Julia Pimsleur is an author and entrepreneur contributing to the Fatherly Forum.
One of my friends from college is now a venture capitalist (VC). When I called him up to interview him for my forthcoming book Million Dollar Women about women entrepreneurs who go big, he told me why he thought there were so few women CEOs: “It’s such a hard job! So many pressures, so many demands, and it’s really isolating.”
I almost burst out laughing. I wanted to say, “Try being in labor for thirty-six hours, then having a C-section, then going home to take care of an infant, a three-year-old, and a husband, while running a business.” We women do “hard” just fine. It’s the being good to ourselves so that we can stay fit, both mentally and physically, where we sometimes fall down.
Today’s working dad feels like he is twice the dad his father was, while today’s working mom feels like she is half the mom her mother was
One of my branding consultants, Judd Harner, said it best during a brainstorm session we were having about Little Pim customers: “Today’s working dad feels like he is twice the dad his father was, while today’s working mom feels like she is half the mom her mother was.”
Judd explained that we feel like “half the mom” because, though our moms may have had jobs, they mostly didn’t have all-consuming careers. In the 1960s and 1970s, when many moms were “working girls,” women like my mom (white, middle-class women) mainly had jobs in teaching, office administration, and other flexible fields. So they were usually there when we came home from school, volunteered to be class parent, and made brownies for the bake sales. That is what their moms had done, and they were expected to do it too, so they did.
Dads, however, were still very much stuck in the 1950s model. They were not in the delivery room, didn’t change diapers, and rarely gave Mom an afternoon off. So today’s dad feels like a superhero if he does a midnight feeding, takes the kids Saturday morning while Mom goes for a run, and is actually in the room when his offspring are born.
When my husband Darren and I were raising our kids, we both worked full-time and he always wanted to be a super-involved dad. He took the kids to school several days a week, played sports with them on weekends, cooked once a week, and handled about a third of the housework. He believed he was a fantastic father. And he was. I, on the other hand, did roughly two-thirds of the work of running our home life—cooking, arranging sitters, coordinating our schedules, setting up playdates, buying birthday presents, making art projects, and teaching reading—while fighting the feeling that I am not a good enough mother.
In writing this book, I know I risk getting caught up in the “mommy wars”: working moms versus stay-at-home moms. Let me just say I am not “for” either. But I am clearly cut out to be the former. Darren and I managed the same juggling act as other two-working-parents households. It’s hair-raising and zany, but also deeply gratifying to do work we loved and show our boys what that looks like.
I consider myself a feminist and have always believed feminism at its best is about giving women choices. A study of 50,000 adults in 25 countries revealed that kids of working mothers may actually have some advantages over kids with at-home moms (notably the daughters of working moms completed more years of education, are more likely to be employed and in the U.S., earn 23% more than the daughters of non-working mothers). Though I love being a working mom, I fully support and admire women like my sister-in-law Robin, who decided to stay home with her three boys under the age of eight. With her top-flight education, multitasking skills, and professional résumé, she could easily be running a business or working for a Fortune 500 company.
Robin and I may be different in how we choose to parent, but we love our kids with the same fervor and believe we are giving them the best life we can offer. We are both right. And we both struggle at times with our choices. I mainly only succumb to “half the mom” thoughts when I am overtired and negative internal chatter bubbles up. I think we can all do more to remind each other as parents that being a “good mom” or “good dad” is something we get to define ourselves. Soon I hope that dads won’t need to be twice anything because their dads will have been as present as their moms. And then we can all be equally amazing, imperfect, overtired and happy .
Julia Pimsleur is an entrepreneur and author of the forthcoming book ‘Million Dollar Women.’ She writes about raising capital and is the Founder and CEO of Little Pim language learning for kids company, which helps young children all over the world learn their first 500 words and phrases via an at home and in school program. After raising millions for LittlePim, Julia started paying it forward by teaching other women to raise angel and venture capital, an experience that led to her writing ‘Million Dollar Women.’ She serves on the board of Entrepreneurs Organization, advises the nonprofit Global Language Project, and prepares women CEOs to raise capital through the Double Digit Academy and Further, Faster, She lives in New York City with two energetic and awesome boys.