A Working Mother’s Worth
Jennifer Aniston released a statement addressing the rampant pregnancy rumors that have haunted her for years. "This past month in particular has illuminated for me how much we define a woman’s value based on her marital and maternal status." While this article focuses on the projection of inadequacy onto women who are not married or have kids, within the professional world I feel a completely different bias. One that women who are married and/or have children are somehow unable to handle the focus or commitment of a demanding career because she is balancing distractions from other areas of her life. A bias towards men (married and single) and single women, that they are somehow sheltered and/or better able to handle the distractions of a home life. So women with families are left to constantly justify and/or define their “value” at home and at work.
Perhaps one way to begin to challenge the definition of “value” for women in the workplace is to challenge the long-held standard of time as a measurement of one’s value in a professional career. Someone once told me that it is great that in this day and age I have the choice to enter the workforce and I have the choice to balance family and work. I disagree; I do not really have a choice. We have a choice to go to work, but if we cannot maintain the billable hour requirement, our perceived value suffers. While careers may tolerate our home life, we all continue to be held to the billable hour standard as a measure of our commitment and desirability to promote. I would like to choose to have a career that is challenging and demanding within a firm that allows me to grow and promote all while being flexible to the needs and demands of a family at home. Thankfully, I have found such a work environment but I am aware from conversations with peers just how unusual it is.
The film “I Don’t Know How She Does It” starring Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick, navigates the challenges and successes of a professional seeking a partnership role in her firm, while also juggling duties of mother and wife. Sarah’s competition for the position is a single woman who is driven, qualified, hungry and undistracted. I love how the film explores Sarah’s character’s relationships with the PTA moms, with her high profile client, with her co-workers and the partners, and also with her children and her husband. The first time I casually watched the movie my jaw dropped and I felt so validated. While not an award winner, I recommend the movie to everyone!
This blog post was authored by Megan O'Neill