Busting the Success Myths of Motherhood

The only definition of success is the one that’s right for you

This past weekend, we celebrated mothers. There were a number of articles on money and business that came out over the weekend surrounding the motherhood theme.

One called “How Working Mothers Define Success,” talked about the challenges of working full-time and being a parent. It highlighted results from a CareerBuilder survey that interviewed over 800 working parents with kids under 18 years old.

How working moms define success

According to the survey, just a little over half of working moms defined themselves as successful when it came to both working and raising a family. This, as the article’s author points out, means that nearly 50 percent of moms don’t feel successful either in work or as a parent.

In addition, women were more likely to feel unsuccessful on both fronts, “Working moms were more likely than working dads to say that their job has hurt their relationship with their kids and that being a parent has hurt their job performance.”

Is work-life balance the answer?

Traditionally, the mantra for successful working parents, especially for mothers, is to find the perfect work-life balance.

There is tremendous pressure on moms to always be on, for both employers and family in ways that dads often aren’t expected to be. This creates a false definition of success that is nearly impossible for any woman to ace. It also sets up expectations for a work-life balance that is unrealistic and unattainable.

Darla Beggs, the chair of the National Association of Women Business Owners, shares a different point of view with Forbes in an article called “ Fulfillment, Not Family: Why Women Business Owners Really Start Up, And What's Still In Their Way

“There’s no such thing as perfect work-life balance,” Beggs shares. “I think some women business owners feel frustrated by this conversation because they feel trapped into chasing someone else’s view of success.”

What women entrepreneurs define as success

The Forbes article goes on to share what women entrepreneurs define as success, and it isn’t having more time for family.

Among those surveyed, the following factors were defined as success:

  • Ability to do something you’re passionate about (92%)
  • The ability to be your own boss (89%)
  • Potential for higher earning power (77%)
  • Having flexibility to care for your family (65%)
  • Opportunity to create a legacy for your children, something to pass down (42%)

For women entrepreneurs, flexibility and family are the least determining factors of success, while self-fulfillment ranks as the highest.

So, what does this mean? Are women entrepreneurs self-involved people who don’t care as much about their families as those who grind it out as employees? Are they less motherly than their employee counterparts?

In short, no.

Another viewpoint on motherhood

A hidden gem in the Forbes article is this startling statistic:

Female founders are also making waves in employment opportunities. “The only bright spot in recent years with respect to privately held company job growth has been among women-owned firms,” Beggs says. “They have added an estimated 274,000 jobs since 2007.” As for men-owned and equally-owned firms? “Employment has declined over the past seven years.”

Interestingly, David Brown, the CEO of, the company that did the survey in conjunction with the National Association of Women Business Owners, says, “The women we surveyed are telling us success and happiness are much less about flexible schedules than they are about serving the people.”

For me this goes to show that while motherhood is good, vital, and worth honoring, there are many types of mothering—and just as many ways to approach motherhood.

Women entrepreneurs provide livelihoods not just for their families but also for millions of other families in this country and around the world. They work hard, give all of themselves, and sacrifice much to do this. And if you think about it, that’s quite a motherly thing to do.

In the process, they are not only the backbone of society, but they’re also quickly becoming the backbone of our economy too.

In the wake of another Mother’s Day weekend, I want to salute moms in all forms and shapes who make our world go round. Thank you for all that you do.

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Original publish date: May 14, 2015

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