I’m going to start by admitting that I no longer follow every bit of Mommy War, women’s rights, equality in the workplace, breastfeeding battles, this-is-right-and-you-are-wrong drama that is played out in traditional and new media what seems to be constantly. I tried to care an enormous amount about these types of issues and read Perfect Madness and wrote about being a Professional Mom and talked here at Resourceful Mommy about the power of choice. I read every book I could get my hands on before becoming a mom and made my parenting decisions long before my kids arrived. But eventually I became tired of it all. I became tired of how both sides of all related issues seemed to focus on one thing – judgement of the other side. And so I find myself asking, when are we going to allow each other a little grace?
Today I read an article in the Huffington Post about the CEO of Yahoo! sharing during a recent event that her two month old baby has been easy. The author of the post asked – somewhat tongue-in-cheek, somewhat hatefully – for this new mom to stop saying such things because of how it may affect the rest of us, those of us whose acid refluxy, colicy, nursing every 45 minutes through the night babies have worn us out to the point of exhaustion. Really?
When this woman was hired to be the new CEO of Yahoo! despite the fact that she was pregnant (a phrase that blows my mind to even type…), similarly acerbic authors wrote similarly judgmental posts basically putting this poor woman on notice. Don’t let us down. Don’t mess this up. Take a full six weeks of maternity leave and then show up with tear swollen eyes on your first day back, but still do an amazing, kick ass job or else all women who have used their uterus will be in danger of being passed up for the job, the promotion, the thing that we want that suddenly rests in your hands.
Then when she took a two week maternity leave, the mommy war media world let out a collective gasp. Now they’re angry that her child has been easy.
A good friend of mine likes to remind me that most judgmental observations are typically far more reflective of the speaker than the person about whom they are speaking. I wonder about the feelings of these authors – all of them female – and their own sense of guilt, shame, or otherwise not-worthiness. Are they comparing themselves to this woman who somehow only required two weeks post-partum before returning to work? Are they bothered by the fact that at two months, they would have not only not described their child as easy but instead were still desperately trying to figure it all out? And here’s the real question – why does any of that matter?
Somewhere in our quest to advance society and the work place to a woman friendly, and particularly mother friendly, place we have lost sight of the fact that end goal was always choice.
It was never to decide what the one right way to be a woman or to be a mother was and then to rail against all who did not choose to comply to those standards.
When my mother began her first job post-residency, she was six months pregnant with me. The two middle-aged men who hired her suggested that she take two weeks off after giving birth to me. I believe she instead took four, and I can’t imagine that a single news outlet carried the shocking fact that she left her four week old daughter at home with her stay-at-home-husband and returned to work, seeing patients all day long while standing on her four weeks, likely still swollen post-partum legs, making important health decisions with her sleep-deprived, still hormonal brain. It was her decision. And it worked. For her.
When I gave birth to my daughter, I left work. Forever.
I made this decision because I wanted to and I needed to. I had had a very difficult pregnancy and my body was completely wrecked not to mention the fact that my two months premature daughter needed specialized care.
I made this decision because I needed to and I wanted to. I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom and my personal decision to stop using my Ivy League advanced degree and instead play with Peek-a-Blocks all day was the right one for me.
My decision had nothing to do with the radically different decision of my mother. It had nothing to do with my co-workers who returned after six weeks or even six months. It had nothing to do with the CEO of any corporation.
Thanks to the women of my mother’s generation, we have all been given choices. Perhaps someday we’ll also give each other some grace.