Sophie Gregoire Trudeau and the “Average Canadian Woman”

Sophie Gregoire Trudeau is a beautiful, charming mother of three, who attends many important events, and speaks on behalf of multiple worthy causes – many of which support women and women’s issues.  She also happens to be the wife of the Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau…and it seems that she has pissed off a lot of Canadian women.

She recently gave an interview to the French language newspaper Le Soleil, where she revealed that she is overwhelmed and needs a break.  She also indicated that she wants another staff member to help her out with the multiple correspondences and requests for public appearances, speeches, and charity events.  All of this is IN ADDITION to the two part-time nannies the Trudeau’s already employ – on the tax payers’ dime, nonetheless.  Oh, and don’t forget the fact that Trudeau campaigned on wealthy families (like his) NOT needing so many tax breaks.  So I get the disgust that I’m seeing all over social media for Sophie Gregoire Trudeau.

Except that I think this disgust is horribly misplaced.  And I keep seeing women disparage each other, and critique each others’ mothering, and judge each others’ life choices, and it makes me so sad.  Being a mom is hard.  Hell, being a WOMAN is hard, and I don’t know a woman who doesn’t, at some level, understand this and know it to be true.  Deep down we know that supporting each other is the way to go – that’s why there are moms’ groups in every community, and all over Facebook – but yet we continue to trash each other.  Have I mentioned that this makes me sad?

The anger at Sophie Gregoire Trudeau can’t be purely political in nature, since ALL of the Prime Ministers’ wives in recent memory have had staff devoted to them.  Mila Mulroney, wife of Conservative PM Brian Mulroney, who had the most similar family situation to Sophie, and who also spent a great deal of time championing a variety of important causes, reportedly had a very similar staff to what Sophie is requesting.  At the time, many Liberal opponents argued that providing Mila with these staff members was a waste of taxpayer money, but Conservative supporters argued that her work was valid and she needed the help.  I agree with them wholeheartedly.

I have read a few social media posts, including this one from a Saskatchewan mother of 5 who calls herself “an average Canadian mother.”  This woman sounds like an exceptionally hard-working person, and a very caring mother, and I certainly laud her for that.  She takes Sophie to task for choosing to attend charity events and speaking engagements, since Sophie has “no official duties.”  She also says that Sophie’s actual “job is to stay at home with [her] children and call [her] driver when [she needs] to go somewhere, eat what [her] chef has prepared [her and her family] and make sure [she doesn’t] get in the way of [her] cleaning staff.”  While I will certainly concede that the Prime Minister’s wife has no official duties, I think it’s laughable to expect her to do nothing in her position.  As the wife of a Canadian Prime Minister, just like every woman before her in that role, Sophie Gregoire Trudeau is undoubtedly expected to be present at a variety of events, and has a very important role in terms of representing Canada on an international stage.  The fact of the matter is, Sophie Gregoire Trudeau IS NOT an average Canadian woman; she is the Prime Minister of Canada’s wife, and unless your name is Laureen Harper, or Aileen Chretien, or Mila Mulroney, then you have NO IDEA what that entails.  To take this even further, only Mila Mulroney lived a similar life, raising a young family while her husband held office, and being very active with charitable events and speaking engagements.  But to be totally honest, no one – NO ONE – knows what it’s like to walk in Sophie’s shoes, just as no one truly knows what it feels like to live my life, or yours. And this is my point – this is where I take issue with the anger and disdain directed toward Sophie Gregoire Trudeau.  None of us get to tell her how to live her life as a woman and a mother.

Being a mom is hard.  It’s hard when – like me – you have only one baby, and are on maternity leave for a year as is typical in Canada.  It’s hard when you have three kids, or five, or nine.  It’s hard when you are a stay at home mom, and when you choose (or simply must) return to work.  It’s hard whether you breastfeed or bottle feed, whether you are an attachment parent or you cry it out, and whether you make any number of different choices than other mothers.  Every woman, every mother, has challenges that are unique to her particular situation, and none of us REALLY knows what it’s like to walk in another’s shoes.  Every mother also gets overwhelmed from time to time – some more so than others, and we all absolutely need a break.  ALL OF US.

So why all the hate and judgement for Sophie Gregoire Trudeau?  I truly believe it is because many women hear that Sophie needs help, and they look at their own lives, and they see that they need help too.  But maybe they aren’t getting it, or aren’t getting quite enough, so they lash out in anger, and they say that Sophie doesn’t need this help after all.  But what these women don’t realize is that by bashing Sophie, they are actually bashing themselves.  Every time women stand up and speak out professing to know what another woman is going through, and what another woman does or does not need, we are tearing each other down.  We are fueling the misconceptions that women’s work is less important, and that mothering isn’t a real job, or that the best place for a woman is in the kitchen, and this is unacceptable.  Women have a lot of power, especially when we band together, and lift each other up, and celebrate the gifts of each other’s unique strengths.  Unfortunately for the “average Canadian woman,” this power will be lost if we keep on tearing each other down.