Courtesy of Steph Montgomery
13 Ways Society Fetishizes New Moms

by Steph Montgomery

You've probably seen more than a few serene photos of new moms cradling, or sleeping soundly next to, their babies. Those moms usually have big breasts and flat stomachs, and never have stains on their whites clothes or white bed sheets. Their babies are almost always either sleeping, nursing, or laughing. These new moms look perfect, happy, and like they love every minute of parenthood because they are new moms, and that's what new moms are supposed to do, right? Our culture loves this "brand" of woman to the point that society actually fetishizes new moms and, well, it totally needs to stop.

Now, I am not saying that I hate being a new mom. I freaking love the fourth trimester for the snuggles alone. However, when society places new moms on a pedestal, it sets the bar so high that those of us with crying babies, chubby tummies, stains on our shirts, and experiencing moments when we don't love motherhood, can't possibly reach it. We are left thinking there must be something wrong with us. So we try to be perfect, or at least appear to be perfect on social media, and ultimately fail, because no mom is perfect all of the time and new moms almost always have stains on their shirts (or maybe that's just me).

Add postpartum depression, difficulties breastfeeding, deciding to go back to work, not buying 100 percent organic food, not losing the "baby weight" right away, and all of the other ways that you can fail at being a "perfect" mother every day, and you really start to feel like you're doing it wrong. The truth, though? You're not. You're not failing or doing anything wrong. The picture us new moms are trying emulate is a lie created by a society that fetishizes a version of new motherhood that doesn't actually exists. As a result of this idealization of new moms, society also hurts dads, people struggling with loss or infertility, and women who dare to be child-free by choice. So with that in mind, here's a few more reasons why society needs to just knock it the hell off:

Because It Creates A Level Of Perfection That's Impossible To Achieve

It seems like every day, someone tells me something like, "Your kids are only little once," or that I should "cherish every moment." Cute sentiments, sure, but do these people have any idea that I haven't showered in three days and dread getting out of bed, let alone putting on clean clothes or working out?

I firmly believe that it's necessary to recover from childbirth, or adjust to adoption, at your own pace. It's a big freaking deal and isn't always laughter and sunshine.

Because It Prizes Sacrifice & Martyrdom

Society tells me that giving up everything — including my sleep, my bodily autonomy, my bed, and my identity — makes me a good mom, when doing so is totally harmful. New moms are often depicted as generically pleasant while simultaneously going through hell, "heroes" for failing to get anything even resembling sleep, and wonderful parents for sacrificing their mental health in the name of motherhood. That's awful.

Because It Reinforced Traditional Gender Roles

I am so freaking tired of people assuming that I am the primary parent to my children just because I am a woman. I'm just as tired of people assuming husband is not really involved as a parent, because he is a man. Gender roles are for the birds, and the patriarchy hurts everyone.

Because It Disregards Moms' Career Goals

Whenever I tell people that I went back to work just a couple of weeks after my baby was born, they look at me like I am a bad mom or like I don't love my baby. The truth is, I mostly went back to my work-from-home job so that I could be a better mom, because I was close to losing my sh*t. Besides, I love my job and my partner and I needed the money.

It's funny, no one questions dads when they don't take any parental leave at all, but moms are judged every day for trying to "have it all." It sucks.

Because It Romanticizes Breastfeeding

Society tells us "breast is best" and both romanticizes breastfeeding as a beautiful, natural thing (which it can be, but not always) while simultaneously telling women they should absolutely cover up while doing it. Meanwhile, breastfeeding moms are treated like goddesses, while no one ever offers a formula-feeding mom congratulations for keeping her baby alive.

Because It Assumes Financial Stability

Being a "perfect" new mom requires a level of financial stability that is becoming increasingly rare. You not only are expected to take maternity leave and/or quit your job entirely, but you also have to be able to afford the right bassinet, baby carriers, and stroller, when you seriously could get by with none of those things.

Because It Expects New Moms To Look A Certain Way

We expect moms to lose their baby weight as soon as humanly possible after childbirth, as if their value as a person increases when their weight decreases. That is so wrong. Being a mom is hard enough without having to also look pretty and fit into some predetermined social standard of beauty that satisfies the male gaze ,or feel like I am in a competition with other moms to look a certain way. Don't believe me? Just look at all of the products marketed to new moms to help them "get their body back," as if their postpartum body is not really theirs.

Because It Places Value On The Physical Ability To Have Children

When we fetishize new moms, we place women who can't have children on a lower level, and that's totally not OK. Not only is it ableist, it's not true. Having the ability to get and stay pregnant makes one lucky, not better.

Because It Ignores Dads' Desires & Responsibilities As Parents

Society fetishizes new moms and ignores new dads entirely. If a mom wants to work, and a dad wants to stay home, it's considered subversive or weird. This simultaneously holds new moms to unfair standards, and lets new dads off the hook, or worse, treats them like saints for doing things that moms are expected to do every damn day.

Because It's Heteronormative

The way we fetishize new moms is so totally heteronormative. What about LGBTQ couples? What about people who don't do gender at all? What about parents who are transgender? We have got to stop holding up heterosexual couples with kids as the ideal, because that assumes other families aren't ideal.

Because IT Assumes That All Sacrifices In The Name Of Motherhood Are "Worth It"

New moms don't have to love every moment, and it's totally OK to decide to do things differently if things don't as planned or you don't freaking want to.

Because It Makes Women Who Decide Not To Have Children Seem Like Monsters

Society treats women who don't want to be mothers like monsters, as if being a woman automatically means your only goal in life should be procreation. For me, part of being pro-choice is acknowledging that it's totally OK for someone to not want to be a parent or to not want to be pregnant.

Because It Pegs Mothers Against Each Other

Motherhood has definitely become a competition for some people, where the mom who can stay home, own all of the right things, breastfeed for the most years, lose the most weight, and look the most like a model in white clothes, wins over hot mess moms like me. It's got to stop, because when we treat motherhood like a competition, almost everyone loses.

Instead, let's recognize that no one is perfect, at least not 100 percent of the time, and life is a lot better when you stop trying or expecting others to live up to an impossible standard.