Why we need to stop asking women how they juggle career and motherhood

Motherhood is constant, demanding and exhausting. Yet for many career-driven women, the constant 'how do you do it' refrain is beginning to grate.


I saw her bristle as I wheeled out the same old clanger we ask every successful woman who happens to be a mother. "Do you find it hard to juggle career and motherhood?"

No sooner had the words left my mouth when I realised I was guilty of perpetuating the sexism associated with women in the workplace. Would I have asked a successful man the same question about fatherhood? Definitely not.

The fatigue showed on her face. I realised she had been asked this question hundreds of times and she was sick of it. I immediately realised I was guilty of perpetuating the narrative of awe and shock that a woman could be top of her game AND have children.

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How do you do it?

We know that being a mother can be all-consuming - the physicality of the body, the more fervent demands that inevitably fall to the woman, no matter how amazing dads can be. Recognising that it is a struggle to take on all of this and to excel at your career is important.

But if we want to try to move away from branding women as those who have to do it all, perhaps this is best kept for chats with friends rather than the theme of every interview with working mothers.

"Nobody will say to him – what are you doing?" 

Alex Crawford is an award-winning Sky News reporter. Her coverage of the capture of Tripoli made headlines all over the world.

Every day she faces criticism for leaving her four children behind to report on wars. She has spoken out about how offensive and sexist it is to ask if female war correspondents can juggle motherhood and frontline journalism.

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Sexist

At an event with an audience of television executives in Edinburgh, she said she considered facing pressures no different to those faced by all working mothers.

She said it is "really insulting and very, very sexist" to be asked about how she raised her children – when her Sky News colleague Stuart Ramsay, who also happens to be a father of three, would not face similar questions. "Nobody will say to him – what are you doing?"

"There is a fine line between acknowledging that new mothers feel an expectation at work to act as if nothing has changed."

She finished up by saying she hopes she can be a role model for her daughters.

There is a fine line between acknowledging that new mothers feel an expectation at work to act as if nothing has changed. The sleepless nights, the childcare falling through, and it is a juggling act that we all feel. But maybe it is time we started changing the narrative.

Working dads

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Maybe from now on, we can start referring to our male colleagues (who have children) as working dads. I'll focus in interviews on how all successful interviewees manage to squeeze in enough time with their children.

I'll ask the men about their childcare and the disruptive nights and how they managed to juggle it all.

Unless we change our perception nothing will change. We need to raise our expectations for all the wonderful dads out there and to stop focusing on how women 'do it all'.

When is the last time you heard a sports star asked how they manage to juggle fatherhood with their training schedule? Wait until you read all the headlines this week about Serena Williams and how she managed to do reach Wimbledon again....while also being a mother.

We've been doing it without realising it. It is a nod to how hard it is. But it is time to stop banging that same old drum or nothing will ever change.

Image via Getty Images


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Read more: Meet the Irish American mother who kills it in sales

Read more: How to be a true feminist father

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