Woman, Support Thy Sisters: Stop Perpetuating the Mommy Stigma

Woman, Support Thy Sisters: Stop Perpetuating the Mommy Stigma

I recently engaged in a LinkedIn discussion that left me disgusted, shocked and angry. It seems that I shared an unpopular opinion in one of my writing groups, and while I wasn’t surprised by the fact that people disagreed with me, I was completely floored when another woman attacked me personally. She didn’t like what I had to say, and I respected that wholeheartedly. I’m always up for a friendly and spirited debate–but then she took it one step too far. She implied that because I have children, I must be an incompetent writer.

This woman, who later admitted to being a mother herself, spewed hate and ignorance, the likes of which I haven’t seen since junior high school. She even attempted to insult me by calling me a “mommy blogger.”

Guess what? I am a mommy, and I am also a blogger. I’m an awesome wife, a homeowner, a friend, a daughter, a granddaughter. I love my life, and I’m proud of my family. I also happen to be a pretty successful freelance writer who brings in a pretty decent income. I’m passionate and I know what I want in this world–and I’m not afraid to go after it.

But apparently, simply admitting that one has children in some circles is a sign to some people that she’s not capable of being a professional. Instead, women who admit they’re mothers are often belittled and ridiculed–and often, this treatment comes from other women, even other mothers. People who openly admit to being moms might be called “unprofessional” and told that they must not be taking their work seriously–even from people who are less experienced and making less money than they are.

It’s not just the writing community, either. Back in my corporate life, I experienced discrimination from some of my colleagues, including other mothers, because of my maternal status–and my research tells me that I’m not alone.

Being female already puts us behind our male counterparts in the professional world. On average, we earn 77 cents for every dollar men earn. While there are countless rationalizations for this phenomenon, there are just as many legitimate complaints.

Discrimination At Its Finest

If a career-driven woman aggressively pursues her own success, she’s called a bitch. If she chooses to focus on her family, she’s considered “just a mommy.” And, if she tries to “have it all” and work while she raises her family, God forbid, her intelligence is questioned and she might be called incompetent. The really messed up part is that men don’t generally experience the same type of discrimination when they become parents.

The thing that really gets under my skin in regard to discrimination against women, and especially mothers, in the workplace is that it very often comes from other women. By the time we’re 33 years old, 76 percent of us are or will become mothers. There’s a pretty good chance that could include you (or your partner), if it doesn’t already.

Woman Vs. Woman

As a society, so many have been conditioned to think that motherhood=career suicide that many women turn against one another. While competition in the workplace is natural and even encouraged in many cases, it doesn’t need to involve personal attacks–especially on a woman’s maternal status.

I don’t know about y’all, but I am over this whole “women discriminating against other women” thing. Some people seem to thrive on it–maybe they think that by spewing hate and insults at the other women in their respective industries, they’re somehow proving their own superiority. Or maybe they are trying to appear more masculine, as they mistake spitefulness for assertiveness. I honestly don’t know the answer here–maybe it should simply be chalked up to the fact that some people are just plain negative.

So back to the story…

While I’ll openly admit that my heart was pounding in shock and anger as I read this woman’s venomous words, after I had some time to think on it, it occurred to me that my initial reaction would only encourage her negative behavior. So, I reminded her that it’s easy to be nasty in a semi-anonymous forum to people she doesn’t know and will probably never meet. I apologized for any perceived sarcasm or negativity she found in my responses (although I was nothing but respectful to her–unless you count the time I suggested that her negative attitude might be the reason she’s having trouble finding high-paying gigs), and then I wished her well and removed myself from the conversation.

Sure, I had a brief urge to tell her what I really thought, and believe me, it wouldn’t have been pretty. But that would just be putting more negativity out into the world–thus, bringing more of it into my life. I don’t need it–and neither do the rest of the women in the world.

Woman, Support Thy Sisters

Listen, girls, I know just as well as anyone how it feels to be competitive with the other women in your life. Who doesn’t? This society encourages a certain type of perfection, and anyone who doesn’t fit in that perfect little box can expect some level of discrimination.

But I propose that we, as women, work together to climb that collective “ladder of success.” Let’s stick our proverbial hammers in our back pockets on the way up so that when we reach the top, we can break through that perceived glass ceiling people are always talking about.

And on the way up, why not give our sisters a helping hand? Reach out to the women in your life, personal and professional, and you might just find a kind of support that you didn’t know was possible. Get off the woman-hating band wagon and love your sisters, flaws and all.

Why It Matters

Here’s the kicker. When we focus on tearing down the other women around us, we are also tearing down ourselves on some level. Remember, you get back what you put out into the universe. So, when you’re constantly trying to “one-up” or belittle the other women in your life, you might just look in the mirror and see someone you don’t even like. After all, you’re one of those people you’re always cutting down. However, if you can muster up a little support for (yourself and) the other feminine folks in your life, you might just find that a beautiful, happy person you’re proud to call Self smiles back at you instead.

My challenge to my female readers today is to support and encourage the women in your life. Instead of feeling competitive and threatened by one another, celebrate one another in all of your feminine perfection. Offer praise, support, advice. Focus on the good things about the women in your life, and watch yourself  experience immeasurable personal growth and increased self love–and ultimately, an improved quality of life.

As for the men, if you’re still reading, I challenge you to tell the women in your life that they matter. Hug your significant other and tell her she’s amazing. Call your mother and thank her for putting up with you for all these years. Tell your female colleagues that you appreciate them.

What do you think? Have you or someone you know experienced discrimination in the workplace? How did you handle it? How do you support the women in your life?

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It’s Better Than a Poke In the Eye With a Sharp Stick

It’s Better Than a Poke In the Eye With a Sharp Stick

April 11, 2010

Did you ever have one of those “I wanna run away from home” days? You know the kind I mean–everything seems to go wrong. And it piles up until you “can’t takes it no more.”

It happened to me today. At one point, I was cooking dinner, trying to referee the growing argument between my sons, had my daughter hanging off my leg as my husband asked me to help him find the remote. (And, of course, the phone was ringing.) For just a brief moment, I considered going to bed and trying again tomorrow.

Everyone experiences a rough day now and then, even the really happy people. But the difference between really happy people and less thrilled folks is simple: they perceive the situations they deal with each day in different ways.

Whenever I’d complain about something not going exactly the way I wanted as a child, my dad would always smile and say, “Well, it’s better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.”

I’ll admit it. It used to really, really annoy me. My dad had all kinds of colorful ways of saying things (still does, actually)–he should have been a writer, or at least a comedian who writes his own stuff. For example, as a little kid, I developed a bad habit of very conspicuously readjusting my panties when the inevitable ride-up happened (of course, puberty relieved this problem by giving me generous hips, but I digress.)

Dad would look at me and say, “You going to the movies?” I’d say, “Uhm, no…why?” And he’d say, “Well, looks like you’re picking your seat…” I can’t tell you how many times I fell for that before I finally learned my lesson.

Like I said, colorful.

Anyway, as you might expect, I find myself using Dad’s special vernacular all the time with my own children. Like when I tell them to to hurry, I say, “Quick, like a bunny!” Or like when we finally get the whole family in the car, belted into their respective seats and ready to go somewhere, I have to announce that “we’re off, like a herd of turtles,” just like Dad used to say.

And when they complain about things not happening exactly as they’d like, I can’t help but remind them that “it’s better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.”

So today, as I attempted to handle fifty-seven different issues in 60 seconds flat, I had to stop for a moment and get the situation into perspective. First, I realized, this noisy and annoying family of mine is beautiful, happy, and healthy. And the more agitated I feel, the more agitated they seem to get. Oh, hello, it’s the Law of Attraction calling…like attracts like, silly. Quit being annoyed and they’ll quit annoying you. 

Yeah, I guess it was one of those light bulb moments. I realized that, the more annoyed and stressed I felt, the more annoying and stressful my beautiful family seemed to get.

So I took a moment and looked around me with fresh eyes. I have so many things for which to be grateful, so I started feeling it. And what do you know? Little by little, I realized that this was SOOO much better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.

My challenge to you today is to change your perspective if something doesn’t go your way. Try to notice the things that make you happy, the things for which you’re grateful. You won’t regret it. And hey, feel free to borrow my dad’s instant perspective changer. Just ask yourself, is this better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick? 🙂

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