Moms of the World: How Women Tackle the Myths of Motherhood

Motherhood Manifesto: How Does the Ultimate Feminist Take on the Challenge of Becoming a Mom? Image Credit: Flickr

How women take on motherhood, and all the challenges that come with it, has been an issue I have always been intrigued by though I did not always understand it.

In my twenties, I spent much of my time lamenting about motherhood being equally imprisoning as marriage. In my thirties, being a married woman who is expecting her first child any day now, I of course realize how incorrect I was to generalize an amazing and complicated experience that connects women from around the world.

One of the best discoveries I stumbled upon in my own pregnancy, aside from my 200lb swollen hands and feet, was the incredible resource women are to you when you are expecting. Women are a wealth of knowledge as you try to navigate through pregnancy and impending motherhood.

So naturally as questions of tackling work-motherhood balance plague my mind now more than ever, I decided the best people to get answers from would be other moms. My good friend from college Camila Figueroa de Fernández and I came up with the idea to speak with mom friends I had from around the world about the greatest challenges they faced as mothers, what surprised them the most about motherhood, and if they think it is ever possible to achieve balance as a mom. I asked every friend the same five set of questions.

Perhaps one of the biggest bonuses for this post was that famed author, Heidi Murkoff, of the What to Expect When You’re Expecting books and brand, whose daily newsletter was a lifesaving guide for my husband and I throughout my pregnancy, agreed to share her five greatest motherhood myths!

So how does the ultimate feminist, aka me, take on the challenge of becoming a mom? As you can see in the following series of interviews with these amazing new moms, with a lot of help from my friends.

But first, Heidi tells us what to expect, and what not to, as new moms.

Heidi Murkoff’s Five Biggest Motherhood Myths:

Heidi Murkoff, Author of What to Expect When You Are Expecting. Image Credit: CBS

1) Myth: Women are born moms. Reality: Actually, moms aren’t born, they’re made on the job- one sleepless night, one dirty diaper, one colic bout at a time.

2) Myth: Bonding is like super glue- sticks for life at first touch. Reality: It’s a gradual process that starts at birth but takes months to form.

3) Myth: Breast feeding comes naturally. Reality: It’s a natural process, and the best and easiest way to feed baby, but takes time, effort and support at first.

4) Myth: There’s such a thing as a perfect mom. Reality: All moms are super, but none of us are super-human. We can’t do it all/do it all well because we’re only human.

5) Myth: It’s normal to be depressed postpartum. Reality: Baby blues fade within weeks, but depression that continues/interferes with functioning may be postpartum depression (PPD), and needs prompt medical treatment. Don’t wait out symptoms- get help right away so you can enjoy your baby.

Muna AbuSulayman Designing Her Fashion Line in Italy With One of Her Daughters. Ms. AbuSulayman is a Fmr. Saudi TV Host and the First Saudi Woman to be Appointed as a Goodwill Ambassador by the United Nations, Amongst Many Other Accomplishments.

Celebrity Mom: Muna AbuSulayman From: Riyadh, Saudi Arabia Lives In: Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

What is the most challenging thing you have found about Mommyhood?

I had a teenage pregnancy, and was saved only by one week from being a teenage mom.  So, there are too many challenges to count. From the dedication it takes to really choose the best possible path for someone who totally depends on you, to a young adult who had their own ideas, but does not understand the world to comprehend your point of view. The persistence you have to have as well as tenacity in order to ensure that you give them what they need, whether it is wearing their glasses all the time, even when their friends are making fun of them, to taking a foreign language so that they can establish the right neuron connections, as well as develop respect for other cultures, when they see no need for it and each lesson becomes a test in perseverance.

More and more women are talking openly about issues, such as postpartum depression and breast feeding, that may have been considered taboo in the past. What pregnancy or childbirth related issues do you wish women had told you more about?

I am well read, so I don’t have an issue with any of those typical issues that seem to be popping up now.  However, the one thing no one prepared me for was the extreme joy that you feel when you relive your childhood through your child’s experiences, or how difficult it is to let go of the kids as they head of to college, and the change in identity from mother to friend.

What is the greatest motherhood myth you have encountered as a mom yourself?

Nobody worked out the math of life for me. No one told me that if I started work at 22, I will work for 43 years straight to retirement, and that in the overall scheme of things, a few years off to concentrate on my family would not really hurt me.  Look, I grew up in the 80′s so I was a product of the feminst female quest to equality and I pushed myself too hard, worked too long, and took most opportunities as I thought they would not be repeated. So much so, that with my first daughter I did not enjoy her as much as I should have.  I am still upset about it, as I had her when I was 20, and now that I am nearing 40, I am going to lose her while I still have another 25 years of full time employment ahead of me. Nowadays, women are much more realistic and savvy about this, and many high powered women do take a few years off without major repercussions.

What would your advise be to new moms on how to tackle being a working mom? What worked best for you?

Seriously look at your finances, and figure out what is the maximum time off that you can take, and if it is more than year, make sure that you keep your hand in the game by updating yourself through courses, professional community work, joining causes and doing something substantial for them, so that when you go back to work, with a small internship at a good local company, you can easily find a job afterwards that is worth your while and one that fits with your experience and interests.

Women, especially as mothers, are always trying to achieve balance. Do you think this is possible as a mom?

No, I think one of the best ways to tackle issues like this is to give the right names.  I think the new trend of saying life/balance FIT is way better at showing how you juggle Mommyhood and work with a full year perspective rather than the balance, which forces you into a shorter term perspective.

New Mom, Paige Bobick, With Her Son. Image Credit: Paige Bobick

New Mom: Paige Bobick From: Charlotte, North Caroline Lives In: Charlottesville, Virginia

What is the most challenging thing you have found about Mommyhood?

Taking time to remember to be myself.  As a new mom, your life quickly becomes consumed by the precious new person in your life.  It is easy to go days without reading the news, calling your best friend, putting on makeup, or siting down for dinner with your spouse.  Especially in the early months, I struggled with taking time out to do anything for myself, because I felt like I was somehow neglecting my new duties as a mother.  After all, your baby will gladly take all your daily attention if you offer it.  Slowly, I have figured out how to fit in some of my own needs and interests throughout the day while my son naps or plays independently.  I think the best favor you can do yourself as a new mom is to figure out how not to lose yourself in your new role, while also immersing yourself in all the joys of being a mommy.

More and more women are talking openly about issues, such as postpartum depression and breast feeding, that may have been considered taboo in the past. What pregnancy or childbirth related issues do you wish women had told you more about?

One issue that I feel like is particularly taboo in American culture is co-sleeping.  All I ever heard about the issue before I had my son was to never put your baby in your bed, and that if you did, you would cause issues for the child (and you) down the road.  I received no information about the many positive benefits of co-sleeping, which is the norm in many other cultures.  When my husband and I made the decision to co-sleep with our son we felt like we had to keep it a secret or follow our admission that with co-slept with some sort of explanation.  In the beginning, when I sheepishly told some friends and family, they cringed and immediately informed me that we would regret it down the road.  Even our pediatrician showed some admonition for the practice. Then slowly, as I began to open up more about it, I found that more and more moms I encountered were willing to admit, “Yes, I co-sleep with my baby” and “Yes, it is a very positive experience for our family!”  There was a whole closeted co-sleeping culture that I finally uncovered.  We enjoyed three months of co-sleeping with our colicky little one before transitioning him to a crib in his own room in which he has slept in quite wonderfully for the last several months. I really wish that more moms would be more open about the issue and discuss why it worked for their family and just how wonderful having your sleeping angel next to you can be.

What is the greatest motherhood myth you have encountered as a mom yourself?

By far the greatest myth I have encountered is that there is a “right way” to do anything related to caring for your new baby!  As a new mom, you are constantly inundated with advice from friends and family about how to care for your new baby, from what to feed them, when they should sleep, where they should sleep, should you do immunizations, and how to schedule their day.  There are countless books you can read on these subjects which claim to have the “right” answers to all your baby concerns. I became incredibly frustrated with attempting to decipher all the conflicting advice from well-meaning friends and all the different books I was reading.  Finally, my husband and I decided to put the books away and trust our own instincts.  We took others’ advice with a grain of salt and implemented suggestions only when they seemed to work for our baby and our family.  The result has been a lot less fretting about whether we were doing everything right and a lot more confidence as new parents.

What would your advise be to new moms on how to tackle being a working mom? What worked best for you?

First, I would advise new working moms not to be afraid of taking advantage of whatever maternity leave and benefits are available to them.  As an attorney at a large international law firm, I knew the transition from independent working woman to working mom would be a challenging one.  I wanted to spend all the time I could with my son before heading back to the demands of my career.  I was lucky that my firm had a very generous paid maternity leave followed by the option to spend up to a year unpaid at home with your new baby.  My husband and I spent a good deal of time figuring out financially what made sense for our family and for my career track, and we settled on me staying home with the baby for the first seven months.  I couldn’t be happier with my decision.  I am going back to work after Labor Day, satisfied that I have spent this precious time with my son.  I have also decided to go back on a part-time basis to aid in the transition back to work.  In such a demanding position, I feel like part-time status will allow me to perform better in the workplace and as a mom.  I will let you know how it turns out!

Women, especially as mothers, are always trying to achieve balance. Do you think this is possible as a mom?

I think it is possible, but you have to redefine what you consider “balance”.  Once you have a baby, your “balance” will always be slightly tilted in favor of your child.  No longer are your needs and desires the first priority.  You do this instinctually and without hesitation.  So your balance will look a little different than it did pre-baby, but you can achieve it. 

New Mom, Camila Figueroa de Fernández, With Her Son. Image Credit: Camila Figueroa de Fernández.

New Mom: Camila Figueroa de Fernández From: San Salvador, El Salvador Lives In: San Salvador, El Salvador

What is the most challenging thing you have found about Mommyhood?

 The most challenging thing for me has been trying to balance family life and work. I hated having to go back to work, it was the hardest thing I had ever been through. My maternity leave was a little bit less than 3 months, as you can imagine, babies at that age can’t even hold their head on their own. I felt torn! I cried A LOT, was anxious and got the blues, even wondered if it was postpartum depression but I was very lucky it wasn’t!  This little baby depended on me for EVERYTHING and having to leave him all day just sucked big time. Of course, after days went by, I got used to a crazy routine: Feeding him really early in the morning, pumping milk before work, during lunch etc, and enjoying (and still do of course) the limited but very high quality time I have with him after work and in the mornings.

I still hate to think all the things and moments I’ve missed because I’ve been sitting at my desk at work. This is time that I will NEVER be able to have. On a positive note, becoming a mom has made me much more efficient at work. Work time is for working, my time at home is sacred. This year, for the first time as a mom and in this job, my team and I have reached our goals! I feel the work force in my country has yet to understand that people (some jobs allow this of course and my job does) can “work from home” thanks to technology. Even if your boss can understand this, many co-workers, especially women, don’t. It kills me to see that the perception of work is to be at an office from 8am to 5pm instead of accomplishing goals.

In addition to this, it’s frustrating to see several women with a university education (who were in managerial positions or close to them) stop working because they’ve only had two options: Return to work full-time or stay at home. Part-time jobs pay nothing, or do not pay half of what a full-time worker earns, so working part-time is barely an option. It’s a waste of talent isn’t it? Women whose families can afford living out of one income and prefer not to leave their kids all day stay at home, those who don’t have an option work full-time. Of course there are women who work because they want to and women who don’t work because they choose not to and both of these scenarios are fine, too. If I had the option, I would work part-time. A child’s day is the same as a company’s working hours. Having the afternoons to spend with my kid would be ideal!

More and more women are talking openly about issues, such as postpartum depression and breast feeding, that may have been considered taboo in the past. What pregnancy or childbirth related issues do you wish women had told you more about?

I was so oblivious or unaware of how I would feel about returning to work. I knew I would return because I had no option, but I don’t know, I was so concentrated and nervous on the labor that I wasn’t even thinking on how I would manage my life with the baby. I wish I had talked to my employer before the baby was born about options, even though my company has no “flex-time” options I wish I had proposed something pre-baby and not after the baby’s birth. I also wish my employer had talked to me about options, but this is too idealistic to have happened. I felt that the recovery from the natural birth(with epidural) was not easy for me. To be more specific, the recovery from the episiotomy was brutal! I wish I had read about breast feeding BEFORE the baby was born. Breast feeding is not always easy and is something that one learns to do.

What is the greatest motherhood myth you have encountered as a mom yourself?

The “mommy war” myth: The stay at home mothers (good) vs the working mothers (bad) is a false myth I find. After reading the book, Mommy Wars I realized and agree that the only war anyone is fighting is with oneself. The guilt, the search for balance, etc is all in your own world and you’re totally in control. Most of the mothers, if not all, in my circle of close friends do not work. I feel that many of them feel sorry for me because I have to work and I probably also do at some point or another, because of what I mentioned earlier, that I’ve had to miss out on time with my baby. I find myself secretly hating their situation, not them, for being privileged and lucky for being there for their kids all day.

But then when I come to work and see so many women working, I feel “normal” (it’s a terrible word to use, but I don´t know how to describe it). Many of them probably have to travel much longer distances than I do, and I feel blessed for being able to get home sooner than they do, for example. It helps me put things in perspective, even though I’d prefer not to be at work all day. Besides, it is a blessing to have a job that one loves and to be able to provide for your family. Forget about “economic freedom”, it’s not about that, I see it like this: This is my family and with my job we, as a family, can get ahead, aka “salir adelante”. Also, when Juan Diego grows up and is old enough to understand, it will be a wonderful lesson to teach him through example that hard work, discipline, responsibility make you accomplish your dreams and goals, not to mention that work and what you do gives you self-worth. The myth that “stay at home mothers don’t do anything” is totally false. I find that taking care of your kid is much more exhausting than working. Working at an office, is easier and less demanding, at least for me.

The “mommy guilt” myth: For me it’s true. It must be part of the maternal instinct combo! I’ll give you an example, I feel guilty of doing something for myself when the baby is awake. I’m trying to establish an exercise routine and the only time I allow myself to even try to exercise is when the baby is sleeping. That is between 5am and 6am-ish or after he’s asleep which is almost impossible because I’m exhausted and I want to spend time with my husband, too! I feel guilty leaving him, maybe it’s because I’m at work all day and my time at home is “sacred”. I’ve noticed that fathers do not experience this guilt. That’s why I think it’s part of the mother instinct combo!

What would your advise be to new moms on how to tackle being a working mom? What worked best for you?

I still feel I haven’t nailed it just yet but I would recommend: Hire a nanny or a caretaker whom you trust. Stay close to your circle of help, if you have one (parents, siblings, close friends). Your baby will be fine, (if your caretaker is trustworthy of course!). Being hard on yourself is normal, but try to think that you’re leaving your baby for a few hours to do something wonderful for yourself and for the world/economy/your country however you see it, and you’ll be back soon. You’ll see that your time with your baby and family will be real quality time. Learn to view your job with meaning. For example, by working I look for talented young men and women and I help them get an excellent university education. And I would definitely recommend to talk to your employer about options, other countries have wonderful flex-time options, they allow for you to bring your kids to work, can work from home a few days a week. If your company or country doesn’t have such awesome options, propose something that can work for you and the company, you might just be the guinea pig others will benefit from! Last but not of less importance, my husband plays a vital role in my life and in our family and he’s part of this whole balance. So my advice is also marry the right guy! ;)

Women, especially as mothers, are always trying to achieve balance. Do you think this is possible as a mom?

Damn! I definitely like to believe it is possible! In my search for balance, I’ve had to learn to become an optimist and am still working on it! I read a book called Learned Optimism, highly recommended by the way. I think that once I accept that not everything around me has to be perfect, I feel in control. I’ve learned to laugh at myself, accept that my new face is with bags under my eyes, that I have to get up much earlier than before to be able to leave home on time, and that weekends are no longer for sleeping in! I’ve also learned that I am in absolute control of what I think and feel, being aware of this has allowed me to make my life the way I want it to, and “suck it up” the things that are out of my control. I’ve definitely learned to prioritize on what’s most important for me: family comes first. I’ve also learned to accept that this is my “new” life (1 year doing it), and I just suck it up. I leave my baby and my parent’s and in law’s home with a nanny. My husband and I come see him and eat lunch together almost every day. I bring Juan Diego some afternoons to work, not every Friday but some Fridays. I need to start bringing him more often.

New Mom, Sanadina Khan, With Her Daughter. Image Credit: Sanadina Khan.

New Mom: Sanadina Khan From: Dhaka, Bangladesh Lives In: London, United Kingdom

What is the most challenging thing you have found about Mommyhood?

The most challenging thing for me was the pregnancy itself and the first six weeks after birth. I suffered from severe nausea and lost 11kg in the first three months from morning sickness. I gained in the end 7kg. It was tough working long hours during then. On the upside, I lost my excess weight in two days. After the birth, came the next challenge: NO sleep for the first six weeks. Having not read any books or spoken to anyone about pregnancy, I just did not realize that a baby needed so much attention. The person that came up with the line “sleeping like a baby” obviously did not have a baby like mine.

More and more women are talking openly about issues, such as postpartum depression and breast feeding, that may have been considered taboo in the past. What pregnancy or childbirth related issues do you wish women had told you more about?

While this is probably a socially unacceptable thing to say, and some people might think I’m downright horrible, but I know some women feel like me, since a baby takes up all your time, especially if you are breast feeding and co-sleeping and have no nanny, it takes over your life and sometimes you just cannot help but think, “Was I better off before?” I love my daughter and I love being a mom 99% of the time, but in all honesty, every now and again I do wish I could take a 5 minute shower again.

What is the greatest motherhood myth you have encountered as a mom yourself?

Greatest motherhood myth ever is that breast milk does not contain all the nutrition formula milk contains. This is a very popular belief in Bangladesh. I have nothing against mothers who use formula, I personally breast feed, but it has been scientifically proven that breast milk is just as good if not better than formula milk.

What would your advise be to new moms on how to tackle being a working mom? What worked best for you?

I am lucky that in Australia, maternity leave is 2 years. Mine runs out next year so I am yet to experience what it feels like.

Women, especially as mothers, are always trying to achieve balance. Do you think this is possible as a mom?

I absolutely think it is possible to achieve a balance. The idea for most women would be to give up the least important things in the different roles. However I also strongly believe that some women can probably excel in everything they come across.

New Mom, Anne Mathiesen Ellerbaek, With Her Son. Image Credit: Anne Mathiesen Ellerbaek

New Mom: Anne Mathiesen Ellerbaek From: Copenhagen, Denmark Lives In: Singapore City, Singapore

What is the most challenging thing you have found about Mommyhood?

The most challenging thing for me has been to both balance being a mother and at the same time being an ambitious woman who wants to do meaningful work.

More and more women are talking openly about issues, such as postpartum depression and breast feeding, that may have been considered taboo in the past. What pregnancy or childbirth related issues do you wish women had told you more about?

I have not felt at any point during my pregnancy or childbirth that there were any issues which were taboo or that I needed more information on. I am Danish and in Denmark topics such as postpartum depression, breast feeding, natural birth vs. caesarean, etc. have been discussed openly for many years. I therefore believe it is very much a cultural issue if something is taboo or not. I gave birth to my son in Jordan where I also attended prenatal classes and, without generalizing, found that a lot of the Jordanian women attending the class were very much uninformed about what to expect. It felt as if many topics for them were taboo and they had instead been told all sorts of untrue stories and myths.

What is the greatest motherhood myth you have encountered as a mom yourself?

The greatest motherhood myth I have encountered is that you wish to be with your child all the time. Saying it out loud sometimes makes me feel like a bad mother, but I have a basic need to be alone sometimes or do things without my son.  And I actually truly believe that it makes me a better mother to do so, as I then have the chance to ‘recharge my batteries’ and come back to my son with renewed energy.

What would your advise be to new moms on how to tackle being a working mom? What worked best for you?

You need to do a lot of soul searching regarding what is the right thing for you. Do not listen to other people’s opinion on the subject – not all women wish to devote their entire life to their children and you are not a bad mother if you wish to work. What many people tend to forget is that there is usually also a father in this equation. I think the father should be just as involved in making the everyday life work as the mother. I have found that it is a compromise, at least for me personally, as I do not wish for my son to be in day care all day, but I also wish to have a meaningful, challenging job. I live in Singapore now and unfortunately it is very difficult to do both in this part of the world because of the very long working hours. It has therefore been a challenge for me to come to the conclusion that I have to accept, at least for a few years, that I have to put my son’s needs first and my own second.

Women, especially as mothers, are always trying to achieve balance. Do you think this is possible as a mom?

Truthfully, no. At least not for the first years of your child’s life. It is not possible to do everything that you want to do or need to do – and definitely not to perfection. Ironically, as soon as you accept this fact you will feel more balanced in your life.

New Mom, Elina Urli Hodges, With Her Daughter. Image Credit: Elina Urli Hodges.

New Mom: Elina Urli Hodges From: Helsinki, Finland  Lives In: Durham, North Carolina

What is the most challenging thing you have found about Mommyhood?

Trying to not feel guilty about everything. Guilty for taking my daughter to daycare at 3 months old; guilty for feeling excited to go back to work after 3 exhausting months; guilty for not breast feeding longer; guilty for giving my daughter formula; guilty for not cooking all her food; guilty for not sending her to the $1500/month daycare where Picasso teaches art class (haha)… The guilt list is endless.

More and more women are talking openly about issues, such as postpartum depression and breast feeding, that may have been considered taboo in the past. What pregnancy or childbirth related issues do you wish women had told you more about?

Miscarriage. I knew it was possible but I didn’t know how ‘common’ it was and that it would happen to me. No one ever talks about it and after mine I made a point of telling others about it so that it would be less taboo if anyone had questions or wanted to talk. It’s certainly sad but it’s a part of life and, if you can accept that, it’s easier to move on and hopefully get pregnant and have a baby!

What is the greatest motherhood myth you have encountered as a mom yourself?

Love does not always happen at first sight. And that is okay! It takes time to get to know each other and figure out the new world order. But once the emotions are reciprocated you will never imagine loving anything more.

What would your advise be to new moms on how to tackle being a working mom? What worked best for you?

Get over the guilt (see #1). Find a good daycare where you feel comfortable bringing your child. Find out about the breastfeeding/pumping policy at work – hopefully you have one and if not, if there are more than 50 employees, then your office should be following the new healthcare reform law regarding breast feeding (even if you have fewer than 50 employees consider implementing a policy). If you can, try to share all after-work duties with your spouse– there is a lot that will need to get done: baby to feed, bathe, and put to bed, bottles to wash, dinner to cook, clean, toys to put away, dog to be walked, etc. And finally, cherish the weekends you have with your child; don’t spend the whole weekend running errands and be sure that all of you share in playtime.

Women, especially as mothers, are always trying to achieve balance. Do you think this is possible as a mom?

It’s certainly possible – it’s just harder, especially in the beginning when the baby takes up all your time (as they should) and it’s hard to remember that you may have a husband that would also like some attention. It gets easier to balance love, life and work as the baby gets older, and you learn to not take your free time for granted.

New Mom, Tulika Saxena, With Her Daughter. Image Credit: Tulika Saxena.

New Mom: Tulika Saxena From: New Delhi, India Lives In: New Delhi, India

What is the most challenging thing you have found about Mommyhood?

Being a very carefree woman, who would often act spontaneously, I felt restricted as a new mom and it took me a while to come to terms with the fact that I can no longer have whims like going out for fun straight from office! I also had to learn to be more patient and organised which was hard for impatient woman like me.

The other most challenging job as a mom was to make my daughter eat all her meals. This challenge started as early as I started weaning off from breast milk. I had to be immensely creative to make her eat as every trick would work only once. She looked a tiny baby compared to other babies of her age and that would worry me a lot. It took me long  to really accept doctor’s advice that if she is active, I should not be worried about her tiny size.

More and more women are talking openly about issues, such as postpartum depression and breast feeding, that may have been considered taboo in the past. What pregnancy or childbirth related issues do you wish women had told you more about?

Actually being a mother in India, I was overloaded with information. More than I can handle. And that was topped with my own experience of working as a development professional on reproductive and child health project! Training other mothers on healthy pregnancy, breast feeding and healthy infants! So for me, I was filtering professional and family provided information all the time. 

What is the greatest motherhood myth you have encountered as a mom yourself?

Being a mother in South Asia, the greatest myth I encountered was: ‘Working mother is not good for child’ .Most of the time I was trying to prove that though I am working, I still love my child and do take good care of her. Another is parenthood myth rather than motherhood and that is the role of father in parenting. Not only everyone around you expect that only mothers are responsible for the parenting even fathers themselves feel incapable of handling small chores related to parenting.

What would your advise be to new moms on how to tackle being a working mom? What worked best for you?

Most of the time as mothers we want best for our child and assuming that as mothers we are the best caregivers we often feel guilty about our work. I was very clear from the start that if I am the best for my daughter, she is not going to have that 24/7. She should learn to have best things in her life in small packages.  I learnt that as far as she is safe, secure and happy, I need not to be finicky about small things which care givers might ignore while I am in office. Different things work best for working mom, if you are confident then you can manage it. I even managed to exclusive breastfeed (nothing but breast milk) my daughter for six months, even though I joined office full time after three months of maternity leave. I also travelled around while working and this was possible for me as I had live in nanny with me who would also travel with me and my daughter. I still remember that one trip was 14 days long which was not possible for the nanny, and then my mother travelled with me! I think that is the privilege I had in India and would not be possible for mothers around the world.

Another tip I have for working mom is to have a strong communication with everyone in your life, including your little one! Let them know what is happening around you. Believe me a child as small as two years would understand your professional needs if you keep her in loop. Take them to your workplace, show them what you do. When my daughter was three I even took her to a training program where I was facilitator. She was awed by the role that I played there. For many days she was sharing with her friends that her mother teaches big people!

Women, esp as mothers, are always trying to achieve balance. Do you think this is possible as a mom?

Well it really depends on how much balanced is balance for you. There is hardly possibility of 50/50 in any two areas of your life. The main point is how comfortable you are with your own situation. What are your priorities? It is true that when you become mom, priority in your life changes a little, but they did not changed drastically for me. So whatever your priorities are you have to devote your time accordingly and be content and happy with it. We women are not robots and it is not possible to be best at every front. We are simple human beings and we should be happy with what is possible for us rather than what is ideal for us. I know that I am not a best mom in my own eyes, but I am also sure one day my daughter will hug me and say I am the best mom in the world!

New Mom, Kim Roberts, With Her Son & Daughter. Image Credit: Kim Roberts.

New Mom: Kim Roberts From: Menlo Park, California Lives In: Menlo Park, California

What is the most challenging thing you have found about Mommyhood?

The times when I judge myself most harshly are the moments when I get distracted and find it hard to be present with my kids because of a messy house, an email from my boss, or a load of laundry that is staring me in the face. Taking things moment by moment and day by day is a spiritual practice that only gets more challenging as a mother. I also always considered myself somebody who thought a lot about the welfare of other people in my life, and yet, I didn’t anticipate the intensity of the split consciousness that is required to carry little people in my head 24/7. As a result, life can feel completely consumed by the details of keeping the family trains running on time. The mundane kid details in my head, lists and logistics of every stripe, have replaced my old thoughts on current events and witty literary references.   And because I was an older first-time mom, first at 38, second at 40, I was a fully formed grown-up with a career at its high mid-point when we had our first. That has also proven challenging- that my most labor intensive time as a mom also coincided with a focused, busy time in my professional life. If, on a given day, I can attend to all my work details and all my kid details, then I have had a successful day.

More and more women are talking openly about issues, such as postpartum depression and breast feeding, that may have been considered taboo in the past. What pregnancy or childbirth related issues do you wish women had told you more about?

As for childbirth, you just have to figure out what matters most to you and your family and ignore everybody else, especially the labor horror stories! But I would say that breast feeding was something I was really unprepared for, especially as a working mom. I breastfed both my kids, but with my first, I did not have an easy start. And because I only had a six week maternity leave with my first, I never realized how hard it would be to keep nursing. I think in comparison I worked in a very mother-friendly environment, but the disruption that working caused to our breast feeding bond made it hard to sustain. I wish I had had more support during that first year. I have to say, though, that I was incredibly lucky, too since I am the youngest of four girls and all my sisters were already moms by the time I joined their ranks. They were, and continue to be, an incredible resource to me. And in the seven years since I had my first child, the virtual community of the internet has really grown in meaningful ways for parents, too.

What is the greatest motherhood myth you have encountered as a mom yourself?

Co-parenting is a really essential feminist goal; and it is really, really hard to live in practice. Don’t get me wrong-my husband is a devoted dad and does his very best to co-parent. He does almost all kitchen duty, for example, both the cooking and the cleaning. But holding onto the big picture-who needs to be where at what time and with what in hand- that is a job that falls to me, and to virtually all moms I know, working or not. My husband is happy to help, and works just as hard as I do both at work and at home. But I am the one who knows all the doctors’ names, when the school forms are due, and which friends and teachers are “in” at a given moment. “The Second Shift” -at least as it relates to the emotional work of family life- is still a live feminist issue. I have to believe that my husband’s internal landscape is a little less cluttered than mine — and therefore that he has more bandwidth for thinking “big” thoughts.

What would your advise be to new moms on how to tackle being a working mom? What worked best for you?

Find good friends who can share your experience. And lower your standards on everything else. The day after I delivered our first child, my OB/GYN said, “Just remember that in the grand sweep of history, babies have been mostly raised by illiterate teenagers. So, you have a leg up.” This has been an oddly comforting idea to me when I feel like I just can’t do it all, or when I have done something with less grace than I’d hoped. And it helped me realize that letting go of the inner perfectionist was essential if I was going to keep working outside the home without losing my sanity. Now that my kids are in elementary school the pressures are different. I can’t attend every class event and field trip and I can’t volunteer in their classrooms as much as I’d like. I can’t host play dates or pick my kids up from school, and so I feel like I am constantly “overdrawn” when it comes to repaying my friends. But as one friend who stays at home with her kids said to me just this week when I lamented my inability to return the play date favor: “I have deep, deep gratitude for my buddies who work because they are showing my girls that women have choices and can be whatever they want.” This kind of solidarity between moms, those working inside the house and those working outside it, is like a gift. As a working mom, you have to be willing to be “overdrawn” sometimes and let your friends and family help you.

Women, especially as mothers, are always trying to achieve balance. Do you think this is possible as a mom?

I think that if you are the kind of person who was successful in achieving balance before becoming a mom, then you have a better chance. I have never been very “good” at balance, since I tend to be the type to work hard, play hard, multitask, say “yes” to everything, and then eventually, sleep. That’s kind of what it’s like for me as a mom, too. Just with a lot more mess and a lot less sleep.


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