Remember the article in the Atlantic “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All” — it caused a tidal wave of discussion. Has society has stalled on the ideals of motherhood? We’re suppose to be there for work and our families. We’re suppose to find time for ourselves and have the support around us. I don’t even know where to start with this conversation with you, but you may want to tune in this Thursday, January 9th to the documentary THE MOTHERLOAD set to air on CBC Doc Zone.
The documentary takes an in-depth and new look at the subject of working mothers – the current issues, challenges and triumphs that come from trying or having to do it all. It asks questions like why does a new COO of a Fortune 500 company make headlines because she’s pregnant? Or, why does the boss of Facebook feel compelled to speak out about the lack of women at the top?
I had the opportunity to interview Cornelia Principe, producer and director of the documentary THE MOTHERLOAD.
Fortunately, as an independent filmmaker I’m for the most part my own boss, so I’ve had flexibility and control over my work and schedule that many who work for a company do not have. So, in many respects, my career has not been hugely effected by having a child – though it has made me even more efficient and hyper-organized then I was before! What I personally noticed more after having a child was the difference in expectations on me (and from me) as the mother compared to the expectations on my husband as the father. This was for me hugely eye opening.
Many professional women feel the need to return to work soon after baby is born in our North American society. What do you want to tell these women?
I would hope that eventually the discussion about staying home with children or going back to working, and when, becomes a gender neutral discussion — i.e. that mothers and fathers both have choices about who stays home and for how long depending on their families individual needs and wants. Studies have shown that when fathers take some parental leave and care for their infant (on their own) it has a profound and lasting effect on their relationship to their children. This is good for fathers, good for children and good for mothers.
Women who work, whether they are in the boardroom or behind a cash desk, in many cases feel guilty — even I who work from home. Why is that?
I think women feel guilty because society and our own expectations of what it means to be a “good mother” is someone who is selfless and always available to their kids. And to be working, or doing something other than being present and engaged with their kids, is seen as (feels like) being selfish which is antithetical to what we think a “good mother” should be. Where as for men, being a “good father” means providing for his family – so having a family (wife and child) actually adds fuel to his career drive in a way. Men feel the guilt when they cannot provide for their family. Women when they are not being the selfless, ever-present mom.
Do you think women are hard-wired differently from men?
Nature vs. nurture is an age-old debate. I certainly don’t know the answer. But it appears to me that women can very ambitious and career driven when given the chance (i.e. no judgment), and men can be very caring and attentive parents when given the chance (i.e. no judgment). Perhaps it’s more of a continuum then an either / or – nature and nurture, men and women.
When I’ve admitted to my closest friends that “I don’t want it all” they are often surprised. Is society making women believe that we SHOULD have it all or WANT it all?
I think the “Having It All” line has been so used (and abused) in many ways. It seems to mean so many different things to different people that we may all be confusing our own meaning with others. So when you say that you “don’t want it all” I wonder what that actually means to you — because I suspect it means something different to me.
Forget having it all — today’s working moms are doing it all.
I’ve had discussions with other women about women’s rights. No doubt we’ve come a long way but what steps should we be taking now as society?
What I tried to do in the doc was give an overview of the factors effecting working mothers and why – which takes up most of the documentary! In the final act of The Motherload, we look at solutions and I wish we had more time for this because frankly it’s as complex and varied as the problem.
If the goal is gender equality then we need to start with gender equality in the home – and that means men should be taking some if not fully half of parental leave. As mentioned above, this has been shown to have a lasting and profound impact not only on fathers but mothers. I think women need to stop trying to be superwomen and more importantly supermoms – let go, stop the guilt, stop the judgment of self and others. Work places need to start to recognize that their employees have lives outside of work and expecting them to be available 24/7 is making for a burnt out, stressed (and therefore less productive) work force. Society – governments – need recognize that helping families cope — with parental leave benefits, affordable, good childcare etc – is a necessary investment in the future not a financial hand out. Also, I agree with Sandberg – women should not be giving up on their careers (though to lean in to the system we have now seems to repeat what our generation did and found wanting).
Women – mothers – have for too long now carried the majority of the burden (and joy) of parenting and little will change until that responsibility becomes truly shared across genders and collectively as a society. So really I don’t see this as a women’s rights issue but more of a human rights discussion.
If you could step back in time and give yourself advice about work and family balance…what would you say?
Insist — and allow — your partner to take some of the parental leave – 1, 2, 3 months whatever. And as often as possible leave your infant, child, kids with their father and go out and have some fun – see a friend, sit in a café and read a book, go to a movie!
The Motherload will air on CBC DOC ZONE, Thursday, January 9th at 9:00 pm on CBC-TV.
Link here to the trailer: THE MOTHERLOAD on CBC DOC ZONE
What are your thoughts?
(Cornelia Principe / Photo Credit: Kathryn Palmateer)