CircleBumpCheckedFilledMedicalBookmarkBookmarkTickBookmarkAddCheckBoxCheckBoxFilled

Are You Guilty of This New Mommy War?

Today's moms are facing a new battle—with themselves.
save article
profile picture of The Mother Company
Updated January 30, 2017
Hero Image

You’ve likely felt the existential angst that can accompany this very simple question: Should you buy cupcakes for your child’s birthday treat at daycare or make them from scratch yourself? According to Becky Beaupre Gillespie and Hollee Schwartz Temple, authors of the new book, Good Enough Is the New Perfect: Finding Happiness and Success in Modern Motherhood, issues like the cupcake dilemma—and the myriad other choices moms make in the name of “balance”—are actually part of a brand new Mommy War, especially for working moms. Here, The Mother Company speaks with the duo to learn more.

In your book, you describe a “new mommy war” affecting working mothers. Can you explain?

While researching Good Enough is the New Perfect, we conducted a nationwide survey of 905 working moms. From the results, we could clearly identify two types: those who described their approach to work and motherhood as needing to be perfect and “the best at everything,” and those who identified themselves as not overly concerned with being the best, as long as they were “good enough and happy, both at work and at home.”

This new Mommy War of “Never Enough” vs. “Good Enough” is really us at war with ourselves. Whichever side they more strongly identified with, many women told us they felt alone in their choices, and many were struggling to figure out where they fit in. Were there other “Good Enough” or “Never Enough” moms out there? Fitting in validates us. But, these days, it isn’t easy to find a group of women who have made all the same choices, and there isn’t a single “right” answer. So we find that we’re left to fight the battle alone, in our heads – i.e. “Have I chosen the “perfect” path for me?”

Related Video

Why is it that so many working moms feel compelled to be the “perfect mom”?

Women in our generation grew up being told, “You can do anything.” But many of us have taken that to mean, “You must do everything.” Add to that our unprecedented access to information — via stacks of books, Google, 24/7 accessibility via our iPhones — and you can begin to see this perfect storm of perfectionism. We feel obligated to put all these opportunities and information to good use; we think we have the means to be perfect. But actually, we don’t. So in the end, all we’ve done is raise the standards of maternal success to unrealistic heights.

So many of us watched our own mothers juggle work and family when women first entered the workforce in large numbers in the 70s and 80s. What lessons did this teach our generation? How has this contributed to the Never Enough “perfection problem” many of us now face?

Our moms’ generation struggled just to get in the door, especially in male-dominated fields like law and medicine, and even when they passed the entry barrier, they faced limited options. Today’s working moms struggle to make sense of all the choices that emerged when those barriers fell. For most Baby Boomers, there were two stark possibilities: work outside of the home or don’t work at all. For us, there are so many shades of gray; our big struggle is deciding. Funny thing is, because our moms didn’t have the luxury of choosing among so many options, we didn’t see this kind of choosing modeled for us. This is actually why we wrote our book; we wanted to create the manual we didn’t have and show women that there are great benefits to choosing what they want, rather than just continuing the struggle to Have It All.

So how can a woman raised to Have It All let go of deeply ingrained ideas about what success means?

It’s not easy. It takes guts. And a clear of sense of priorities. But there is so much to be gained. We found that the moms who let go of their Never Enough attitudes were so much more satisfied at work and at home. Some of us worry that letting go of “perfect” means settling for less or aiming lower. But it doesn’t. It’s really about having the courage to filter all those outside messages and choose what really fits. Letting go of “perfect” means rejecting unrealistic expectations so we can focus our energy on the things that matter most to us. In other words, if it comes down to buying cupcakes or not getting enough sleep because you need to stay up late to bake, just buy the cupcakes. You will all be better off in the long run.

From our survey, we also found that Good Enough moms were actually more successful. Moms in our survey who were focused on being happy at work and at home actually outpaced their Never Enough counterparts in many ways. The Never Enoughs made a bit more money, but the Good Enoughs had better marriages, felt they had made less sacrifices, and were better at taking time for themselves and the things they loved. Who wouldn’t want to join that camp?

As moms, we have more information than ever before about child development, learning, nutrition… How has new thinking in these areas raised the maternal stakes? How does it feed into the Never Enoughs vs. Good Enoughs debate?

We feel compelled to put all this information to use. So we Google our children’s symptoms, buy stacks of books on everything from sleep to potty training to nutrition, some of us even read about all the latest studies on infant brain development. The Never Enoughs struggled most in this area; they didn’t want to risk “getting it wrong,” so they tried to take in, synthesize and apply as much of this information as possible. There is nothing wrong with educating ourselves, but we also need to stop and decide where and when and how much of this information is actually useful. This is where the Good Enoughs had a leg up: they weren’t afraid to decide when the research was important — and when it was simply time to turn off the internet and listen to their own instincts.

Is achieving work/life balance just some pie in the sky ideal? Can you give women some practical tips for finding peace and contentment both at home and on the job?

Well, first of all, we need to adjust our expectations about balance. Balance doesn’t mean devoting an equal amount of time to every aspect of our lives everyday. A lot of women despise the word “balance” because it’s just another thing they feel as though they are failing to accomplish. So, we need to start by accepting that there is no perfect work/life balance. We’ve found that life tends to move in seasons — a season when we’re a little bit more devoted to family, seasons when we’re a little bit more focused on work. The key is focusing on our own priorities, and accepting that they will change from day to day, week to week, year to year. Some other tips:

  • Yes, you can do anything, but that doesn’t mean you should feel like you have to do everything. Choose what is important to you.
  • It’s OK to delegate and say no.
  • There’s a difference between “being the best” and “doing your best.”
  • Don’t let guilt, fear or other women’s choices dictate your own.
  • Good Enough isn’t about settling or slacking off. It’s about knowing that what’s good enough for one woman isn’t necessarily what’s good enough for another.

Lastly, BE BRAVE. Choosing your priorities takes guts. It’s hard — even for the women who make it look easy. Stick with your instincts and do whatever it is that makes you feel happier and more satisfied, whether this means cutting back your work hours, changing jobs, leaving a job to stay home, or not signing your child up for a different activity every night of the week. It is worth taking that leap!

Experts: Becky Beaupre Gillespie is an award-winning journalist who has written for the Chicago Sun-Times and USA TODAY, among other publications. Hollee Schwartz Temple is a journalist-turned-lawyer-turned-professor at West Virginia University College of Law, where she directs the legal analysis, research and writing program. In addition to coauthoring Good Enough Is the New Perfect: Finding Happiness and Success in Modern Motherhood, Becky and Hollee blog about work/life and parent issues at TheNewPerfect.com.

The Mother Company aims to support parents and their children, providing thought-provoking web content and products based in social and emotional learning for children ages 3-6. Check out episodes of the “Ruby’s Studio” children’s video series, along with children’s books, apps, music, handmade dolls, and more.

save article
ADVERTISEMENT

Next on Your Reading List

sick woman blowing her nose at home
Peak Season for Respiratory Viruses Has Passed, CDC Data Shows
By Wyndi Kappes
Ashley Iaconetti and Jared Haibon with their son Dawson
Bachelor Stars Ashley Iaconetti & Jared Haibon Reveal Their Baby's Sex
By Wyndi Kappes
child's 5th birthday party with friends
Amid Birthday Party Fatigue One Mom Shares Her Three-Party Policy
By Wyndi Kappes
ADVERTISEMENT
still from lilo and stitch movie
A Behind-The-Scenes Sneak Peak at Disney’s Live-Action Lilo & Stitch
By Wyndi Kappes
Taylor Swift and Blake Lively react prior to Super Bowl LVIII between the San Francisco 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs at Allegiant Stadium on February 11, 2024 in Las Vegas, Nevada
Blake Lively Says Super Bowl Was Her First Time Out Without Her Kids
By Wyndi Kappes
Actress Bridgit Mendler walks the WE Carpet at WE Day California 2016 at The Forum on April 7, 2016 in Inglewood, California
Multi-Hyphenate Bridgit Mendler Reveals She Adopted a 4-Year-Old Son
By Wyndi Kappes
Bliss Poureetezadi Goytowski and Zack Goytowski attend The Players Alliance Game Changers Celebration at AQUA by El Gaucho on July 09, 2023 in Seattle, Washington
Love Is Blind's Bliss and Zack Goytowski Share Baby Shower Details
By Wyndi Kappes
ADVERTISEMENT
Tyler Perry on The Kelly Clarkson Show - Season 5 February 2024
Tyler Perry Shares His Secret to Being a Great Father to His Son
By Wyndi Kappes
Alex Honnold and Sanni McCandless attend the LA Film Festival gala screening of National Geographic Documentary Films "Free Solo" at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts on September 27, 2018 in Beverly Hills, California
Free Solo's Alex Honnold and Sanni McCandless Welcome Baby Girl
By Wyndi Kappes
father talking to toddler daughter while playing at home
Early Childhood Parenting Style Could Influence ADHD Severity in Kids
By Wyndi Kappes
ADVERTISEMENT
haylee ladner's quintuplets
Parents of Quintuplets to Welcome Baby No. 6 Just 17 Months Later
By Wyndi Kappes
young woman sick on the couch at home
1 in 10 People Who Had Covid While Pregnant Will Develop Long Covid
By Wyndi Kappes
Joaquin Phoenix and Rooney Mara attend the premiere of Warner Bros Pictures "Joker" on September 28, 2019 in Hollywood, California
Rooney Mara and Joaquin Phoenix Are Expecting Baby No. 2
By Wyndi Kappes
ADVERTISEMENT
Giannina Gibelli and Blake Horstmann escape the cold to bask in the warm Caribbean sun as they celebrate their Babymoon at the new Sandals Dunn’s River in Jamaica on January 19, 2024 in Ocho Rios, Jamaica
Reality TV Duo Giannina Gibelli & Blake Horstmann Reveal Sex of Baby
By Wyndi Kappes
Eric Decker and Jessie James Decker attend the Miami Dolphins vs the New York Jets "Black Friday" game at MetLife Stadium on November 24, 2023 in East Rutherford, New Jersey
Jessie James Decker and Eric Decker Welcome Baby No. 4
By Wyndi Kappes
toddler sitting in grocery shopping cart
Unexpected Heroes Help Mom Amid Her Toddler’s Grocery-Store Meltdown
By Wyndi Kappes
babysitter doing laundry with toddler
TikTok Weighs in on Mom Offering Babysitter Extra Cash for Chores
By Wyndi Kappes
ADVERTISEMENT
Gabrielle Ruiz attends the opening night of "Les Misérables" at The Hollywood Pantages Theatre on August 03, 2023 in Hollywood, California
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend Actress Gabrielle Ruiz Welcomes Baby No. 2
By Wyndi Kappes
Hilary Swank is seen at GMA on October 05, 2022 in New York City
Hilary Swank Reveals Her Twins' Names in Adorable Beachside Snap
By Wyndi Kappes
doctor giving vaccine to baby
Doctor Starts “Ouchless Jab Challenge” to Ease Pain & Needle Fears
By Wyndi Kappes
ADVERTISEMENT
Article removed.
Article removed.
Name added. View Your List