Before I begin with tonight’s Sunday Pep Talk, I’d like to start by saying I admire mothers immensely. I have so many friends who are business owners and mothers and are crushing it at both. I don’t think it’s a one or the other thing. You can have a business. You can have children. You can have both. You can have one. You can have none. But it’s time to discuss the immense, unreasonable, and inexcusable pressure to have kids as a business owner.
It’s a conversation that happens in private text messages, DMs and behind closed doors. It extends way beyond just female business owners and affects single women, married women, dating women, women without kids and even women with kids.
Sometimes the pressure can be suffocating. It comes from friends + family, clients + strangers. I’m going to break up the pressure to start a family as a business owner into two categories: people you know and people you don’t.
While I’ve had this conversation with dozens of powerful business owners, I’m going to keep all references anonymous and share them as one collective experience. One collective story.
It’s easy to assume that the pressure to have kids comes from parents. And while that is true, and a very real pressure for so many, it isn’t the only source. Having recently bought our first home, every person who has walked through our house has said, “Oh this room will make a perfect nursery!” When discussing whether to travel home for the holidays or stay here in Austin, the common response is, “When you have kids, everyone will come to you.”
It comes from friends. Countless times I’ve texted or called someone to deliver exciting news, their guess is always “You’re pregnant!” It makes me feel like the only news worthy of celebration is that we’re having a baby. And it wouldn’t be so startling if we were TRYING to get pregnant. But we’ve been very clear that we don’t want kids right now. And we’re not sure when we will want them.
It comes up at dinner with friends. At lunch with girlfriends. At business meetings and on client calls.
People assume because I have my own business, that I have created that for the flexibility of motherhood. Friends, parents, and grandparents have said things like, “It’s so great that you’ll be working from home to raise your kids.”
A) Just because I work from home doesn’t mean that I’m not working. I work 15 hour days 6 days a week.
B) My husband doesn’t work from home – does that mean he won’t be raising our kids?
C) Why do you assume that is what we want?
A colleague of mine who has a sweet, wonderful, bright child child shares she gets constant questions from immediate family members and strangers alike when her next baby is coming. She feels the same pressures and she already has an incredible child. Why is that not enough?
I’ve never had a manicure without being asked when I’m having babies. I’ve stood in line at the grocery store and smiled at a mother with her baby in the cart, only to be told, “Just wait until you have one.” Since when did smiling at a baby mean that I wanted a baby?
It comes from doctors. Just a year after I received an IUD, my doctor told me that we needed to start trying in the next four years to get pregnant. Completely unprovoked, without expressing any desire to have children. One year after personally providing a semi-permanent contraceptive. I was so uncomfortable, I changed doctors the next day.
Some people say it’s worse in the South. That the measure of a woman’s success is based on her ability to produce children (and keep producing them). While it may be felt heavily in the South, I personally know women in New York City, in San Francisco, in Los Angeles that struggle with it everyday.
Women are made to feel guilty for not wanting children – whether that be in the present or in the future. Women are being shamed for being intentional, thoughtful and strategic about their families and lives. For living their lives the way that makes them happiest. That makes them healthy, productive, contributing members of the community. They are being shamed for wanting to enjoy their marriages, their partnerships, their friendships, their accomplishments, their missteps without having children.
Firstly, it matters because not everyone has the fortune of being able to have biological children, even if they want to. Being asked these immensely personal questions for someone who is currently trying to get pregnant, is no longer able to get pregnant, have suffered miscarriages or any other slew of infertility issues – is wildly hurtful. What seems like an innocent “small talk” conversation can rip open deep wounds for so many people, and I urge you to be more considerate of how you address the topic of having children.
Further, in a time that woman are fighting for equality in a gender conforming culture, pressuring woman to have children or shaming them for not wanting to is only setting us back. While the feminist revolution continues to push forward, we’re living in particularly scary times. The world is at a stage of uncertainty in our political and environmental climate.
Now more than ever, thought and intention should be put into the type of world we want to live in and what are role in that is. For many – that may include having children. And that is a beautiful, powerful, inspiring thing. For for so many others – that means living a fulfilling adult life without children. And that’s just as beautiful, powerful and inspiring. As a society, we need to be okay with that, too.
As a business owner, I’m helping women around the world elevate their careers to levels beyond their wildest dreams. I’m connecting entrepreneurs from all corners of the globe in a safe, supportive community. I’m learning and growing and evolving every day. I pay my taxes, I save more than I spend. I donate to charity. I help provide for my family.
I don’t know every step that The Identité Collective is going to take in the future. There is a one year, three year and five year plan. Every day brings new challenges and new opportunities, so those plans will change.
What I do know is that I am so wildly proud of my brand, the business behind it and the woman running it. I feel gratitude every day I wake up and to me, that is success.
I’m very much aware how personal this conversation is for so many people. If anyone reading this, ever wants to share, listen, discuss or not talk about it at all – I’m always here to listen. Shoot me a DM on Instagram, leave a comment below, or email me at email@example.com. We’re changing the world together.
The Identité Collective is a full service creative studio for interior designers and boutique lifestyle brands. Offering bespoke branding, web design and social media content creation, we help small businesses elevate their digital presence to become industry experts. Want to work together? Shoot us an inquiry here.