What Does Mommy Tracked Mean To You?

Over the past few weeks there's been some sniping aimed at Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton because she's been talking a lot about being a mom, that plus the fact that while recently sitting on the sofa with the ladies from "The View," she mentioned that the United States has never had a mother as a commander-in-chief. The first female speaker of the House, U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, has also been chastised for loudly championing her background as a mother and a former at-home parent who launched her political career when her youngest was in school.

And then there's ABC newswoman Elizabeth Vargas who plopped down on Oprah Winfrey's couch to explain why, to the chagrin of some critics, she left her prestigious position as an anchor at "World News Tonight" so she could have time with her young family. She now anchors "20/20" where she has flexible hours.

Meanwhile, several A-list actresses - including Oscar winner Gwyneth Paltrow and Golden Globe winner Jennifer Garner - have publicly said that, for now, they're cutting back on the number of movie projects they're accepting so that they can spend time with their young families.

And what is so wrong with all of that?

There are people who insist that women in positions of power and influence (i.e. - Clinton, Pelosi and Vargas) shouldn't emphasize or mention their roles as mothers, and that women shouldn't make career choices based on their families, lest they be labeled "anti-feminists." However the message that these social critics are sending to working mothers is that in order to be taken seriously, mothers should pretend as if they aren't parents and should hide their children's photos and act as though their families have no bearing on their work lives.

A piece recently posted on the American Prospect's website complained that when Clinton appeared on "The View," she employed a "mommy shtick" that's damaging to working women everywhere by "pandering to outmoded gender stereotypes." The writer seemed concerned that because Clinton and Pelosi identify themselves as mothers and speak publicly about their experiences, male voters will be turned off by all this maternity talk and think less of them. The implication in the piece, and in others like it that abound in the media, is that there's something wrong with being a mother, something that diminishes one's credentials as a professional.

But can't someone be a mother AND be tough AND smart? Does identifying with motherhood automatically make an individual appear weak? These attacks on women who openly proclaim their maternity with pride or temporarily jump off the career fast track and onto some form of a "mommy track" like Vargas, are, in their own way, a form of sexism. The criticisms imply that being IDed a mom is a badge of weakness about which one should be embarrassed.