A few days ago, I read this piece titled, “Here’s Why You’ll Never See ‘Mom’ Listed on my Bio“. Whether you choose to agree or disagree with the author, fact is, many of us stay-at-home-mothers worry about perhaps the biggest life-changing reality of our lives, whether by choice or the result of an unexpected “oops” moment – motherhood, and its larger implications on our professional lives; current, or a hopeful future one.
The author writes honestly about how she does not want “motherhood to eclipse the rest of my identity” – to take over the 35 years she spent working to build an identity that revolved around other aspects of her personhood and I respect that. So, in order for motherhood to not become an impediment in pursuing non-mom related goals and to “avoid the fate of typecasting”, the author declares that she plans to avoid any mentions of motherhood in any of her bios. Good for her. She has her priorities straight and again, I respect that. It takes a lot to make categoric decisions, BEFORE one has kids, with such clarity and foresight.
Her other reasons for not wanting to be identified exclusively as a mother also make sense. She argues that it is easy for a woman to get subsumed by a ‘mother’ identity not only in the minds of others, but in one’s own self-defining moments too. She rightly notes that she would like to “be characterized by the many things I’ve worked towards, plus motherhood”. Both, fair points.
However, there were a couple of points that made me crease my forehead. First, the author writes, “I can see why so many mothers mention their parental status in their bios. The funny thing is, I rarely see men do this.” So what…that may be a personal preference. Nobody is making men or women include ‘mom’ or ‘dad’ in their bio and why is what men do or not do, the standard for what and how women should and shouldn’t do what they want to do? More on this later.
I should have probably wondered about this earlier – but what does the author mean by a bio? Most everyday people don’t go around writing their bios somewhere. Is this a reference to a job-related “objective” for one’s resume, an elevator speech/pitch where you are asked to sell yourself in something like 15 seconds, a bio that accompanies your author page on Amazon, bios that follow your online articles, bios that you craft for your published book’s jacket cover? All of the above?
…and if a woman was to choose to include ‘mom’ as a self-identifying label in her bio, what’s wrong with that? If the author worries that people are only going to think of her as a mom after reading ‘mom’ in her bio, she is selling herself short. AND, not giving others enough credit. More importantly, the bigger question is how badly do you want to be associated with people who would judge your very being, all your 35 years of carefully built skills, and your ability to do your job just because of the one word.
That sexism exists in corporate America is not up for debate. That is a fact. In fact, according to this 2014 article from The Atlantic, the same year I gave birth to my first child, discrimination against mothers is on the rise. Even though the source (EEOO) they use to make their case in the main blurb is from 2006, the fact remains, as evidenced by research studies consistently published since then, that mothers do encounter a motherhood penalty – See this list that comes up with a quick search on Google Scholar.
BUT, like I said, I do understand where the author is coming from.
Another point that stood out was the author’s conclusion that “daddy shaming” wasn’t really a thing. Perhaps, it isn’t as big a thing as mommy shaming is but a thing, it definitely is. There is research evidence (e.g., Kirby & Krone, 2002) to support this and several popular reports such as this one, have revealed the penalties men face for being fathers or primary caregivers. Granted, these penalties for men are nowhere near as prevalent or unconsciously institutionalized into our work cultures or society as are those for women and I am certainly not trying to minimize the impact of motherhood stereotypes, biases, and micro aggressions women experience. All I am saying is, shaming by any interpretation is still, just that, and yes, a thing.
I get that the author does not want to include mom in her bio. But I also understand that, the extent to which one self-identifies with the “title” is a choice.
I remember my own struggles as I sat hooked to the hands-free bra and breastpump meant for pumping. I was crying, I felt exhausted. I was in pain. I was an emotional wreck. I found myself only a weak and blurry image of my former self. I was consumed by all things mothering and I hated those early postpartum days following my first pregnancy. In every imaginable and unimaginable way, I was no longer the person I used to be. All I was, was someone’s mother but at least, I still had a professional life.
Everything changed with our move to San Jose and I became a stay-at-home-mom. I also gave birth to my second child. What was my excuse now? I had no professional life. I was, and am, for all practical purposes, a mom. Exclusively, a MOM. Heck, even my husband called/calls me “Mommy” so the kids can call me that and there is consistency. I was a certified MOM. There was no hiding that fact. I wore mom jeans and I wore mom shoes (still do). I wore yoga pants that reached as high up as they possibly could and have a special love for apparel that had inbuilt contraptions like spandex to make me look all pulled together.
I was and am, now, only known as TJ’s mom – at the library, his school, OR as Aaron’s wife – people don’t even bother to ask me MY name. People don’t care to know me beyond my identity as a mother. The things I did, my work, the books I published, the hundreds of interviews I did, the interesting courses I taught, my clever research findings, my abilities to do anything outside of cooking, cleaning, mending, basically…anything domestic, means nothing to anybody and nobody cares.
Does all this mean that I detest the ‘mom’ label? Quite the contrary. Like I said, I had my struggles with it but I have come around to it. I have come around from accepting it to embracing it to celebrating it to proudly splashing it wherever it matters and even in some places it doesn’t. Why? Because it does matter. To me. Whether it is a resume or a bio, depending on the context, I put it out there. If I don’t have it in a certain bio, it is not because I am ashamed of that identity label or because I am afraid people aren’t going to think of me beyond being a mom, it is probably because I wasn’t a mom then or didn’t immediately think to add it (because even though I have embraced being a mom, I am not yet 100% subsumed by it).
Still, at present time, pretty much everything I do is all related to my primary identity as a mother. Whether it is blogging, launching a new website soon, trying to creatively engage myself outside of writing by making quilts, learning to cook challenging dishes (recently made an Oreo Cheesecake)…they are all connected to the gig of a lifetime, motherhood.
If I ever get another career outside of being a mom, the fact that I am a mother will be a known thing about me, to my bosses, my coworkers, clients, students…whoever. I don’t have to advertise it from the rooftops or make my office all about my kids’ photos, but it is one of the most important things about me and I refuse to hide this very significant and defining aspect of my new sense of self. Being a mother is my strength and I really believe it will make me an even better professional.
Being a mother and a stay-at-home-mom has taught me, among other things, time management, schedule management, budget planning, healthy cooking, creative crafting, conflict negotiation and mediation, handling disruptions and interruptions, multi-tasking, and numerous other skills that I get to apply every day.
(I acknowledge and understand the privileged life I have. I have the luxury to stay at home and choose to NOT have a career outside the home if the work conditions do not meet my expectations and that includes the people with whom I would work. This is often not a choice for a lot of people and for whom hiding their non-sellable identities is a matter of survival for putting food on the table).
If others fail to see me beyond my being a mom, that’s okay. I have also come around to accepting the fact that in all honesty, people really don’t think about other people all that much. People who really want to know you, will find ways to be your friend or coworker and get to know the real you to the extent you want that revealed, whether you are a mother or not.
On the other hand, if people can’t see me beyond being a mom who almost always goes everywhere with my entourage of a toddler and an almost toddling baby, then that’s on them. I am confident and self-assured enough to know that I have a lot to offer as a person, as an individual, and as a non-mom woman.
I am a mother and I am proud to wear that hat and include it in my bio whenever I need to. My choice.