by Leslie Morgan Steiner
I recently stumbled upon this gem in an old issue of Parenting:
Six Biggest Parenting Myths 
1. Bribery is Bad.
2. Children Should Never See Their Parents Argue.
3. Always Put Your Kids’ Needs Ahead of Your Own.
4. You Should Treat All Your Children the Same.
5. Children Need “Quality Time.”
6. “Losing It” With Your Kids Makes You a Bad Parent.
The article debunked all these falsehoods one by one. I read each validation, laughed, and felt much better about myself as a parent.
Then I started thinking about the biggest working mom myths. (This is also known as “copying a good idea you saw somewhere else,” a critical component of the working mom survival kit.)
Back to the myths. You know, those wise mantras we believed back in the day, before stretch marks, when working 60+ hour weeks seemed cool? When advancing one’s career trumped all else? When we wore clingy wrap dresses WITHOUT Spanx? When staying late on a Friday night seemed…FUN?
Here is my version of untruths that can get all of us moms in trouble:
Biggest Working Mom Myths
1. Taking a short maternity leave signals to your employer that you are serious about your career.
I still find it amazing that I was so dumb and self-centered that I thought other people counted the length of my maternity leaves. It would have been far smarter to take an extra month – an extra year – and come back to work when I was actually ready, instead of when I thought I was “supposed” to return in order to impress my boss (whose name I have now forgotten).
2. Don’t have too many baby pictures on your desk.
Honey, there is no such thing! Plus it’s a really good way to bond with other moms at work. And to show your human side which makes you a better employee, colleague and boss lady.
3. Never turn down a promotion or increased responsibility.
Sometimes, the smartest thing you can do is turn down a job that is wrong for you, your family, or your perilously fragile work/life balancing act.
4. You and your husband won’t have anything in common if you stop working.
I believed this fervently. True confession: I repeated this idiocy endlessly. Did I really believe that all my beloved and I had in common were spreadsheets, strategy documents and HBR articles? Now I know – what holds our marriage together are all the important things we fight over. The kids’ bedtimes. Who cleans up more dog poop in the back yard. When was the last time I made Israeli couscous for him.
5. You’d get bored as a stay-at-home mom – what do they do all day anyway?
Um…work to take care of their kids, feed the organic chickens they’re raising in their backyards, volunteer to renovate local parks, schools and governments. A lot harder than going to a paid job with civilized co-workers, a lunch break every day, and two weeks’ vacation every year. Plus, once the kids are in school fulltime, there’s Starbucks, yoga and the dog park.
6. If you take a break from work to care for children, kiss your career goodbye.
Yeah, right. I really and truly thought potential employers would say “Forget about her MBA from Wharton, that undergrad degree from Harvard, and over 10 years of kick-ass marketing experience…She put her kids first for two years -- we don’t want her.” Fortunately employers – at least the ones I want to work for – are not so stupid.
7. My husband and I plan to split childcare responsibilities 50/50.
That IS what I planned. My husband had other plans. (Actually, he never once thought about childcare.) And it turns out that we HAVE split childcare 50-50. I did 100% for the first 13 years. Now that the kids are teenagers, it’s his turn.
8. I love my job!
Happy to report I figured out that “love” is the feeling reserved for nice husbands, all children, and cats who do not throw up on your pillow. I like my work. I like the money I make from it. But love has nothing to do with it.
So print out these “myths” and slip them into your idealist young colleagues’ cubicles. Tape them to the inside of the bathroom stalls. Let’s spread the word to new parents and premoms and predads out there. We wise, seasoned working moms need to explode as many working mom myths as we can while we still are working moms – in other words, before we collapse in exhaustion or get carted off to the psych ward (although, after working and raising kids for the last 13 years, a mental hospital seems far more attractive to me than it once did).