I leave you with a personal anecdote

I am pretty worked up about all of this but I’m getting tired and I am going to have to let you all go. But first, a story. Early on, my son was difficult. He was colicky. He really just screamed for his first three months. It was hell. He wouldn’t sleep so that meant we didn’t either. He was born in winter. The only thing that calmed him down was putting him in a wrap and walking him outside. So I walked. And walked. And walked. Just about the time my maternity leave was about to end, he stopped. Really, just stopped like nothing ever happened. But I was insane with hormones, and exhaustion and feelings. I didn’t feel at all like I could go back to work. In fact, I didn’t even feel human. I felt like a walking milk machine. So I talked to my employers about coming back to work four days a week. I was a webmaster so I figured I could log on at home if there was an emergency. My boss and the woman in HR were both childless. I believe that they were annoyed that I had taken a maternity leave. I had also been put on bed rest for preeclampsia. They had fought me on it even though my doctor was insisting that I didn’t get out of bed. They wouldn’t negotiate on the alternate schedule. So I quit my job. I wasn’t ready physically. My son and I were just beginning to bond. I decided to put my health and my family first.

I started seeing a therapist because becoming a mother had brought up a lot of pain associated with my own childhood. I was very clear about what I wanted to talk about when I went into therapy. I found a therapist who described herself as a second wave feminist. I thought that was great so I started to see her on a weekly basis.

I told her that I planned to stay home with my son for his first year. I knew immediately that she didn’t approve of this plan. I had come in really ready to face some painful things about my family, but it was soon clear that she had her own agenda. Each and every week she brought up the fact that I wasn’t working. I explained to her my feelings, the rocky start I had with my son and the fact that I had worked since I was sixteen. I felt like taking a year off was right for me. It really wasn’t an issue.

But it was an issue for her. She told me I was listening to people with an agenda. She then brought up a butt load of academics who she represented as stating that mothers should go back to work. It was all very patronizing.

This was the beginning for me. I quit therapy and didn’t go back for many years. I hadn’t left feminism. But I was going to choose what was best for me. I saw what putting a religion before their own happiness had done to my parents. I wasn’t about to put a political movement (or a job) in front of my own.

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5 thoughts on “I leave you with a personal anecdote

  1. Forget what wave you’re talking, I just don’t understand how it’s feminist to judge another individual’s decisions regarding how to negotiate her own body and family.

  2. I don’t understand how taking some time off of work to raise your children, particularly with the intention of going back to work, is unfeminist. It’s not like you told her, “Well, now that I’m married and popping out babies, I intend to sit around the house watching soaps after the kids are in school and eating bon-bons, and defer all the important decisions to my spouse, because my silly little girl head just can’t handle all that complex life stuff.”

  3. Pingback: Mothers in the Legal Profession No. 258 — Wild Women Do « Today Advocating Tomorrow

  4. “My boss and the woman in HR were both childless. I believe that they were annoyed that I had taken a maternity leave”
    this is maybe because some cannot choose to have kids. Even if they are childless by choice, it is natural to feel slighted because of a choice you made different than everyone else’s. I don’t doubt parenting is hard but keep in mind you chose it.

  5. A. Roddy but the point I’m trying to make is that most people are parents. Despite this we have very little workplace protections for parents. Under the FMLA, maternity leave is mandated by law. And it is a measly, pathetic maternity compared to the rest of the world. The real point I’m trying to make is that parents should organize and fight for better workplace treatment.

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