In Lean In, author Sheryl Sandberg talks about her coup of winning a parking spot closer to the office when the physical effects of pregnancy made walking a hardship. She recalls being on conference calls and having to explain away the grinding sound of her breast pump in the background. Her struggles were real, but definitely not universal: Most of us do not have private offices where we can pump. Those of us who commute via public transportation have no shorter walk from the subway than the rest of the non-pregnant masses. But I get what she was trying to prove: Workplaces are not particularly accommodating to mothers. And while Netflix's parental leave policy is challenging the norms of work-life balance, most company culture is still stuck in the 1950s mindset of offices being built for men, who were the first to work in these environments.
When I had my first baby, there was no legal provision affording me the time or space to pump during the workday. I’d find an unused dressing room at the studio, or ask to borrow a co-worker’s office, since I sat in an open cube farm. But before my second baby, New York state passed a law stipulating that companies with more than 50 employees must provide unpaid break time (20-30 minutes) and a private, dedicated space (not a bathroom or unused closet) to express milk. Earlier this year, Obama did one better and made these mandates on a national level as part of the Affordable Healthcare Act. Yes!
And while this is progress for those of us who are breastfeeding, there are so many other little (more personal) struggles that all working moms have to deal with at one time or another.