I recently read an article by Maria Guido, the Senior News Editor for Scary Mommy about her views on new mom’s and their careers. It was titled, “New Moms Have To Be Superhuman If They Want To Keep Their Careers, And It’s Bullsh*t“. It speaks of a viral post from artist Hein Koh who was working while tandem breastfeeding her newborn twins. In it, she speaks of how having kids doesn’t have to slow down your career as a woman. Guido points out that Koh is pretty badass for multi-tasking like that but then goes on to point out that her statement doesn’t help women’s situations.
Koh and Guido both make very good points. Having children doesn’t have to signal the end of a woman’s career but women also shouldn’t have to “do it all” in order to keep their careers intact. When I gave birth to my daughter I was answering phone calls from my job to assist with questions about my workload that needed to be taken over upon my absence. I helped out because I wanted to but also because a small part of me felt like I had to. There I was, just hours after giving birth and I was on the phone with my job!
Shortly before my return to my job I was asked if I would mind giving up the branch that had been mine for six years and transferring to another location. What choice did I have but to accept? Financially we needed me to have this job to return to and I feared if I didn’t accept not only would I not be able to advance my career but could potentially lose my job. Too often these are the decisions new mothers are faced with and to make matters worse, the U.S.’s weak FMLA laws barely allow women time to heal before their forced to leave their baby with a stranger and thrown back into the workforce. Guido points out that The U.S. is the only industrialized nation without paid maternity leave. Why is that, productivity. Instead, women are faced with the decision, have a family or have a career? One will inevitably suffer for the other because we can’t do it all no matter how hard we try.
There are some people out there, too often other women and mothers, who place judgment on women who choose to have a family and then dare to voice their dissatisfaction with a broken system. Instead, we bully each other and make each other feel like shit when what we should be doing is working together to change the system. Many women love their careers and pride themselves on the hard work they put in to get where they are, those same women often want families and are left wondering how they can possibly have both. Not every woman wants to give up their career after starting a family. In other cases, families are faced with the decision about whether it is financially possible to return to work because of insane child care costs. The problem isn’t that mother’s want to “have it all”, it’s that they’re forced to make tough decisions based on fear and finances.
As a powerful industrialized country, there is no reason that the U.S. does not live up to the same maternity leave standards as its counterparts such as the UK, Australia, and Canada. Why then is the U.S. not there, productivity. We are a nation obsessed with productivity and, in this case, it comes at the potential cost of women’s careers. As mothers we are faced with the difficult decision, save our careers at the expense of our family or give up our career to have a family. I’m not saying that it’s not possible to have a successful career and a happy and fulfilled family but it sure as hell isn’t easy and in the end, something does suffer, most of the time it’s the woman because she becomes stretched too thin.
Guido points out that women have to be Superhuman in order to keep their careers and have a family. She’s right, that is bullsh*t. We are stretching ourselves too thin because we are driven by our fear of losing the careers we love or need all in the name of “having it all”. Women like Koh aren’t Superhuman, they’re just new moms trying desperately to find that balance between career and family and inevitably they will get burnt out from the pressure. Until things change drastically in how the U.S. views working mothers we will continue to struggle and sacrifice. That’s bullsh*t.
Do you believe that it has to be one or the other? What were your experiences as a new mom when faced with the decision to return to work or not?