She Says… The Double Bind

I don’t talk about my work much on the blog because it’s, you know, work. And it’s, you know, probably not terribly interesting to many of you. But as my time and focus has shifted toward my work recently, it has shifted away from the blog somewhat. The two are inextricably linked, as there are only so many hours in the day, and only so much brain space available for things beyond the daily rigamarole of raising children and keeping the house clean and maintaining friendships and enjoying time with my awesome husband (not necessarily in that order!).

Though having a family with two working parents has created some complicated logistics at times (ahem, understatement of the century), it has also allowed me to maintain a part of my persona that is extremely important to me, and gives me the opportunity to model for my boys that 1) women can achieve success in their careers in addition to being mothers, if they so choose, and 2) relationships can (and should) be balanced so that both partners get the chance to do what makes them thrive personally and professionally. Not to mention helping me appreciate the knowledge and experience that our village of teachers, babysitters, family and friends can share with my kids.

Right about this time last year, just before Emmett was born, I was promoted to a new role managing a team leading projects across North America at the management consulting firm where I work. Since then, and even more so since January, I’ve been working harder and longer and on more complicated initiatives than ever before.  As that ramps up, my blogging time and output has decreased, little by little. A few weeks ago I was invited to attend a training program for high potential women leaders. It was a fascinating program and it was exciting for me to be part of this group of inspiring women from various companies. One of the topics we discussed in the training is the “double bind” for women in the workplace. A double bind is essentially a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation. In regards to women and leadership, this double bind is most often experienced in the following ways:

  1. Emotions: Women are either too “soft” or emotional, or too “hard” (read: bitch), depending on the situation. Men acting the same way might be seen as “kind/empathetic” or “powerful/strong”, which do not have the same negative connotations.
  2. Rewards: Women are often held to higher competency standards than men, but are rewarded or recognized less. So they can perform as well or better as a male counterpart, but are often not compensated or celebrated in the same way.
  3. Likability: Women are seen as either competent, or well-liked, but not generally both. “Nice” women are too nice, “task-focused” women are not nice enough.

I have a lot of thoughts about how this manifests itself in the corporate world today, but I also began to think about the double bind in the context of blogging.

I see the parent blogging double bind in the following three ways (though I’m sure there are a million more):

  1. Hard days: If you gloss over the challenging times or rough days in your writing, or omit them altogether, you get dinged for only showing a fake, perfect life. But if you write about them, you get dinged for not appreciating your kids, not recognizing that they are “just being kids” or resenting their very existence.
  2. Fertility: If you wrote about struggling to get pregnant or to stay pregnant in the past, it seems you are not “allowed” to also write about pregnancy being hard or missing things about your pre-kids life, lest you awake the sleeping beast of bitter commenters. “There are millions of women who would die to be in your shoes and have a baby!”. Very true, but one comment, or even a whole blog post, does not mean that the author is not deeply grateful and thankful to their core that they have the babies who they worked so hard for. I am guessing this also applies to bloggers who did not struggle. No matter your road to getting pregnant and having babies, not every second of every day with your kids is a shiny happy sparkly rainbow moment. And that’s ok. On the flip side, if you write a glowy post about the joys of motherhood post-fertility, you’re STILL going to receive hate mail about not acknowledging that some people are still struggling and how hurtful your post was to THOSE people. Ya can’t win, no matter how your story unfolds or how you choose to tell it.
  3. Privacy: If you share intimate details of your family on the internet, you will eventually question why you’re doing it and if it’s worth it and if you are putting your child(ren) in danger somehow or doing something they wouldn’t approve of if they knew about it. However, if none of us shared these stories and sometimes quite private admissions about parenthood and the rocky road to becoming parents, we’d all be sitting around feeling alone and scared and isolated because of what we are going through. Which, at least with most things parenting-related, isn’t the case. There are amazing people out there and the internet is a remarkably rich place to find support, connection and sometimes even real-life friendships. But of course those things often come at a cost of personal privacy.

There’s a strange, warped sense of knowing a blogger’s most intimate thoughts and yet, not ever knowing all of the things that they decide not to put on the page. It doesn’t mean they aren’t thinking them, it’s just that there isn’t enough room in the entire internet for every caveat that would be necessary to write before each post so that no one is offended.

I guess what it all boils down to is… you can’t please everyone all the time, so just be yourself. And that goes for women in the corporate world as well as in the world of blogging. And… fuck ’em. Because, really, why spend time worrying about what other people think? Someone is bound to be offended by almost everything you write, so just write.

Just write, if it makes you happy. And work, if it makes you happy. And raise your family however makes you happy. Don’t worry if other people are happy with you, just be happy with yourself.


12 responses to “She Says… The Double Bind

  1. kaseypowers

    This post makes me happy 🙂 I think you do a good job of balancing the glowy and the hard.

  2. LOVE LOVE LOVE this post. I agree 100%. Amen.

  3. I really don’t like how we’re all supposed to project this perfect life. Just look at the most popular mommy bloggers out there. Their lives look idyllic – even when they hint that maybe they’re not practically perfect in every way. It’s like p o r n in a way, glossy and unreal but hard to tear your eyes away. And then it kind of makes you feel bad.

  4. Amen, sister! Perfectly put–and thank you!!

  5. Kate, you made me tear up. Every word of this post rings true and is something I have felt at one time or another. I especially struggle with the privacy vs. connection part of blogging. It is such a hard thing to bare your soul and talk about the hard moments, yet it has helped me connect with countless other moms who are experiencing – but not necessarily broadcasting – the same struggles. It has helped me feel much less alone about certain issues. Yet, there are things I haven’t shared because I worry about stigmas or my words following Ryan into adulthood and forever painting an unfair picture of who he is. I want to be sensitive to family and friends and careful to not damage those relationships; yet, a person’s writing is at its best when it’s completely honest and free from those restrictions. It’s a tough balance.

    Also, YES, I have experienced the differences in how men and women are perceived and treated in the workplace and I could go on and on about that, but you said it pretty perfectly, so I’ll just give you a big virtual high five.

    That training program sounds like it was awesome and thought-provoking. I’m glad you got to go and I’m even more glad that you are finding such fulfillment in your career right now.

  6. I have always enjoyed your blog and look forawrd to the new post/photos! You and your family rock! Love from Ontario Canada! PS we shared the same horrible winter!

  7. Caroline s.

    There is never any ‘right’ or any ‘perfect’ in this world. Anyone who says so is just lying. I have an amazing hubby and daughter, but damn it, sometimes life is just hard, days are hard, meltdowns are hard, teething is HARD… And then you go to talk to someone and they say “What? YOU have it so easy… you only have ONE kid and you don’t have to worry about WORK…” blah blah blah…. We all live our own reality, and no matter if our reality is different than someone else’s or easier than how our friends perceive their own situation it is still solely our own experience.
    No matter what anyone does, or doesn’t do, there will always be a judgment by someone for something. For every. single. thing.
    So I am totally with you, live the life you want to live, write what you want to write, and just be. Who cares what anyone else thinks. Surround yourself with those you love and just enjoy 🙂

  8. Beautifully said. Sorry such nonsense is being leveled at you on GOMI.

  9. Terrific post!

  10. I know this post is actually all about being busy, so one more thing probably isn’t possible, but it would be great if you could write again in the future about being a young female leader and what you’re learning along the way. I really enjoyed this post!

  11. What a great post! Thank you so much for sharing.

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