Mandated Me Madness

maternity leave

Looking at the headlines yesterday I was astonished to see a certain article up on the New York Post. Believe me there are many headlines these days that shock, sadden and disgust me. We live in a sick world by many standards, and many may think this particular article is no big deal. Indeed, at a first glance, and compared to many more gruesome and disturbing stories, it’s not in most ways. But this article, I Want All of the Perks of Maternity Leave- Without Having Any Kids, has a sneaky sinister selfish way of looking at things. Isn’t that how the system always gets inside all of our heads a little bit? By appealing to our less charitable sides, our weaknesses, like greed and general self-absorption? This is what sucks us women in easily, otherwise why would there be shopping malls? Endless beauty and body products coupled with advertisers telling us we are ‘worth it’ target us specifically. Even home goods and cleaning products are designed to allure and draw us ladies to spend our dollars where they want us to, all the while feeding the little green monster inside of all of us little by little, until many women become obsessed with products, never having enough and always wanting more.

After all, why do they have a fashion week in Paris, if not to rush out the new cuts and styles, so women brainwashed by this culture will come and spend their money again and again every year? Always chasing that beautiful image or idea or idiot shopping spree on Black Friday that so many men and women engage in. Always appealing to me me me.

The subject of this article- Meghann Foye, a thirty-eight year-old businesswoman is no less sickening. As mentioned at the outset, this delusional drama queen thinks all women should have a “sabbatical-like break that shift their focus to the part of their lives that doesn’t revolve around their job.” Just to be clear, she meant women who weren’t expecting a baby. Just random time off to do what you please. She also said that men could have this too, although to a ‘lesser extent’.

Awww. How kind of her.

As a seasoned mom of four, whose never even been allowed maternity-leave, this is one of the most infuriating, offensive and selfish statements I’ve ever read. When a woman gets pregnant, she gets very ill at first. Then her body begins to spread. Her bust-line, waistline, and ugh- her feet- as they feel they are supporting much more than two lives, one of them very tiny. Swelling to the point of bursting pain can happen anywhere on the body, and most times it’s everywhere. Hands and feet can look like balloons at the point of popping, and trust me they feel that way too. A myriad of symptoms happen to many different ladies as we and our pregnancies are all unique.

Then the labor and delivery. The ripping and tearing that can last from several hours to a few days. Unless you opt for the pain meds, then you are in a world of hurt that knocks the breath clear out of you. More spreading, more tearing, more excruciating pushing. The random nurses and med students that come into the room just to stick their hand up there repeatedly- some are more gentle than others- but still, ‘just to check’. Checking your dilation, your catheter, or the little metal fetal monitor that they stuck in the baby’s soft tiny head almost as soon as you walked in the door and got your coat off. Those agonizing seconds before the baby takes the first breath. The terror of complications. The demoralizing car seat lessons they put you through even though this isn’t even your first child. The rage when you woke up an hour later- after eighteen hours of labor- and they gave your baby a bottle even though you explicitly stated repeatedly that you were breastfeeding your child. The aggravations and lowest points when they poked at you and your child- the baby screaming in pain from the injuries they suffered from strangers, while you laid there powerless- until you can finally leave holding your baby in your lap as they wheel you out. The front that they took such tender, good care of you and your child, while you grind your teeth and can’t get home fast enough to show your baby that life is so much more than harsh bright lights, sharp objects and the smell of sterility, shit, and death.

Back to this person, Foye, who believes she should have those same weeks off for a non-event. Just wanted it because she saw her co-workers getting paid leave so they could recover from this exhausting, excruciating experience. Time spent the first few weeks bonding with the baby before they are separated for the first time- for what to the baby- seems like years every working day. Foye wanted this time to challenge herself. “It should be about digging into your whole life and emerging from it more confident in who you are.”

She needed time off of work for that? Wouldn’t it be awesome if a real maternity leave were as easy as this ‘Me-ternity leave’?

Once the mother and child are home there is a sense of peace and joy for that first day. Just the relief of knowing you both made it through a life-threatening experience, and now you can get to know this special person- this new permanent installment in your family- your life. Once night falls however, it becomes difficult again. The mother is overtired from the pregnancy, labor and delivery. But infants need to be fed every two hours whether you need rest or not. Struggling to roll out of bed without ripping yourself back open, and still managing to handle a baby that’s under ten pounds while you’re dead tired and half asleep is no small feat, and is especially hard the first time around. Nodding off during feedings. Of course father’s say they’ll help out, sometimes they really do. Most likely though, it’s the mom that hears the baby’s faint cries and wakes up, turns on the light, and tends to a screaming baby while the father snores blissfully. I’m not a jealous person, but those nights I felt great envy that my husband was getting a full night of uninterrupted deep sleep, while I felt like a twenty minute nap every hour was golden. In the morning he was always sorry, maybe changed the diapers when the baby was a bit bigger, or did the dishes even, but then was out the door and back at work, supporting us. If you have little ones already, they are full of energy and tag-teaming you before the car is out of the drive-way. Ah Good times. They really were good times. Wouldn’t trade that time for all the gold in the world.

But make no mistake. This was not a restful ‘sabbatical’. It was not a peaceful time, spent on self-reflection, or me-time. This was a time for the greatest sacrifices I’ve ever made, each time, and it was glorious. But it was because I was focused on, and giving to- my loved ones. Not myself. Really, where is the satisfaction in serving myself? There isn’t any. No amount of time off, relaxing, sunbathing, exercising, reading, breathing and doing yoga could ever give me that ‘confidence’ that Foye was seeking. When she schemed with a pregnant co-worker to ‘fake a pregnancy, baby-bump and all’ so she could put her feet up and catch up on her Netflix. Sorry lady, but life never works that way for anyone. If you want what you saw your co-workers gain, the self-assuredness, the assertiveness, and the ‘whole new lens’ through which to see your life, then you have to work hard, you have to sacrifice, endure great discomfort and pain. You have to be a mother. It’s not something you gain by lying on the beach for a couple of months enjoying margaritas. Speaking of which- This was the worst part.

“It seemed that parenthood was the only path that provided a modicum of flexibility. There’s something about saying, ‘I need to go pick up my child’ as a reason to leave the office on time that has far more gravitas than say, ‘My best friend just got ghosted by her OKCupid date and needs a margarita’- Both sides are valid”.

No. No they are not.

Imagine a record or tire screech. This is the sound in my head every time I read this insipid, ignorant statement.

Try sitting up all night with a kid that can barely breath with pneumonia, or puking and shitting their gust out from the flu. The worry, the terror. The pain of watching your child suffer. Wishing and praying it were you instead.

Perhaps that might be a stretch for our more selfish people.

Taking them to school, the doctor, the dentist, everywhere you go really since you obviously can’t leave the child home alone. Lessons, practice, tutoring, rehearsals, and good old parent-teacher conferences. Those times when you are so sick you shouldn’t leave the bed, but who else will care for them but you? Please, tell me Foye, where is the modicum of flexibility in not even being able to take a crap without your toddler, or even the whole gang of them there for an uninvited audience. And yet, you still rather them stay in the bathroom with you where you can keep an eye on them? This is a ‘modicum of flexibility’?

Get real and write on things you know about please. The only flexibility in any of this is performed by you, the mother. If you aren’t flexible to your families’ needs, then how will you ever keep them from killing themselves? Because that’s what it comes down to. From the time they can walk up until they leave the house- that’s your nerve-wracking job. Keeping them safe from themselves and the world around them. A toddler can have a brush with death or disablement every ten seconds when they’re busy and full of energy. They don’t say that you lose your baby-weight running after them for no reason.

This Foye woman has even wrote a book on this, about a woman who ‘fakes a pregnancy and discovers some hard truths about what it’s really like to have it all’. Cashing in on more alluring illusions, that childless mothers take for truth. Kind of hard to write on a perspective you’ve never been in, but who knows? Maybe she interviewed some real mothers?

Nah. If she did, and really listened to what they had to say, she would never take a maternity leave- which is a necessity- as a vacation- an extra.

“If I am not for myself, then who will be for me? If I am not for others, what am I? And if not now, when?” Perhaps we all can take a lesson from the second part of this quote too, not just the first part- that everyone is obsessed with.

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