Are We Women or Mothers First?

The following article was co-written by myself and the amazing JennyMac. This was the first time I have ever co-written a blog post and I am so proud of the way it turned out. Everyone knows how much I admire JennyMac…

Recently, we read an article about women and motherhood. One interesting comment included in the reader feedback was that once we become mothers, our children come first before everything else.

As mothers, we had some interesting dialogue about this exact sentiment. Within our social circles are women who are mothers and women who are not. Amongst our “mom” circles, our friends and colleagues are not simply “stay at home moms” or “working moms.” We know we are all working moms.  We are either moms who work inside the home or moms who work inside and outside the home.

 If you have not stayed home all day with children planning meals, learning, playtime, exercise (for hopes of naptime) and teaching words, songs, states and manners, we can assure you it does not fit into a one hour shell and the rest of the time your kiddos do not take care of themselves while you blog on your computer in between Days of our Lives and your 30 Day Shred. And if you spend most of your daylight hours working outside the home, you come home and in the small space of time before bedtime, you need to incorporate as many of the above items in between checking your Blackberry and deciding who is making dinner. We know. We have both been moms who work at home and moms who work both inside and outside the home.

And with all of the goals we create for ourselves as moms, where do our personal priorities fall once we add “Parent” to our resume? Should our children always come before ourselves? Do we stop dreaming just because we have children? Or do we dream but not act on those dreams?

We admire women that chase after a dream such as starting their own business or establishing themselves as entrepreneurs all in the midst of raising a family. Would it be fair to judge these women who clearly have paved a path for themselves? Are women who climb the corporate ladder and really establish themselves in their career doing that in exchange of or in addition to being a ‘good’ mom?

As long as these women are clearly present in their children’s lives and raise happy, healthy kids – why should it matter?

Theta Mom shares this: A dear friend of mine is the principal of an elementary school. Her dream was to become an administrator and now she is living that dream while raising three kids. My sister-in law is another perfect example of a woman who established herself in her position while balancing the demands of raising a family. She has climbed the corporate ladder and worked extremely hard to get where she is. She’s earned it, she deserves it and if you ask her children they wouldn’t want it any other way. 

JennyMac shares this: While in college, my mom opened her own business which grew into an incredibly successful company. Watching her in action provided several great lessons that are still part of my business acumen today.  And she still made the best chocolate chip cookies I have ever eaten. To me, it was proof that I could execute both roles, and do them well if that was what I chose.

And every day, many high profile female lawyers, doctors, all well educated and trained women leave it all behind to raise their children.  This is a conscious decision made by these women and the reasons for staying home clearly outweigh the reasons for pursuing their careers for them. It takes a lot of guts to leave a high paying job with fabulous opportunities behind as well as all of the hard work, time, money and education that went into achieving these positions. And we know women who are simply putting a hold on some of their pursuits while they stay home right now. Several friends have gone back to work and continued their career choices once their kids started school. It is all about making it work for you and your family. But how do you decide?

Theta Mom shares this: I don’t care whether you work outside the home, are a WAHM or a SAHM, I don’t think anyone has it any easier. There are positives and negatives to each of these roles. I worked full-time beginning when my son was 11 months-old with a 3 hour commute and it was brutal getting out in the morning with my infant boy, commuting, working a full day and then trying to find a way to spend some quality family time as well as get everything done. For me, I was unable to keep up with this lifestyle. I’m truly blessed to have found a way to use my graduate degree and work from home, still pursuing my passion while raising my children. But that doesn’t mean women who choose to work outside the home should be looked upon as any less of a mom or as a mom that it too into herself or her career – some women HAVE to work in order to put food on the table and I am certainly one of them. 

JennyMac shares this: I took a year off when we had MiniMac.  I left a high profile attorney position with a Fortune 15 company. I dedicated that year off of the corporate treadmill to learning to be a mom. And I loved it. But after one year, I wanted to reengage in the corporate sector. And I am glad I returned. For me, working is a great way to continue to hone my skills, pursue my interests, and my free time outside of work is focused on self growth, my family, and my dreams. And I do have dreams. What kind of example would I be if I didn’t? And they are not just gauzy dreams as I watch clouds float by. My dreams are things I am pursuing every day.

But we both know this: Being a mom is one of the hardest jobs on the planet. Period.  

And we are just two examples that your road to success and happiness and being a great role model for your children are not separate forks. We think we should continue to dream big and do what works for us as individuals AND mothers – isn’t this the message we want to send to our children, especially our daughters? This is comprised of what we learned as children and what we continue to learn as women and parents.

But we know it is a full time balancing act. We want to raise smart, well defined, kind, ambitious young people and we are the first examples of this our children will see.  How do all of us find the balance between self and parent?  And how do we answer the question: Are we women or mothers first?


  1. says

    What a very interesting post. You know, I’ve thought of a post like this but it was going to be too controversial. You two really hit the nail on the head and wrote it PERFECTLY! But your right, something different works for everyone…for me this is how I feel. I could have been a great fashion stylist, I could have been a fashion buyer but we only get one life and at some point for me, we have to choose, and I chose to be a mom. My son is visually impaired and in our situation, me being with him to try and raise him the best there is, to not take peoples shit, to not make excuses for himself, to let him know and make him feel that he can do anything he chooses to do regardless of his disability requires my full attention and me with him as much as I can. That is something I can not rely on someone else to do with me.

    Like you, I am lucky and fortunate that I get to work from home!

  2. Katie says

    I think you should always be yourself first and a parent second. If you make parent your primary defining trait you will always be stressed and need help to relax. I found a great book, Break Free of Parenting Pressures, that has helped me to relax quite a bit.

  3. says

    the balancing act between being a woman and a mother is something i have pondered often. i’ve been a stay at home mom and wife since before my son was born. my every waking moment is literally dedicated to making life easier for my children or my husband. because my husband earns all the money, i have taken on every domestic chore in the house, and i have lost every piece of me that used to be identified as a woman- except the piece that became a mother. even my “for fun” hobbies have turned into making skirts for my daughter, activities with my son, and making my husband’s time away from work more enjoyable. we moved away from my hometown for my husband’s work, so every friend i had who identified me as “J” was left behind. i’m now “their mom” or “his wife”. for me, i am a Mom first. i’m still trying to find that other part of me that doesn’t include my children. some days are harder than others… but i know both children will grow up before i know it. i feel very, very lucky to be in the position to be a mother 99% of the time, and try not to take it for granted. it will be over all too soon.
    .-= Nobody´s last blog ..I Do Stupid Things =-.

    • says

      And your response is the perfect example of how what is ‘right’ for one mom may not be the ‘right’ decision for another. It sounds as though you are very content with the choices you made and THAT is when I think we truly strike a healthy balance. Thanks so much for your comment.

  4. says

    Wait a minute…I do fit all of that child-rearing into a one hour bubble and spend the rest of my time lounging around eating bon bons while the children fan me and bring me fruity drinks. Oh, wait, nevermind…that’s just in my daydream I had today when I collapsed in a moment of exhaustion! 😉

    Totally great post, ladies. Personally, I think we’re women first. Some of the best parenting advice I’ve ever received is from John Rosemond, who makes it clear that my children shouldn’t be the center of my universe, but a part of it.
    .-= Emily´s last blog ..A princess always needs her crown =-.

  5. says

    Great post! We are definitely women first. Our children, or our ability to be a mother or not, does not define who we are. We are because of our own dreams, ambitions and successes or failures. I am a mom, a wife, a career women, a student, and I am me. I want my son to see women have a rightful place in all these situations (obvious one being a mom!), but importantly that I am a being of my own, and my identity is not tied to who they are, but to who I am. I want to be me… always, and of course, a good mom, wife, career women and student too.

  6. says

    I think this is the first article/post I’ve ever read that is very balanced and true. There are pros and cons to each! And no one has it made! Plus, some women just aren’t “wired” in a way that staying at home makes them totally happy and fulfilled, so I feel for the women who could financially stay home, but choose not to, because I think society is harshest on them.
    .-= A Belle, A Bean & A Chicago Dog´s last blog ..“Move to WordPress” Giveaway! =-.

  7. says

    Great topic, ladies. One near and dear to my heart ( ). My realization: my answer is not static. My choices, and what is right for me and my family, are dynamic and fluid. Thankfully, I’ve given myself permission to let them be just that.

    (My belief: I’ve gotta fill my tank in order to be able to joyfully give to anyone else in my family.)
    .-= denise´s last blog ..In A Blink =-.

  8. Unplanned Cooking says

    I think it’s hard for awhile to remember who you are after you have kids, but it’s important to redefine yourself. Because if you don’t know who you are, it’s hard to be secure + a good role model for your kids.
    .-= Unplanned Cooking´s last blog ..How much would you give up? =-.

  9. says

    I have written a lot about this on my blog. I think that everyone is better off if we are women first. The kids will always be my priority, but I can’t be a good mom to them (or a good wife to my hubby, or a good business owner) if I don’t take care of myself. I also think that if we nurture ourselves in terms of career, health, hobbies, etc., we are setting the best example for our children. We are showing them that they are not the center of the universe.

    • says

      Nina – I couldn’t agree with you more and YOU are such an amazing example of this – chasing your dream and running/owning a successful business IN ADDITION to raising a family. I think it is a personal decision on how to “find” that balance that works for each woman, but at the end of the day, we must feel whole as a person in order to give of ourselves to our children. And yes, the best role model we can be for our kids is to show them that we are a whole person, too. Thanks so much for your awesome comment.

  10. says

    I have to say this is a good post. Motherhood is to me just a naturual instinct that a women should have once she has a child. Rather you
    are a stay at home mom or working a 9 to 5 outside of the home. A
    good mother will find away to care for her children. That doesn’t mean
    you can’t pursue you’re dreams. Nor is it an excuse not to take care of
    the mind body and soul. Which I believe a lot of men and women fall into
    that trap with age and the stress of kids. This is just a male perspective.

  11. says

    What a great post!

    Its so true- and its a battle in my mind every day as I attempt to work at home- still with 2 children home with me full time.

    I believe dreams and ambitions are SO important to have. I also believe its important to always reach for those ambitions- and that doing so does not make us less of a mother. In fact, I believe in my heart it sets an amazing example for our children … however, the judgement that is passed sometimes sure does lay on the guilt – THICK.

    This post was SO inspirational. Thanks for sharing.
    .-= Complicated Mama´s last blog ..Our Friends Rocked the NYC Help A Mother Out Cocktail Party/Diaper Drive! #HAMO =-.

  12. says

    I was raised by a (mostly) SAHM – she did have the occasional job here or there when times were tight, but for the most part she worked in the home. And I know it wasn’t easy for her. I know that she must have felt as though she gave up a lot of herself for us. Things she did, faults she displayed, have softened with the passage of time. I understand her better now than I did then. But she and my dad made the decision that whenever possible, she would stay at home because that’s how they wanted us to be raised. And I do wonder if she felt like “mom” trumped “woman” – maybe I’ll ask her about that this weekend when we get together for Mother’s Day.

    Knowing how we benefitted from having her home with and for us, it’s my goal to be a SAHM myself when the time comes – my husband feels the same way. But that’s us, that’s what we hope will work for us should we be so blessed. And he knows and I know that I will still have my own interests which I would like to pursue whenever possible, but I’m realistic as well. I know the committment, I know how hard it can be – even being left alone all day with my much younger siblings when I was in my teens was enough to make me want to pull my hair out sometimes. Still, it’s our goal.
    .-= Mrs. Jen B´s last blog ..The First Time I Ate A Lobster =-.

  13. says

    I hear Joni Mitchell’s ‘Both Sides Now’ floating gently through my head. You wrote this post with such grace, I have to give you so much credit. It can be an explosive topic and yet, you really nailed the openness of discussion rather than any amount of judgment (which can so often go hand in hand with this). I have been both. I stayed at home with my son for 4.5 years. Then I had to go back to work full-time. Both are hard. Both have sacrifices. Some days, I long to be a SAHM again. Back then, I ached to have a piece of myself out in the working world. For me, there are no easy answers. I wish, sometimes, that I could find that perfect job outside the house that allows me to work and fulfill something inside and yet be there to pick up my son and volunteer at the school, but for now, I have to cram everything in to that last hour of the day. It’s harried. It’s chaotic. It’s maddening. But I do the best I can. And I do believe that we are women first. Remember the saying: If Mama ain’t happy, then NOBODY happy. :)
    .-= Wendy´s last blog ..The Rugelach Rodeo =-.

    • says

      Thank you so much for this comment Wendy. That was the main goal of writing this article, to begin the dialogue and not pass judgement – just to be open and honest about how we juggle both hatsa and the response has been amazing. I certainly plan to write a follow-up post soon. Thanks so much for being a part of the convo.

  14. says

    It’s so hard for me to answer that questions!
    I think that it depends on the situation.

    As you know, I’m pursuing my dreams of becoming an entrepreneur, I work outside the home a few days a week and I’m also a stay at home mom.

    I think that it is important that we show teach our children that being a mom isn’t easy. It’s a lot of hard work but it’s work that we do with love and that it doesn’t interfere with our goals.
    .-= Sophia’s Mom aka The Wannabe WAHM´s last blog ..Get Your Facebook Page a Custom URL =-.

  15. says

    “I don’t care whether you work outside the home, are a WAHM or a SAHM, I don’t think anyone has it any easier”

    THANK YOU. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people, other woman, say how easy I have it as a stay at home Mom. All I can ever think, is really? REALLY? I have it easier than you? Ugh. I don’t see how educated, mature adults don’t know by now, none of us have it any easier than the other. All of our lives are different. I don’t claim to have it easy or hard. My life is what it is. It really frustrates me when people assume this.

    OOOOH. And what else is that the other people are all “I could never do what you do.”

    For me personally, I am a Mother first. I desperately need to work on becoming a woman again. I take little to no care for myself and this really needs to change. We should all be both. Well, we are both. We should ACT like we’re both. It’s hard to remember that sometimes.

    Great topic!

  16. says

    I loved reading this…I see the mom world from 2 perspectives now. I recently left an executive position (a career high at 34!) to stay home, raise my little ones, and help care for my ill father. I had some misconceptions about staying home like, this will be like an extended vacation! I was SO wrong. My day is FULL with kid stuff, schedules, house stuff, meals, and budgeting. Some days I do miss the outside world of working, but I also love staying home and seeing daylight with my little one and picking the older one up from school. Being a woman (me) and a mom is truely a delicate balance regardless if I were to work or stay home. Really, we are all just trying to do our best – whichever way that is. Thank you again for the post.
    .-= Liz McLachlan´s last blog ..Cake Avalanche… =-.

    • says

      I’m with you Liz – I’ve done both and I don’t think any mom has it any easier. This motherhood gig is a tough job and I think the most difficult part is striking a balance – thanks for being a part of the conversation!

  17. says

    I don’t think you have to choose woman or mom. You can be yourself and a parent. Meet your own needs and dreams and have your family come first (don’t forget DH!). Part of my needs and dreams ARE to meet my family’s needs and part of my own goals include my goals for motherhood (teaching values, educating, leading in faith, etc.). I think the act of balancing everything is actually an act of constantly RE-balancing everything. When I’m in the zone at work, I usually find things are getting out of what at home and sometimes being supermom leaves me depleted at the office. But I think the more you accept that as normal and embrace the duality instead of trying to pick one or the other, the easier it becomes to forgive yourself and see that tomorrow is a new day! Lots of love to all us moms!

    • says

      Jamie – I couldn’t agree more, we are ALWAYS balancing and you’re right, we are re-balancing as our needs change and as our families needs change. Thanks for sharing!

  18. says

    This was a really great thought provoking piece. Ultimately your kiddos look to you to set the example, so for me, not having goals, dreams and ambitions doesn’t set the right example. I want my kiddo to grow up thinking that no matter what challenges are put in his path, anything is achievable.

    I’m working really hard at making sure that even though I reluctantly chose to put my career on hold to take care of my kiddo, that I don’t give up on my goals and ambitions.
    .-= Shari @ Tales from the Sippy Cup´s last blog ..My snotty nosed kid =-.

    • says

      I do think it’s important that we set goals for ourselves, as WE are the example that our children see everyday…to lead by example, absolutely.

  19. says

    Just found you via JennyMac ~ and I must say that this is a very intense subject. Women are pulled and tugged in varied directions, and our innate nature is to please everyone first. I never planned on being a mother, but then we received a very beautiful ‘mistake’ two years ago. My life was turned upside down! However, the moment I laid eyes upon her, I knew I didn’t want to miss one moment of her life. Knowing she would be my one and only, I made many changes and found a new direction in which I could be a SAHM as well as use my creative, entrepreneurial abilities at the same time. It isn’t easy running a small business and raising a child 24/7, but I do it and love every single minute! I’ll admit, there are days I am completely wiped out, but then I just remind myself that millions of women have done this for thousands of years in much harsher environments than I am in. And I have always had a very difficult time accepting the pressure society puts on us to choose a specific role ~ why can’t we be what we need to be when we need to be it? It is who we are ~ a beautiful collaboration of every role: mother, woman, wife, friend, daughter, etc.

  20. says

    Another excellent post. Trying to maintain that balance is something we all struggle with and the first thing we can do as mothers is recognise ourselves in each other – whether we’re working outside or inside the home. Only mothers know what it takes to do what we do, and we need to support each other without constantly pointing the finger of blame at our kindred spirits (or even just at ourselves!). It’s interesting that even in this age of stay at home dads and the issues they go through, there’s never really a question about whether a dad is being a good dad whether he works in or outside the house.
    .-= Babes about Town´s last blog ..Win a Papoozle Baby Sling! =-.

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