An open letter to the mother who has (or wants) it all…but is going fucking insane in the process

An open letter to the mother who has (or wants) it all…but is going fucking insane in the process,

I was born in 1980. This meant that I grew up with a mother who worked outside of the home. I had parents who encouraged me to go to college and get an education. I had a mother who frequently told me to, “Find out what it is you love to do and then find a way to make a living out of it.” It was just normal for me to grow up understanding I could be a mother AND have a career. So if we can, “have it all”, why do we continue to feel like we’re going fucking crazy half the time?? Because I quickly realized while we can “have it all”…we can’t have it all, all at once. I put my career on hold for over a decade as I worked little jobs here or there so I could stay with my breastfed babies. We lived with very little money for MANY years. Lived with our parents or grandparents and then rented little apartments and houses until we could buy a house years later. It was hard and it was not as I imagined it would all go. Do I regret doing it this way? No. But what about this “having it all” thing? That’s what us women are supposed to be able to do, right? Well…not if you want to be with your young breastfeeding child most of the time.

Busy mother celebrity style…and Milk Meg style.

In the early 1800’s women had few options and no rights. We could not own property, we could not vote, the only thing most women were encouraged to do was get married, start having babies and keep house. Women could not sit down and think about what she wanted to be when she grew up…she sat down thinking about the man she would marry and the babies she would birth. So we’ve come a long way…but this doesn’t mean we are necessarily free.

The definition of free: Able to act or be done as one wishes; not under the control of another. So how does this apply to breastfeeding mothers who are trying to be with their babies while also continue their careers? How can they possibly feel free as they are attempting to “do (and have) it all”? And why are we going fucking crazy? I’ll tell you why we are going fucking crazy…because the feminist poster child of the working, pumping, breastfeeding mother does not have all hairs in place with a smile on her face. She has roots from her overdue hair appointment and a look of bewilderment as if saying…”is it supposed to be like this? Am I supposed to be happy?”

I wrote about my sister’s return to work here. About the pure insanity of her needing to return to work when her baby was just 8 weeks old. Still breastfeeding around the clock, waking frequently for feeds, always needing cuddles and comfort…the pressure of needing to make money to keep her house, health insurance and car. Driving to work 30 minutes each way, pumping while at work in the bathroom, stressing if she is going to struggle with supply and how her baby is when she is away all day. Thoughts about what he is doing and if he’s happy. Guilt about working too much and if it’s the right decision. This is “having it all” right? My sister is the actual poster child for all of this. The reality of what “having it all” actually looks like for so many of us.

My sister working while breastfeeding!

Many of us live in societies where women are expected to contribute financially to the family, while continuing to give “the best start” by breastfeeding their babies. We expect them to pull up their boot straps and keep on going’! Even though we are confused, overwhelmed, depressed, exhausted and made to feel like we should be grateful for the rights we now have. Well I’m here to say, we ARE grateful. And we are also going fucking crazy because we live in societies that have swung too far in the other direction. So far that we do not have structures put into place for women to actual achieve motherhood and career-hood in the same lifetime without feeling pulled in 500 directions with guilt dripping all over us and oozing out over everything we do.

I had a consultation recently with a woman in Europe about pumping and milk supply. She had spent the last decade building her career working in a bank. She went from making tea to managing an entire department. She was the poster child for working your way up in the workplace! An awesome achievement for her. And then she had a baby and her entire world (and priorities) changed. We often think (and I know I did as well), “Oh yes well I’ll have my baby and then I’ll just have someone watch her while I go back to work.” But then the time comes for this said return to work and we question everything. We crumble. We wonder, “What is actually happening here?” We feel guilty, we struggle with pumping and our supply, we worry about our baby, we try to organize ourselves while getting spit up on, breastfeeding, pumping, working, wondering what we can do for dinner…all while trying to appreciate this thing of “having it all”. Many of us realize we do in fact want “it all”…we just want to be with our babies for awhile first, without losing our entire career in the process or missing out on the opportunity to build one.

Here I am working while breastfeeding!

There is no easy answer to this. As women we need rights. And we can have it all. Just be patient. Many of us breastfeeding mothers who want careers while also want to be with our young children find that there is time for both…we can have it all, just not all at once. Patience…just waiting and perseverance. That’s the key to having it all without losing your shit in the process.

xx

“The Milk Meg”. Meg Nagle, IBCLC

 

 

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