For Moms, Kim Kardashian's Advice Couldn't Have Come at a Worse Time

Kim Kardashian's 'best advice for women in business' didn't go over well, but for working moms navigating pandemic parenting, her take is particularly damaging, culturally and institutionally.

Kim Kardashian and her kids
Photo: Gotham | Getty

It's 2022. We're two years into a global pandemic that has effectively torn down the walls parents were forced to erect between their family and professional lives. Because of this, we're finally having frank conversations about the very real hurdles mothers face, both at home and in the workplace. We've opened our eyes to how privilege affects day-to-day family life. We've seen evidence that so much of the labor mothers put in is not reflected in a paycheck. Based on all this, we should be poised for a major, much-needed change thanks to the public conversations we are, at long last, having.

But if recent comments from Kim Kardashian are any indication, not everyone is listening. In a recent interview with Variety, Kardashian shares advice for women in business—and is, rightfully, rubbing a lot of people the wrong way. "I have the best advice for women in business," Kardashian shares. "Get your f—ing ass up and work. It seems like nobody wants to work these days."

Whew. There's a lot to unpack here, and much of it has already been covered, with countless people slamming the tone-deaf nature of the comments. But now, we need to discuss why they're in direct opposition to what moms need right now, as they navigate astronomical child care costs, school closings, pandemic precautions, the total loss of separation between career and parenting responsibilities, the ever-increasing mental load, and, for many, the impossible choice of whether to walk away from career opportunities and earnings in order to make it all work. And of course, that's not even close to being an exhaustive list of what mothers are facing.

It's not that no one wants to work. It's that the vast majority of moms can't hand off many of their responsibilities (like caring for their children, cooking, cleaning, laundry, scheduling, chauffeuring, helping with homework or remote learning, and so much more) the way someone with Kardashian's level of access can. Because guess what? All that is work, too. Throw a pandemic on top of that pile and it's clear: Mothers, who take on a disproportionate amount of this unpaid labor, are at a breaking point...and we need to stop making them feel like they're not doing enough.

The pandemic undoubtedly changed the game for working mothers, with the Census confirming that the health crisis has had a devastating effect on mothers' paid labor. But we've managed to spin something positive out of this: For the first time, moms are parenting loudly—and getting loud about how what we're working with isn't working. It's finally starting to feel like we're getting somewhere in our attempts to change the system. But when someone like Kim Kardashian uses her enormous platform to make a comment like the one she made, well, it can certainly make us feel as though all our attempts to move the needle aren't being seen or heard.

Kardashian's comments don't just fail to acknowledge privilege, but also the problematic system and its many barriers for mothers in the workforce.

"Her comment was part of this 'girl boss,' 'lean in' culture that's all about fixing the woman and not the structure," Reshma Saujani, the author of PAY UP: The Future of Women and Work (and Why It's Different than You Think), tells Parents. "If you have power right now, if you have a platform right now, please use it to argue about why we need to change the structure: Why we need paid leave, why we need affordable child care, why we need support for our mental health. Don't use it to further the narrative that got us here in the first place."

Saujani is right: for so long, we've received messages like "you have the same number of hours in a day as Beyoncé"—but we need to unlearn that way of thinking because it's not addressing the real issues we're up against at this moment in time.

Celebrities don't represent most parents, but their platforms do give them amplified voices in the discourse surrounding parenthood. Many have spoken up about the systemic issues we desperately need to address, but there's still that persistent hustle culture, where we glorify the idea of the "boss mom" who thrives in her career, spends meaningful time with her children, whips up perfect meals, dresses flawlessly, keeps a spotless home, devotes time to exercise and self-care, and has a booming social life—all while failing to acknowledge the support system she employs behind the scenes. "No more supermom narrative. We've got to be honest about where we're at and what we need," says Saujani. "Having it all is just a euphemism for doing it all."

Thanks to the pandemic and all the conversations it has inspired, more employers are thinking about the importance of things like remote employment, part-time opportunities, paid leave and sick days, and flexible work hours—but right now, we're at a crucial juncture. Some companies are looking to go back to the old, unsustainable way of doing things. What's alarming is that they could hear comments like the ones Kardashian made and think that, if an extremely successful mother of four thinks women and their work ethics are the problem, they don't need to change their policies. That's not the case, and we need to resist. We also need loud voices, like Kardashian's, to join that resistance.

"Instead of breastfeeding in closets and apologizing for taking our kids to a doctor's appointment, and trying to work around work, rather than have work around us, [we need to] say, 'No, we're not going back to the old way'," says Saujani, who founded Marshall Plan for Moms. "Women are ready to say, 'I know what I need from my work, I know what I need for my partner, I know what I need from the government.' Part of what's so disappointing about Kim's comments is that women are [asking] for something different. Don't put us back into the old system, into the old normal."

To be fair, one comment doesn't necessarily reflect Kardashian's whole stance. Despite the help and the money, she undoubtedly knows many of motherhood's challenges. Privilege aside, she is an extraordinary success and, by all accounts, a wonderful, involved mother. But here, she had an opportunity to share great tips, and she missed the mark.

So what would have been better advice? Saujani has thoughts.

"Change the system and not yourself," she advises. "We have a once in a lifetime opportunity to rebuild work from the ground up. Let's not waste a good crisis."

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