Recently, I’ve found myself both moved and inspired by women and mother’s who are putting themselves out there. They aren’t trying to sugarcoat motherhood. It’s hard. They are being honest and raw and by doing so, are providing a platform for other women to share their struggles. They are not influencers, they are not having a pity party for themselves, instead, they are are choosing to share because they want and need their stories to be told. Because we all get it. We’ve all been there or at least to some degree. There was the mama I ran into a coffee shop and we ended talking in length about her high needs baby. She needs us. There is the mama who’s baby had such an intense case of exzema that she had to quit her job, a job that she was passionate about, a job that was making a difference in the lives of others and brought her such immense happiness. There is the mama who needs sleep. So desperately needs sleep that she allows herself a few minutes to cry before she greets her class of pre-schoolers. And there is a dear friend who has started the journey of IVF and has chosen to share the good, bad, and the really, really hard. There are so many stories like this that women are sharing so we can know we aren’t alone. We’re not. Ask for help. I can’t stress this enough. ASK FOR HELP. You are not less than. You are not a failure. You are a human being with limits. Together we can do this but let’s be brave, let’s be honest, and let’s be real.
Years ago, I taught with the author of this post. We worked side by side for years but didn’t truly connect until we became mothers, both living in different cities, both doing different jobs. Power of motherhood, right? Originally, Erica, our author was going to write about being a mother of color and raising a black son in Trump’s America but as it happens, once she started the piece it turned into something else. A piece on being a working mother and advocating for the women you work with, work for, or women who will inevitably follow in your footsteps. Like the women i’ve mentioned above, change starts with a conversation. Thank you to the women who are starting them.
By Erica Brown
I’m going to say something you’ve heard before- it’s tough being a working mother. Somehow the fact that this is frequently said has turned it into something we just need to get over, rather than something we need to actually create change around. Working mothers are essentially the backbone of society- we give life and provide for it- yet we are looked at as one large leaking breast of problems.
Perhaps we do cause companies problems. As a manager at my job I know that having a working mother on your staff can be a tough. I know the toll a working mommy can have on consistency. Before I became one of the aforementioned leaking breasts, I proactively planned around parents when creating teams. It was strategic. Mommies called out last minute (in fact, I had the mind space to begin writing this because my son woke up with a fever and I had to call out last minute). They moan about not wanting to pump next to the broken toilet. They leave work in a panic. They typically look a mix of overwhelmed, tired and just a little bit dirty. There’s always a stain within 2 feet of a working mother. Before I became a working mother I was part of the problem.
And then I got married. And then I peed on a stick and it turned pink. And then I was throwing up in trash cans and falling asleep on cafeteria tables while 7th graders stared at me with grave looks of concern. And then my back ached and I bled during my pregnancy and my doctor forbade me from stairs so everyone else had to do my duties. I overslept and I missed work and I realized how much of a jerk I had been. I went to all my mommies and gave them, “Please forgive me” eyes. They gave me little boy clothes, baby wraps, advice and became my saviors.
And then the big AND THEN happened. Jackson was born. And then nothing else mattered. Except it did. See that’s the problem with being a working mother. Yes, of course, nothing else matters except this precious child but I did go to college and I did go into massive debt to go to grad school and I am ambitious. I want to stay home and nurture him just like the sanctimommy books I choose to torture myself with say I should. I also don’t want to give up 20 years of hard work and just dive off the mommy cliff.
The women’s liberation movement happened decades ago. At some point, we’ve got to figure this shit out. It can’t be, “Go to work! Get out of the kitchen! Break the ceiling!…buuuuuuttt actually do all those things while still observing the attachment principles and breastfeeding until he can verbally request your boob so your kid doesn’t wind up on heroin you selfish monster.”
We need to make a plan for working mothers. I’m not asking for Finnish level planning with three years off and daycares at your desk. I’m just asking that we at least think about the working mothers and how we might allow them to advance in their careers while also raising children that they can spend some time with.
We as women need to make sure that when we get in positions of power we remember what it was like when we weren’t and we make it better for those who work for us. We need to validate a mommies feelings, proactively give her options to make her feel valued and think in advance about how to make our workplace somewhere that works for mothers. Yes, I said mothers. There’s no daddy cliff. It’s just the way it is. I’ll battle that battle someday when Jackson sleeps past 6 am
I’m not the first to say all of this but maybe that’s just it. We all have to say it. Over and over until there is a change. Don’t wait for a mommy to implode and lose a valuable employee. Recognize the changing nature of your company’s demographics and accommodate them. Don’t want to hold on to moms? Well, you’re a dick but also make sure during the hiring phase you don’t sell big ideas about being a team and supportive family. If you push women off the mommy cliff when her uterus expands, you’re not about being a team. So just don’t say you are.
When we women stand up for our specific needs or concerns people hear the Charlie Brown teacher’s voice and visualize a whining tampon. So we need women who do make it into positions of power not to give us advice on how to handle ourselves in the all-boys club to fit in. We need brave pioneers who are going to challenge this patriarchy, make it better within their locus of control and become an example for others. I’ve started with myself. If parents need sick days I never give them a hard time now. I make it easier to work for me and to love your child at the same time. Sometimes that’s all working parents need.
Well, that and changed hours with no reduction in pay. #justsaying