JEANNIE GAFFIGAN IS A ROLE MODEL FOR MODERN WOMEN

JEANNIE GAFFIGAN IS A ROLE MODEL FOR MODERN WOMEN

The Jim Gaffigan Show debuted on July 15, proving that the public is interested in the daily mishaps of a father of five who hates hot pockets and loves bacon. Despite Jim’s steady rise to popularity in recent years, fans knew little about his wife except that she was a “Shiite Catholic” who could “get pregnant looking at babies.” Until now. The New York Times featured the elusive Jeannie and millions discovered what a quiet powerhouse she is. She wrote, edited, produced, and helped create the Jim Gaffigan Show, down to the “crumbs on the table”—while taking care of their five children in a two-bedroom Manhattan walk-up. As she told the Times, “I didn’t understand that it was going to be 80-plus hours per week for three months, and my kids were going to have to come to the set, and my house was going to have to be like Downton Abbey.” Jeannie’s close involvement with her husband’s popularity stems from her deep background in the arts.

After marriage, Jeannie relinquished her life in theater and became fearlessly dedicated to furthering her husband’s career. She was the writer behind many of his most famous hits: “She channeled her comedic sensibilities into Jim’s voice, helping cultivate his brand as a father, a die-hard food enthusiast, and an all-around genial guy. While Jeannie worked in the background, Jim became the king of the clean comics,” the Times noted. Although she allowed her own career to take a backseat (read: “gave it all up”) for her husband, Jeannie offers modern women a lesson about what it means to have it all.

“Behind every good man is a good woman,” the saying goes. While some might find this flattering, to many modern women, this is an irksome idea, a relic from a past where women lacked opportunities equal to men. Why should the woman be behindthe man? Modern women out-distance men in many areas, graduating from college athigher rates, out-earning men in most jobs, and getting married at a record-high age of 27. Most of my friends in New York City are single and ambitious. We secretly huddle in booths and confess that we are afraid of commitment. We thrive on being independent, pursuing our careers, traveling the world, writing a book or two; after all, we are encouraged to Lean In. Conversely, women who desire to stay at home and raise a family face shame for “taking up space” in elite Ivy League universities or getting an MBA or medical degree. In pursuit of equality, our culture seems to encourage women to pursue complete autonomy instead of acknowledging the value of men and women pooling their resources.

It’s understandable. High-achieving individuals want to make a difference. As Professor Clayton Christensen explained in his 2010 Harvard Business School commencement address:

“When people who have a high need for achievement . . . have an extra half hour of time or an extra ounce of energy, they’ll unconsciously allocate it to activities that yield the most tangible accomplishments. And our careers provide the most concrete evidence that we’re moving forward. You ship a product, finish a design, complete a presentation, close a sale, teach a class, publish a paper, get paid, get promoted. In contrast, investing time and energy in your relationship with your spouse and children typically doesn’t offer that same immediate sense of achievement.”

Every individual wants to feel like they are living a fulfilling life; 90% of millennials want to use their skills for good and over 50% are willing to take a pay cut to enter employment they really care about. No one wants to be insignificant, but the confusion about needing to choose between work or family lies in a misunderstanding of power vs. influence.

Many people think that to have influence, they have to be the public face of something. But often, the face is merely the talking head for the committees, speechwriters, advisors, and hosts of people who work tirelessly behind the scenes to advance the message. As Jeannie Gaffigan said, “I’ve been able to have complete creative fulfillment in this relationship without being the front person.”

If we had a better understanding of the value of all types of roles—including the less-public ones—we would put less pressure on ourselves to conform to society’s expectations. Women would feel the freedom to maximize their unique potential in whatever unique situations in which they find themselves. As Stephen Covey counseled, we should operate within our own “circle of influence” to be the most effective.

This is precisely why Jeannie Gaffigan is a role model and a breath of fresh air for modern women. When asked why she gave up her career, she says, “I’ve also been able to have five kids. . . . [I]f I had said, ‘I need to go my own way,’ I would have taken the resources away and split the resources, instead of pooling the resources. . . . I care more about Jim’s career, his material, more than anyone else in the world except him. We’re on the same team, and we’re going for the same thing.” As Jeannie Gaffigan illustrates, influence can be found anywhere, even at home with the kids.

This article first appears on Acculturated by yours truly.

KATE MIDDLETON AND THE MOTHERHOOD DISADVANTAGE

KATE MIDDLETON AND THE MOTHERHOOD DISADVANTAGE

If the media hysteria surrounding Beyoncé’s potential pregnancy and Kate Middleton’s “spare to the heir” is any indication, baby fever is booming when it comes to the Hollywood and social elite; within hours of the announcement from Clarence House, #RoyalBaby was a worldwide trending topic on Twitter. And if you type “Beyoncé” into Google, the top automated result is “Beyoncé pregnant again?”

I join the ranks of millions of young women who can’t wait to see Kate’s maternity wear or Jay-Z (potentially) embracing the growing Beyoncé, but all the joy and celebration surrounding these pregnancies struck me as contrary to what I’ve commonly witnessed in large metropolitan American and European cities. For the average or underprivileged woman, rather than face joy and fanfare at pregnancy and childbirth, they often instead meet skepticism. Consider the case of a woman who is in poverty or faces other stresses which might make motherhood a trial—a tiny apartment, college loans, long hours at work. The same people who rejoiced at the birth of Prince George will furrow their brows and tensely ask, “How are you going to do it?”

Have children become an accessory, the sum of achievement, and a nice thing to have…but only for women who meet certain qualifications?

A large majority of the women in the United States desire and/or choose to be mothers. According to a 2013 Gallup poll, Americans want an average of 2.6 children, significantly more than the current American birth rate of 1.9 children per household. Among their reasons for not having more, 65% report concern about the cost. Yet a study done by the Institute of American Values shows that among women who do choose to become mothers, they find motherhood deeply rewarding. In fact, 97% of mothers report being very satisfied or somewhat satisfied with their choice. So why would the average American woman celebrate Beyoncé’s or Kate Middleton’s baby, but not choose to have her own?

The average woman faces a social stigma for embracing motherhood. Of women who choose to be mothers, The Motherhood Study reported that fewer than half—only 48% of women—report  feeling appreciated and externally validated most of the time. Sadly, one in five women on average feels less valued by society since becoming mothers. This “women’s intuition” about a social bias is now confirmed by the numbers.

According to a recent article in The New York Times, The Motherhood Penalty vs The Fatherhood Bonus, “one of the worst career moves a woman can make is to have children.” Unmarried women on average make .96 cents for every man’s 1.00 while married women with children will earn just .76 cents, widening the gap. Low-income mothers pay the biggest price according to a new study out by University of Massachusetts sociologist Michelle Budig, who researched the gender pay gap for 15 years. Budig reports that the norm is for average working women to experience a 4% pay decrease as a result of their choice to have children. For the average woman, choosing to leave the workforce on maternity leave may face a severe career penalty. How’s that for an incentive?

According to Stanford University Sociologist, Dr. Shelley Correll, at the onset of any new job, mothers will be offered on average $11,000 less than their male counterparts. If they get an offer at all. Women who indicate on their résumé that they are mothers are half as likely to be called in to interview. The clear message to women is: don’t mention that you are a member of the PTA.

With the current bias, the average American woman has permission to celebrate the children of other, “more qualified” women such as celebrities and royalty, but should think twice about the choice to have her own.

With Western culture facing a slew of economic consequences resulting from lower birth rates, and a widening gap between social classes, the privilege of childbirth should not just be an acceptable choice or bonus for the elite. Instead, mothers should receive corporate and monetary compensatory equality and social support when they need it most, instead of their social and corporate communities “throwing the baby out with the bathwater,” as it were. Let’s hope the birth of Prince George’s sibling motivates more American women to follow suit—without having to take a pay cut.

This article appeared first at Acculturated by yours truly.