What is with our backwards society can’t seem to truly appreciate mothers without creating unrealistic expectations for and of them? Yeah, okay, we have Mother’s Day, but is one "celebration" a year really enough to honor everything mothers do, and more specifically, combat all of the unnecessary pressures our culture puts on them? For some reason, our society tells new moms they have to do certain things in order to be "good moms" or "good women" or just, well, "good." The collective "we" that is our country seems to have a very specific idea of what constitutes a "mother," and it's palpable. I don't know very many mothers who didn't feel like they had to do this one thing or make that one decision or feel that one particular way, in order to be classified as a "good mom." Honestly, it's so exhausting. I really just want to stop typing right here and now and call it a freakin' day.
Along with the absolutely unrealistic expectations society puts on moms, comes a high probability that all mothers will "fail," even when they haven't failed at all. As a new mom, I have been burdened with incredible self-doubt, not because I've particularly done anything wrong that has hurt myself, my baby or my family, but because someone else thinks I've done something wrong. I didn't hold up a particular standard or make a certain decisions, so I must be messing up. I've cried tears and felt guilty, because I've bought into what society has told me I should do, instead of realizing that the only thing I really need to do is make the best decisions for me and my family.
Moms already have it hard enough, just simply caring for babies and raising children into productive and positive members of society, without constantly being told what a let down they are and how they've failed or how some other mother has decided to parent. So, in the name of solidarity and in the hopes that all mothers (both new and seasoned) cut themselves some much-deserved slack, here are the things society tells new moms they have to do, that you absolutely, under no circumstance, have to do if you don't want to.
A Mom Should Never Breastfeed In Public...
Mothers hear awful things while breastfeeding in public. People tell them to cover up, they’re forced out of establishments, made to feel shame for their bodies. It's horrific, especially because all that breastfeeding mother is really doing is feeding her baby some lunch.
...But Absolutely Breastfeed, Don't Bottle Feed
No one should be forced to do anything they don’t want to do, and that includes breastfeeding. Some moms love it while other moms hate breastfeeding (and that’s okay). Moms have all sorts of reasons for choosing not to breastfeed, and the last thing they need is anyone’s judgement on how she feeds her kids.
Moms Must Put Their Kids First
It’s easy for many of us to simply forget to brush our hair or put on fresh clothes or stop and do some yoga when we’re neck deep in diapers, dishes, and detergent. Still, society is often "cool" with mothers, until a mom suddenly wants to go out to a bar for a friend’s birthday and then it’s, “But you have a child! Shouldn’t you be home taking care of them?” Nope, nope. It’s important for mom to put herself first, even if it's just infrequently.
Kids Should Need Their Mom More Than Any Other Parent
I hate this so much. The only real reason a baby might need their mother more, at first, is if she’s breastfeeding and she has no way of storing milk. Other than that, dads and other co-parents can do everything mom can do. Dad’s love is just as important to baby’s development, even science says so.
Moms Need To Listen To Everyone's Thoughts On Motherhood
Once you have a baby, everyone seems to want to give you their opinion on what you’re doing right and wrong. Why do people feel so entitled to this? Leave the moms (the parents, really) alone; they’re doing the best they can. Just because a woman has decided to become a mother, doesn't mean she is now required to listen to someone discuss parenting strategies or choices or anything.
Moms Don't Need To Focus On Their Mental Health
This is so important and so sad that society still doesn’t get how important mental health is for mothers (and their babies and people in general). An estimated 11-20% of new moms exhibit symptoms of postpartum depression, and that’s not including moms who miscarry or experience infant loss via prematurity, still birth or other complications. New motherhood (and even pregnancy) often come with a side of anxiety, depression, intrusive thoughts, stress, and other issues and, still, society doesn't provide enough resources (or simple understanding) to help the moms who are experiencing such symptoms.
Moms Shouldn't Work But They Should Want To Work
Working moms experience a lot of guilt that stems from a patriarchal society that claims moms should stay home with the babies, yet makes it seem like stay-at-home moms are such a burden. Stay-at-home moms hear all sorts of ridiculous things about their working status as well, and also deal with a large amount of guilt as they don't "provide income" for the family. It’s all nonsense. No one should criticize a mother’s choice when it comes to working and parenting simultaneously. I mean, no one seems to do the same with fathers, so...
Moms Don't Need To Rest After Having A Baby...
FMLA only requires employers to give moms 12 weeks of unpaid leave. Most moms would probably be happy to not return for the first 12 months, let alone 12 weeks, yet they are forced to in order to keep their jobs. These rules need to change.
...So Moms Don't Need Paid Leave
Many moms return to work earlier than the 12 weeks they’re given (a time given only if you're a full-time employee of the company one year prior to giving birth. Otherwise you’re on your own). This is because companies are not forced to pay for maternity leave. Sadly, that leaves moms asking themselves questions prior to their maternity leave, such as whether or not they can afford to spend 3 months at home with their baby.
Moms Don't Work If They're Not Getting Paid
All moms work. Just because a mother isn't accepting a paycheck every two weeks, doesn't mean she's not putting hours upon hours upon hours of hard work into her child and her family and her home and everything else you can possibly think of. Hey society, please quit acting like SAHMs are just binge-watching Orange Is The New Black while they eat ice cream all damn day. It is not like that at all.
Moms Who Need Assistance Are Lazy
It’s hard enough being a parent, but being a low-income parent is tougher. I’ve spent many days in the WIC office during my son’s first year of life, borrowing breast pumps and receiving help to purchase my son’s formula and baby food. I, sadly, dealt with people judging me while in line at the grocery store (and sometimes even the employees themselves) who actually believe the stereotypes of low-income parents, when really, life is a lot more complex.
If A Mom Doesn't Lose Pregnancy Weight Immediately, She's "Giving Up"
Moms are constantly shamed for their postpartum bodies, whether it’s in a subtle or overt way. Fortunately, there are people out there trying to combat this, like the 4th Trimester Bodies Project. Basically, society should just quit shaming moms for their bodies (actually, while we're at it, society should just stop shaming anyone for their body).
Moms Can't Be Sexy
Have kids? Better invest in some mom jeans! No, but seriously, it’s like once a person becomes a mother, they’re supposed to stop thinking about sex or dating or flirting or anything even remotely related to their sexuality. However, and of course, a mom better be in the mood when her partner wants to have sex. Ugh.
A Mom Shouldn't Be Single
Single moms catch a lot of extra flack. They’re told they’re irresponsible for having a baby out of wedlock (seriously?) or for not working hard to make their marriage work (what?) or raising their child in an "unhealthy environment" (you're kidding, right?). Like, just stop. Not only is this all factually incorrect and horrifically offensive (a byproduct of the patriarchy demanding men be the "leader of a family") but a number of single mothers in the U.S. has risen in the last 50 years, because women are demanding better for themselves and their children. Hell. Freakin'. Yes.
If A Mom's Partner Cheats, It's Her Fault
While I understand that there are many layers of complexity associated with infidelity, and not all types of cheating are the same (and many things shouldn’t be considered cheating), the only person to blame for someone cheating is the cheater. Becoming a mom doesn’t give a partner license to cheat.
If Their Kid Is Hurt, It's The Mom's Fault (And Just Her Fault)
If Their Kid Does Something Wrong, The Mom Isn't Doing Her Job
People don’t constantly give moms praise for every good thing their child does, but once their offspring does something "awful," you can be sure at least a few folks will be ready to point the finger in her direction. Just like it's a mother's fault if her child is hurt, it's automatically a mother's fault if her child does something wrong. Even if there were two parents involved in that kid's life, society defaults to blaming the mother. Just, like, no.