Last month at a University of Virginia symposium on investing at the McIntire School of Commerce, Paul Tudor Jones commented on why there are currently too few great female traders. He described how, once a woman has a baby, she loses all competitive drive to invest well, and that this lack of focus begins “as soon as that baby’s lips touch that girl’s bosom.” He went on to explain that all initiative to understand markets and investment strategy becomes subsumed by “that mode of connection between that mother and that baby.” While it’s hard to imagine that Mr. Jones thought it would be a good idea to make such comments, he is right on one front: mother and child do share an unshakable bond.
I have been privy to this beautiful connection with both of my children. It is something I know well. Mr. Jones seemed to indicate that fathers and their babies are not capable of reaching the same level of intimacy with their children, that this was something reserved exclusively for mothers. I surmise that fathers share a similar connection with their children, but not being a father, I cannot attest to that. What I can attest to is that my children are my greatest joys. And it is interesting that Mr. Jones framed his comments around breastfeeding, because in breastfeeding my two children, I have found some of the most tender, serene, and peaceful moments of my life.
The trouble with Mr. Jones’ remarks is that he assumes that the connection a mother has with her child prevents her from doing something else well, in this case trading. This is erroneous, dangerous thinking. The all-consuming pressure that society puts on mothers, and that mothers can be all too guilty of putting on themselves, that we have to be everything to our children and that our children have to be everything to us, is just not good for us. It isn’t even good for our children. By making the mother-child bond so sacred, so perfect, so outside the realm of what real relationships are, we set ourselves up for failure. Many of us expect to find complete fulfillment and perfection in all things motherhood, and when we don’t find these things in every nook and cranny, we feel like failures. Motherhood is beautiful. It is also hard. It is also tedious. And it is just plain wrong to think that because someone becomes a mother, she can’t do something else like trading really well, that she can’t hold her own anymore in a field that she once excelled in before she had a baby because now she is beholden to someone else. It is this kind of thinking that holds women back. It holds us back when powerful men make such comments, and it holds us back when we think these thoughts in our own heads.
I say all this from experience. I have been down the road of thinking, even hoping, that becoming a mother was going to be the pinnacle of my life, and that once I had children, I was duty-bound to revolve my life around them. Every mother has to find her own way, but it was this kind of thinking that brought me to moments of quiet desperation, and I have only recently found my way out of them. Yes, motherhood is beautiful and amazing, and so is breastfeeding. I’m being completely honest when I say that I have found in breastfeeding moments of pure bliss, but I’ve also found in it two bouts of full-blown mastitis, months of tandem yeast, countless plugged ducts, and one cracked and bleeding nipple, the scar of which is never going to go away. I didn’t enjoy that cracked and bleeding nipple so much, and I didn’t quite achieve the connection I was looking for when my newborn daughter clamped down on it searching for milk. I laugh now, but that is the reality of breastfeeding for many women.
The reality of motherhood has its own ups and downs. My daughter and my son are the lights of my life, but I also enjoy some time to myself. I love dancing around the living room with my kids, but I also love when they are at grandma’s and grandpa’s and I can sit down at the kitchen table in a quiet house and write without interruption. I used to worry that after years of being a stay-at-home-mother who didn’t tap into her intellectual reserves on a daily basis, I would forget how to write and think, that I would not remember how to compose an essay. Now I realize that my salvation lies in reclaiming the parts of myself that gave me great satisfaction before I became a mother, that writing and thinking will make me a better mother because I will be a happier person.
Mr. Jones issued an apology for his remarks and I’m glad he did. He is a talented trader and a dedicated philanthropist, and it’s a shame that his good works are currently being overshadowed by the comments he made at last month’s symposium. But there is danger in promulgating the erroneous belief that when you become a mother, you lose your focus to do something well, because every ounce of your being is or should be devoted to taking care of your child. Yes, we are mothers. We are also women. We are also people. And the same drives and ambitions and talents that we possessed before we had children are there postpartum. It’s when we ignore those talents, when we expect motherhood to fill up every bit of our needs and desires that we run into trouble. When we hold onto our strengths and put them to good use, when we remain true to the people we are, even as we soak up the beauty that is motherhood, then we can become the best people and mothers we can be. Teacher, writer, stay-at-home-mother, or trader, we make sure our songs are sung.