She's been his campaign's secret weapon in appealing to wary female voters. And now, Ivanka Trump has come out with a new ad ostensibly aimed at me and the millions of women like me: working moms.
In the 30-second video, Ivanka outlines Donald Trump's policy proposals: a child-care tax credit, six weeks of paid maternity leave, and changes in labor laws that will “allow women to support their families and further their careers.” Ivanka, a successful 34-year-old executive and mother of three, has some credibility when she talks about these issues, of course.
But I couldn't get past her opening line.
"The most important job any woman can have is being a mother," Ivanka says confidently into the camera.
I cringed. I am the mother of an 18-month-old daughter, but I hate, hate, hate calling my role as a mom a “job.” To me, being a mom is the same as being a daughter, a sister, or a friend — all roles I’ve managed to juggle along with a demanding career for my whole life. Yes, being a mom has become an intrinsic part of my identity that absolutely informs who I am and what I do. But to me, equating motherhood with a job is one of those slippery comparisons that only ends up hurting women.
I understand why, at first glance, calling motherhood a job — and saying that mothers need benefits and systems in place to allow them to do a damn good one without worrying about income — is meant to be helpful. After all, being a parent isn’t easy. Parents who decide to forgo a career to focus on their family shouldn’t be seen as taking a less challenging course than their peers who decide — or, let’s be honest, need to — continue to work. At first glance, saying parenthood is a job places a stay-at-home parent on an equal playing field as a parent who works outside the home. That’s a good thing.
But here’s the thing: A job comes with pay, incentivized rewards, opportunity for growth, and days off. None apply to parenthood. And let’s be real: Outside of sound bites, no one in the professional sector sees parenthood as a job. If they did, parenting would be talked up on interviews and take up ample résumé real estate.
As it is, mothers who choose to work outside the home have a hard enough time being seen as legitimate candidates for a role. Studies have shown that women with children are less likely to be hired, promoted, and paid on par with their childless peers. And Ivanka’s language doesn’t help combat sexist assumptions from hiring managers. If a mother already has a “job,” how would she possibly have time for another one?
Equating motherhood to a job can also be psychologically harmful to new parents. When I had my daughter at age 32, I had more than a decade of work experience as a journalist. I was good at my job. And when Lucy was born, I applied the same rigor I had with work to my new role as a parent. I read more than 100 parenting books and spent hours researching the best baby gear. I was determined to be the best mother, ever.
And none of that prep mattered. My daughter still spent the first six weeks of her life screaming her head off. Unlike work, I couldn’t “fix” her behavior with to-do lists, extra hours on my laptop, or scheduling a meeting with my manager. Eventually, my daughter and I settled into a rhythm, but that was partially because I let go of all the success metrics I’d held onto from a decade in the workforce. In order to be a good mom, I needed to stop thinking of motherhood as a job and focus on it more as an identity.
I’m far from the only person who found Ivanka’s opening line offensive. But the 12 words at the center of the Twitter backlash weren’t the only problematic part of the ad.
Ivanka Trump is very clear in the video that Trump’s policies are meant for mothers — the word father isn’t even mentioned. The Trump plan offers six weeks paid maternity leave for new moms. Never mind the fact that six weeks isn’t enough time to feel remotely competent in any new “job,” it also assumes that mothers are somehow more essential than fathers in a child’s life.
Here’s the thing: As crazy as it sounds, I do give the Trump campaign props for trying to cater to new mothers. But trying is the operative word. Because any real new mom (or dad for that matter) who saw the ad, or perused Trump’s proposed plan, before they were greenlit, likely would have had a very similar reaction to mine.
Because parenting isn’t a job. But campaigning is. And here’s hoping Ivanka Trump will do better the next time she tries to connect to moms.
Anna Davies is a journalist and writer. The views expressed here are her own.