Sunday, May 6, 2012

High Standards

I came across this article this morning which fit nicely in with some thoughts which I'd been mulling around in my head. Bear with me as I sort this out...

Here's the article, titled, "Let's get on board with paid leave". The author highlights the hypocrisy of our country in yet another way - our politicians and leaders (and, for that matter, pretty much everyone in America) agree and espouse the virtue of strong families, yet our country (unlike the vast majority - maybe all - of other developed countries) doesn't guarantee paid work leave for new mother's (let alone father's, but this article focuses on mother's). When you consider lower income workers, the likelihood of her employer providing paid leave is almost non existent. Of course, these lowest income earners are the ones who can least afford to take advantage of federal family and medical leave act, leaving these women with virtually no choice but to go back to work as soon as possible.

I won't even discuss the ramifications of new mother's immediately going to back to work on breastfeeding, as that would require quite a few more posts - but let's just all agree two things: 1) breastfed babies cost less on society and families both in their infancy (I've read on average a breastfed baby costs $600 less in medical bills the first year) and their entire lives, and 2) success rates of breastfeeding depends heavily on the relationship established between mother and baby during the first few days (and weeks) of baby's life.

We (as a country) have set up our new mother's with impossibly high standards. Have a baby - and do it while you're fairly young and fertile, lest you need any artificial assistance getting pregnant - but push aside the massive physiological, hormonal and emotional changes which occur and get back to work as soon as possible. Even if you had massive abdominal surgery and are trying to recover in two hour sleep increments, or lost a significant amount of blood, or even just had a normal delivery - pushing a baby out of your body is no small feat and DOES require quite a bit of healing! We won't subsidize your leave (gracious! you mean my taxpayer dollars are going to work to keep lazy women at home longer just so she can "bond with her baby?"), but will encourage you to breastfeed (remember, "breast is best!") for the first year. But, oh, you say you want to pump in a private, locked room? Goodness, aren't you greedy! Nope, I think the restroom will have to suffice to meet your pumping needs. Sorry if that's humiliating at best, not to mention disgusting and unsanitary. Oh, but don't forget - by breastfeeding, you'll probably experience a long-term income drop and your earning potential will decrease (remember - you're competing with those evil, formula feeding mom's for the same jobs - and those mom's don't take three 20 minute breaks a day to pump...). This will keep you in the bottom of the working hierarchy, and if you find yourself earning less than daycare (bad mom! you're sending your baby to... daycare??) costs (highly likely actually), you'll face a brand new double edge sword. Quit and find yourself needing government assistance and we'll once again call you lazy and require you get back to doing "real work". Quit and become a Stay at Home Mom (ie, you have a partner who can keep your family afloat) and we'll praise the work you'll be doing is the most valuable work you could do.

Oh, but, please do have that baby, as we really would like to add to the human race, and recognize the importance of families, etc...

And can we talk about weight loss? We'd like you to get back to your "pre-baby body" as soon as possible.  But, ignore your doctors orders and start working out right away? We'll ridicule you behind your back. Revel in the baby weight and take your time? We'll call you fat and lazy. Oh and can we also agree now to hold you accountable for the weight you gain? Heaven forbid you're in the public eye also - then we'll have "top doctors" go on reputable balanced "news networks" to publicly announce that you've gained too much weight and are putting your baby at risk already. Shame on you, bad mom.

So, here I step in and question: What's a mother to do? What can we, as women, DO to not only highlight these massive hypocrisies and impossible standards we've been given, and enact real, tangible change in our country? I believe change begins with grassroots efforts, and the first piece of that is talking about it. For real. Let's quit attacking one another and start supporting women, supporting families and beginning the dialogue. Then? Hopefully, the sky is the limit... or at least that glass ceiling we're facing....

(PS, Happy *sunny!* Sunday!)

1 comment:

  1. You are so awesome Julia! Love this all, as you full well know =)