On Tuesday, at almost exactly the same moment that Marissa Mayer’s appointment as CEO of Yahoo! was making news, we were unveiling the results of our “Truth About Moms” survey, a rigorous quantitative and qualitative new global research study of 6800 online moms.
Although the news that a woman was taking the helm of a major technology corporation is itself noteworthy, the story was more remarkable because Mayer also announced that she was set to step into another new role, as a mother.
With Mayer’s simultaneous CEO and pregnancy announcements, the national debate about motherhood and whether or not women can have it all, was reignited.
But perhaps the premise of the national debate needs to change.
From my perspective, Mayer might just be what our new study defines as a Triathamom.
Today’s Triathamoms are finding more freedom to define the racecourse. By using all the tools at their disposal and by selecting the best strategies from the different domains of their lives, moms can follow her their own philosophy and feel good about it.
In the past, Moms have always been expected to keep the spheres of her life (work, family, self) separate. Managing these multiple roles has been traditionally viewed as a balancing act and a source of tension.
According to our study, a change is taking place.
Instead of keeping the three main spheres of her life separated, many moms today have become more ingenious at bringing these roles together. This convergence is a lot like a triathlon for moms. Our study revealed that for moms today, it’s important to show her true self and treat all dimensions of her life – the three separate races – as one event. As one US mom stated, the goal is for “her son to think of [her] as strong and successful, but also as someone who never allows herself to be too busy to spend time with him.”
Just like a triathlete, moms today do not want to be defined by each of the individual races they run (or roles they have to play). They want to be acknowledged for the skillful ways they integrate their many roles, particularly by their children. Moms want their children to see her true self and understand all parts of her life. Globally, 71% of moms say they would prefer that her children “know the real me, warts and all.”
Today’s Moms have moved from being in a constant balancing act to integrating their various roles. Consequently, this integration is making mom a better performer in all of her roles. The woman who started using Skype to keep the kids in touch with grandma knows that she can also use Skype to minimize work travel. Successfully handling a two-year-old and four-year old at the same time makes for a patient and persuasive negotiator at work.
Moms bring unique skills and perspective to the workplace so perhaps it’s time for everyone to start celebrating her achievements instead of arguing about how she could possibly manage to do a good job in multiple roles.
Why? Because according to our Truth About Moms study: Moms don’t have to be supermoms anymore; 65% of today’s moms are rejecting the myth of the perfect “supermom.” They are integrating rather than separating their worlds; 69% of moms globally say that they are either “very good” or “good” mothers. Finally, technology is helping them to be better moms; 67% believe technology helps them to be bettermothers – in emerging markets we see this rise to 91% in China and 90% in India.
Which brings me back to our Truth About Moms launch event on Tuesday that featured a panel discussion moderated by working mother, Jennifer Rooney, editor, Forbes CMO Network. Panelists included Linda Fears, editor in chief of Family Circle; Wendy Sachs, editor in chief at Care.com; Ann Lundberg, executive VP at CafeMom; and Jamie Grumet, “I Am Not the Babysitter” writer recently featured on the cover of Time Magazine, a mix of working and non-working moms.
These accomplished women and passionate moms discussed the implications of Mayer’s appointment and agreed that both working and non-working moms still face many challenges but it would do us all good to focus more on celebrating her successes rather than dramatizing her struggles.