There is No 'ME' in Maternity

I’ve been poking fun at Meghann Foye on social media for the past couple of days for her new book Meternity. And I’m not sorry for ridiculing the idea of 'meternity' leave. But, I do wholeheartedly think her asinine, possibly opportunistic book title helped us do something. All of us women are talking about the shitty status of maternity leave in this country, we’re talking about how families and mothers are treated like garbage by corporate America and we’re talking about how childfree women are getting treated unfairly.

More and more women are claiming and owning their childfree status. Hell, they should. Half of women right now of childbearing age are indeed, childless. They’re taking a stand and telling the world that they don’t want kids yet, they don’t want kids ever or they can’t have kids. BRAVA. I’m proud to share this planet with women that do this. Huge kudos, it shows how far we’ve come as women.

Nothin’ but love for ya.

I’d be remiss to not show my love and appreciation to all of the childfree women that have been in my life since I was born. My mom was a single, teen mom and was very lucky to have childfree sisters and friends that helped out in the kid department. These blood aunties and my moms’ best girlfriends (who we also called aunties) babysat me and my sister FOR FREE. They spoiled us rotten by buying all sorts of toys and clothes for us that my mom couldn’t afford on her own. And they devoted their time. Childfree men and women all over the world do this. And it’s a wonderful gift to parents.

I totally get the struggles and challenges of childfree women. They are treated unfairly personally and professionally, and we as a country, need to recognize that. They are invalidated every time a person says to them, “Ohhh, you’ll change your mind about not wanting kids. It’s just a phase.” Or people say hurtful things to women who DO want kids, but can’t physically such as, “You could always adopt or get a surrogate.” Like adoption and surrogacy are no big deal.

In corporate America, childfree women are asked to stay longer than their parent colleagues because it’s assumed they have no life, if they have no kids. And that’s wrong. I would know, I’ve been the childfree gal asked to work longer hours and holidays because I don’t have a family.

But for some of you to suggest a “Meternity” leave, I’m gonna have to stop you right there sista.

Anyone suggesting that childfree women deserve anything within the vicinity of a maternity leave for self-discovery is bat shit crazy. You are comparing a leave of absence to heal from childbirth and keeping a human being alive during a fragile time, to a self-exploration hiatus. 

Can we pause there for a moment? Re-read that for me. Childbirth = self-discovery? Nah honey. I don’t think so.

You want self-discovery? How about ask your employer for a more flexible schedule? You could take your vacation time. You could take mental health days – that’s what they’re there for. How about this, explore your passions in your free time after work or on days off?

I don’t know if childfree women know this, but once women become moms, they have ZERO days off ever. LIKE FOREVER. A mother’s whole life is devoted to someone other than themselves and they don’t ever get a day off from worrying about them, or caring about them. Here’s the unicorn part of the whole thing - all of these moms that get no days off for the rest of their lives, somehow start businesses, find charitable passions and fulfill their dreams all while never having a day off since their babies were born. Truly magical if you ask me.

If you want self-examination time might I suggest you go on a yoga retreat? Go backpack through Europe? Do daily meditations? While you’re taking a good, hard look at yourself, I’d like you to recognize how ridiculous it sounds that you are comparing meternity time off, to maternity leave.

Asking for a meternity leave assumes that there is a “me” in maternity leave. 

The meternity leave requester apparently thinks that moms on an actual, legit maternity leave, have the luxury and the time to start an orange farm in Africa like they always wanted to. The childfree woman that is aching for a job hiatus similar to a maternity leave assumes a new mother gets to ignore all duties of her job, get paid a salary, while following her life-long passion of being an Olympic figure skater. Anyone that does not have children that is requesting anything remotely similar to a maternity leave, and calls it a “meternity,” leave, assumes new moms have the time and the funds to discover themselves while tending to the around the clock needs of a small human being.

To which I have to say, bitch please. Have you lost your fucking mind?

Anyone that can rub two brain cells together knows that a maternity leave is not a gift you get from your job for self-exploration. It’s quite the opposite. It is the most soul-sucking, self-identity stripping, self-obliterating experience of your entire life. 

You are literally pouring out all of your energy, to take care of a tiny, helpless human being. New moms would be lucky to get in a shower to wash away the poop and baby vomit currently forming a crust on their skin. New moms would be elated to eat a meal. Like just one…the whole day. New moms would be thrilled at the prospect of having one moment to take a piss in peace. By this I mean, not holding a sleeping, crying or nursing infant in your arms while you are peeing and trying to wipe yourself.

You know what else new moms would like while on this leave that you think is self-exploratory (that is actually tending to a newborn), they’d like to get paid for it. During the time in a woman’s life that she needs  the most help, the most support and the most money for expensive items like diapers and formula – she would actually like to fucking afford it. Did you know childfree friends, that mothers in this country aren’t mandated any type of pay during maternity leave? That’s right. Women who are pregnant either need to save up their 75-cents to a man’s one dollar salary for their maternity leave. Or new moms need to give birth and rush back to work while their breasts are still leaking milk and their vaginas still dripping blood.

Only 13% of all American workers have access to PAID MATERNITY LEAVE. All women, breeders and non-breeders alike, are working hard at our jobs that we statistically get paid less than a man, and work harder at by putting in oodles of unpaid hours. 

If you do by chance get knocked up, please rest assure, you will be treated like absolute shit. Even in your most vulnerable state of pregnancy and new motherhood – you’ll be treated like garbage. You can thank society, the government and corporate America for that.

There is also a big portion of women that won’t ever get pregnant either because they can't or don't want to. But even without a fetus, one does know a mother’s experience in life partly because one has been exposed to a mother, yes?

Your own mother, a breeding sister, auntie or cousin? Do you honestly think it’s fair for them to work as hard as you have, all of their lives, and be forced into such a crap of a situation while going through unarguably one of the hardest times in their lives physically and emotionally? Not to mention, the small fact that maternity leave helps new mothers keep their babies alive?

Your assumption that a maternity leave is some paid picnic isn’t just absurd, it’s a slap in the face to all of the mothers in your life that so desperately need and deserve to be treated better by the companies they work for, and the country they live in.

Childfree women, this isn’t a competition or a contest about who has it better or harder. I get that you want to explore yourself and your interests. So do I. So does everyone else in this world. Our priorities when it comes to work and life balance in this country are way out of whack. The difference between you and me, is that I found a way to do it, while being a mother.

While it wasn’t fun, I stayed up sleepless nights drafting grand plans while my babies sucked on my boobs. I checked my work email and responded while pumping. I jotted down notes while endlessly cradling my screaming, colicky baby. I listened to informative podcasts while pushing my babies in strollers and on swings, when all I wanted to be doing was taking in a whiff of fresh air and listen to the fucking birds. I stayed up on the computer when my kids were sleeping, and ignored my husband. Admittedly, I still do. And that’s sad. It’s all very sad. But if you want some professional edge or personally fulfilling life given the current corporate culture – THAT’S WHAT YOU DO.

I took every single solitary second and yes, sometimes my productivity was split into small spurts of 30 seconds in between diaper changes, conference calls and endless mountains of laundry, but I did it. I stole away increments of time to make my dreams a reality. I didn’t squander a second of idleness. Not even on the drive to my kid’s pediatrician for a checkup – did I waste a single moment of self-contemplation or professional productivity. Is it fair? No. Is it the way it should be be? HELL NO. For no one. We shouldn’t be total fucking zombies trying to live our lives, live up to all of our responsibilities, while setting ourselves up for our future lives. It’s wrong. It’s heinous. And I wish it weren’t this way.

My maternity leave, and the months following it were the hardest, most emotionally up and down times of my entire life. I didn’t get ANY time to think about ME. What I wanted. What I loved. I didn’t even have passion for the things I used to love.

You want to know the secret to why women are so self-assured when they come back from their maternity leaves? Because during the time that they had NO time, they learned about priorities and values. In the absence of time, these women became more efficient with their time. Haven’t you heard that excellent time management skills surface when you have no time. You want to know why some new moms don’t come back at all to your office and start some new dream venture? Without the luxury of hours, minutes or even seconds to dwell on the should and should-nots of professional and personal risk taking, these women just went for it. They took leaps because there was no time to sit on decisions anymore. When you have a baby, moments in every day life are precious and valuable so you just go for it.

I agree with childfree women, the corporate culture really affords no one the time to discover and nurture interests outside of work. But, here’s your reality check for all those clueless childfree women: being a new mom on maternity leave- solidifies how much time you DON’T have and makes moments of self-contemplation even more scarce.

Childfree women using the term “meternity leave,” as if it deserves to be in the same phrasing-family as maternity leave, are indeed insulting mothers and fathers everywhere.

What we collectively need, all women, is understanding. I understand the struggles you face childfree women, because once upon a time – I was one. I know the corporate landscape. I played the game as a single gal, as a married gal, as a pregnant lady and as a mother. I’ve endured the inequality and discrimination at every angle in corporate America, just like you. And truthfully, more than you.

What we also need is for you not to be a total dick. To suggest a meternity leave shows lack of understanding and COMPASSION for what a mother endures.

What we all need to be doing is actively changing the corporate culture by speaking up out against unfair treatment, and demanding a new work environment for ourselves. Not making silly comparisons that degrade and insult each other. Maybe, you should think about that while on your meternity leave.

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