Last week, Beyoncé made a good chunk of the internet angry when she revealed that she considers Blue Ivy to be her life's greatest achievement. Even the more measured responses felt a little judgmental, with most writers unable to believe that the same powerful woman who made us believe we could rule the world would prioritize family over her career.
Take Jenny Kutner over at Mic.com:
"While it is, of course, perfectly fine for Bey and other mothers to cite parenthood as a point of enormous pride (you do you, no shame), it's tough to ignore the cultural context of such a statement. She and women like [Hillary] Clinton set a gold standard for what it looks like to 'have it all' in a world that makes doing so damn near impossible."
First of all, I do not believe your "you do you, no shame." You, like so many other people on the internet, are calling out the star because her personal value system does not align with yours. How is that feminism? And, we live in a world that makes having it all impossible. There's no "damn near" about it. You cannot be in two places at once and if you want a family, you are going to have to make tough choices. It's harmful to young women to pretend otherwise.
I know I'm not Beyoncé, so maybe it's not as shocking for me to admit that the proudest moment of my life has been the birth of my daughter. But, there it is. It's not something that I even need to pause to think about. Giving birth was the scariest, most demanding physical challenge that I've ever confronted, and pulling it off, an achievement that made me feel invincible. (I'm sure only part of that was the insane amount of hormones pumping through my veins.)
Here's the thing about having a baby: You spend months trying to prepare yourself by reading every bit of available information; watching graphic, real-life videos (a YouTube rabbit hole I wouldn't recommend), and enduring a class filled with anxious couples who will ask a bunch of weird questions. You and your partner will come up with a birth plan, because it makes you feel like you have some semblance of control over the situation. Maybe, like me, you will decide to hire a doula because the idea of doing this without someone who has been there before is absolutely terrifying.
That's all lovely, but once the contractions start, and you're dealing with some of the most intense pain you've ever experienced, you quickly realize that you are the only one who can get you out of this mess. You have to dig deep and tap into reserves you didn't even realize that you had. You are the most powerful person in the world in this moment — a force of nature. I don't care if you're a national treasure with multiple Grammys or the CEO of Yahoo! or the first woman president of the U.S., nothing can touch that incredible feeling. You are the hero of this story.
My daughter is my favorite person on earth, but also my greatest personal achievement; giving birth to her was a surreal moment that exploded my universe in the best way possible. What I don't understand is why that, in any way, should take away from my professional accomplishments. If anything, it has made me a stronger leader, a more empathetic editor. There is no workplace challenge too big or scary to throw my way — all I have to do is think back to that hospital room, and it gives me an indescribable jolt of confidence. I love the time I spend at the office, and I relish the moments I spend with my daughter once I'm home. On good days, I do things in both places that make me proud.
I understand and respect that motherhood is not for everyone, but for the women who choose it, it leaves us forever altered. It makes us realize the insane magic our bodies are capable of (because let's be clear, that's what it is), and makes us feel more powerful than we knew was possible. The fact that Beyoncé, who has a mountain of Grammys and more money than most of us would know what to do with, describes Blue's birth as her "proudest moment hands down"? That's not her bowing down to the pressure of cultural narratives, nor do I believe it’s a violation of feminist ideology. To me, it shows that, at the end of the day, she's just like so many working moms: thrilled by the careers we have made for ourselves, but emboldened by another achievement, a deeply personal one that makes every other part of our lives so much richer.