Working Moms and The Myth of Motherly Perfection
Working moms have all been raised on the collective mythology of the “American Dream”; get married, have two kids, buy a home with a white picket fence, find a good stable corporate job and count the days until retirement. Unfortunately, the last few years have shown us that the American Dream as we knew it has enormous fissures waiting to crack. Ironically, the American Dream has always been just that; a dream. In the fifties, America’s glory post-war years of economic abundance and confidence, families were able to thrive and prosper on one income. Young families bought homes in the growing suburbs, and new appliances were introduced to make the housework of the idealized “stay at home Mom” easier and time efficient.
The truth is that the decade of the 1950’s, upon which we have rested the mantle of the American ideal, was an anomaly, not the norm. American women have not exited the workforce in such mass exodus at any time in American history prior or since that single decade. This idealized notion of the perfect life in the ‘burbs, with Mom at home baking cookies and Dad working 9-5 to provide for the family, was a product of an isolated economic post-war boom. If you have children, many of us argue within themselves, whether it is a better to stay at home with your children or be a working mother, but as we all know, for many of us it is not a choice we have the luxury to make.
Most working mothers I talk to feel the never-ending struggle of balancing their home and work lives. While women now comprise 50% of the American workforce, they remain the primary caregivers for their children; many find themselves responsible for the shopping, cooking and cleaning as well. As we gain a foothold in our financial knowledge, we begin to reshape the notion of the “ideal woman”; and embrace both our feminine power and financial prowess. Women today find themselves dancing a fine line between maintaining incredible levels of organization to run the family ship while and simultaneously navigating the demands of her career.
This idealized notion of American womanhood is based on a myth. The unfortunate result is that today’s woman finds herself feeling constantly guilty for the choices she makes; feeling she is never living up to the “ideal mother and wife”, and at the same time unable to fully commit to her chosen profession without being perceived as a “bad mom”. This paradox feeds the lack of financially savvy women; as we gain more power in the “man’s world”, yet another part of our femininity is stripped from our identity. These unrealistic stereotypes create a viscous cycle of guilt and exhaustion. Every woman that has children is a “working mom”, and whether their efforts to provide for their family economically is through their paycheck or the providing of all the domestic labor their husband would otherwise have to pay for if his wife wasn’t providing all the childcare, cleaning the house, attending all the children’s activities and making all the meals.
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