Despite the fact that we have more options (and power, at least theoretically) than ever, it's still a tricky time to be a woman — especially a woman who is balancing motherhood against a career, and trying to lean into one direction just enough not to be criticized for leaning out of another. However, what if — on top of parenting and climbing the rungs in your chosen field — you also had to answer to whether or not your most treasured accomplishment does or does not map up to the current-reigning feminist ideology? What if you admitted that the birth of your child was actually more important to you than what you've accomplished professionally, and then people criticized you for saying it? If you're thinking that's totally exhausting and impossible: Welcome to Beyoncé's world. In an upcoming interview with Garage magazine, the singer revealed that her daughter has been her life's greatest achievement thus far — not her illustrious career. "Out of everything I've accomplished," she said, "my proudest moment hands down was when I gave birth to my daughter Blue." Beyoncé certainly isn't the first person at the top of her career game to say that it's her child that she treasures above all else. Hillary Clinton, Victoria Beckham, and Elle Macpherson have all said, in so many words, that their kids trump all their other accomplishments. On Mic.com, writer Jenny Kutner acknowledges that Beyoncé is "entitled to feel that way." Of course she is. "But the fact that Queen Bey lists motherhood as her greatest triumph in spite of all her other successes," Kutner writes, "speaks volumes about the way domestic achievements are supposed to rank in women's lives — that is to say, above the rest."
It's hard to argue with that point: For most of history, and even under some contemporary circumstances, women's roles were relegated to the home, to raising children. Women's social programing throughout the ages killed the idea that raising a family would be our most important life contribution into the cultural narrative; through much of the 20th century there was rarely an alternative option. The social expectation to place motherhood above all else was — and is — very real. It's also all-too-true that — in spite of how much progress women have made — it's understandable why even those who felt like their professional accomplishments stand above what they've done with their wombs would feel reticent to admit to it, especially in an on-the-record interview. But it's also worthwhile and deeply important to acknowledge another possibility: that some women — yes, even the Beyoncés of the world — place a higher value on their kids than on professional accomplishments. And that, in this modern, fourth wave of feminism world — in which women are empowered to choose what they want for their lives, instead of fulfilling status quo expectations — is okay. "Given the hurdles most working moms must overcome, then, wouldn't it be refreshing for one of the most professionally accomplished women in the world to value her career and family accomplishments equally? To say, 'You know what? I really love being a mom, but I'm most proud of the work I've done,'" Kutner asks us to consider. Absolutely, it would be, if that were the truth for whoever spoke that perfect soundbite of progressivism. Yet, it would be even more refreshing if we allowed women to choose their greatest moment without fear that they were being judged against some ever-moving metric of what it means to be a good feminist.