Over the past few years, the number of women with children under the age of 3 who return to work has increased. According to the Department of Labor, by 2016 they accounted for 63.1% of the workforce.
While mothers deciding to achieve more vocationally has become the norm, society is still making a slow crawl to catch up.
Many women silently cope with being judged because of their business pursuits. Oftentimes, when a woman acts outside of the traditional mom role, she’s not only thought less of, but she’s also expected to explain her choices.
In a recent Facebook post, Mèlisa Jackson, a mom and business owner, expressed how she was questioned on her ability to be a good mother, while also traveling for work.
“First of all, I don’t owe anyone a response. But I wanted to share this publicly so that moms around the world can stop feeling the need to entertain this ridiculous line of questioning… especially working moms,” she wrote.
Military Families reached out to three military-connected mothers to learn more about the unfair expectations they’ve endured, starting with Jackson.
Jackson is a military spouse, mother of one and the owner of Miranda Photography. For the past 10 years, she has traveled all over the country, capturing her clients’ memories.
Nina Bryant, a Navy veteran and mom of three, opened Love Lust Food after leaving the military in 2011. The chef/business owner teaches virtual cooking classes weekly, and hosts monthly dinner parties to invite the public to experience her unique brand of culinary creations.
Samantha Rivera is a mom of one and a Culinary Specialist 2nd Class in the Navy, where she has served for five years. In this time she has not only traveled, but has also lived abroad.
Q: What was the expectation or judgment projected on you?
Bryant: I remember a chef telling me that I would never make it to executive chef because I care so much about family. Chefs have one of the highest divorce rates of any profession, and I would have to choose between wanting a family and wanting to be a chef.
Rivera: After receiving orders to Yokuska, Japan, my now ex-husband and I made the ultimate decision to leave our son in the States with my family because of our crazy work schedules and not having any support system there. I received a private message from my aunt asking how I could leave my child behind, and that I should be the one raising my son, not my family.
Jackson: A girl that grew up near me messaged me and said, “Where is your kid during all your cross country adventuring?” She treated me as if I’m a bad mother and that my child must be neglected since I’m not around a few days a month due to travel for work.
Q: How did it make you feel and why?
Bryant: When I started in this field, I had my two sons and a young daughter. I know that I was good at what I did; however, to tell me that I would never make it because I have children and wanted to be a wife devastated me for real.
Rivera: It struck a nerve and made me angry. Not everyone understands the demands the military makes. I was already upset that I had to leave my son behind but now I was second guessing my decision. I made a hard decision but it works for my family.
Jackson: Furious! They don’t question his dad if he’s gone for six months for work. But I’m gone for four days every other month and it’s a problem.
Q: How did you respond?
Bryant: I allowed my work ethic to speak. I would come to work an hour early, study historical female chefs during lunch, then go home and make their recipes. I would just push myself to be the best.
Rivera: After calming down I simply said, “It’s the choice I made for my son. I know he will be in great hands and I truly just want your support on this.”
Jackson: I wrote a general message on Facebook to make sure everyone was aware of my feelings on the issue. Excerpt: I am fortunate to have a beautiful tribe around my son, including his incredible father, loving grandparents and a caring sitter.
Q: How would you like to see these perceptions change?
Bryant: Men should stop making it seem as though we can’t do certain things because we have children. Yes, we care about our families, but we can still push it to the max just like them, if not better.
Rivera: As an active duty sailor, I wish there was more support within the family aspect. The next generation of women are now working, independent entrepreneurs. We can’t stop them from working just because they started a family. We need to support and uplift them.
Jackson: I would love to see moms not worried about being Pinterest perfect and trying to outdo each other. But I would really love to see the perception of working moms change. We aren’t abandoning our children.
Q: Imagine you had a loudspeaker. Use all your grit and passion to summarize the challenges and beauty of motherhood in three words.
Bryant: Courageous; omnipotent; humbling.
Rivera: Amazing; challenging; exciting.
Jackson: Messy; joy; you’re never the same.