What is the ONE thing all working mom’s have in common? Okay, let me be more specific. What is the one thing all mothers who work outside of the home and pay someone else to watch their child/children all have in common?
I will give you a hint. It starts with “G” and ends with “T”.
(No, ‘gut’ is not the answer. Although, after baby #2 I still have a squishy belly myself.)
I have been a working mother for four and half years now. I chose to breastfeed both of my children and belong to a self-disclosed nursing mother’s group at my job. We advocate for space and time to pump breast milk in the workplace and help mothers understand their rights under state and federal law that protects their right to breastfeed. We maintain pumping facilities at work and provide support to new mothers who return to work. We have banded together and pushed our employer to build designated nursing spaces on site. No more pumping in my bosses office with a chair in front of the door so no one walks in on me (there was no lock on the door…). And NO! A public restroom is not a “nursing space”. Would you eat your lunch in the bathroom? Anyone who tells you you have to use the bathroom to express breastmilk at work is breaking a federal law.
Breastfeeding is a journey, and a very personal one. It’s a one of a kind bond that only mammals experience. In some mammals, without the consumption of colostrum and the antibodies it provides to the newborn, the babies will get sick and die. Did you hear that? Not only is breastmilk actual FOOD, but if some species of mammal do not have access to their mother’s colostrum, they will D.I.E. Breast Milk (a.k.a liquid gold) is not an obscene “bodily function”, it’s nutrition.
The mother’s job is to get her baby to survive and thrive among all of the obstacles. I think this is why working moms are so conflicted. The one thing that I find over, and over, and over again as I speak to new mothers returning to the workplace, who may also be struggling with breastfeeding/pumping issues, is how BAD the mother feels for returning to her job and leaving her baby.
Babies cry when they are separated from their mothers. In fact, they cry a lot. This means an attachment has been made. Leaving your child in the care of other people, such as a daycare provider, is hard for babies (until they adjust or get used to the caretakers). And mothers viscerally feel every single heartbreaking cry and tear that our babies produce. We feel pain when we are separated from our children too.
As adults, we have the power of the mind to help up cope and rationalize these negative feelings (I really need my paycheck, baby won’t remember this when s/he gets older, I was left at daycare, my sister did it with her kids, it’s just what people do), but our bodies still react. Some breastfeeding moms experience a drop-in supply when they return to the office. Some get clogged ducts because a pump just isn’t as efficient as a nursing infant to clear out the milk. We experience stress and anxiety (what if my breasts start to leak while I am in a meeting?). We carry extra shirts and towels with us. And most of all we feel GUILT. We think about our babies during the work day and feel like we suck as employees. And we feel guilty we are at work while our child is being influenced and held by a stranger’s arms.
That’s what all working mothers have in common. We have guilt about dropping off our babies and having to walk away while they cry out for us. And it’s hard. I am not saying that working is evil. I am not suggesting that women need to stay home or give up a job/career they love. I am just acknowledging that I see you. I see your struggle and I understand.
Much love to all the mamas.
Mrs. Mother Dirt