Tag Archives: postpartum

Why I’m Rejecting Working Mom Guilt

Anyone who has ever tried to work with a baby on their lap will appreciate the hilarity of this photo.

Working mom guilt. Just typing the phrase alone makes me cringe. Not for the reasons you might imagine though. I’d venture a guess that when you think about this phrase, you picture something like this; a mom in heels, running frantically from a school drop off to an important meeting, forgetting that her kid’s lunch is still in her purse. Or maybe you see a mom crying at her desk because the nanny just sent her a video of her baby’s first steps.

Perhaps you picture yourself and a moment in your own professional life that has shot like a dagger through your heart because you weren’t with your children for a particular milestone or celebration.

Am I right?

Those are all common images associated with this notion of working mom guilt, and they are very real scenarios for many women, but that’s not what makes me cringe. What makes me cringe is the saying itself – working mom GUILT.

The very definition of this word insinuates that working mothers, myself included, are doing something wrong. Not something hard, or something that can come with challenging moments or even sadness sometimes. Nope, guilt doesn’t mean any of those things; it means you’ve done something for which you should feel ashamed, like stealing money from your workplace or cheating on your spouse.

No wonder so many working moms feel negative about their experience. The very term used to describe what we go through suggests that we’ve made the wrong choice. When often, working isn’t even a choice for us at all.

Listen, do I feel sad when I have to say goodbye to my two-year-old in the morning, and he’s sitting on our front steps waving at me with the cutest damn face ever? Yes, of course, I do. Do I wish that I could volunteer in my first grader’s classroom regularly, so I have a better sense of how his teacher operates? Without a doubt.

no working mom guilt here
Getting a visit at work from my guys is simply the best.

But do I feel guilty about loving what I do for a living and providing financial security for my family? Absolutely not. What I feel can better be described as what I call the working mom anger.

I feel anger that most of the women I talked to about this topic told me they went back to work before they were ready because their maternity leave, if they ever had one, was too short. I feel anger that many of us end up apologizing to our employers if we leave early for something child-related, even though we know it will have zero negative impact on their bottom line.

One of the moms I spoke to explained this best when she stated, “I’m more likely to feel guilty for leaving the office early to take care of my kids than I am to feel guilty for leaving my kids. I think that is a societal/cultural issue.” Indeed it is. And it’s high time we demanded a change.

How will employers ever revise their policies if we keep acting like it’s our fault there’s an issue? The problem is not your guilt, ladies. The problem is that we haven’t been shouting from the rooftops about how unnecessary all the hoops we have to jump through in order to both work and parent, are in this country!

Why are we still accepting of the fact that all over the U.S., women are given zilch in terms of paid maternity leave? Even in our Government, as one of my friends who is a federal employee notes, “You simply have to use your annual leave/sick days. If you don’t have enough you can enroll in a program and hopefully get approved or get donations for six to eight weeks of paid leave, but nothing more than postpartum recovery (six-eight weeks). Everything else is LWOP (leave without pay) if you don’t have enough time in your bank and want the full 12 weeks.”

You guys, that is insane. We’re talking about six weeks to three months here – anyone who has ever had a baby or been around anyone who has ever had a baby knows that at six weeks postpartum you are still hormonal, sleep-deprived, peeing your pants and getting up multiple times a night to feed your child. I honestly just cannot fathom how any company, much less our FEDERAL GOVERNMENT can rationalize this.

Did you know in Canada, women can get up to a full year (and sometimes more) of leave? It’s true. One Canadian mom I spoke to explained, “We get a percentage of our wage. So, while we make less than when working, we save in other costs (i.e., childcare) and we can also split the leave with our husband so he can take time as well.” When I asked if she thought this led to fewer feelings of this so-called working mom guilt, she responded, “I don’t know if it helps alleviate the guilt because I think, working or not, we are so incredibly hard on ourselves. However, I’m more ready (both physically and emotionally) to go back as compared to others who go back much sooner.”

Can you imagine what a shift there would be in our own country if we adopted this policy? If working moms knew from the beginning of their journey that they were valued as mothers and employees, with the two not standing in opposition to each other?

My plea to all the working mothers out there is that you stop internalizing these feelings you’ve been led to believe are your own fault, your own “working mom guilt”, and start verbalizing what you want, what you need, and what you deserve, in order to function in both roles. Let’s start talking about change, not guilt. Lord knows it isn’t going to happen until we demand it!

Surviving Postpartum Depression in 5 Easy Steps

Exhausted, anxious and in a total tear-stained daze, I stood in line at the pharmacy thinking to myself, “Fuck, I knew I should have eaten my placenta.” Never in my life did I think this particular thought would be running through my mind but when one is in the midst of Postpartum Depression, one’s mind is full of surprises. I did consider going down the placenta smoothie path when I was pregnant with my second child but ultimately decided I just wasn’t the organ-eating type. However, in that moment while waiting for my Zoloft, I found yet another thing I thought I had messed up. The last few weeks had been chock-full of those.

Fast forward a couple months. I have learned a tremendous deal about the illness that was slowly suffocating me and I want to share some of those things with you. So Dearests, I present to you with love in my heart, sanity in my brain and wine in my glass, Five “Easy” Steps for Surviving Postpartum Depression.

Step 1 – Acknowledge that you’re too screwed up to see how screwed up you are.   

Let me paint a picture of the true chemical cluster fuck that is Postpartum Depression. It’s like this, you know how you used to go out with your girlfriends on a Saturday night (I say “used to” because you’re a parent now, and the only thing you do on Saturday night is watch “48 Hours” while making a mental note to check on whether your spouse has recently taken out a new life insurance policy on you). Anyway, you used to get dressed up – dress, heels, hair and makeup – the whole nine. And, when you left the house you thought, “Hey, I look pretty good. I mean, not supermodel good but since I’m not a genetic mutant, this is as good as it’s going to get. Let’s do this!” Then, you would start drinking. And, all of a sudden…logic be damned, you’re Miranda freaking Kerr! A couple more drinks and now you are really feeling yourself. No one is hotter than you. You own this night. Hell, you own Miranda Kerr! Sound familiar?

The only problem with this scenario (other than your inevitable massive hangover) is that you actually look like a hot frigging mess. Your mascara is smeared, your hair looks like Nick Nolte’s mugshot and half your boob is hanging out (not the good boob either). Only you are way too drunk to realize it. The chemicals that have you feeling all hot to trot are actually blocking you from the reality of the situation – you are superbly fucked up. 

Well, that’s what PPD is like as well. The hormones, stress, fatigue, physical changes, etc have you so supremely messed up that it’s impossible to even compute how messed up you really are. My solution for this is simple. Ask everyone who truly loves you whether or not they think you are out of your mind and when they say yes, please, believe them.

Step 2 – Ignore everything you see on Social Media.

Truthfully, I think this should be a general rule of thumb to live by (except when it comes to MommyDearest Inc. of course!), but this is particularly true when you suffer from PPD and here’s why – parents lie, big time. During the course of my suffering, I posted plenty of joyful pictures, like this one…IMG_5025

and this one…IMG_5202.Aw, so sweet, right? And, while those pictures were truly a portion of life at the time, they weren’t the whole truth. The whole truth was not the kind of photo you post on Instagram. Nobody wants to see me curled up in the fetal position crying, (really hard to get a good selfie angle of that anyway). They want to see cute kids and smiling faces. I get it, I want that too. I just don’t want all of us Moms out there to feel like everyone else’s lives are picture perfect because that’s what we see everyday on social media, when really there isn’t a filter in the world that can clean up the craziness of what it’s sometimes like to bring a new baby into your family. 

Step 3 – Make sure your kids know it’s their fault.

I’m only partially kidding here. I think our natural instinct as parents is to shield our kids from seeing us sad. Angry, sure, that’s unavoidable given their tendency to act like holy terrors but sad, not so much. Thus, I was spending an extraordinary amount of energy trying to act happy around my kids who were, I’m quite convinced, trying to slowly kill me. Then one day, I just couldn’t do it anymore. It’s not that I wanted to lose my shit on such an epic level, but just like my inexplicable affection for Christian Slater even after all these years, it was a force bigger than me. I simply could not stop crying, even in front of my four year old. At first, I agonized over this and the potential damage it could do to him but then a friend reminded me that sadness is a normal human emotion he needs to feel comfortable with – especially if I wanted to avoid raising an emotionally stunted man (just what the world needs more of, amiright?). So, I explained to him that I was feeling very sad and overwhelmed and that I needed a break. And you know what happened? This kid, the same one who often seemed to take pleasure in doing his best to drive me bat shit, actually started to take care of me. He rubbed my back, telling me everything was going to be okay. He brought me his favorite stuffed animals to snuggle with and he even wiped his own butt! No wait, he’s never done that last thing, I’m just wishful thinking on that one. Seriously though, it was like that page in I Love You Forever where the son holds his old-ass mom in the rocking chair and sings to her – except much less creepy (I hope). Regardless of the potential Oedipal ramifications, it really proved to me that I shouldn’t sugar coat the situation as much as I had been. And neither should you. 

Step 4 – Let it all go to shit.

Eat chocolate. Drink wine. Stop working out. Let the dust bunnies pile up. Let the kids eat something from a box. Then let the dog eat the box. Then let your husband see that not only did your children eat processed macaroni and cheese for dinner but your dog is now pooping cardboard from having snatched the box while you were drinking wine in the bathroom. In other words, give up the act. You don’t have your shit together right now and that’s okay. You will rebound soon enough. In the meantime, cut yourself some slack and find solace in the comforts of being a total slacker. If it’s a good enough strategy for the Millennials, it’s good enough for you too.

Step 5 – Get help.   

For me, this meant finally taking the advice of my Dr. (and fellow Dearests) and starting medication. I also sought the help of a Chiropractor, a Healer and a Psychiatrist (it takes a village). It’s not easy to admit that to you. But, it’s a hell of a lot easier than spending one more day looking in the mirror and not realizing I was the drunk girl at the club with my bad boob hanging out.