To the Working Moms: Don’t.

Don’t. Don’t apologize. Just stop it. Stop it now.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve apologized in the last two weeks. “I’m sorry, but” and “I’m so sorry to say this” and “I’m just really sorry.” And this weekend, I had an incident where I naturally started to apologize – again. As I was crafting my self-deprecating apology, I realized I did nothing wrong. 

And the more that I centered around that, the more that I enveloped my fragile ego with the stout truth of my truly NOT being in the wrong, I realized that I was angry about it. I was angry that my natural response was to apologize. Blanket apologies. I’m the Oprah of unwarranted apologies. And YOU get an apology! (Sorry!) And YOU get an apology! (Sorry!) APOLOGIES FOR EVERYONNNNNEEE!

Don’t apologize anymore. If you were truly in the wrong, yes: apologize. Apologize and correct the error. But if something just went wrong, or something you could’ve fixed went haywire (but you weren’t asked to fix it), or you’re just in the line of fire – STOP APOLOGIZING.

Bryan came to my office and had lunch with me last week. It was a gorgeous day, so we grabbed lunch from the visiting food truck and sat outside in the sunshine. It was the day that I had suffered a mild Facebook breakdown* about the #BanBossy campaign.

*it was mild in both MY meltdown measuring system and mild for a meltdown to have occurred on Facebook. Man, Facebook is sometimes a trainwreck of Miley Cyrus proportions, am I right? God bless Zuckerberg.

My issue with the term “bossy” is not specific to women being labeled as bossy. I honestly think that the campaign should’ve been called “Ban Bitchy”, but let’s just acknowledge that the greater Facebook community is not ready for those bumperstickers just yet. Bitch, I take issue with. It’s been a long while since I’ve been called a bitch, but be aware that I have. Many times. Yet most folks who work with me – and most of my immediate coworkers are male – would never list “bitch” in the adjectives to describe me. But I have ovaries, so “bitch” comes with the territory. Especially when I’m asking a male coworker to do something he may not necessarily want to do.

While waxing poetic on the campaign, I mentioned that someone in my program once remarked to me that we still have a gender equality issue within our midst. I told him this surprised me because I honestly don’t see that. But she mentioned that every time she gave an answer – and she’s a female engineer – it has to be validated by a male peer before it’s considered “correct.”

“How do we raise our boys to be smarter than that?” I asked Bryan.

“I hope they won’t see the gender line at all,” he answered.

“They will,” I said, hopeless. “It’s there. Of course they will.”

“They know their mom is incredibly smart. Hopefully that’s enough. They see you working – hard – and hopefully that’s enough. You’re building the next great rocket, for heaven’s sake.”

So stop apologizing. Stop apologizing because your kids go to daycare or because you can’t make the class party or when you can’t make a late meeting because you have to pick up your kids. Do you know what happens when MEN in the industry leave early to pick up kids? They’re LAUDED. PRAISED FOR THEIR COMMITMENT TO THEIR FAMILY. What a great dad! they all say.

STOP APOLOGIZING. You are doing the best that you can. And I know that you’re like me: you work overtime like an insane person, picking up the slack of others so that you feel like you’ve proven yourself; you rush from work to pick up your kids, angry that you’ll have to slapdash dinner together again, wondering how badly your screwing up your kids; your weekends are no luxury, filled with a million chores and loads of laundry and soccer games and grocery lists, and there’s not enough hours in there to even sit down. You are like me. You have no time for yourself. You see pictures of yourself years ago, pining for the body you felt was too fat at the time and for the free time you thought was so scarce back then. You feel like asking for help is admitting defeat, and on the rare occasion that you do ask, it may be denied and you reel. You are like me. It doesn’t matter the industry, the wage, the career path.. you are like me.

I need to stop apologizing. I have never shied from accepting blame, and I will continue to do so – when it’s valid. But there is no reason to apologize as an opening or closing statement anymore.

You are like me – you love your kids more than the breath in your lungs, and you wonder every single morning if you’re doing irreparable harm to them by trudging off to a cube or a desk or a counter. You would take any harm or illness or downfall for your children. You second guess every single decision you make in parenting – and then second guess your second guessing. The sleepless nights of infancy simply morph into the sleepless nights of teenage angst and then the sleepless nights of missed curfews. You are like me, and I’m like you.

Don’t apologize to anyone who doesn’t deserve it anymore.

I am so, so proud of you and what you’re doing.

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7 Responses to To the Working Moms: Don’t.

  1. Stephenie March 16, 2014 at 9:36 pm #

    AMEN. I’m guilty of this too (sorrynotsorry) and I have to catch myself. One thing that makes it especially hard for us I think is simply being Southern. It’s a bad habit a lot of Southern women learn from an early age – this self-deprication – and I do think it’s sometimes harder for us to shake.

    But, OH WHEN WE DO… it feels so delicious. And the older I get, the more comfortable in my own skin, the easier it becomes. Now I know the sentiment behind that poem, “When I Am An Old Woman I Shall Wear Purple”. I’m getting closer to that line, “And make up for the sobriety of my youth.” Not quite there yet, but closer.
    Stephenie wants you to read ..Sunday Suppers Around the Table

  2. Nina March 17, 2014 at 7:01 am #

    YES YES YES!!! I do this ALL THE TIME. I hate that I find myself apologizing so much. Even when I know I am not the one at fault or that owes an apology… I apologize just to stop an argument. I apologize to make someone else feel better. I apologize because I don’t know what else to say. What is that?! It is a self-deprecating behavior and I have found that it is really hard to stop even when I see that it is happening.

    Anyway – Great blog :)

  3. Hillary March 17, 2014 at 8:12 am #

    Sarah. I love this. Years ago, when Michelle and I lived together, occasionally (ok, maybe frequently) one of us would go on a rant and Michelle, when she was really fired up, would stand on her bed with her fist in the air. Picture me doing that right now, because YES! to all of this.
    Hillary wants you to read ..Books for boys update

  4. bessie.viola March 17, 2014 at 8:36 am #

    This is one of the first things that I read this morning when I got up at 5:30am. When I got up I was already chastising myself for being too late, for sleeping in, for the fact that I was going to have to rush through a Monday morning that already held too much to do without my selfish sleeping in… I could call it Catholic guilt (and I often do) but it’s exacerbated by motherhood and the fact that I didn’t do anything fun for St. Paddy’s, not really, and even forgot to put green on the baby and and AND. It never ends, it seems.

    Thank you. Thank you for this breath of fresh air this morning… thank you for a few moments of absolution. I want to tell you that I’m proud of you, too – for all you do and for your capacity to say so clearly what’s on so many hearts.
    bessie.viola wants you to read ..rocking

  5. Michelle March 17, 2014 at 11:37 am #

    I applaud you and this blog post. Yes. YES!

    (And yes, to what Hillary said. I stand with my fist in the air!)
    Michelle wants you to read ..Books for boys update

  6. MrsDragon March 17, 2014 at 1:07 pm #

    “I’m the Oprah of unwarranted apologies. And YOU get an apology! (Sorry!) And YOU get an apology! (Sorry!) APOLOGIES FOR EVERYONNNNNEEE!”

    This made me laugh. I’ve gotten better about apologizing just to “be polite” but they still slip out. I find it helpful to ask (myself and other people) what they are apologizing for, to let other women know “it’s not your fault, you have nothing to apologize for”. Those reminders from other help me too, keep me from picking up that old habit.

    Gender inequality is subtle but persistent. I like to think that by pointing it out and discussing it we can make people (esp family members) more aware of it. You and Bryan are helping your boys simply by having conversations like this and by modeling equality in your actions as well as your words.

  7. redpenmamapgh March 18, 2014 at 10:35 am #

    Great post. I stopped apologizing around the time I read Rachel Simmons’ book, The Curse of the Nice Girl (I think). I’m raising two girls (and a boy), and I intend to teach them to be strong confident women. Which means not starting off with “I’m sorry, but…” or like language, and also no “no offense” or “I’m just kidding!”

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