Girl, have you heard of Rachel Hollis?
Her latest book, Girl, Stop Apologizing is, in many ways, a no-nonsense pep talk for moms.
The motivational speaker, best-selling author, and lifestyle influencer is a mom of four whose message and carefully-curated life story reflect a strong faith in the power of hustle. Hollis said on her blog that she wrote this book in response to fans who kept asking, “How do I pursue my goal and be a good mom?”
I first learned about Hollis from one of my girlfriends. “Have you heard about Rachel Hollis?” she half-whispered. I had not. “You have to read her book, Girl, Wash Your Face. I know you would like it,” she gushed. I looked Hollis up, but I was skeptical, so I did nothing. Again and again I heard about Hollis from my college gal pals, mom friends, even my boss. Finally, on a weekday Target run I tossed her book about washing your face (seriously?) in my cart alongside a mega box of Huggies diapers.
Honestly, when I cracked open Girl, Wash Your Face I didn’t want to like it. Instead I found myself taken with the author’s authenticity, drive, and passion for empowering women. I liked that she was a proud working mom too. Nevertheless, I had numerous issues with the book — specifically, Hollis’s lack of attention to her entitlement and the ways income, skin color, sexual orientation, ability, and other factors shape a woman’s life. Her words inspired me, but I also wrestled with what her worldview exposed about privilege — both hers and mine. How much of success is earned? How much can be attributed to good fortune? Hollis wholeheartedly believes we earn it. I believe it’s a mix.
Love her or hate her, there’s something about Hollis that’s captivated many women — in particular, moms. So, what does she have to teach us? I recently read Girl, Stop Apologizing, and I’m sharing three truths and two lies I uncovered as they relate to motherhood.
Truth: I can pursue my dream and be a good mom
Here at The Everymom, we talk a lot about educational children’s books, teaching our littles values; and fun, healthy meals for kiddos. We are moms who care so much about supporting our families, occasionally we need a nudge to spend time caring for ourselves.
In Girl, Stop Apologizing, Hollis confronts the pervasive cultural belief that “to be a good woman you need to be good for other people” and turns it on its head. After receiving scores of notes from women who’d lost themselves in motherhood, she pinpointed this problem: “Most women I know don’t struggle to show up for others; they struggle to show up for themselves.”
How many times have I skipped going to the gym because I thought I should spend more time with my son? How many pediatrician’s appointments did I make for my son before finally picking up the phone to make one doctor appointment for myself? Hollis is right.
When we show up for ourselves and practice self-care, it enables us to mother without risk of burnout. Hollis takes it a step further in her book. She asserts that the highest form of self-care is pursuing your dreams. In blunt, persuasive language, Hollis urges women to tune in to their hearts and chase audacious goals. Girl, Stop Apologizing is her methodology for getting there, including excuses to let go of, behaviors to adopt, and skills to learn. Hollis devotes a chapter to debunking the excuse, “I can’t pursue my dream and still be a good mom/daughter/employee.”
Hollis lays into mom guilt, all the external and internal messages we receive that tell us we are failing our children. She recounts her own experiences with it, and implores readers they must actively work to squash it.
When we show up for ourselves and practice self-care, it enables us to mother without risk of burnout.
Many of us let mom guilt hold us back from things as simple as enjoying a night out with the girls, and more complex ones, like training for a half-marathon. But the funny thing about mom guilt is that it actually inhibits our ability to care for our families, drudging up resentment and frustration. When I carve out time for me — by writing in the wee hours before work or letting my husband handle bedtime while I attend book club — I notice a huge shift in my attitude toward my family.
After I fill my cup, I’m more patient and focused with my son.
“It’s possible to pursue something for yourself while simultaneously showing up for the people you love,” Hollis writes. “It’s possible to be a great mother and a great entrepreneur.” The beauty of Hollis’s approach is that the something can be low-key or major, health or career-oriented. If you’ve ever written off pursuing a goal because you’re a mom, it’s time to rethink that.
Lie: Hustle = happiness
In a chapter on excuses titled, “Good girls don’t hustle,” Hollis discusses societal expectations for women related to money and success. Women are often discouraged from wanting such things. Hollis flips the script, praising hard work and wealth. She urges women to let go of others’ opinions, writing, “All that really matters is how badly you want those dreams and what you’re willing to do to make them happen.”
“Really truly chasing down a goal changes how you approach life on the whole,” Hollis adds. She’s right, hard work is incredibly satisfying. But if we are not careful, doggedly pursuing our goals can take an unhealthy turn.
In my twenties, I completed multiple half marathons and triathlons and loved the person I became as I trained. I did this not only because I loved running, but also because I needed to manage my weight. My pursuit of health became harmful, however, when I developed disordered ideas about my diet and training routine. If I’d been more accepting of myself and less obsessed with fitting into my skinny jeans, I would have avoided a lot of misery.
Then there’s Hollis herself. When I learned of the plagiarism controversy surrounding her book I was disappointed. She has yet to fully apologize or resolve this issue (some footnotes would help), which was, at best, an honest mistake made in order to rush out another best-seller.
Hard work is incredibly satisfying. But, if we are not careful, doggedly pursuing our goals can take an unhealthy turn.
Hollis’s new book suggests chasing success — financial and otherwise — is the foremost path to happiness. Here’s the truth: in this #goalgetter era in which we worship work, hustling can become harmful. I wish Hollis spent more time in her book talking about that.
Moms, listen: you do not need a side hustle to be happy, nor do you need to run a marathon or start a blog. Furthermore, seeing life through a growth mindset can even misdirect our focus away from everything we already have.
In yoga, there is an ethic (niyama) called santosha, which means practicing contentment. If I’m being honest with myself, when I’m most happy is not when I’ve achieved a goal or even on my path toward it. The joyful moments I savor when I lie awake at night are time spent with my family – long walks to the park, bedtime stories, making Saturday morning pancakes.
As moms, it’s easy to get caught up in all we don’t have – time, sanity, followers, clean laundry, etc. – and feel discontent. While working toward our goals can be healthy, the idea that hustling is the only way to experience happiness, which Hollis perpetuates over and over, is a lie.
Truth: Moms need to ask for help and say no
In the behaviors section of Girl, Stop Apologizing, Hollis offers strategies for success, which I think are helpful regardless of whether or not you’re striving for a juicy goal. Here are two she highlights in full chapters: “Ask for help!” and “Learn to say no.”
One of the things I like most about Hollis is her passion for inspiring moms to protect their time to preserve their well-being. Yes, her advice is obvious. Yes, she is blunt. But these two behaviors – asking for help and saying no – are harder for moms to put into practice.
As moms, it’s easy to get caught up in all we don’t have – time, sanity, followers, clean laundry, etc. – and feel discontent. While working toward our goals can be healthy, the idea that hustling is the only way to experience happiness is a lie.
For her part, Hollis shares about her family’s nanny and housekeeper who supports their four-child household with two working parents. “I assumed everyone would realize I must have had help,” she writes, referencing earlier moments in her career during which she said little about her childcare situation. Hollis implores moms to get the help they need to get their personal stuff done, whether that’s going to a tap dancing class or working on their small business. For moms without the same financial resources as Hollis (obviously many of us), she suggests swapping time with friends and family.
Hollis names the fear and shame that accompany asking for help and urges us to dismiss the feelings. We can ask our partners or trusted family and friends to pitch in when we need a break. We can hire a nanny or babysitter or sign up older kids for activities to free up time for our goals or hobbies. We can find a gym with a daycare to use when we work out. It’s true, moms cannot offer childcare 24/7, we just can’t.
We need to ask for help.
Moms also need to give themselves permission to say no to many obligations that pile up in life. I think overcommitment is especially prominent for women — because yes, in 2019, we still bear much of life’s emotional labor. Who amongst us hasn’t felt obligated to pitch in on a fundraiser or plan a birthday party because help was needed?
With her direct attitude, Hollis empowers women to stop taking on extra work for their children’s schools or other organizations insofar as it takes away from their dreams. She recounts her struggle with volunteering at her son’s school and how she worked up the courage to say no. She’s not saying helping at school is bad — in fact, I’m sure she’d encourage women to volunteer more if it was one of their goals. What Hollis vehemently believes is that women need to protect their time and bow out of commitments when they don’t serve our values. That means summoning the strength to answer, “No.”
Lie: You are totally in control of your life
“I’ve devoted two books to the idea that you are in control of your life and capable of anything you set your heart and mind to,” Hollis writes in her newest book. This is the lie that many professional development professionals will try and sell you. Hollis is among them.
Moms, we know control is an illusion because we see it on a daily basis. It’s in the little things: when our baby projectile vomits on his freshly changed clothes or when our toddler throws a tantrum at Whole Foods. And the big things: when we face office discrimination because we’re moms, or even when our children are mistreated due to their ethnicity.
The truth is: positive thinking is really powerful, and there is indeed much you can achieve for yourself when you put your mind to it. However, to think that you control everything is to be blind to the invisible and visible factors that benefit or detract from your daily comfort.
I need you to hear this loud and clear: you are not fully in control of life! Sorry, you just aren’t. Natural disasters, miscarriage, mass shootings — these are all uncontrollable circumstances that can change a woman’s life in an instant, regardless of her multi-step, seize-the-day morning routine. There are structures, factors, and social codes that shape our lives as well.
To think that you control everything is to be blind to the invisible and visible factors that benefit or detract from your daily comfort.
“Other people don’t get to tell you what you can have! The world doesn’t get to decide what you get to try,” she writes. Well that might be true for a certain subset of women, but not every mom.
What we can control in life is how we cope with the many challenges we face. Maybe that’s what Hollis means when she says, “I want women to understand they have the power to change their lives.” But, to blithely say we have control is just naive — we know, depending on our upbringing, we are privy to certain advantages in life.
Rather than believe the lie that we are totally in control, we set ourselves up better for coping with motherhood and life’s challenges when we accept that so much is out of our hands. How we react to the tough stuff, however, is something we can control.
Truth: Mom, you’re a leader.
Through Girl, Stop Apologizing, Rachel Hollis delivers a strong call to action to women to live unapologetically. “Be the kind of woman both your 11-year-old self and your 90-year-old year old self would be proud of,” she writes in a poetic litany. “Be the kind of woman who shows up for her life.” Hollis returns to this visionary tone when she closes out her book with a skills-focused chapter on “lead-her-ship.”
Hollis urges her readers to embrace the idea that they are leaders. Here is what I’ll add: if you are a mom, you are already a leader. You lead the pack at home. You lead in schools. You lead at the office. You lead in your community. You are a leader.
Hollis’s bold vision for more women in leadership is something we need more than ever as culture wars threaten to divide us. She challenges her readers to seek out and befriend other women who look different than them. As Hollis writes, representation matters. She’s absolutely right: we need more women of color, women with various sexual orientations, and women from different walks of life in leadership positions.
We need more women of color, women with various sexual orientations or faiths or abilities, women from different walks of life in leadership positions.
“I know with every fiber of my being that if you began to live more fully into that call on your heart… I know we would change the world,” Hollis concludes.
Hollis is leading the way for women, especially moms, to pursue more. I just hope she uses her influence wisely. I would love to see her push more women to run for office.
If you are looking for inspiration and concrete ideas to help you reach your dreams, Girl, Stop Apologizing delivers. If you are looking for strategies to conquer mom guilt, this book has some good suggestions. Where it falls short, however, is its breezy treatment of privilege, as plenty of Hollis’s success stories can seem unrelatable given her own advantages. There’s also no nuanced discussion about the ways hustle can compromise one’s well-being or ethics. As a role model for millions, Hollis has her own ethical issues related to plagiarism to resolve. She should do the right thing and fix her book with some footnotes.
One more thing, and I believe this to my bones: true leaders live with heart and boldness. They know when to step up. They know when to concede. And they also know when to apologize.
Moms, have you read “Girl, Stop Apologizing”? What did you learn?