Saturday, September 17, 2016

Heroes Can Be Human

I hate that moms are considered superheroes in our society.
That shit needs to stop.
I very much understand that parenting is undervalued in our society, but the idea that mothers are superheroes is not doing anyone any favors.
Have you seen the viral news story about the mom pumping while running a marathon?  She posted the photo with #normalizebreastfeeding.

Uhh...No. No. Please don't.

A photo of Hein Koh working while breastfeeding her twins went viral not very long ago. The internet blew up with articles praising Koh for proving children "don't hold women back". Hooray for moms! We are so strong and powerful! Look at how well we make it work!
Yeah..y'all need to stop.

These women are kicking ass and taking all kinds of names, but can we all agree that they are (hopefully) not normalizing anything? Can we all take a step back and see that a woman nursing twins while working is no more "Making It Work" than Angela Cavallo was when she lifted the car off her kid?
I'm sorry, they are unbelievable women, but Koh, marathon-mom, and the like cannot be celebrated as symbols of motherhood. They don't represent mothers; they hardly represent humans. (Are we sure that they ARE in fact humans, because I have my doubts.) Or maybe they do represent motherhood, but that's not a good thing.
     To me, these photos only illustrate that pressure on mothers to has really come to a fever pitch. Women are led to believe that if they are not simultaneaously June Cleaver and Beyonce, they have not lived up to what motherhood is supposed to be. Across the internet, women bemoan their own inadequacy with the hashtag #mommyfail.  "I bought a cupcake without sprinkles", "I forgot her swim lesson", "I missed the first day of school pic".
Don't get me wrong, I'm obviously not blaming the hashtag. I am well aware that people love to poke fun at themselves for silly misadventures in parenting. As a matter of fact, poking fun at myself for misadventures in parenting happens to be my forte. However, it's important to realize that by only joking about "failures", and holding demigods up as the only examples of #momsuccess, we begin to create an unachievable standard, and trivialize the difficulty of being a parent.
     When I was in the center of my depression, I remember wondering to myself why everyone else seemed to be handling parenting so well. It seemed like everyone thought it was hard, but also cute, and silly and fun. Everything I read, from ecards, to newspapers, to parenting literature diminished the difficulty of just being a mom.  During our birth class, the doctor warned that women are particularly sensitive during this time because of adjusting hormones. They warned against "Mommy Burnout"?
Are you fuckin' kidding me?
We Can Do It!!
     "Oh those silly mommies and their horomones. If they weren't so emotional and weak, maybe they would deal better with being able to sleep five hours a night in 45 minute chunks and then working full time. Dads, try to be sensitive to her moodiness."
     When I called in hysterics literally begging the doctor to help me with Amani's eating and sleeping schedule, the nurse told me to have someone watch he baby and go get a manicure.  A MANICURE? I am alone, recovering from an infection, nursing my child every 45 minutes round the clock, while she holds daily four-hour-long crying fits everyday, and you think a MANICURE is the solution?
     The way I saw it, the onus was on me. I would say to myself,  "This is parenting. It's hard. Everybody knows that. Yet people succeed at it everyday. Suck it up, just like all the other parents do."   I would not ask for help; not when I was becoming septic; not when Amani had GERD; not when I was in the deepest darkest of despair. I wouldn't ask for help, because I didn't think there was anything anyone could do to help me, and I was weak for even complaining about it.
     I say this as one of the most priviledged in our society. I am white, educated, and upper middle class with a healthy and supportive family. I can only imagine how difficult parenting must be and how lonely other women must feel. Imagine if Koh's photo had not been a woman at her laptop in bed, but of a women wearing double baby carriers while she worked the register at McDonalds.
Or handed out fliers on the street.
Or cleaned a hotel room.
Somehow #Makingitwork doesn't seem appropriate. If we posted accurate reflections of "superhero" moms, the hastag would read  #maternityleavenow

To her credit, Koh noted that she holds a position of priveledge.
"I couldn't [be a working mom] without the support system that I have and I'm very fortunate in that regard. However, many moms don't have enough support and it's pathetic that out of all of the industrialized nations, the U.S. offers the least amount of support for working moms... I'm self-employed and I choose to work, having a flexible schedule and a support system in place, but so many moms don't have choices and are forced to go back to work way too soon after giving birth."
     It used to be that science thought women had a higher pain tolerance than men because, well, how else could they possibly endure labor? Turns out, that no, women aren't able to give birth because they have superpowers. Women are able to endure labor because they have to.
We need a similiar paradigm shift with regards to "superhero moms". Mothers should not have to be super human to maintain a job or a hobby. Our society needs to shift our perspective of parenting to give families the support they need.

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