7 Times Society Expects You To Apologize For Being A Working Mom
Moms work. We can all agree on that, right? Moms work and it shouldn't be a big deal anymore because it's 2017, you guys. Still, however and for whatever reason, for some people it continues to be a pretty big deal. Not only is it exhausting AF to raise children, work, and attempt a healthy partnership simultaneously, but things are made infinitely harder by the times society expects you to apologize for being a working mom.
Sometimes it feels like our collective culture still wants all moms to stay at home and take care of the children and the house. The reality, however, is that even when moms want to do the aforementioned, it is often an impossible financial burden to be a stay at home mom. On the flip side, just because you never wanted to be a stay-at-home mom (raises hand) doesn't mean you're not a dedicated parent. If you're anything like me, you're super sensitive to the sideways glances, the ubiquitous mom-as-primary-at-home-caregiver commercials and the not-so-sly questions, like, "Who is with your kids all day?"
The truth is, it feels like we can't win no matter what we do. Thanks to the gender pay gap women's lifetime earning potential is lower than men's just because of the perceived possibility that we could get pregnant. Where womanhood intersects race, the gap is staggeringly greater. However, being a mom who is also dedicated to your career seems to give people the idea that they have free reign to comment on your choice. Ugh.
When You Have To Pump At Work
If you've chosen and have been able to breastfeed you're likely reading this right now from a cramped former closet at work. The nipple megaphones are suck-suck-sucking their way to an ounce or two (see undersupply of breast milk) while you frantically try to:
1) Stare at pictures of your new human trying not to feel guilty that the nipple megaphones are getting more of you than your baby is;
2) Silently begging your boobs to hurry while trying not to feel guilty for missing 15-40 minutes of work all the non-breastfeeding worker bees are getting done right now.
With my second baby, I gallantly pumped in my former-closet at work for 18 months. Though Colorado law required my workplace to have a lactation room the message that this was inconvenient for my superiors was clear, to say the least.
The not-so-subtle looks as I dragged my pump to and from the former-closet and to and from the bathroom and/or kitchen to clean the pump.
The "I-just-want-to-see-how-you're-doing" check ins disguised as support that were really about making sure my numbers looked like I wasn't absconding to the closet every two to four hours.
And as if chronic under supply guilt weren't enough, I also got the intrusive questioning as to why two other nursing mothers in my department didn't take as long to pump as I did to pump. Who wants to talk about their under supply of breast milk and their need for a hospital grade pump with their judgmental boss?
When You Can't Volunteer At Your Child's School
How many times have I received the email invitation or the gentle plea from my child's teacher or other staff member to volunteer for this or that event? We are privileged to send our kids to a school that prides itself on nurturing community, but there are only so many hours in the day and when I was still in the corporate world all of the hours that my kids' school was open I was working. I didn't work during school events because I didn't want to be a part of the school community. As the breadwinner in our family, with superiors who held every missed minute against you, I had no choice but to work and turn down volunteering again and again. I was constantly apologizing to everyone and pleasing no one.
When Scheduling School Conferences
Me: Ugh. I dread that little yellow piece of paper that comes home every quarter. It mocks me with its list of dates and times. Inevitably, I will have to choose between pissing my bosses off by setting an appointment before 5 p.m., pissing my kids' teachers off by always needing the late spots (like every other working family, I'm sure), and driving my kids nuts with the latest spot (which means junk food for dinner and a bedtime that's two hours too late).
Society: Why don't you just quit your job? After all, you're a mother. That comes first.
Me: (Stares. Silently sobs.)
When Scheduling Doctor's Appointments
Me: "Hi, I'm calling to schedule a doctor's appointment for my child. I'll need the latest appointment you have, please."
Reception: "Well, I only have a 2 p.m. in two weeks."
Me: "Um, so sorry. That's not going to work. I work. I can't get off that early, sorry. When will the doctor have something later?"
Reception: "Umm. Six months from Saturday."
When Your Baby Is Hungry
Bizarrely, I've felt pressured to apologize for both breastfeeding and bottle feeding in public.
My first child was no longer breastfeeding by the time I went back to work six weeks postpartum. When my best friend would unexpectedly take us out to eat, I would start to sweat just asking for water to mix my daughter's formula. I definitely got the eye roll plenty of times. In granola-crunch USA (aka Boulder, CO) it was half an apology for inconveniencing them and half an apology for not feeding my baby the way the server thought I should.
When I was still modest (that ship has totally sailed) I would try to cover my second child while he was breastfeeding. However, he would simply not stand for it. That cover was hot and uncomfortable. Would you want to eat with a towel over your head?
(If you need support around breast or bottle feeding stressors please, get support. One non-judgmental resource is The Fed is Best Foundation.)
When Your House Is A Mess
Do I really need to explain why my house is a mess with a 7 year old, a 5 year old, and an 11 month old? I think the people with children and clean houses are like fairies. I want to believe that they exist, but in all likelihood it's just an old folktale.
When You Want To Work
This is a doozy right here. If your experience is like mine, I constantly feel pressed to apologize for actually wanting to work. I don't know of any man who has ever been questioned about his decision to keep working after he had children. In fact, that's generally the time they get raises and promotions.
But for some reason society thinks it's OK to look pityingly at working moms as if to say, "You poor thing, it must be so hard to not get to be with your kids." Well, yes. Of course it's hard to miss them sometimes. And, yes, it is a financial necessity to work for a lot of families.
But on the flip side? I love my work. I worked really hard to become a therapist with several specialties. I am very proud of the work I do to help people with sexual trauma and abuse backgrounds. I'm over the moon to affirm someone's newly discovered, or longtime closeted true gender identity. I adore empowering women to live their best lives! I want my children to grow up in a world where we are all ardently concerned with the liberation of marginalized communities. That is the work I do every day. I will not apologize for that.