How Can Society Better Support the Working Mom?
Oftentimes, working moms do not realize the exact depth of all we are able to do each and every day until we are at wits end, burnt out, and nearing a total mental/ emotional breakdown. The capacity that we have to juggle work and life on a daily basis is in my opinion beyond remarkable and sadly not very much appreciated or acknowledged in our society. In order to better support the working mother, there has to be major reform in labor laws pertaining to maternity leave, breast pumping on the job, and sick paid time off. A majority of places of employment only allow new moms to take up to 8 weeks of paid and/or 12 weeks of unpaid maternity leave because that is all that they are required to provide by law in this country. Not to mention, the requirements of these laws all depend on how big or small the company you work for is. Smaller companies may not even be required to give a mother with a newborn child any paid time off for maternity leave! If you did not know, the United States is one of the only countries in the entire world that has yet to pass laws requiring businesses and corporations to offer paid maternity leave to their employees. Our country would also have to provide more protection for nursing mothers across the board. Currently, the Breaktime for Nursing Mothers Act, which was just set in place in May 2021, only provides protection to a small few. Nearly 9 million employees are not covered by this act. A reasonable break time and a private, non-bathroom space for nursing working moms to pump during the work day should not be a questionable matter, it should be a right! Another thing that would greatly make a positive impact on the daily stress of the working mom would be if they would be offered subsidized child care.
This photo from our very first Christmas card brings so many emotions every time I look at it. It holds so much meaning to me, it's no wonder I have it in a huge 20x18 frame next to my bedside! Celine was under 3 months old and the day I had been dreading since finding out I was pregnant was drawing closer. After the holiday break, I knew I would have to inform my employer of my return date and it had been filling me with so much anxiety and sadness. It's not a coincidence that this photo clearly demonstrates the feelings and thoughts that were going through my body at that moment. I just wanted to hold my baby close for as long as I could.
As a former fashion design employee of a small fashion company in New York City, I felt forced to resign my job and switch my career when I became a mom. The pressure of having to return to work after just 10 weeks was unbearable. I was nursing exclusively at the time and my biggest concern was how I was going to be able to continue to provide my daughter with her meals while being so far from her during the day. I dreaded the idea of having to find someone who I didn’t know that I could trust to take care of my 2 month old daughter for over 10 hours a day. Not to mention how expensive that would have been. I knew the place where I worked did not have any working mom pumping protocols in place nor would they have given me any exceptions to any pre-established employee rules just because I was a new mom. So how can society better support us? Research shows that mothers are 18% under more stress than any other people. There needs to be an acknowledgment of the magnitude of social, emotional, and mental disruption that all moms experience after giving birth to a child. Whether the mother experiences postpartum depression, anxiety, or none of the above, there exists a heavy emotional labor that a mother must do on a daily basis in order to maintain positive relationships, please people around them as well as maintain a level of presence at work and home. There is a huge social-emotional trauma that all mothers undergo in this process of motherhood and that needs to be fully acknowledged globally. This leaves very little time, if any, for the working mom to relax, self-care, or simply recharge for the next day. Working moms need more flexibility in the workplace reinforced by state laws such as more paid sick days. Let's be realistic the majority of the time a mom requests a sick day from work, it's either due to lack of child care or a sick child at home. A REALISTIC & REASONABLE paid maternity leave period of more than just 12 weeks that goes beyond when, a newborn is at their most fragile and delicate stage in growth and development. It's also crucial for all moms to have a support group of trusted friends and family who can lend a hand from time to time. Whether that be by offering babysitting during mom’s day off or sending over a delivery of dinner so that mom doesn’t have to worry about taking care of dinner for a day. More work has to be done on all sides in order to better support the emotional and mental well-being of all working moms.
~Your fellow Supermama
Special thanks to Andrea Hope over at The Hashtag Mom's Journal for giving me the opportunity to share my thoughts and perspective on this topic. See this post and more great entries written by other moms on instagram @hashtagmomjournal