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Moms, How About Some Grace?

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.

 

Comments

  1. 1
    Anne Parris says:

    I’m happy when another woman has an easy pregnancy, a baby that’s a good sleeper, or a good transition back to work.
    It makes me sad when women begrudge another woman not having a difficult time.
    Can we only bond over our problems?

    • 2

      Thank you for pointing that out! Misery loves company, but you know what, I’d rather the people around me not have to suffer. Someone having a child sleep through the night at 4 weeks doesn’t retroactively make my months of sleep deprivation worse, it just reminds me to appreciate being the mother of a six and eight year old and enjoy sleep now! 😉

  2. 3

    I was really uncomfortable reading some of the snarkier posts and comments about her comment (which was likely made on the fly, and not intended to insult, belittle or diminish other mothers or the difficulty of motherhood, sheesh.) My first was also an easy baby. I learned with my second what it’s like to have a not-easy baby. But, so? Was I not allowed to be pleasantly surprised when my first turned out to be a relative snap? Did I owe it to other women to pretend to be having it harder than I was?

    Yeah, there is a certain sense of “oh, she’ll see one day…” when you see a brand-new mom crowing about how easy this or that is. But we’ve ALL been there, making broad statements about parenting or motherhood we wish we could take back. I give new moms a ton of leeway because they don’t know what they don’t know, and Mayer is no exception.

    The whole thing feels very sour-grapes-y, to me – like everyone had been waiting for her to come out in tears, sobbing about how she just can’t do it after all (and now can’t wait for the other shoe to drop.)

    Anne said it well: “Can we only bond over our problems?” Empathy and understanding are great. But a “venting only” policy doesn’t do a thing to help women who are struggling.
    Meagan Francis recently posted..DIY Cupcake Wrapper Wreath (plus tips for doing “grown-up” crafts with kids)

  3. 4

    Sometimes drama happens from exhaustion. And sometimes drama happens because a person (mommy or otherwise) never outgrew the need to be embattled in the drama, victim, judgmental phase of life. It’s truly not a very happy place to be.

    I LOVE this line from your post, “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?” This tells me two VERY important things.
    1) You are going to be a SPECTACULAR MOM!
    2) You are a wise, growing, evolving, SMART & Wonderful Young women who is learning how to build TRUE happiness from the inside, not outward -look/see- ‘show’ happiness.

    xoxo ~ Sam
    Samantha recently posted..When Speaking Your Truth …

  4. 5

    If someone has an awesome pregnancy and an easy transition once baby is born I think that’s awesome and I am happy for them. If they have a horrible pregnancy and a tough time transitioning I will offer my shoulder to cry on or ears to vent to. And that’s how it should be, we support each other when we need it and we praise each other when it’s deserved.

    We live in such a judgemental society that if anything is out of the norm or not as someone else has done it it’s immediately seen as wrong. It makes me sad to see it happen but it’s the main reason I stay out of all the drama, fights, arguments, mommy wars, etc.
    Shana D recently posted..Wordless Wednesday-Happy Birthday

  5. 6

    I seriously LOVE.THIS.POST– I feel like it should be required reading for women- and shame on any of us for criticizing another woman for her choices- in fact we should remember HOW gosh darn lucky we are to live in a world that ALLOWS us this choice and to celebrate every woman regardless of what her specific choice is– GREAT post!!
    Melissa Chapman recently posted..Fashion Saturdays: It’s ALL about the bags and we are giving away a Longchamp ‘Le Pliage – Large’ Tote from Nordstrom

  6. 7

    I think for me her words push many buttons. I have lived in regret about leaving my job for many years and part of me wishes I had felt the same way as her when I was trying to make a decision to stay at work or leave. The truth is, I had an easy baby, too, but that was why it was so much harder to stay away from her. My commute was 1-1/2 hours each way and I felt like I was so far away from home. Had I given my job more time with more positive energy, maybe it could have worked out. So, I guess for me, I’m jealous but also very proud of her for showing women in her own way that they can have it all, if indeed, that is true in this individual case.
    Holly recently posted..Hanukkah in New York City

  7. 8

    Well-said as always, Amy.
    Thank you.
    Krista Swan recently posted..The Nines, Wine and Best Friends. Look Out PDX

  8. 9

    Yes…yes…I agree that there is WAY too much judgement and that every mom has to decide for herself what is best for her. I do feel, though, that the outrage against Marissa’s comments from some Moms stems from the fact that her highly publicized and RARE position, (c’mon, how many Female CEO’s are there? let alone a new mother?) makes her decisions regarding her new mom-ness an easy target for the media and then for criticism of every other SAHM out there.

    Moms are upset because they know what they do as a full-time care-giver to their baby is (friggin) hard and they don’t like it much when the media highlights some chick who exclaims to the world that it is easy. It is a threat to something that moms hold very dear. For example,the media (or more horrifically, their husband) may ask, “Marissa can do it all, why can’t YOU do it all?” AND while maybe more of us (new Moms) COULD do it, we have chosen not to do it. Because Marissa is THE ONLY WOMAN in recent years to do it, it raises an interesting question – Why don’t more of us do it or shoot for it? The reasons are clear.

    Thousands of women choose not to do it, not because they are choosing “the easy way out” but because they simply do not have the support. And I am not just talking about financial support. I don’t know too many new moms who can hoist the entire responsibility of child-rearing onto their spouses and/or caregivers for extended periods of time. Motherhood is easy for Marissa because she has taken on the traditional male role. She gets up, goes to work, comes home, kisses the baby on the head and goes to bed – She is a CEO of a major corporation, she works late, she travels, it HAS to be this way for her. Now, don’t get me wrong, I support Marissa’s decision to have a career and to be a mom. However, let’s call it what it is, ladies. Marissa does NOT have it all. She has chosen to pursue a full-time career and have others care for her baby – just as millions of men have done before her, and she has a right to do it, I applaud her. But, let’s report it the right way, MEDIA, so that folks don’t get the wrong idea about what is possible when one has a baby – SOMEONE has to care for it 24/7. It is ONE or the OTHER – NEVER both.

    My friend Penelope Trunk had some interesting insights on this issue in a recent blog-post that you might find interesting.http://blog.penelopetrunk.com/2012/10/15/i-think-marissa-mayer-has-asperger-syndrome/ if you thought me comments were provocative, penelope’s quotes will knock your socks off!
    help4newmoms recently posted..Book Review: The Good Woman by Jane Porter – New Book Enjoyable with Some Teeth

  9. 12

    A to the WOMEN. You know as opposed to Amen. 😉

    I became a mom at a relatively young age and I’m forever grateful that I not only made that choice, but made the choice to not work during my pregnancy and stay home after my son was born. We were dead broke, but it made sense for one of us to be the breadwinner, and I had always wanted to be a mom so I fully embraced it.

    I was also fortunate to have a new mother’s group (at our birth center) that was full of women from a variety of ages, walks of life, and work and life arrangements. I learned a lot about motherhood beyond just asking questions about feeding solids, and sleep.

    I made the choice to stay at home with my kids for 12 years, and now I’m a work at home mom. It’s much the same path my own mom took, and I know now how incredibly rewarding and difficult it must have been for her in her time.

    One of the best things that women’s rights and feminism have allowed us is choice. Choice to work, to not work, to work part-time. To have a baby when we’re 20 or wait until we’re 40.

    The problem with this is that the snark and critical nature of our current times mix with these archaic ideas that ‘everyone’ should do things the same way. That there is some ‘right’ path. In reality the only path that’s ‘right’ is the one you make whether that’s a road that many other mothers have traveled, or blazing a new trail.
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  10. 13

    All I can say is- PREACH!
    Choice is individual and we need to respect each woman for her choice.
    I remember having a weird passive aggressive argument with my MIL when I was a newlywed. I said I would work when I had kids. She was a SAHM and VERY PROUD of it. I said cool for you but I saw my Mom work and take care of us and admired her for it. Needless to say, my MIL had a different, passive aggressively vocal, opinion.
    In Spanish there is a saying, “Cada Cabeza es un Mundo” which translates to “Every mind is a universe” (contextual not literal). That is how I see this WAR and the fuel behind the vitriol is insecurity over our choices.
    Lee Reyes-Fournier recently posted..The Friendship Show

    • 14

      Lee, I want that stitched on a pillow and painted on a sign and hung on my children’s doors – Cada Cabeza es un Mundo. LOVE THIS.

  11. 15

    Lots of women lament the fact that there are so few female CEO’s running big companies. The thought occurs to me that this might occur in part because by & large men don’t do this kind of thing to each other. There is no scathing commentary about a male CEO being at work when he has a newborn, no conga lines of commenters at the ready to rip him apart as a piss poor parent.

    Why do women do this sort of thing to each other? Why can’t we be confident enough in our own reproductive / career choices that we don’t get threatened or offended when other women chose differently than we have?

  12. 16

    Ditto what Melissa said: I seriously LOVE THIS POST– I feel like it should be required reading for women!
    Dawn Sandomeno recently posted..Jewel Tone Looks For The Holidays From Pottery Barn and Party Bluprints!

  13. 17

    Love this Amy. I make it my mission to celebrate the successes of my friends and even my frenemies. There is no value in bringing others down. Even if I don’t love a particular businesswoman I would never discount her work or accomplishments.
    Nicole Feliciano recently posted..#WhosYourSantaBaby Twitter Campaign with Baby Buggy

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