It seems like, no matter what life-choice a woman makes, she can't win. Women who choose not to have kids can't win, and moms can't win. Stay-at-home moms can't win, and working moms really can't win. As a working mom, I get told I'm neglecting my kids, that I can never have it all, and then, at work, I constantly get mom-shamed by coworkers without kids. So, yeah, "winning" doesn't really feel like a realistic possibility, these days.
Before I became a mom, I was very career driven. I took time to form relationships with coworkers and clients. I did drinks after work, cocktail parties, networking events, and coffee meetings. I never took lunch breaks and rarely took sick days. As a result, I really didn't have a clue as to how much much my life would change after having kids, and it did change, dramatically. Suddenly, I had to plan coverage for maternity leave and worry about having enough sick leave to cover unexpected illnesses once I returned to the office. I had to plan for child care, pumping, hectic commutes, and doctor's appointments. I had to learn to juggle 100 balls at once, while simultaneously being judged by my childless co-workers.
It hurt. It felt degrading. It made me question if I had made the right choices about my career and childbearing, whether I could do it all, or if should even try.
I know that their judgment is part a lack of knowledge and experience, part our culture's tendency to shame women and mothers, and maybe even a tiny part jealousy. Regardless of their motives, mom-shaming needs to stop. People are still people when they return from maternity or adoption leave. Seriously. They just might occasionally have a bit more spit up on their shirts or have to actually take a sick day once in a while. Get over it.
When I Got Pregnant
It seemed like the minute I announced my first pregnancy, I immediately received comments about taking the "mommy track" for my career. As if working moms don't care about their careers or can't be great at their jobs. This made me feel so bad that I actually hid my second pregnancy until I started to dramatically show. I had just accepted a promotion at work, and people were seriously pissed that I would be taking maternity leave so soon after moving up the ladder. Jerks.
For Taking Maternity Leave
It's bad enough that maternity leave policies in the United States suck, but I was shamed so much for taking leave both times. When I was pregnant with my daughter, I worked for a women's health organization, and I still remember going to the CEO, because the HR Director told me if I "chose" to go out on bed rest, I would have to come back early from maternity leave, even though I had plenty of leave saved up and offered to take unpaid leave. I am not ashamed to say I cried.
When My Kids Are Sick
There's nothing like telling someone that your child is sick and hearing the question, "Again?" with scorn and disgust. All moms deserve to take sick days to care for their kids, without being shamed or made to feel like they're failing. Day care sick policies are there for a reason, even if they are freaking annoying (my child's fever often mysteriously disappeared when we arrived home), but I was even shamed when my son was in the hospital with a severe respiratory infection.
Also worth noting, if I have vomit on my shirt (or in my hair), please let me know and don't give me a hard time.
When Taking Pumping Breaks
After coming back from my maternity leave following my son's birth, I tried to do all of the responsible things: I checked in with human resources about pumping space (in my office) and policies. I obtained a "do not disturb" sign for my door and requested a small mini fridge in which I could store milk in my office. One of my employees, who knew full well what was going on in my office, actually reported me to my supervisor for taking frequent breaks and being inaccessible to her. Yeah, there are no words. (Well, there are, but they're "bad words" that I'm working on not using around my kid. Whatever.)
When I Work From Home
Contrary to popular belief, when I have to work from home, because my child got sent home sick from school or has a vacation day, I actually work. I am a responsible person and try to ignore you when you roll your eyes and use air quotes around the phrase "working from home." Just stop.
When I Can't Attend Evening Events Or Work Overtime
At my last job, I was told to teach new staff and volunteer training sessions during evening and weekend hours. When I complained to my childless boss, she literally said, "You shouldn't use single parenthood as an excuse. All of us have things we'd rather be doing." I politely wondered if she would pay for the babysitter I couldn't afford.
When I Actually Take Lunch Breaks And Vacation Days
Everyone should take their lunch breaks and vacation days. Everyone. Making sh*tty comments about me doing things that are protected by law, that allow me to take care of myself, is completely unnecessary.
When They Call Me A "Breeder"
Calling names is so immature. My 4-year-old toddler knows this. My identity as a woman and a person didn't stop when I had kids. This is why I try not to talk about my kids at work.
When They Don't Invite Me Out Anymore
I can't always say, "Yes," but mama loves wine, cocktails, and coffee dates still. Please keep asking. And, if I do accept, please don't judge me for taking a night off from my kids. Seriously. This is why moms can never win.
When They Complain About Their Lives
Life is not a contest of who has it worse. I get that pain is relative, but if I have to hear another twenty-something coworker complain that she didn't get enough sleep because she was out drinking, or compare her dog being sad to my child being in therapy, I might stab myself in the eye.
If you take it to the next level and say, "If you wanted to sleep at night, why did you even have children?" I just might stab you.