Ever since time began, in many cultures, babies have simply just been with their mamas, whether that meant going to work or staying home. Wrapped on their mamas backs with cloth, or perhaps strapped on in a basket, depending on where they were from, it wasn’t considered weird or out of place that if you had a baby, they would be with you, wherever you went. Our current culture not only doesn’t support that line of thinking, but in my experience downright discourages it. There is immense pressure on women to return to work as soon as possible postpartum, and it’s practically unheard of that your child would be anywhere near you after you resume working.
As I have mentioned before, due to financial reasons I went back to teaching when my twins were three weeks old. And I kept them with me while I taught. Did they cause disruptions? Of course they did at times, they are BABIES. But they learned to adapt, I wore them or had them nearby and we found our groove. As I taught long hours, I was ever so blessed to have my wonderful amazing parents to help, (mamas need their villages!) and sometimes they would stroll them or just play with them in another room to give them a break, but they were never apart from me for more than an hour. The majority of my student parents were understanding, but some were not. I received all manner of interesting feedback, ranging from “how do you focus” to “but really when will you put them in daycare? Don’t you want a break?” A break? I was working anyway. And I waited all my life for these kids. Why would I want to send them away? I want to raise my babies, I want to soothe their cries, see their smiles, watch their first steps. I’m going to blink and they will be off to college, and then they won’t be my babies anymore. And I need to work. I need to help provide for my family. I find it extremely frustrating that our society makes it difficult, and most of the time impossible, to merge the two.
I’m blessed to work for myself, it made it possible for me to make the decision that I would “bring” my babies to work. Not all women are so fortunate. Imagine bringing your baby to the average desk job, you’d be fired faster than a blink. Why is that?! I understand high risk jobs, places that are unsafe to have a child, but why can’t we as a society make it possible for parents to both support their families and raise their children themselves? Personally, I think it’s sad. You can’t even be in the same room as your child if you work at most day cares. What is that even about?! My husband and I recently moved back home to live with my parents for a while so we could cut our workweek down and have weekends off as a family (this subject merits two other posts, a hilarious one on living in a tiny house with six adults two babies and a cat/dog zoo, and an angry post on how ridiculous it is to make a living these days, standby for future postings). Being a piano teacher I am working on rebuilding my studio after our move, which takes time. Meanwhile, I’ve been doing odd jobs, one of which has been sign shaking on the street for my Aunt’s women’s gym. Definitely not a job I’d choose as a career path, but it’s been helping pay our bills for now. And I have my babies with me, in my wonderful TwinGo carrier. (If you have two small children, you need this carrier, just trust me). But back to the sign shaking. It’s exhausting waving a sign and carrying around 40 pounds of babies. For this admittedly out of shape mama, it’s meant sore muscles and aching back. But my point in discussing this is the reaction I’ve gotten from people.
Yes, I’ve been called a hero, applauded, sympathized with and encouraged. But I’ve also been the ever so fortuitous recipient of shocked looks, incredulity, and even harsh judgment. One lady went so far as to lean out of her car and scream horrible unkind words. “What kind of mother has her children out on the street?!” she shrieked, didn’t I know they were in the sun?! What I wished I had said was that I was doing whatever it took to put food on the table for my family, that my children were scrupulously sunscreened and at least they were at the one place in the world they wanted to be, with their mommy. Sadly I am never good in the moment and instead of answering her back I retreated hastily behind a tree to hide my tears. Yes, it’s hot out there. I’m careful to give them breaks and they’re not getting heat stroke. How many thousands of children in this world have survived strapped on their mamas back while working in the fields?! But having your children at work? Socially unacceptable, frowned upon, and shamed. Recently I’ve been applying for nanny positions in the effort of providing for my family while my studio rebuilds. And I have been TURNED DOWN for childcare positions because, wait for it…I would HAVE MY OWN CHILDREN WITH ME. I literally have had people fail to understand why I don’t have my children in childcare while I provide childcare to others. Y’all, that is weird. It just is.
And lately I’ve taken my own humble pill. I fully admit to my hatred of being invited to selling parties. No I don’t want to buy your candles/leggings/nail polish. But I have realized lately that most of these invitations are coming from mamas who are trying desperately to make an income without leaving their children. My mom and I started selling children’s books and in the next month will also be doing essential oils. Both are topics I am passionate on, and I have been frustrated by how many doors have been slammed in our faces. It’s meant for a “come to Jesus” moment for me. No longer will I fume at your party invites, I get it. I get how hard it is to be able to both work and be with your children.
Imagine a world where not only did mamas get adequate maternity leave, but once they resumed work their children simply came with. What would that change? For pumping mamas, you could continue typing that email while sticking a baby on your boob. It could mean no longer choosing between taking a family weekend or paying for childcare that week. Would there be more interruptions in workflow? Of course. Would it mean an all over higher level of happiness for mom and baby and thus better life quality and work output overall? Could it positively affect the drastic rise in women experiencing postpartum depression? (Oh PPD, yet another topic on which I am passionate and will write about…)
What would it change for you mamas? Share your stories, maybe, just maybe, one day we can even make being a mama mainstream (again).