In partnership with Talk Business & Politics and the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal, I’m thrilled to report that the Girl Banker Podcast is now LIVE on Apple iTunes and right here at thegirlbanker.com! Click the images below to access the podcasts on Apple iTunes or visit the Podcast page of the Girl Banker Blog to watch them!
Episode 2: Kirsten Blowers Morman Listen in as girl boss Kirsten Blowers Morman, owner and buyer of ShopRiffRaff.com, RiffRaff Fayetteville, City Supply store fronts, and Friday x Saturday and Charlie Southern brands talks all things small business and mom life. Her startup story will inspire you! Bank marketers take note: it all started with selling her items on Facebook and then adjusting to Instagram.
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The Girl Banker Blog is fortunate to have guest blog writers that offer a different, yet much needed perspective to this space of advocacy. I’m honored to post this personal account submitted by a very respected girl banker that wishes to remain anonymous. I know my readers will benefit from reading her story.
Disclosure: The anonymity of the author is designed to provide protection from judgement for her and those closest to her, not provide power to those who still embrace common stereotypes. The truth is that stereotyping, unconscious biases and uninformed judgments occur whether we like them or not and accepting that fact to protect future opportunities is not weakness, simply self-preservation.
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a breadwinner is defined as: a means (such as a tool or craft) of livelihood or a member of a family whose wages supply its livelihood. With breadwinning comes a level of pressure that no one explains; especially to women. Or at least no one explained it to me. Complicating matters is the fact that the financial gender balance within marriage seems to be changing at a faster pace than society’s attitudes about successful women. “Breadwinning is still more often seen as a father’s role than a mother’s,” according to the Pew Research Center. About 40% Americans believe it’s extremely important for a father to provide income for his children, but just 25% said the same of mothers. Breadwinning, much like bread baking (maybe just my bread baking), doesn’t always turn out exactly how you envision.
In school, I was intrinsically motivated to do the best I could in school in order to get a good job as soon as possible. I didn’t need to get out of my house or necessarily start working very young, but I wanted to. My focus began to pay off in my early twenties as I begin to slowly climb the hourly wage scale at the local bank where I started working in High School at $5.75 an hour. After graduating college, I got my first job that wasn’t behind the teller line in a bank where I was making $15 an hour. My first review in my new role produced a small, but satisfying raise of $.75 an hour. I was 22, pursuing an MBA and in my first specialized role in my area of study. I had no illusions my entry level job would immediately provide me with big bucks, besides, it is supposed to be about getting the experience, right? When I conveyed my raise at home to my spouse, it was met with disdain over the low dollar amount. Not only his perception of small amount of the raise, but questioning of my desire to work at what he saw as too small of an annual amount as well. I now wish I would have had the foresight to understand how much of a problem my compensation and all the emotions that go along with it was going to be throughout the course of our marriage. Hindsight being 20/20 as they say – this is the moment when I made the decision to climb the corporate ladder softly and rise quietly as best I could. I am not saying money doesn’t matter when it comes to a job, but I was raised to understand that money is earned over time for value provided. Naturally, I had not provided a ton of value to my employer because I was fresh out of college. When I began to provide value, hopefully the money would follow. While that is also somewhat of a naïve thought as well, it’s the hope I clung to in the early years. The minute my job, career aspirations and contributions were minimized, was the moment money became clearly identifiable as a sign of power within our relationship. I have never intended to not be a contributor to my family, but I also didn’t expect to be completely dismissed as an equal partner if the numbers didn’t align evenly.
Fast forward 10 years and I had been presented with and taken some incredible career opportunities. Working with a team I admired, adored and respected, we accomplished some pretty amazing things. I was doing my best to play big at work, but I had admittedly been playing small at home for years. My marriage was as a good as a marriage 10 years in could be I thought, and one where we no longer talked about money. Our business had hit a rough patch (understatement of the decade) and I had taken over our personal finances years earlier and it became a topic we didn’t/couldn’t discuss. I had always paid our personal bills and kept my salary, title and/or other work details to myself. He was having a hard enough time coping with life in general, so I was careful not to make it worse by doing anything to somehow remind him I was now the sole breadwinner for our family.
Our first child arrived ten years into our marriage, fifteen years into our relationship. Babies change everything, including everyone’s expectations about roles within your marriage. I now understood why the stereotypes were so universally accepted and clear. More than ever before, I craved a safety net around the bubble that was our life. According to research by Merrill Edge, uncertain times may impact people’s priorities. Some 54% of men and 57% of women say they want a partner who provides financial security over love. The economic impact of our business failure paired with a new baby left a mark that changed my opinion forever about what was more important in my relationship. I found myself a member of the 57%.
The idea that men are to support their families while women take care of the children is still alive and well in many families, particularly in the south, but honestly that wasn’t our perspective. In fact, that stereotype paints a really simple picture of these roles and all their nuances. This was anything but simple. We never set out or planned for me to be the breadwinner, it just happened. Not having a plan or discussion about what to do if it every happened proved to be a problem. Because we were unprepared on the challenges that come with a role reversal, neither party knew how to handle the shift. I felt unappreciated and small because I couldn’t share happy job moments or milestones with the person I wanted to while he felt small because I loved my career and was successful while he was struggling to find a second chance at a career. My success made him feel like a failure, so in turn, we both felt small. No one enjoyed the situation and we were struggling to dig out of the hole. Any contribution he had the opportunity to make was never good enough in his opinion, because it didn’t match mine. His ego was unable to process the fact that there was strong likelihood his salary would never match mine again. I had devoted myself to my job for almost 15 years and he was starting over. Sweat equity over time was on my side and I wanted to feel great about earning my seat at the table, yet I found myself continuously apologizing for it.
As we got older, I wanted to feel safe and secure and know we could provide the life needed for a baby to grow and thrive. This is the exact point when no longer discussing money was not an option. Every time I would bring it up, guilt would somehow shut the discussion down. I felt guilty for providing because he would get so upset about me having to provide. Every conversation was turned from our financial future and well-being to an emotional firestorm designed to demolish any attempt at progress. The fact was from my perspective, I was handling everything – what was left of his career aspirations, my career, our family finances, the baby and the housework. I began to understand that not only did he resent my success, but I resented it too. I had poured my heart and soul into a company and people I believed in, and hadn’t felt comfortable talking about it. The narrative of our marriage had centered around him while my job had quietly risen into a successful career I minimized at every opportunity.
I realize I was/am ashamed of my success. Ashamed because it played a role in ending my marriage. It was not the sole cause of its demise, but it played a key role in the dominoes cascading downward. I knew to provide for my family the way I was determined to do meant I would always be the primary breadwinner. I didn’t mind being the primary breadwinner if my partner was okay with being the primary caregiver, but that wasn’t our story. The support he feigned for my career in public was superficial at best and my success was one of the biggest daggers he had in his arsenal behind closed doors. Before the situation was all said and done – he would make sure I understood in no uncertain terms that my success was the reason for everything bad in our life during our years together.
Out earning my spouse was not the primary cause of our divorce. However, it did play a significant role. I share this story because I understand now that it’s okay it didn’t turn out picture perfect. I see so many great women who have supportive husbands cheering them on, helping them succeed and being the rock of their relationships in a million other ways and that is amazing. I also know that success can come to those of us who don’t have that either. Success can be achieved professionally even if the situation personally is less than ideal. I tell my story so you can prepare yourself if you start to see those warning signs in your relationship. I had not disclosed any raise or promotion in my working career for almost eight years before our divorce. The difference between the last salary he laughed at me for making and what I was making when we signed divorce papers was substantial.
Don’t allow another person, whether you love them or not, force you to feel small. Women are wired to want security, safety and nurturing, but we can also be driven, ambitious and strong. It took me way too long to realize that I didn’t have to sacrifice one for the other. I can provide the safety net for myself now, which is a different type of satisfying. I am not advocating divorce or staying single forever. I am simply advocating for you to know that breadwinning comes with a host of emotional complications you need to be prepared to manage in your personal life. Have the conversations early on in a relationship. Find out if your significant other can handle if you ever make more than him or her. We never had the conversation because we never thought it would be a reality. That was a mistake on both of our parts.
Both of us had unconscious expectations of who would be the breadwinner. When I became the breadwinner, there was no victory lap from either party. The slow demise of our views of each other began to accelerate. He saw me as selfish, uncaring and insensitive to his emotional needs. I thought I was trying to help by not talking about it, when in reality, that began to breed resentment about his inability to truly see my contributions and the toll taking care of everything was having on me. The bottom line is no one felt like they were winning. I won’t apologize for my success, but I do see the price we both paid for it, despite my best efforts to neutralize it as a threat.
The best explanation and advice I have seen on this subject comes to us from David T. Pisarra, a father’s rights lawyer in Los Angeles who has a great deal of experience dealing with male clients in the past who experienced problems in their marriages. When asked whether a female breadwinner can ultimately lead to divorce, he responded, “In today’s world, yes, being the female breadwinner can lead to divorce, but not because she is earning money, but because the parties haven’t had a discussion about what their goals and roles are. A marriage is more than a romance — it is a business as well. And the obligations and duties of the partners need to be discussed and clarified so that everyone is on the same page. What causes problems is not one spouse making more money than the other, because as women have noted for centuries, the role of homemaker is not a cushy one. The contributions of the parties to the family may be unequal in terms of dollars, but be equalized by value of the emotional support or domestic duties that make a household run smoothly.”
Everyone’s story is different. Yet we still all naturally lean towards sharing only the most positive of stories about ourselves. This story didn’t end the way anyone wanted it to, but valuable lessons were learned by all and that still matters. No matter the path, women can be the breadwinner, the nurturer, the organizer, the caregiver and the revenue driver. Check on the women in your life. Regardless of their story, help every woman around you rise.
If you have followed me for a while, you most likely have read my Mom Guilt post from 2017. In fact, it was the very first post I wrote when I considered doing this blog and is likely to date, the most popular. When I sat down to type it out, the words just flowed. This topic is clearly very near and dear to me. I live it daily, struggle with it constantly. It’s the never-ending battle and giving myself grace doesn’t come naturally. I’m in a season of life where this post needed to be revisited, so enjoy this updated version!
I’m a mom. It’s my most important job. I have two boys, a husband, a house, three dogs, multiple horses, several head of cattle, and a career. I commute an hour to work and attempt to be home by 6:00 pm each night. I am terrible at cooking and we are lucky to be eating dinner by 8:00 pm. Who am I kidding? We are lucky to be eating dinner by 9:00 pm most days, and by dinner I mean Domino’s Pizza, cereal, or maybe I got lucky and my mom made an extra casserole. Seriously, I can cook, I just can’t get my shit together to do it and do it well.
I am fortunate that my mom and mother-in-law watch my children during the day and that my husband, who farms and ranches on our family farm, gets our eldest to school each morning and is extremely helpful with our morning routine. I couldn’t do it without ALL of their help.
Brody, my oldest, is just like his dad. He’s athletic, hunts, and loves to be a cowboy.
I invest a lot of energy into my job because I am passionate about it and I truly love what I do. I have worked hard to get where I am and honestly don’t feel I will be satisfied until I get to the absolute top because that’s just how I am wired. And don’t ask me what the “top” is because I don’t have that figured out yet. I also never miss a ball game or practice, I help as much as I can with school activities, I make sure everyone’s pits and booties are washed every night, and I make a valid effort to tackle a mountain of laundry every weekend. (I swear the laundry pro-creates in the bin overnight). But I never feel like I’m doing a good enough job. Which job you ask? Take your pick!
I suffer from what our society has coined as Mom Guilt. While at work, I feel guilty for not being home with my boys. For not being able to go eat lunch with my son on a regular basis at his school. For not witnessing all of my youngest son’s firsts and essentially allowing someone else to be with my children during the majority of the day. My mom and mother in law basically potty trained both of my boys. I had very little to do with it. That makes me feel like a failure. When I add up the waking hours that I am with my boys, I feel ashamed and sad. Guilt. Guilt. Guilt.
Then there is the other side of the coin. I work for a very family-friendly company that empowers their employees to spend time with family when needed. I’m often encouraged by my boss to leave early enough to get home so that I can avoid the awful traffic of my commute. But when I do need to stay home with a sick kid or come in late because of a school program, that pesky guilt shows up again. However, this time, I’m guilty for not being at work and getting my job done. What if someone else has to pick up the slack in my absence? What if that project doesn’t get done on time? What if someone is questioning my commitment to the company or my ability to do it all? Guilt. Guilt. Guilt.
I remember when my youngest son, Witten, had Croup and the only thing that made him feel better was for me to hold him, which I did for three days straight. During those three days, I got lots of good baby snuggles, an unintended upper body workout from wrangling all 30 pounds of him nonstop, and time to watch the first two seasons of Stranger Things. I remember trying to get some work done on my laptop but that’s not easy with a sick toddler in your lap. I became anxious about not reporting to work and worried that I was letting the bank down. The day before he got sick I had two significant work events occur and being out of the office made my anxiety peak. Forget the fact that I had been working my ass off, but regardless, I allowed the voice in my head to tell me that I was failing. Not one person from work had said a word. If anything they were concerned about my son’s health. I was right where I needed to be and there’s no doubt about that. But still, the inner battle of Mom Guilt was in full-on war mode.
Witten, my baby, has a very loud personality and I like to think he gets it from me.
Before I launched my blog, on a day when the struggle was particularly difficult, I wondered what other moms did to keep it all together. So, I did what people do these days and turned to Facebook. I simply posted:
“WORKING MAMAS | Whether you work away from the home or at home, I am interested to know your biggest troubles, stresses, etc. as a working mom and how you attempt to balance it all.”
My intent was to start a conversation with the FB universe to see if anyone else even felt the same way. The second I hit “post” I feared that I was alone or that I would be viewed as a selfish mom who was choosing a career over her family. Or maybe, just maybe, there were more women just like me. I had a strategic planning session that day at work and wasn’t able to monitor the conversation that I had started. I picked up my phone a few hours later and was taken aback by the comments and private messages that were pouring in. I even received a few text messages from friends who had read the post and were making sure I was OK and followed up with words of sympathy just in case. But the common denominator was simple: they ALL felt GUILTY in some form or fashion. One new working mom sent me a message thanking me for posting because she felt she was alone. It gave her comfort to know that others struggled as well. Another said she was surprised to hear I struggled with this because I present myself as someone who has it all together. Sheesh! If she only knew!
My first Mom Guilt blog post has likely received the most feedback, shares, likes, etc. It shouldn’t surprise me as it’s a popular topic these days and moms in general are getting much better about talking about it openly. It’s like the subject of failure in general is becoming more acceptable. That’s a good thing. Personally, while it will never go away completely, seeing that I’m not alone has slightly lowered my level of mom guilt as I am learning to give myself more grace in that department.
It’s important to point out that I don’t want to discount those who stay home with their children as opposed to working outside of the home. I’m sure if we compared notes, both working and non-working mommas have their own sets of struggles and dealings with Mom Guilt. I had one Facebook friend who commented that after the birth of her children she elected to stay at home. While she was appreciative of having the ability to stay at home with her kids every day, but she felt guilty for not contributing to the household finances by not having a paying job. I believe it’s safe to say that regardless of the circumstances, all of us feel like we are falling short of being Super Mom – whatever that is.
Thankful for this guy for being a true partner in this whole parenting gig.
I am positive there are people out there who think I am crazy for commuting an hour to work, which may lead them to question my parenting abilities or label me as a “bad mom”. Or maybe that’s me being too worried what other people think. At the end of the day, if my commute and my career are OK with my family, then why should I worry about what others think? And who am I to judge any other mom out there doing what is best for her and her family? Is there a guideline that states what is required get the “good mom” stamp of approval?
I remember being told one time that the reason you don’t see many women in the banking C-Suite is because there is a point in every woman’s career where she finds herself at a fork in the road. One path leads to a successful career at the expense of their family and the other leads them to their family at the expense of their career. This person told me there is no middle road where she can have both, where she can have it all. BULLSHIT. I definitely don’t have it all figured out, but I am determined to find that coveted middle road because I refuse to believe that it does not exist. I like to think that my sons are being raised to appreciate a mom who is a strong, working woman who can transition from career to family in a matter of seconds. Perhaps they will be more independent as a result and value a good work ethic in their future mate.
I let Mom Guilt get me down daily. It can really steal my joy both at home and at work as it creeps in and reminds me of my shortfalls and inadequacies. Perhaps it’s my own high expectations and standards of top performance or the unrealistic stigmas about the perfect family that social media reminds us about. Regardless, I am never good enough in my own eyes. But here’s the deal: I don’t think there is a cure to the epidemic of Mom Guilt, and that sucks. But I also think we are our own harshest critics. Instead, we need to be having this conversation more often and tell each other that it’s OK. Let’s stop pretending like we are the only ones who don’t have it all together, because none of us really do. We all have our faults and weaknesses, but we are doing the best we can. We all need to do our part in lifting each other up and make a valid effort to not cast those judgmental stares or make assumptions of other mom’s situations. You just never know what she may be dealing with, and Lord knows this mom gig ain’t easy!
A few weeks ago while attending one of my son’s basketball games, I received a Facebook message from a woman asking why I had named my blog “the Girl Banker” instead of “the Woman Banker”. She went on to say that she felt that the word “girl” was demeaning to women in the working world. I was initially aggravated and explained that “the Girl Banker” just had a ring to it and was a play on “Girl Boss”. I also mentioned that I had hoped it would reach young women, aka GIRLS, that were possibly considering careers in banking. She continued to argue with me so I left the conversation, coming to the realization that I can’t make everyone happy. Later after the game, I was telling my husband and son about the exchange. Brody, my eldest, exclaimed, “the Woman Banker just sounds weird, Mom!” Exactly, Brody.
I digress. Which leads me to this super fun post about a little “girl” who decided to take a fun hobby and make it into her own business. This little girl happens to be the daughter of some dear family friends, and if I get my way, my future daughter in law, but that’s not what this post is about. Another fun fact is that Finley could be a Girl Banker in the making if she takes after her grandmother, Darla Trout, who retired after a 23-year banking career. Here is Finley’s story and why she is an inspiration to all girls!
Finley Dick is a 7-year-old Girl Entrepreneur. While she may only be in the first grade, she is already making big girl plans and setting goals for her new business, Fin’s Blossoms, which specializes in making headbands for babies, toddlers, and young girls. One afternoon while her mother, Tracy, was going through her old craft supplies, Finley got the idea to put them to use and started assembling headbands. She had also been bugging her mom for weeks for her own Instagram account. Tracy felt Fin’s Blossoms would be a great compromise and just like that, Fin’s Blossoms was launched.
Finley was exposed to art at a young age. Her great-grandmother, Molly, has taken her to the Prairie Grove Senior Center since she was barely old enough to walk and while there, she would make her own art and help the seniors with theirs. She’s always loved crafting, or as Tracy and dad, Gary, say, “making a mess”. Even as a toddler, she would paint and glitter for hours on end. Finley also gets additional artistic exposure by visiting her Aunt Amy’s flower shop, Backporch Designs and Gifts, attends sewing classes at Prairie Grove United Methodist Church and art camp in the summer. Finley gets her inspiration from Pinterest and loves making crafts with her mom. Slime is her latest obsession. Glad she stuck with the headbands!
She also is an active member of the Hogeye 4-H Club, takes dance at Diamond Dance Studio, and plays softball and Upward basketball in her spare time. Finley is an active girl. I recently had a chance to chat with Finley about her newly launched business and in classic first grader fashion, her answers were short and to the point. I guess we all have a little to learn from elementary aged kiddos. I know I do!
What inspired you to start your business?
I love making crafts and love headbands so making headbands just made sense!
What are your goals and plans for Fin’s Blossoms?
My goal is to sell as many headbands as I can, make a little money and donate it to the local pet shelter.
Who are your role models?
Jorja Hyler (a close family friend and middle schooler) because she does really nice things for others and Mrs. Foster, (Finley’s first-grade teacher) because she helps people learn and makes me want to be a teacher too.
Finley hard at work on some headbands.
Interested in purchasing some merchandise from Finley? Head on over to Fin’s Blossoms on Instagram at @FinsBlossoms and she can hook you up!