The Impossibility of Being a “Good Mom”

working mom

I recently wrote about how I am often taken less seriously as a professional once it’s established I’m a mom. (Even though my parental status has no bearing on my business prowess.) Here’s what I learned from the reaction: I’m also being judged in reverse.

Readers questioned if I, as a hardworking entrepreneur, could also be a “good mom.” In other words, Why did I even have kids if I knew I wanted to pursue a career?

It’s a lose-lose, ladies.

Being a “mompreneur” (GROSS) is okay because I’m still prioritizing parenthood. But being an entrepreneur (who also has kids) is concerning because it suggests my children aren’t my number-one priority. Boy, do we need to change this conversation.

When a woman dares to write that she doesn’t like being identified as a mom in every single moment of her life ALL THE TIME, the response is that she’s either brave or evil for admitting that her job is more important than her kids. Which, what? How did we get to that conclusion?

I want to burn our conceptions down to the ground and start over again.

What the Hell Is a “Good Mom,” Anyway?

Somewhere along the way, we collectively decided that the BEST mom, the mom we must all strive to be, is the doting mom who stays home with her children.

Over the last few decades, we went from the little-to-no-involvement parenting style of the Betty Draper ’50s to the more involved style of the Mr. Mom ’80s, to some sort of competition-driven parental-involvement explosion of the ’90s.

We seems to have hit our peak now with Pinterest-perfect birthday parties that take weeks to orchestrate down to the last color-coordinated cupcake sprinkle, all photographed and shared on social media, of course.

Working moms are okay, as long as we excuse it. We must explain, “but only part-time!” or “because we need both incomes!” or “I just want to stay busy while the kids are in school!”

The working moms I know only ever admit to relishing work in hushed tones. We’re not supposed to work just because we want to work, especially if it means finding other people to help take care of our kids.

“I’m a mom first,” feels like the only acceptable position. To openly admit to pursuing a full-time career for joy is shocking. And “Why did you even have kids?” is the inevitable response.

So, I’m asking … can’t we be a lot of things “first”? Isn’t “first” a matter of the hour of the day?

This is why we need to change the conversation. Not just around what a “good mom” is, but also around how we define priorities.

Priorities don’t just shift over our lifetimes. They shift a dozen times a day.

We don’t know what our lives will look like year to year. I barely know what my life will look like week to week or even hour to hour. We juggle time and tasks no matter who we are.

This means that for some hours of the day, my kids are my top priority. But for some hours, work is number one. And heck, some hours, buying shoes on sale is my only goal.

I value my own fulfillment as an individual. I recognize that I am fulfilled by the professional work I do as well as my role as mom. Doing both help round me out. So do my other interests. Being happy makes me a better mom because it makes me a better person.

Many women find fulfillment being stay-at-home moms and that is a wonderful thing. I just don’t believe that “good” mothering must be defined by the amount of time we spend stay-at-home parenting.

Bottom line: I don’t have it all and I’m not trying to — not all at once, at least. Some days my kids get my all and some days they get a previous decade’s version of “all.” Some birthday parties are Pinterest-worthy, and some are last-minute trips to the taco place everyone likes.

We have great fun at both.

Kristy Sammis co-founded Clever Girls Collective, which helps brands connect with women in the digital space. Before that, she helped launch the BlogHer Conference. A media addict, she lives in the Napa Valley with her husband and two children, whose births she live-tweeted.

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