Friday evening, after a long week of work, an article about your new book popped up in my newsfeed on Facebook. All about your book on how childless women need a “meternity leave.”
As a working mom who has already had one maternity leave and will start my second at the end of this year, I was curious. The first time I read the story about you, I rolled my eyes. I was annoyed. You painted maternity leave as a time of self-reflection and a time to learn about yourself rather than the reality of maternity leave – the lack of sleep, the never-ending nursing sessions, and the endless diapers.
I tried to put you out of my mind, but then, as expected, rebuttals started popping up about what maternity leave is really like. That’s not what I want to bring up to you – it’s been talked about enough.
I want to know one thing – the pregnant friend mentioned in this article? Did you ever visit her when she did go on maternity leave? If you did, what version of leave did you see and what kind of visit was it? The “hey here’s dinner, bye see you” visit? The “Aww the baby is so cute here’s a present for him” visit? Or did you do the visit new moms love – the one where you come in, deliver dinner, do the dishes in her sink, start a load of laundry, command she take a shower while you hold the baby, and take out the trash? Or did you do as I suspect, and not visit her at all?
Meghann, you mention in your article that women returning from their leave come back and seem more sure of themselves. You mention a shift in focus and priorities and a renewed sense of self. You attribute it to the time off and the time away from the workplace, but that’s not what it is. That’s not what you’re seeing – time away is not the thing that changed them.
You want to know what changed those women? Creating a person changed them. Having a human being that depends on you for everything, that you love so much you can’t stand it sometimes – that changed them. Having a person that you want to give anything and everything to, that you want to have so much more than you do – that changed them. It’s what you do as a mother.
It’s different for every woman, but I know from experience that motherhood has changed me. From the moment I saw the positive pregnancy test, I was a mom, and my mindset changed to keeping her healthy while she grew. The moment my daughter was born, I just couldn’t believe I had brought new life into the world – in fact, the first thing I said after she was born was “I can’t believe I did it.”
Motherhood is a lot of things – confusing, exhausting, all-encompassing, the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. It’s putting another person before you, always. Motherhood is letting go of perfection, of not worrking about the little things. It’s prioritizing and seeing the big picture. Motherhood is thinking of your child before you do anything – from going out to dinner to making a career change. It’s impossible to put into words, but that change you’re seeing? It’s that above all, motherhood is empowering. And that empowerment? It translates into every part of your life, including your job when you go back to work.It’s motherhood that’s changed in these women.
So your “meternity?” It’s nothing like maternity leave. It’s much more of a long vacation. I am not against women (and men, for that matter) taking a break from work. Take your vacation, your me-time, your sabbaticals. I applaud you for doing that – it’s good for everyone. But it’s not the same as maternity leave. Those things are never going to give you that same change you’ve seen after maternity leave… because that change belongs to motherhood.
[bctt tweet=”@megfoye Time away from work is not what changed those women… motherhood is. https://www.beingmrsbeer.com/2016/05/open-letter-meghann-foye/” username=”beingmrsbeer”]