THOUGHT PIECE BY IZZY CHAN
A mom told me this story last Mother’s Day. As the breadwinner with a demanding job, she often is faced with the hard decision of selecting which school events to attend. She had gone to a ballet recital a few weeks earlier instead of the Mother’s Day celebration because it was more important to her daughter.
The Friday before Mother’s Day, at work, she received a video. Her little girl was serenading an empty chair on stage. With a Mother’s Day poem for her. Her heart twisted.
Guilt often comes up in conversations with breadwinner moms and working mothers. Bloggers and experts advise moms to “let go”—stop blaming themselves. But that isn’t enough when guilt is not just self-inflicted. Guilt is also fueled by the collective expectations from the people around us, day in and day out. Schools that call mom instead of dad when the child is sick. Colleagues who exclaim “It must be hard to leave your baby!” after maternity leave.
As Mother’s Day draws near, I encourage all of us to also “let go” of some of our traditional expectations of what makes a good mom—and be creative in how we celebrate the big flip moms and working moms around us.
WE’RE ALL GUILTY
Google “what makes a good mother” and you’ll find articles like PopSugar’s “Signs You Are a Good Mom.” One of those signs is that “You put your kids’ need to eat, bathe, and sleep before your own.” Contrast that to what you find when you Google “what makes a good father.” Lifehack’s “Signs of A Truly Great Father” states that “The man who hates his boss but goes to work with a smile every day so his family has a roof over their head—these are the great fathers.”
These traditional gender role expectations carry over to how we define a good wife and a good husband. Google traits/characteristics of a good wife/husband, and here’s what you’ll find. Huffington Post’s list of “Qualities to Look for in a Wife” includes attractive, compassionate, and “smart—to a point, of course.” In contrast, top on HuffPo’s “Types of Men Who Make Great Husbands” are The Provider, The Rock, and The Critical Thinker.
The majority of Americans still believe that children are better off with mother at home than at work.
That’s what Pew Research found as recently as 2013. No wonder so many working moms and big flip moms have to deal with guilt despite all the positive self-talk!
EXPANDING HOW WE THINK AND TALK ABOUT A GOOD MOTHER
In a modern world where moms are often as likely to work as dads (moms are breadwinners in 40% of American families, Pew Research), it’s time we evolve our out-dated expectations of what makes a good mom. This Mother’s Day, let’s add some new vocabulary to how we celebrate our big flip moms and working moms. Let’s celebrate their work and achievements as part of what makes them good moms—NOT something that compromises their ability to be good moms.