Meet Jessica Shortall
Loves, I’m thrilled to bring you a guest post from Jessica Shortall who is on a mission after my own heart. She is writing a must-have book for working moms all about PUMPING. I’m busy writing a review of the book this week and I can’t wait to share that with you soon. Sit back and enjoy Jessica’s post this week!
Realizing I’m Allowed to Want Things in a Post-Baby World
A few hours after my first baby was born, my OB/GYN stopped by my hospital room. I was snuggled in bed, attempting to feed my son, when she popped in and asked, “How are you feeling?”
I burst into an ugly cry. “I DON’T WANT TO GO BACK TO WORK!” I wailed.
“Isn’t that twelve weeks from now?” she asked.
Having that baby was like a lightning bolt for me, and ambitious as I am in my career, at that moment, and for many months after, I couldn’t imagine working another day in my life.
For whatever reason, I happened to dread leaving my baby to go back to work. I quickly learned that society rewards that kind of reaction. I got a lot of sympathy. People told me I was a great mom, and reassured me that it was “natural” for me to feel that way.
In the ensuing years, I’ve talked to hundreds of working moms, as part of writing and publishing a guide for working, breastfeeding women (you can pre-order a copy of the book, here: workpumprepeat.com ). I learned that a good number of women are really excited to go back to work after they have their babies.
Every single one of these women loves her baby as much as I do mine. But because they feel this way, they never hear, “it’s only natural to feel that way.” And they REALLY never hear “That’s because you’re such a great mom.” They feel judged – they often ARE judged – and they begin to question themselves. Do I love my baby less? Is there something wrong with me?
We aren’t really allowed to want to work after we have children. So most of us end up saying something like this:
“I’m going back to work because I want my kids to see that women can work and be successful.”
I said this a lot. I got lots of nods and sympathetic noises of support. It was just another way to present myself to the world as a good mother: “I’m only doing this because it’s in my kids’ best interest!”
We don’t just do this about work, either:
– I work so I can set an example for my daughter.
– I exercise because I need energy to play with my children.
– I go on dates with my husband because I want my children to have parents who are in a healthy relationship.
When we do this, we are saying – and others are validating – that our choices are only okay if they are made for our children. We are not allowed to do things because – wait for it – we simply want to do them. Because exercise makes us happy, because we want to go on dates with our spouses, because we want to have fulfilling careers when our kids are off in college, doing keg stands and not calling us.
We do a lot for our kids. This week, I pretended to be a dog as my toddler aggressively rode me while smacking me in the face with a toy. But we have to stop agreeing with the idea that we’re not allowed to make choices for our OWN happiness. That habit devalues us as individuals.
Do you want to know how deeply ingrained this habit is? As a wrap-up, I’m tempted to say that ignoring our own happiness is a bad idea because it sets a bad example for our daughters. Good Lord, it’s a hard habit to root out!
Instead, I’ll say only that I’m committing, here and now, to remember to value my individuality, because it’s good for me. Just me.