In a popular essay that hit the Internet last year, a then-expectant mother explained why she would never include the word “mom” in her bio.
She reasoned that she didn’t want her identity as a mother to eclipse the rest of her. She explained that she feared “our cultural tendency to reduce women down to the role of mother too much.”
The piece is now over a year old, and the writer has since had her baby. From what I can tell, she’s stuck to her pledge not to include “mom” in her bio.
There’s nothing wrong with that. Every mother should express herself in whatever manner she chooses and keep her motherhood as closely held as she wants. Rock on, mama. You are amazing for sticking to your convictions and for making yourself a priority.
However, I will always include the word “mom” in my bio, and here’s why.
I am a plaintiff-side employment discrimination attorney. Before I even became a mother, I represented mothers. Mothers from a variety of backgrounds. Mothers who loved their jobs. Mothers who were highly educated. Mothers who received accolades in their professions. Mothers who didn’t let motherhood define them.
And yet, all these mothers were discriminated against by their employers based on their status as moms.
They were mothers who found themselves out of a job because they gave birth. Mothers who were harassed because they had miscarriages or because they suffered from postpartum depression.
Mothers who found themselves cast away into dark closets when they needed a private lactation space. Mothers who had opportunities taken away from them simply because they had the audacity to bring a child into the world and then continue to participate in the workforce.
Before I became a mother, I couldn’t imagine the pain and frustration they felt. After I became a mother, that feeling intensified.
As a mother myself, I couldn’t fathom being targeted because of that status. Becoming a mom set me on fire. It made me more focused, stronger, and more compassionate than I ever had been. I knew it did the same thing for all those other moms too.
The fact is, regardless of whether you are a mother and regardless of whether you even want kids, if you are a woman, there is a high likelihood that you will be discriminated against in your life based on the sole fact that women can bear children. In fact, it is more than a likelihood. It is a certainty.
Every woman has a story. I’ve had supportive employers both as an intern in law school, and as an attorney, and yet, I still remember being 22, in college, nearly a decade away from having kids, and the old, white male partner of a law firm sitting across from me during an interview asking if I had kids or if I planned to have kids “because, you know, women with kids tend to stay home a lot.”
It wasn’t until years later that I realized how inappropriate and illegal his questions and comments were.
It is a fact of life that the American workforce was built around the idea that men go to work, and women stay home, have babies, and take care of the family.
So, when I became a mother myself, I knew that I couldn’t just let my identity as a mom sit there on a shelf. It was a part of me. It was right there when I went back to work that first day, painfully, awkwardly, inextricably attached.
For the last three years, I’ve co-chaired the Working Parents Committee for the local chapter of my state women’s bar association. Every comment I’ve received about our work has proved how badly our efforts are needed.
We need women standing out there saying: “I’m a lawyer, and I’m a mom, too.” “I’m a nurse, and I’m a mom, too.” “I’m a college professor, and I’m a mom, too.”
We need to shout it from the rooftops and let people know their outdated notions on what a mother really is won’t be tolerated—that their harmful opinions aren’t welcome here.
We need to model for current and future generations that you really can be a mother and something—anything—else, that even though motherhood is this huge, monumental thing that will in fact swallow up so much of your identity, that you will still be a whole, functioning person.
We need it because laws don’t change minds. We need it because, regardless of what old white men and uninformed Internet commenters say, you really can be a good mother and a good worker.
So, regardless of whether I work 80 hours a week or forty or twelve, if I have a bio to write, I will always include the fact that I am a lawyer, a writer, and also, a mom.