You may have already seen the piece in the Sunday edition of The New York Times titled, “Poor Little Rich Women,” where author and social researcher, Wednesday Martin – after moving from the West Village to the Upper East Side of Manhattan – seems shocked and quickly becomes appalled at the lifestyles of the Glamorous Stay-At-Home Moms.
It is a life that Martin could never before imagined – but is very quick to judge. After pointing out the gains women have made in education, the workforce and equality, she calls the lifestyle of these Glam moms, “glittering, moneyed, backwater.” You can read the article here.
You know what’s truly backwater? And really holding women back from equality? Judging a mom and each other. Here’s why.
Not long ago, I lived and parented on the Upper East Side (UES). While far from my personal financial situation, the “Glam Stay-at-Home Moms,” women Martin refers to does include some of my friends. Some readers seemed shocked by such lifestyles, but not a word in the article surprised me. Not one.
I know women who receive a marital bonus – the one factor that seems to shock Martin the most. My oldest son and I attended baby classes with many famous faces. Black SUVs with tinted windows pulled up, while a security team gave clearance, before a 3-year-old with mussed-up hair and a cookie-crumbed face toddled out of the car.
It was my early days of parenting, and as such, I was mostly focused on trying to stay awake. That said, I do have two very specific memories from that time:
1. I remember thinking it was sad that a child couldn’t go to the park without security – but then I came to understand why; and
2. I remember looking around the room at one “Mommy/baby” class and thinking, “Well, thank God, that mom looks as much of a mess as me.” Turns out, "that mom" was very famous. (Did I mention I was mostly focused on staying awake during my early parenting years?)
What else do I remember? A lot of new moms who were as excited, joyful, overwhelmed, exhausted, worried and as completely in love with their child as I was.
Do I tell you these stories to defend UES moms – and the extraordinarily extravagant lifestyle they live, which to the outside observer may seem to solely revolve around money? No. First, many of my friends didn’t marry for money. But as I said to a friend who once asked my husband to introduce her to a hedge fund manager or a banker, “If marrying for money is your primary motivation, don’t for a second think you’re not going to have to earn it. You realize if you barter yourself in this way, you will only become a depreciating asset.” It was true. My friend’s “target husbands” may have been lusty, but they weren’t stupid.
No. The reason I tell you these stories is because in addition to living on the UES, and lunching with some of these so-called glam moms, I’ve also spent time talking, living and working with moms who lived in huts in the Ugandan jungle, moms who were battling crack addictions in the Bronx, Russian moms who sent their young children away for years so they could receive a better education, sports & mini-van moms from the suburbs, and moms who are internationally renowned lawyers, doctors, professors and business owners. Do you know what all of these moms had in common? Every single one wanted the best for her child. The best, she could possibly give for her child.
Every. Single. One.
Of course our efforts in this giving are flawed. Do some moms do things that seem absolutely ludicrous to you? Sure. Do you do things that may seem ridiculous to other moms? Probably. No one is exempt.
But what shouldn’t be lost here is the power that we have, if we stand united as mothers.
And it is a pure power. Barring some intrinsic inability or disease that prevents a mother-child connection, the love and between mother and child knows no boundaries. Not color, class, religion or culture. In fact, it is the only connection that we have – as a human race – that truly has the power to evolve us as a species. And has.
As I often say, “The longer I parent, the less I know.” But I do know one thing for certain after speaking to thousands of mothers around the world: In addition to this powerful connection with her child, a mother needs to find her own voice, her own purpose, her own foundation, her own identity, her own sense of community. It is critical. In fact, it is not just a mother’s need. This is a human need.
But in the all-powerful and everlasting journey that is motherhood, we forget this and as such, we forget her. The mother. We – perhaps with best of intentions - argue for equality, independence and respect, not by celebrating and supporting a natural state of motherhood (no matter the ways and means one came into it), but by instead scrutinizing ourselves and each other based on our short-term choices, which are largely dictated by a societal construct (marriage). The same construct, by the way, that was initially intended as a means to fortify kingdoms, acquire land and assets. In focusing on this constructed state rather than a natural state, not only do we not gain a clearer sense of self and identity, we lose it.
What I am saying is this: we don’t have a shot in hell of achieving equality until we stop the scrutiny of our choices and start supporting the state of motherhood.
Benjamin Zander is the renowned conductor of The Boston Philharmonic Orchestra, teacher, speaker and author of The Art of Possibility. On the first day of his class at The New England Conservatory of Music, Zander tells his students, “Everybody gets an A.” The only contingency is that students need to tell Zander who they will have become by the end of the course to justify the extraordinary grade.
“That simple ‘A’ technique changes everything,” Zander stated. “It changes my relationship with everyone. I’m not giving an expectation to live up to, but a possibility to live into.”
When it comes to women, equality, motherhood and independence, I can’t help but wonder what would happen if we took a page from Zander’s book? What would happen if we FIRST celebrated and supported that natural state? What possibilities could we then create for ourselves?
I contend if we do this that then – and only then – would a mother truly be able to come into her own. Knowing this natural state was supported – she would be able to find her voice, her strength, her identity and build her own foundation. She could achieve a desire that is not limited by class, color, culture, religion and manifested in whatever way she dreams it to be.
In short, I wonder what would happen if everything we read, and heard, and learned and knew was the message, "Of course, you can. You're a Mother."
I wonder what would happen if a mother did not feel she had to live up to an expectation, but rather could live in to a possibility?
A possibility of a stronger woman. Stronger mothers. Stronger societies. Stronger economies. Stronger children. Stronger futures. True equality.
I look forward to that day. The day we start giving each other an ‘A’ grade. The day we are able to come together – from different cultures, classes and religions and say, Stand Up. You’re a Mother. And I’m with you.
Patty McDonough Kennedy is CEO of Kennedy Spencer (www.kennedyspencer.net) a marketing communication company. She splits her time between New York and Vienna, Austria, and works with companies and individuals across the world to develop effective programs that measurably improve results. In her blog ((Laugh Lines)), she writes about the funny, fabulous and messy mix of business, parenting, money & life.
Note: Patty doesn't write about or promote products or services that she hasn't personally used - and likes. She does accept contributions - stories, pictures, etc, from others, if she thinks they will help inspire or empower women.