Illustrated by Emily Turner.
Two masters degrees, an undergraduate degree from Tarheel Nation (UNC-Chapel Hill), a very successful career climbing the corporate ladder, 11 years of marriage, and five kids later, I am still labeled. One of the few black female VPs in my organization, an entrepreneur, a mentor, and several accolades later, I am still labeled. When does the labeling stop? I ask myself that question all the time. What mold should I fit in because I have five kids? Should I care more about what people think of me? Should I hide who I am for corporate America? Should I scream and shout that all my kids are by one man whom I met when I was 16, and married when I was 26? Should I obsess over my appearance so I’m not labeled as “that mom?” No, and neither should you.
I remember the times when I would literally be in tears from the stares at the mall. People would make comments when I was out alone with my kids. “They’re so cute, but do you want more?” they would say boldly to me. With a confused stare, I wondered, “Why?” Why would people ask that? I’ve always had the means to take care of my kids.
As I got into corporate America, I found myself working even harder to defy all stereotypes. I didn’t want to discuss my personal life. I never wanted senior leadership to question my ability to work hard because I had such a large family. I always worked harder, faster, smarter, and longer than most people. Imagine my shock when I heard a supervisor comment, “I am worried about Nashanta’ because of her kids. Can she travel? Does she have a support system at home?” When did my support system become an acceptable topic to discuss?
The truth is that most moms work outside of their home. Many black moms are highly successful despite the lack of a true support system. Whether you are married, single, or dating, your professional capabilities should never be questioned because of your choice to be a parent. Unfortunately, what should happen and what does happen in the workplace are not the same. Here’s some encouragement for all my working, talented, creative, and beautiful moms:
Your kids are your strength, and you should never forget that. Be very proud of them, because being a mom is the hardest, most rewarding job you will ever have. The benefits are simply priceless.
You are phenomenal. There are too many stereotypes for us to try and break all of them. They will continue to exist so accept them and accept who you are. You can remain silent as your work speaks for you.
Knowledge really is power. Your story should be shared. It’s time to sound off.
This post was authored by Nashanta' Whitaker