Reflections on Motherhood

On my first anniversary of becoming a mother I feel compelled to write about the very erratic attitudes that seem to be prevalent in American culture regarding motherhood. While there are a great many people who look down on stay-at-home mothers, what shocked me was how many people are offended by women who return to work while their child is under a year old.

Through my own struggles with a (female) boss who decided that motherhood had turned me into a bad therapist, I discovered that getting run off from a job after returning from maternity leave is surprisingly common.

The same employer who encouraged you to stay as long as possible, and saw you as indispensable while pregnant, suddenly sees you as damaged goods upon return. People seem to look for the virtues in a pregnant woman, and the shortcomings in a working mother.

It has become a new hobby of mine to discuss the experiences of new mothers in their first year, specifically in how the attitudes of those around them changes after giving birth.

Here are some of the common attitudes and prejudices the moms that I have talked to, encounter:

Stay-at-home moms, even well educated ones, are treated suddenly as undereducated, unsophisticated, un-ambitious, and occasionally they are seen as less intelligent than they were before the birth.

Working moms are seen as less professional or unprofessional, tired, hormonal, negligent of their children, cold, over-ambitious, and are perceived to have become less skilled and/or less valuable than they were before the birth.

In reality none of us have become less. As divine as the pregnant woman is often seen, the new mother seems to be seen as proportionately vulgar. But the truth is nothing has been accomplished until the baby comes out safely. It is the process of not just learning to be a mother, but of learning to become a good parent that we should value most. A process that cannot truly begin until the pregnancy has ended.

It is this same process that new mothers find themselves engulfed in when making the decision to stay at home or return to work. No matter what she chooses the path ahead will take skill, intellect, and resourcefulness to manage. It is not a choice any of us take lightly and regardless of the path chosen, mothers should not be looked down upon.

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I didn't realize you had become a mother. Happy birthday to your child!

I really enjoyed parenthood. By watching my two sons' mental, emotional and physical development, I could be re-introduced to the world anew.

My wife and I both stayed at home. I worked on software projects, she did farming, and we homeschooled the boys. They were involved in our businesses at an early age. We lived a cheap life, but it was our choice.

My brother-in-law (who was used to English culture where the children need to be on a waiting list for the proper school ten years before they enter at age six) got worked up at a family dinner and said that we would be divorced and bankrupt and our children dead before they saw their fifth birthdays. If they happened to survive, they would wander the earth as outcasts without a single culture (they had Dutch, South African, and American citizenship). It stung at the time, but luckily we didn't let it stop us from living as we decided was best.

There are a lot of mean-spirited fools out there. Try to avoid them and find people to interact with that help you enjoy your life, and the life of your child.