Connect Motherhood

Ambition Is Not a Dirty Word

Chelsey Zhu  |  August 31, 2022

Let’s set the record straight: Women can be amazing mothers and also be wildly successful in their careers.

We all know that working moms are the backbone of our families and the workforce. (And FYI, all moms are working moms.) There are lunches to pack, parent-teacher conferences to attend, butts to wipe, and kids to chauffeur — the laundry list of jobs goes on. And some moms are also working as accountants, doctors, entrepreneurs, and every other job imaginable while they juggle all of the rest.

Over the last few years, it’s only gotten harder for moms who are also in the workforce. During the pandemic, moms were more likely than dads to say that they couldn’t give 100% at work, that they needed to reduce their hours, and that they had to turn down important assignments — even promotions — because of their difficulty balancing work and parenting responsibilities.

We know that women’s success in the workforce is crucial to their families’ financial success — historically, almost all of the income gains that middle-class families have experienced since 1970 are due to the rise in women’s wages. But we also know that outdated, negative attitudes about women in the workforce persist today. Mothers still feel the pressure to sacrifice their professional success for their kids. It’s no surprise that many women feel guilty for focusing on their careers. 

Our guest for this episode is here to help us let go of that guilt and embrace our ambitions. Lara Bazelon is a single mom of two kids, a lawyer, and a professor at the University of San Francisco School of Law. She’s also the author of Ambitious Like a Mother: Why Prioritizing Your Career Is Good for Your Kids. 

Jean first found Lara after reading an excerpt of her book in The Atlantic titled, “The End of Mom Guilt.” She couldn’t wait to talk with Lara about why the idea of the “perfect” stay-at-home mom is an unattainable standard for many women, and how failing to meet that standard can burden mothers with unnecessary shame. Lara shares how that shame has impacted her marriage, her children, and even her parents, who both worked during her childhood.

“My mom spent a lot of her life overcome with guilt,” she says. “And my father, who is extremely ambitious traveled constantly and worked constantly didn’t really feel much guilt at all. And at the end of the day, I love my parents equally, and I’m equally connected to them. So what does that show you? It shows you that my mom spent a lot of time twisted in knots for no reason.” 

We also dive into the myth of work-life balance, why being honest about your career aspirations is important for your romantic relationships, and how modeling ambition for your kids can benefit them in the long run. Harvard Business School studies show that daughters of moms who work outside the home have higher incomes as adults than daughters of stay-at-home moms, and their sons contribute more to domestic duties than sons of stay-at-home moms. And overall, children of working moms report being just as happy in adulthood as children of stay-at-home moms. 

That doesn’t mean that moms in the workforce are automatically “better” than stay-at-home moms, Lara says. The research just shows that any guilt moms feel about focusing on their careers is simply not needed.

In Mailbag, Scotty Reiss of A Girls Guide to Cars pops in to answer Jean and Kathryn’s questions about selling a used car and qualifying for new electric vehicle credits. (Scotty also gave great advice on Episode 284: An Insider’s Guide to Cars.) And in Thrive, where to recycle your clothes for in-store discounts.

This podcast is proudly supported by Edelman Financial Engines. Let our modern wealth management advice raise your financial potential. Get the full story at Sponsored by Edelman Financial Engines – Modern wealth planning. All advisory services offered through Financial Engines Advisors L.L.C. (FEA), a federally registered investment advisor. Results are not guaranteed. AM1969416

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The HerMoney podcast is supported by      Edelman
All advisory services offered through Financial Engines Advisors L.L.C. (FEA), a federally registered investment advisor. Results are not guaranteed. AM1969416

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