Do you feel that as a mom, you were set up for failure? No, of course you’re not a failure, but the odds were never in your favor.
I wonder why the bar was set so high for moms? We’re always seen as the ones responsible for managing the household and making sure things run smoothly. We’re the primary providers for the children. We do the majority, if not all, of the cleaning. We have the responsibility of making nutritious meals for the family. We are expected to be great and supportive wives. And for the working moms, you’re also expected to still financially provide for your family. And we are to play all these roles with a smile on our face and never complain, right?
From the beginning, society’s expectations for us set us up for failure. As a new mom, most employers believe it is acceptable to have a measly six weeks off with our baby and return to work ready to continue conquering the world. That’s right, six exhausting, sleep deprived, breastfeeding struggling, bleeding, cramping, painful, miserable weeks. And of course, this is a break from work, right? So, you are to return rejuvenated and refreshed. If you’re lucky enough to have short term disability through your insurance provider or job, you qualify for an additional six weeks off, for a total of 12 weeks. Which in my opinion, is definitely not enough.
With my first daughter, I was able to take 12 weeks off. It was very difficult financially for us, but we made it work. But with my second pregnancy, I was working PRN as a nurse, while still working full time hours, simply because we needed the extra money I’d get for not opting in for the benefits package. But this made it difficult to take time off after my second daughter’s birth. I attempted to save as much as I could to prepare for the time off, but of course, something always comes up. My daughter ended up needing oral surgery 5 months before my due date. Then, my little one decided she wanted to come early, several times. Being placed on bed rest as a PRN employee is a night mare. If you’re PRN, when you’re not working, you’re not making money. Due to these hiccups, I could only barely take 8 weeks off from work. My poor little baby had to start daycare at the ripe age of 7 weeks old. It really was such a depressing experience for me. But again, this is society’s expectation.
The United States of America is supposedly the greatest nation in the world. Yet, we are the only developed nation in the world that doesn’t have required paid maternity leave. Let’s check out how we compare to other countries.
I don’t think I need an entire year off, but 6 months would be amazing! It was around that time when I started feeling like myself again: physically, mentally and emotionally. But, how awesome would it be to have the option to take off the entire first year! I don’t know about ya’ll, but Sweden is looking like a great candidate for an international move.
Aside from lack of paid maternity leave, society sets us up for failure in many other ways. A huge expectation is that we just “snap back” and get back to our pre-pregnancy weight right away. “Just breastfeed and you’ll lose that weight immediately!” So that’s why we are deciding to breastfeed? Because it will help me lose weight faster? Oh, okay. Forget about all the benefits for the baby. It’s about my weight. Thanks for pointing that out for me. But even so, just hop in the gym once you’re cleared by your doctor. You can manage a newborn, toddler, husband, returning to work and working on that post baby body. You got this, girl! I remember a celebrity having a baby about a year after I had my first, and there was this big rave about how she just got back in shape immediately, like less than a week, immediately. If she could do it, I can, right? The body shaming, mom shaming, and ridiculous expectations have got to stop. Every body type is different. Every mom is different. Their journey is different. You just brought a life in to the world, after struggling to carry that life for 40 long weeks. The last thing we should be criticizing yourself or other mothers about is their postpartum body. Who cares?! Everyone, unfortunately.
So, after you have the baby, what now? My newborn had to be seen in the doctor’s office 2 days after I was discharged. So, this exhausted, sleep deprived mom had to pack up two kids and haul the new baby in just to be examined. Just for the doctor to say everything is going as expected. But when does mom go back for a checkup just to make sure everything is going as expected? I didn’t see my doctor, or any other healthcare provider for 6 weeks. See the problem? That sweet baby “just” had to be born. But the body that was broken, battered and bruised to get the baby here is okay to not be seen for another month. It’s okay that you had severe high blood pressure during labor. Just take these pills that you’ve never heard of once a day and you’ll be fine. Don’t worry about being educated on how to monitor your blood pressure regularly. You’ll figure it out. Just like you’ll figure out how to take care of your newborn, too.
Did you know that some states offer a home visit after you’ve had the baby? I live in one of those states and just found that out a month ago, even though my children are 3 years old and 8 months old now. Way to use those resources, South Carolina. I really wonder if I had someone check in with me after my first child how things would have been. She could have educated me on what to expect in those upcoming weeks. She could have screened for postpartum depression and anxiety, which I developed horribly. So many potential problems could have been avoided or at least identified. France has an amazing healthcare model for pregnant women and new mothers. A nurse makes home visits during pregnancy, and many mothers begin their paid leave a couple of months before the baby is due. The same care is carried in to the postpartum period.
So, where does that leave us now? We help change this cycle of disappointment and unmet expectations that we set for ourselves and that society dictates. First, as friends, we need to do better about checking in on mothers of little ones. This doesn’t just go for the newborn stage. Parenthood is hard all the time! There are times that I feel my 3-year-old is going to be the end of me! If you notice a mom obviously struggling, reach out. Ask what can you honestly do to help them. They may not always need your help, but they may just need a listening ear to vent to. Motherhood is hard! There isn’t anything wrong with complaining about it to someone. I always joke and say I can’t trust a mom that NEVER complains. Something just isn’t right with that, in my opinion. Whether it’s a home cooked meal, help cleaning, or relieving her to just escape her house for an hour, do it if you’re able. Be the safe place she needs. Don’t make comments about her weight or parenting choices. It isn’t our place. Just be present.
And moms, don’t put all this pressure on yourself to get back in shape. Parenting these little ones is physically exhausting. Give yourself some grace. Embrace your changes that your body has made. Let’s work on getting comfortable in our skin. Don’t compare yourself to celebrities who snap back right away, it’s almost as if they don’t have a choice. I, honestly, feel bad that they are under such a microscope during pregnancy and can’t just “let themselves go” and enjoy being pregnant. The world is constantly scrutinizing them.
And lastly, let’s get political, ladies! The only way things are going to change for us is if we put people in positions that support making a change for us. Make sure you’re aware of local, state and nationwide elections. Be aware of the candidate’s beliefs and see what they have done in the past. Don’t just listen to what they have to say. Clearly, many people say what people want to hear just to be elected. Then, once they are in their position, they do not follow through. We must be the advocate of change for women. Because honestly, no one else is going to.
So, love yourself, ladies. Don’t let society’s expectations make you feel less than a mother. We may have been set up for failure, but that doesn’t mean we can’t or won’t be successful.