The Discounted Woman

discounted woman, things differentGuest Post by Julie Schumacher :: I am not one to buy the whole “Women: They Do Things Differently” ™© things different that usually means we’re sold yogurt and rom-coms in a way male marketers think appeals directly to our ovaries. So, I’m loath to ramp that trope up here. But it needs to be done for a significant percentage of us Founding Moms. It’s time to own up, that we’ve been sucking at something.

We’ve been sucking at saying we’re great.

Recently, I was in New York for a wedding. A wedding chockablock full of successful, interesting, dynamic men and women with fabulous jobs and great hair or great jobs and fabulous hair. People in fashion, TV, fashion TV. I knew many, but not all, and hadn’t seen most since my career switch to writing.

To say that I am proud of what I’ve accomplished in the last couple years is whatever the opposite of hyperbole is. I’m giddy I get paid to write and have found the projects I’ve been able to work on satisfying. For a nascent entrepreneur, I’m doing really well. As a mom, the kid is alive and has been for the whole 18 months she’s been around. As a wife, I happily watch football and let him eat the batter of overly-ambitious baking projects.

I’m definitely a wife and a mom. Kind of a baker. And I am way, way hesitant to say I am a writer.  Still, I tend to play semantics with myself and say, “I write” when I’m asked what I do. Until New York. That weekend I declared, asserted, and claimed “I am a writer.”

Blame the confidence injection that is New York.  Blame my gorgeous dress and a grandma on duty. Or blame the blood being cut off to my brain due to Spanx and a glass of champagne. But that weekend, I owned it. I embodied it. I carefreely described myself as a writer while trying to figure out how to dance in Dolman sleeves. I tossed it out there willy-nilly during brunch in Central Park over some divine rosé. I even told another writer that I, too, was a writer and that, wow, isn’t being a writer great?

I did it because I am a writer. And I did it because of the particular writing I’ve been doing as of late (and just a little because of the champagne).

As a Founding Mama, I’ve now done several websites and professional bios for incredible women who own or run a small business. They may be in a woman-dominated industry or not. They may be just starting off or already well established.

Regardless, every time it’s time to write the “About” section, I get the pause. The hemming and hawing. First, they usually apologize for not being good writers (Hi, I’m not good at whatever it is they do. I don’t apologize to them and they seem ok with it.) Even if they are totally great writers and just need help finding their voice or checking their commas, they apologize.

And next, they say, always, that it is hard for them to list their accomplishments. To brag. To offer why they are incredible at what they do (sidebar: they have all, universally, been really great at what they do.) Even if they have earned professional recognition, awards, or accolades, they just can’t seem to own it.

There’s always been some “We Do Things Different” element to the way women talk to one another and about themselves. It’s the inability to give a compliment without offering a similarly focused stab at oneself. It happens in personal interactions between women and, now that I am in the entrepreneurial world, I see it here too. In order for me to tell you that you look beautiful, I must remind everyone I am a haggard, saggy slug. In order for me to take pride in my work, I must say my house is a mess. Or that my husband makes dinner most nights.

The thing is, he makes dinner because I am a lazy cook and not because of some grand, emasculating sacrifice required by my pursuit of writing. And our house is actually really neat most days (I hate dust, he hates clutter, win/win.)

Still, I feel compelled to offer up a disclaimer, to offer myself at a discount because I can’t just own that, hell, I’m doing really well. My business is thriving. My toddler is awesome. My husband cooks AND is a great dancer. Most days I feel pretty darn lucky. But my real-life, verbal -About- section can’t seem to let me just say that I am good at what I do, full stop. Whether it’s writing part time or baking for the kid’s music class or eating my husband’s couscous masterpiece, I have to discount. Even when I tell clients to sack up and brag, I see that it is hard. We are conditioned to go buy yogurt, say thank you, and exclaim that your hair looks great while mine looks awful.

No male CEO or entrepreneur is expected to offer some discounted explanation. Oh, his wife or partner made breakfast. Oh, he’s five pounds heavier and just cannot seem to stop snacking! He may thank his wife/partner/mistress in an awards speech but he will never say he’s just ok at what he does and his buddy’s suit fits just right in the crotch.

This is not universal. There are plenty of overly confident, or just the right amount of confident, women out there. I’m asking y’all to step up and mentor those of us gnawing on our cuticles and underplaying our assets.

I get it. Writing my own bio for my website was super hard. So hard in fact that I avoided my web-developer fellow-entrepreneur husband for days hoping he’d forget that I owed him words. I regularly try to poopoo whatever it is that someone just said is great about me, whether domestic or professional.

But what if we, Founding Moms, didn’t? What if we just let our awesome out? What if instead of offering the discount or the disclaimer, we just said “Thanks, I worked really hard at X and enjoyed it” about whatever it is. If it’s a killer soup, a well-mannered kid, or a kicky new dance move? Or if it’s our legitimately pride-worthy entrepreneurial venture?

Let’s do this. Let’s brag.

If you can’t brag about yourself, hire me and I’ll do it for you. See, I’m a good writer.

Oh, and your ass looks great in those jeans. End of story.

Julie Schumacher, the wordsmith behind Well Turned Words is a writer and editor based out of Oak Park, IL. She works with clients ranging from small business owners to national non-profits to bring their message, brand, and product to a wider audience via compelling website content or print copy. She’s also mama to Loie, a copper-topped toddler who likes mac&cheese and bubbles.


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