The role of women in the workplace is constantly scrutinized and debated. Stay at home and lose your career, or continue working a corporate job and abandon your motherly duties? Lean in? Sell out? While everyone and their mother debates how women should identify, moms have been redefining what ‘work’ really means to them.
Traditionally, the corporate world and motherhood have been at odds with each other. Working mothers commonly face a double standard, with pressure from society and the corporate world itself to both work more and work less, to take time but not too much, to be more nurturing and more professional. Fortunately, a slow but steady growth of working mothers and moms in leadership roles has brought about much-needed changes in many corporate structures.
Some companies are leading the charge by recognizing that women who took a career break to raise a family might need help transitioning back into the workforce. An agency (aptly named Mother) is helping women fight the stigma against ‘gaps’ in a resume by asserting that motherhood is indeed a full-time job in itself. Another agency is easing the shift back to working by offering part-time hours to returning mothers.The tech industry, too, is amping up benefits by focusing on better parental-leave policies.
Women aren’t just waiting for the corporate world to affect change, though. Resources such as meetups and networking events are helping working mothers connect. And helping them foster their own support system independent of their workplace is The Wing, a dedicated figurative and literal community space for professional women that proudly features amenities to accommodate new mothers. With this two-pronged approach, the fight is paying off – images of stressed-out multitasking women holding screaming toddlers in power suits are giving way to more realistic portraits.
The world is changing for the stay-at-home moms too. For every working mother criticized for not spending enough time with her family, a ‘stay-at-home mom’ is met with the same reaction for ‘giving up’ her career. But these once-isolated moms are proving that their skills and interests extend beyond science fairs and sandwich crusts. In fact, social media has empowered them to turn their eschewed lifestyle into a thriving industry in itself.
Social has opened up unlimited ways for moms to connect with each other, strengthening communities and showcasing passions and industriousness outside the traditional corporate world. For many women whose family lives prohibit a 9-5 job, social media provides a way to participate in a thriving community and have a voice – and maybe make a little cash too.
Social can also provide a space to develop distinct identities. Millions of moms take to blogs, Pinterest, and Instagram to share parenting and lifestyle tips, commiserations, celebrations, and, yes, their ‘favorite’ brands. However, despite its liberating abilities, this space has also been criticized for propagating outdated and unrealistic images of motherhood. By flooding feeds with picture-perfect posts, both readers and influencers often report feeling immense pressure to be the perfect mother with the perfect life (what jelly stains?). But moms are starting to push back, choosing to define their own ideal image rather than cave to unreasonable expectations.
This concept of moms shaping their self-image is relatively new - but if anyone is up to the challenge, it’s a mother. Brands have always latched onto Mom as a sacred identity (arguably, they created it). And the true litmus test still is seen on the screens and the shelves. As moms redefine their styles, career paths, and values, brands are scrambling to reflect these new lifestyles. Women are watching more ads, and they’re gravitating towards brands that provide inspiring, empowering content that offers nuanced depictions of women and motherhood. Brands are well aware of mom’s starring role as purchaser for the household, so naturally they’re eager to give her what she wants, and are quick to volunteer hearty appreciation for arguably the toughest job out there.
Whatever type of work moms choose to put their hours towards, the lines between the corporate and domestic spheres are blurring. In place of the binary are new opportunities and freedom for women to make more decisions about their families, and ultimately, their lives independent of family. It is heartening to see corporations and the media start to reflect the real needs of mothers. Maybe one day ‘mom’ will be stop being a loaded label, and simply be the beloved name for the #1 boss lady in your life.