I recently read an editorial about a famous fashion and lifestyle blogger from the UK. She invited the magazine over to her house – which was styled and photographed perfectly. She also gave a tour and insight into her wardrobe. And because she loves the “mini-me”-trend, followers also get to see her daughters’ matching outfits on a daily basis. The former model talked about her transition to becoming a successful influencer. And the interview ends with the question: What is the most important thing for you? “To be a good mother to my daughters.”
This whole editorial really annoyed me in a way. I appreciate to get insights into the lives of successful businesswomen. And this is what also this lifestyle blogger is. She is a careerwoman. Otherwise she would not have made it to the top – with a team behind her who not only helps her stage the house, take pictures for her blog/Instagram, coordinate meetings but also probably at least one nanny to take care of her children. It felt that the purpose of the editorial was to show the perfect life, the perfect home, the perfect family and, first and foremost, the perfect mother.
The end of this interview is just one example of many how successful women are depicted in the media. But it is not only the image of women in the media, it also exemplifies how women ourselves manage this image.
I really do not want to start a discussion here about what constitutes a good mother. But this last sentence felt as if the blogger was making a joke. It is every person’s own decision if and how they want to involve their children in their online lives. Nevertheless, I find it contradictory that she played the “I want to be a good mother”-card while at the same time her business capitalises on showing her toddlers on social media and involving them in sponsored posts. I would appreciate it if she was honest about it. There is no shame in saying: “I run a business and, hence, have the means to employ a nanny so that I can spend more quality time with my children.”
This article is just one reflection of what is popular in the media: Readers obviously want to read about “family first”. (Or this is what the media think will sell.) Especially as a woman, how could we dare to say anything else? And as a man? Well, I am sure the journalist would not even steer the conversation into that direction.
The American comedian Ali Wong explained her secret to “having it all” in her latest Netflix-show: “I have a nanny. That’s it.” She continued explaining that it angers her that most of her fellow celebrity colleagues omit this fact. According to Wong, every normal woman who juggles family and career feels stupid if she sees celebrities pretending not only to do it all themselves but manage to look perfect, be successful and have a family life. Why is there a need to lie? Why is it so bad to employ somebody for support if you can afford it?
Unfortunately, having a nanny is still being stigmatised. I recently had a conversation with somebody whose name I will not mention in this post. It was about Pamela Rendi-Wagner – the frontrunner of the Social-Democrats in Austria. (Note: I use her to illustrate an example here, this is in no way intended as advertisement for an party.) Rendi-Wagner has a research background in medicine where she also habilitated. When her husband, a diplomat, was posted to Israel, she taught at the University in Tel Aviv, later in Vienna and then pursued a career in civil service. The answer of my conversation partner was: “Yeah, but of course she could do that! I bet she had a nanny!” So what?! And this coming from another woman! Why do we do this to each other? Most of this pressure to be perfect in every single part of our lives is to a large part put onto us by other women. We need to stop that!
Social media, and especially Instagram, contribute to the backward image of women. We moved from women demanding equality by wearing no bras or short skirts, and subsequently moving up the career ladders back to to decorating our homes, taking care of our children and looking pretty. We do see the occasional #bossbabe. But what dominates our feeds is a perfect bubble: perfect relationships, perfect mothers, perfect bodies, always smiling and taking care of the children. It is about looks and finding the right guy. How often have you seen the hashtag #bestboyfriendever under a picture of a designer bag? If all women invested the same time in fighting for equality as they currently invest in their make-up and practicing poses for their selfies, there would not even be a need for this article anymore.
Let’s make it about us again. What do we really want in life? And which part do we want to show? Let’s make it “insta-worthy” to post about the things we can do and buy because we worked hard for them (#iworkedhardforthis). Let’s celebrate women who juggle career and family. Let’s celebrate single moms. Let’s celebrate partners who support strong women. And if your decision is to be at home with the children, it is yours too. There is no “perfect” life. But let’s be honest about it – no matter how many likes we get for it.