The Reason America Fails Working Mothers

You’ve probably seen photos on articles about working mothers. Usually, mom and child are both smiling, while mom happily gets lots of work done. As a work-at-home mom myself, I can tell you that this picture of motherhood is far from accurate.

Not pictured: 30 seconds later, the child managed to somehow remove the shift key from her computer and get the entire screen sticky, despite having no food nearby.

Not pictured: 30 seconds later, the child managed to somehow remove the shift key from her computer and get hold of those scissors you see on mom’s desk.

These pictures of working mothers are more than inaccurate. They’re dangerous. We live in the only developed country in the world without paid family leave and imagery like this allows us to feel like that’s fine. It is not fine.

Jessica Shortall is a working mom who’s tired of the way media portrays working moms. Shortall was so fed up with images like these and the culture they feed that she created her own set of working mom stock photos, depicting the reality of working motherhood. This one is my favorite:

real working mother

The double despair of losing precious ounces of pumped breast milk when you’re on a deadline!

Because many women on maternity leave have reduced or no income while they’re out, they often go back to work a lot sooner than they should after pushing a human being out of their bodies or undergoing a C-section. Shortall touches on the emotional and physical hardships women experience postpartum in her TED Talk, and I think they deserve an even closer look.

People don’t talk a lot about the physical difficulties during the postpartum period. New moms hear over and over that we should enjoy every minute of this blessed time. I wish instead that someone had told me about gushing more blood than my heaviest period for weeks or the night sweats that would be so intense I’d end up sleeping on a pile of towels as my body adjusted to not having a baby inside of it anymore. That’s alongside other physical aches and pains like sore breasts, aching nipples and difficulty urinating, which make new motherhood more physically demanding than many people realize.

This is not a time that you want to be back in the office or, even worse, at a physically demanding job that has you on your feet for most of the day.

New moms are also coping with emotional upheaval. Even if you somehow take right to severe sleep deprivation and know exactly how to care for your new infant, there are hormones sending you on an emotional roller coaster. New moms have mood swings that are beyond our control. It takes weeks for our hormones to balance out, yet we are often expected back at work long before this happens.

All of these are symptoms that are completely normal after growing a human being inside your body and giving birth. These are not things that happen to just some women, just unhealthy women or just women who have experienced a traumatic birth. All women experience some, if not all, of these symptoms postpartum.

Forcing new mothers back to work during this difficult time is nothing short of cruel. It also rips that mother away from her child during an important bonding period.

In her moving TED Talk, Shortall shares real stories from real working mothers. She paints a picture of what it’s like to have a child in the most powerful country in the world, and it’s a shocking one. These are stories of pain, loss, hard work and often humiliation. I hope you’ll take 16 minutes to hear these women’s stories.

One issue that’s out of the scope of Shortall’s TED Talk is paternity leave. Companies don’t have to offer new fathers any time at all with their new babies. My husband only got two weeks at home with me. He was lucky that his bosses let him work from home for an additional two weeks, since I was barely up and about post-C-section.

While new dads may not be bleeding profusely or dealing with postpartum hormones, sending them straight back to work is hard on them and on their families. Dads deserve time to bond with their babies and help their partners with the huge task of caring for a newborn.

The support system for new parents in this country is broken, and it’s time for us to start making some noise. If you’d like to take a small step, sign this petition supporting paid family leave for all families.

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70 comments

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus3 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Nellie K Adaba
Nellie K Adaba3 years ago

Petition signed since 17 November 2015. I always believed in paid parental leave which they almost never have in the states but they do have it in other countries.

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Nellie K Adaba
Nellie K Adaba3 years ago

That's why I prefer other countries.

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CLAUDE Hennie
CLAUDE Hennie3 years ago

work and family are totally different things and should be separated at any cost

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Loretta Pienaar
Loretta Pienaar3 years ago

Mrs m, and Joseph Belisle, I fully agree with you!!

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mrs m.
Linda M3 years ago

I wasn't allowed to work at home. I worked 2nd shift for 5 years (sometimes until 2 a.m.). Cops presumed I was a drunk because I was out that late and there was a bar within 5 miles of my home. FMLA is a joke. On the other hand, you have people dropping out of work like flies and going on disability. So many people are willing to live on very little money. It was a juggling act, but I didn't want to make use of babysitting services...didn't trust them.

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Joseph Belisle
Joseph Belisle3 years ago

This is a crime. Again it's about money over people. Quality of life is secondary to profits. And the politicians despite what they say serve the wealthy elite.

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federico bortoletto

Grazie.

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federico bortoletto

Grazie.

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Jessica K.
Jessica K3 years ago

There's a lot of talk in American politics about how important family values are, but from what I can see not a lot of actual valuing of family life and what is needed to sustain it in a vital way. Thanks.

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