Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, doesn’t think mothers should work in the White House. Conway, a mother of four children all under the age of 12, won’t be taking a job in Trump’s White House because of the strain she foresees it putting on her family. Problem is, she’s publicly going on the record saying the White House is no place of employment for all mothers, not just her. Conway’s position, which she explained while speaking at a recent “Women Rule” event hosted by Politico does not apply to fathers.
“I do politely mention to them the question isn’t would you take the job, the male sitting across from me who’s going to take a big job in the White House. The question is would you want your wife to,” Conway said, describing conversations she’s had with male colleagues. “Would you want the mother of your children to? You really see their entire visage change. It’s like, oh, no, they wouldn’t want their wife to take that job.”
So yeah, that happened.
For anyone reading this saying, “Hey, it’s great that a working mother made a choice that best suits her family,” I agree. And anyone saying, “It’s so nice when any parent has the means and foresight to professionally scale back because they fear the impact on their family would be less than productive,” I agree as well. It’s hard to balance a career and a family for any parent and Conway is giving up a once in a lifetime opportunity to work in the White House because she doesn’t think it’s good for her kids. The problem is, Conway doesn’t think the same standard should apply to fathers.
As a working mum, Conway’s professional double standard winds me up. While I respect her decision not to work in the Trump White House because of her own family commitments, I see red when a woman as successful and watched as Conway suggests that professional women need to eventually make a choice between having a family and having a successful career.
Because here’s the thing: Working mums already have to deal with this bullsh*t every day in our workplaces — and the last thing we need is a working mum in a public position perpetuating it. We hide our pregnancies from our bosses until the very end for fear of appearing less committed to the job than our male counterparts. We are paid less than men and we constantly feel like we have to work harder than men to prove we are of equal professional value. Conway’s comments reiterate stereotypes so many women have worked tirelessly to shut down.
Worse yet, Conway doesn’t think men should have to choose between their family and career. She assumes, whether working or not, a mother should be the primary caretaker in the family. The issue isn’t that she won’t take the job, it’s that she thinks no mother should take the job. Her statement implies that no matter what a mother does or doesn’t do for work, that mother is her family’s default parent. Mum is the real caretaker, even if dad has more time.
In my house, I do more of the day-to-day parenting because my work schedule allows for that. But I know countless families where the dad has the more flexible work schedule, which allows for him to do the bulk of the pick-ups, homework, and bedtime routines. Every family is different. Some families choose to have childcare to support the parent’s work schedules. And in some families, one parent doesn’t work at all.
Every family finds the dynamic and balance that works for them. It’s hard enough finding the balance within one’s own family. No family needs a very successful, prominent woman — a woman whose version of having it all means passing on a big opportunity — to tell them that mum is always the one who has to choose between her career and her kids. That’s simply not true.
Kudos to Conway for making a choice that works well for her family. But, she has no right to speak on behalf of all working mums. It’s hard enough to be one of us. We certainly don’t need Conway limiting our success. We’ve got a world of employers and stereotypes doing that already.