I think we’ve all come to accept that women will sacrifice more for their children than men. This is not to disparage the men out there doing the work of taking on the greater load, but like Reva told Furious on Boyz In The Hood, mothers have been doing this since the beginning of time. We quit jobs, sacrifice our dreams and give up our social lives. We lose out on hours of sleep and allow our breasts to flatten like pancakes all for the sake of providing life-giving nutrients through breastfeeding. Motherhood is hard, to say they least.
But even after all that sacrifice, antiquated ideas about gender roles continue to permeate modern motherhood. Particularly the idea that motherhood is supposed to be hard. That we just have to deal with it, and even more dangerously, that we don’t deserve breaks from it.
Do I expect it to be always be joyous laughter, cute gummy smiles and uninterrupted happiness? No. Do I expect campaigns of false promises? No. But I also don’t expect to be ignored when I complain about being psychologically or mentally drained, overwhelmed or stressed out. I don’t want to be on the verge of a nervous breakdown before someone asks “What can I do to help?”
We Are Not Experiencing Motherhood the Same as Our Ancestors
I guess I could see how our ancestors who were homemakers would expect us to over time learn coping mechanisms for dealing with stress, without asking for breaks. But to be honest, they deserved more breaks too. The difference is millennials and Gen Z are delaying the entrance into parenthood until we’re well into careers and climbing corporate ladders, and that’s if we’re having babies at all. We’re balancing full-time jobs with freelancing and what feels like fifty-leven side hustles. Babies exacerbate all of those stressors. We simply don’t experience motherhood the same as our ancestors did.
Even without COVID looming over us at every turn, it’s a peculiar time to be a working mother in America. Our jobs expect us to work and grow in our careers as if we don’t have to be accountable to and responsible for our children, and mother them as if we don’t have careers to build and pour into. We also live in a country that has conditioned its corporations to undervalue vacation, paid leave and mental health. So it’s not hard to imagine the amount of stress involved in being a single mother, working mother, new mother or any mother in between.
Reality is we expect motherhood to be hard. But we also expect empathy and even community. We expect that when we express feelings of overwhelm, people understand the difference between needing a break and full abandonment. We’d love some version of village work but understand that culturally it’s not realistic. But we at least expect that those who give us their ears would care as much as about our well-beings as they do the kiddos in our care. My thoughts? Encourage momcations and weekend staycations, and while we’re there, Make Grandmas Babysit Again.