to be offensive because it presumes that it is the mother’s job — her divine lot in life — to be responsible for the entire thing. And everyone knows that being a manager is stressful.

Indeed, there is something fundamentally different about believing that you are responsible for something as opposed to believe that you’re “helping” the person whose job it really is. When you are “helping” you’re like the well-intended volunteer who shows up to help at the soup kitchen. You feel good about your contributions, but also know that ultimately, it is someone else’s job. So, you do what you are asked, don’t think too much about it, and leave at the end of your shift without a thought about how the organization will function without you.

When you help, you expect an enthusiastic thank you for your contributions and potentially some other type of reward as well.

4. The plight of working moms is complicated by these competing pressures.

Many working moms faithfully execute their duties and whether they do so happily or begrudgingly the fact is, they do the work. They notice the inequity whether she complains about it or not. Trust and believe, if a woman who works full time and has small children is also performing most essential daily duties inside the home she would prefer a more equitable arrangement. That’s a fact.

Many working moms resent their husbands for not doing more to ease their burdens. The husbands in turn resent their wives for “nagging them” or “complaining”. Instead of recognizing the problems in their own household, they look externally and conclude that they are “helping a lot” and doing more than most men. So, their wives should be more grateful. For many, equity isn’t even a goal. And when equity is a passing thought they conclude that the efforts of both are indeed “equal” without that conclusion being based upon any facts or data. Instead, it’s just a feeling they have based on conversations they’ve had with others. And when they hear of a husband who contributes more, they make disparaging comments and reduce him to an outlier and take solace in the fact they are in the middle of the pack of “manly men” because the idea of having a "housewife" remains the ideal.

Indeed, one male writer simply advised men, "Don't Marry Career Women".  If that is advice that men are receiving, what does that mean for the future of working moms???

Given these deeply held beliefs, I think it is a pointless effort, and a waste of time and breath, to try to change the minds of men who think this way. You can’t make anybody change. A more worthwhile effort is to identify what changes they can make in their lives that will ease their burdens. I have shared some tips on this blog previously and will continue to do so. And if your man gains some enlightenment of his own and wants to contribute more, you can enjoy it without experiencing the stress of fighting with someone to try to make them change.

The author of a recent article I read said that her ugly secret was that she felt like a fraud at home and at work. (Here’s a link to that article, “The ugly secret of working moms”) I think many women also have another ugly secret, they are mad a lot. That said, I hope that we use that anger and frustration to help change policy and mindsets. We can influence Corporate America by writing, expressing concerns with human resources and starting our own companies. We can help change the inequities in the home by educating our children about what it takes to manage a home and to train them — our girls and boys —to tackle those realities in a fair way.

Guest post by Chaton Turner, Chaton’s World

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