I decided this summer to make my experience of motherhood visible. This was sort of a big deal, as I had 6 clinics scheduled back to back (Houston, Seattle, DC, Boston, NYC, and San Fran). During those clinics, in each location, I was also needing to be available for a multitude of important media and meetings, all parts of my life as a CEO and founder of this here start-up. And I decided that “children in tow” was going to be my mode of operating. I also promised that I would not apologize for that decision to anyone, no matter how fancy or important.
I’ll admit that part of the decision was actually rooted in necessity. Summertime. Single motherhood. But, the biggest factor for me was born from thoughts I’ve been having behind the perpetuated reduction of female rights in this country. And what I’ve come to consider is that a lot of this is happening because our needs are invisible. The reality of being a woman. Of being a mother. Of being a working mother. Of being a poor mother. Of being a single mother. Of being a sick mother. These realities are invisible.
So, normally, in order to make it to these trips and obligations, I’d formulate a whole lot of behind-the-scenes arrangements that no one would ever know about. I’d figure it out, just like you would. And then I’d make my way to the clinics and the meetings and the whole time, I’d be erasing the other portion of my life so that I looked put-together for all these big-to-dos.
You know what I’m talking about. Us women. Erasing the finer wrinkles of motherhood every chance we can. Running to work after our kids have barfed on us or cried through the night or shown us hints of deeper needs we can’t even scratch. I see evidence of all the time in these big-to-dos: The executives who are fathers are eager to show pictures of their kids and to talk about their latest antics, while the executives who are mothers literally shove that information in a tucked-in corner of their tight dress suits and give barely a whisper of their privileged role.
Why? Because motherhood is often seen as a liability in this country. Fatherhood is seen as an asset. Now, I am not suggesting that anyone is trying to harm us or disenfranchise us as mothers. I’m simply saying that somehow, somewhere, in the folds of our society, this has become a quiet truth. Perhaps it’s because - and I’m no anthropologist - as women, we are the primary caregivers most of the time. This is not an antiquated, oppressive thing to say, this is just how it goes. I mean, they grow in our bodies and birth from our bodies. So, by nature, motherhood requires a physical separation from our careers and from much of what we used to know.
What this means is that our hearts won’t easily say YES to the meeting held late into the night that will prevent us from kissing our kids goodnight. Our bodies won’t easily be able to swing the three different shifts of back-breaking work we perform everyday as momthletes. And our minds won’t easily be able to shift into a compartmentalized, deep-work space that most careers demand after a morning that, for most people, would really be an entire day of high level hostage negotiation.
And, our society knows that when push comes to shove, we as women will choose our kids above all else. Fathers choose their children above all else too, don’t get me wrong, it’s just that their choice doesn’t always involve having to make the same physical separation from work as it does for women.
What has happened in 2017 is that instead of embracing and revering the physical separation from career that motherhood requires, we shhhhhhhhhhh it. Our society wants us to keep going, to be reliable, to be available, to be “dedicated,” and this needing to physically leave our careers from time to time (and often day to day) is absolutely a liability in the rat race. So, as women, we have learned to make it invisible.
We wash away our motherhood because if we didn’t, we wouldn’t get the jobs or the raises or the exciting projects. Or, we wash away our careers and our dreams and find part-time jobs/hobbies that end up being equally demanding, but far less valued. Or, worse yet, we wash away our health and try to “do it all” no matter the cost to our wellbeing.
In any case, I decided to not wash away any of it this summer by making my motherhood visible. And it was hard as shit. My 5 and 10 year old came with me to important meetings that sometimes lasted 4 hours in a board room. They came with me to sets for media appearances. They drove around in ubers and ate weird food and got really super tired and were often not PC and had opinions that all humans deserve to have. I made NO apologies for them. I refused to tell them to act like they didn’t exist. And I never asked them to be anything else than curious children.
And, yes, they used technology and Netflix more than I would probably care to admit. Let’s make that visible.
What needs to be known is that while I did it and while I will do it again a million times, I am exhausted. The experience was not always divine. It was often completely trying and impossible. There was never enough time or brain space or sleep or proper food. But, as Howard Zinn says, “You can’t be neutral on a moving train.” I want my kids to see me in my life and I want to be with my kids as they see the world. I figure that the more I make this visible, especially as this brand grows, the more people who matter will see that THIS IS WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE. And when that is seen, then we as women will start receiving services that we actually need. Not just calls to babysitters or girls nights out.
I mean, give me a break. We need better education options, affordable childcare options, sickness leave, equal pay, flex time, mental health screenings, and maternity leave rights. Most of all we need people to open doors for us, to switch their airplane seats for us when we need to sit by our kids, to give us the booth by the door at the restaurant, to fund libraries and art programs, to protect nature (the best babysitter ever), to just stop assuming they know the answer to motherhood’s demands, and to step away from our basic human rights.
So, make your motherhood visible. Keep your baby’s spit-up on your suit. Don’t apologize for being late when your kid needed you for a longer hug at school drop-off. Stop covering up your dark circles. Stop trying to get your high school body back. Don’t trade sleep for ambition. Wear your stretch marks. Don’t say, “I have just one kid.” Don’t lie when you have to sneak away to a child’s school function. Don’t get angry when your child is being a child in public. Take your babies everywhere with you. Don’t stay in house with an infant, all alone with a bunch of bad tv and plastic toys. Get out. Find your tribe. Be you. Make motherhood visible.
It’s such a beautiful sight, after all.