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On Tuesday, Ivanka Trump’s new book, Women Who Work, Rewriting the Rules for Success, hit bookstores across the country. It’s been described as a guide for modern day working mothers, and in it, she makes a few confessions that have been making headlines … and raising a few eyebrows from working mothers everywhere.
For starters, the president’s daughter and newly-appointed adviser personally owns about $240 million in assets with her husband, Jared Kushner, on top of being the beneficiary of a $741 million business empire. Yet in Women Who Work, Trump appears to be trying hard to relate to the average American working mom with her various “how-tos” for juggling it all.
As a working mother of two myself, I have to say, however well-intentioned they may be, her sentiments fell a bit flat. Okay, they fell a lot flat. In one particular excerpt, which was published in Fortune, she attempts to show how she’s not so different from the rest of us, because she too doesn’t always have time for self-care.
“During extremely high-capacity times, like during the campaign, I went into survival mode,” writes Trump. “I worked and I was with my family; I didn’t do much else. Honestly, I wasn’t treating myself to a massage or making much time for self-care. I wish I could have awoken early to meditate for twenty minutes and I would have loved to catch up with the friends I hadn’t seen in three months, but there just wasn’t enough time in the day. And sometimes that happens. Seasons of chaos will undoubtedly come at some point in your life, and throw off even your best-laid plans, but you can go momentarily off track, knowing that you have a solid system in place to return to as soon as possible. The goal is that it’s the exception not the norm, and that you’re able to get back to healthy habits as quickly as you can.”
I’ll totally give it to her that working that campaign had to be extremely stressful. How could it not? But if she’s trying to make herself sound more relatable with this passage, it’s honestly never been more clear how unrelatable she is — at least to a working class mom like me. And I’m willing to bet the same can be said for a ton of working moms out there.
For me, self-care looks more like taking a bath after my kids finally go to bed, or a late-night Netflix binge with a pint of Ben and Jerry’s. I’ve had approximately one massage in seven years of parenting, and somehow I’m still standing. I’m not saying I couldn’t use some more R&R. We all could. But missing out on a few hot stone massages is hardly a relatable point to bridge the gap between all of the working mothers of America and someone like Ivanka Trump.
Instead of coming off as helpful, her book reads more like a “how-to for the rich and famous” rather than a useful guide for everyday mothers who work.
The average working mother is pretty used to being unable to treat herself to such luxuries on the regular, but in Ivanka’s world, it seems that missing out on them is the “exception,” not the norm. Her brief stint overlooking self-care during a stressful campaign hardly puts her on a par with the rest of us. And her version of “survival mode” sounds basically like what most workings moms do all the time: Work. Spend time with their kids. Repeat.
For most of us, at least a little bit of chaos is our day-to-day. We don’t have nannies and housekeepers and people buying our groceries. Plenty of Americans are lucky to even be able to afford groceries — or health insurance, for that matter. With the increasingly high costs of childcare, many families are reliant on grandparents to help out, or are just crossing their fingers and slapping it together as they go along. Many of us have put our careers on hold or rearranged things to work from home (like I do) to mitigate childcare costs. And others are barely left with a reasonable income after their childcare costs are paid.
To be fair, Trump has tried hard to show that she’s an advocate for the working women; but only very recently. During her father’s campaign, Ivanka was instrumental in promoting her father’s six-week paid maternity leave policy (though it only applied to mothers, not fathers, so same-sex dads would especially be out of luck on that one). But her history with policies that actually support women seem to suggest otherwise. It’s been reported that Ivanka’s own clothing company doesn’t actually offer any paid leave. So it’s a bit hard to envision her as the poster girl for women-friendly workplaces when her own workplace is anything but.
And it hasn’t just been speculative hear-say, either. Last year, an employee who worked directly for Ivanka came out in a Facebook post to expose just how horrendous the company’s policies were, too. Marissa Velez Kraxberger, who worked as Ivanka’s creative director from 2013 to 2015 and creative officer in 2015, said she “felt ill” when she saw Trump and her father speaking on the importance of paid maternity leave on TV. While pregnant herself during her interview for the company, Kraxberger had directly asked about the maternity leave policy — and was shocked by the response she received.
“When I asked about maternity leave she said she would have to think about it, that at Trump they don’t offer maternity leave and that she went back to work just a week after having her first child,” Kraxberger wrote in her post. “Our team–the ones who created #WomenWhoWork and the ones who the hashtag really stood for — fought long and hard to get her to finally agree to 8 weeks paid maternity leave.”
But Kraxberger made it clear that she wasn’t trying to throw Ivanka under the bus by coming forward; rather, she simply wanted to expose the truth. “I’m not writing this because I think Ivanka is a bad person,” she said at the time. “I can see how it might be possible to go back to work after having a baby when you have a lot of help at home.”
One thing’s for sure, the average working mother doesn’t have a lot of help at home. She’s a magician, a master juggler, and a marvel all in her own right; burning the candle at both ends just to make it all work. And no, it doesn’t always look pretty.
So give me a book about that — about the real “survival mode” — and I’ll gladly read it cover to cover. But Ivanka’s book, at least from the passages I’ve read so far, is so painfully out of touch that I hardly doubt it will serve as inspiration for working women everywhere.
Ivanka has tried hard in the last year to peg herself as the everyday working mother. But she seems to also keep overlooking the elephant in the room — that she’s a member of the elite 1 percent. However well-intentioned her book may be, her failure to acknowledge her privilege doesn’t help us relate to her in the slightest. It just shows us how much she has to learn about the struggles facing everyday working mothers in America. The day in, day out hardships that so many of us grapple with.
Because so far, she doesn’t seem to know a lick about us 99 percenters. The ones who don’t have millions in their bank accounts and every resource imaginable to make sure their every need is met along with their children’s. The ones who are just trying to raise good humans and make it from one day to the next in one piece. And the ones hoping that the folks in Washington will finally have our backs.