children, maternity leave, parenthood, pregnancy, pregnant, pressure

Kate & Tammy: Killing The Rest of Us Softly

I’m feeling conflicted about recent current events involving moms and their newborn babies. On the one hand, it’s so important for women to be able to feel good about themselves, to embrace their pregnant and post-pregnant bodies and to juggle it all. From this point of view, I applaud Senator Tammy Duckworth for bringing her newborn baby to the Senate floor. And I say, “Hello Kate!” as she exits the hospital with huge smiles 7 hours after giving birth.

If Duckworth is only able to vote by being present, and she doesn’t want to leave little Maile at home in order to cast her vote, then I applaud her. She has made history so many times in her life, and this was just one more feather in the hat for her historic moves. It’s wonderful to recognize that women aren’t going to sit home for weeks or months after they give birth and that it’s ok for women to bring their new babies out with them even if they have to nurse and change diapers along the way.

It’s also wonderful for Kate to show the world that women aren’t sick after giving birth; that they can get up and get moving and smile for the press hours after having their baby. I also LOVE (and I wrote about this when Kate had George) that she isn’t hiding her post-pregnant body from the world. While many models and those crazy Kardashians will hide out for weeks if not months after a baby, waiting until their bodies look just so and they are ready to strip down to their bikinis again for the press, Kate is out there in those amazing post-maternity clothes rocking her bump. Good for her.

On the other hand, and boy do I have an on the other hand, these women are setting some crazy standards for the rest of us. Do we have to get out of bed within seconds of having a baby to do our hair and makeup and greet the world? Can’t we stay in bed for a while and snuggle with the new miracle and just enjoy some family time? Do we, as working women, have to get back to our proverbial ‘Senate floors’ just days after having a baby and can we only find a way to keep working by dragging that kid along with us?

The troops get Kate and Tammy ready to go to the public with their babies.

As someone who did the baby thing six times, I can tell you that I barely knew which end was up after having each of my kids. It took me weeks, if not months, to come up for air and to be able to cope with it all. And work? Well, I was luckier than many and had 12-14 weeks off with each baby. And even that felt like half a second; I couldn’t believe it each time when it was time to return to work and to start trying to juggle it all again. On the one hand, Kate and Tammy are showing us that women can be kick-ass. We can give birth and look like supermodels hours later; we can have a baby and be voting on the Senate floor with a baby strapped to us within weeks. But on the other hand, they are setting completely unrealistic expectations for the rest of us. Because most of us couldn’t possibly get up and greet our fans hours after giving birth; most of us don’t even remember where we work a week after having a baby, let alone have the ability to get to that place and function with our baby in our arms.

When we moved to Israel and I quickly started to inquire what the birthing process would be like for me, I was surprised by the differences that I found from my American experience. Israel sees birth as a natural process which should include as little medical intervention as possible. The hospitals encourage women to give birth unmedicated and most of the people that I know did so; they also don’t treat you like you’re sick afterwards. I was shocked to learn that I would be walking to the cafeteria to get my meals after delivery for the two days in the hospital – but they are sending the message that you aren’t sick or disabled. You can get up and fend for yourself a bit (and moving around is healthy for you as well). I appreciated these approaches.

But at the same time, I would not want anyone to expect me to be up and running hours, or even weeks, after having a baby. And I wouldn’t want my boss or my company to assume that I could (or should) function until I was ready to do so. I haven’t even touched on the idea that babies are actually a major distraction and to assume that you can work while your baby is with you, or that others can do so while your baby coos nearby, is shortsighted. But that’s an entirely different post.

I have serious admiration for women who are able to do it all. But at what price are they doing it? And what message do they send to the rest of us who might not be able to do quite so much of it all so quickly? Of course, while they are doing it all “alone,” no one focuses on the teams of people who they’ve hired to help them to do it all. Kate has every resource in the world at her fingertips with people waiting in the wings to do her makeup, hair, clothes and drug cocktails to help her to exit the hospital. When she is overwhelmingly exhausted after her debut, she can hand the baby off to 100 different baby nurses and wait staff, get in her pajamas and sleep. Senator Duckworth undoubtedly has staff that helped her get out of the house with that tiny baby and get to the Senate floor. The rest of us, however, don’t have this assistance. And sending us the message that we should be able to handle it all like they are might just be setting up impossibly high expectations for the rest of the regular population.

Mazal tov Kate and Tammy. We are so happy for you. But you might just be killing the rest of us as you show off your new life and make history.

Something to think about today.

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For another perspective, check out my friend’s blog. It’s worth it. I promise.

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