Mamas, have any of you had a chance to hear about a woman named Meghann Foye? If not, let me quickly fill you in. She’s the woman who just wrote a book title “Meternity” and who has created quiet a buzz around what she is saying. Her story has been featured on sites like the NY Post, and she was scheduled to make an appearance on Good Morning America. What exactly is “Meternity” and why is it important? Meghann Foye, who is 38 and childless, decided that she was envious of mothers who got to take time for themselves, in her words, “self-reflecting on life,” when they went on maternity leave. For her, seeing parents leave work at 6 pm to go pick up their child seemed to give these parents a sense of flexibility that she was not given since she did not have children. She also stated that for the mothers who returned to work after their maternity leave, they often came back with a newfound confidence and an ability to advocate for themselves and their family better. In her words from the NY Post she states, “From the outside, it seemed like those few weeks of them shifting their focus to something other than their jobs gave them a whole new lens through which to see their lives.” Hence why she has created the idea that she should be able to enjoy maternity leave without having to have children, which coined her phrase “maternity.”
Women like Meghann Foye probably exist in just about every work place. Women like Meghann do not stand to create more unity between women, they stand to once again create division and add unnecessary fuel to a fire that should have been put out long ago. Here are a few things that I would love to explain to women like Meghann. And if you know a Meghann at work or within your social circle, I ask that you show them this.
First, we need to be really clear about what exactly happens during maternity leave. I promise you it has very little to do with confidence-building and self-reflection. It is a time for your body to physically heal from birthing another human being. Healing from being torn, or cut open, and stitched back together is akin to healing after you’ve been in a car accident. There is an entire list of aches and pains your body goes through after childbirth. I myself suffered from debilitating headaches, unlike anything I have ever experienced, after a botched epidural that left me incapable of moving for an entire week. I breastfed my baby while laying in a fetal position and had to have my husband and mother move her because I could not move her myself. Childless ladies, if you were in a car accident and had to take time off of work to heal because your body was in pain, I promise you would feel resentful when you came back and everyone was perturbed because you had “time to yourself to reflect.” I suppose to some extent I did develop confidence. Confidence in the fact that I had wonderful family to get me through the most trying time of my entire life.
Maternity leave is also about this new life you have created, your baby. Again, I promise you it has very little to do with confidence-building and self-reflection. Babies, while beautiful and amazing blessings, do not know or care that you are sleep deprived, that your breasts ache, or that you have yet to figure out how to get a shower into the 24-hour day. Babies don’t care that their cluster feedings might be starting to drive you a bit mad. For you childless ladies, cluster feeding is where your child will nurse off and on, mainly on, for hours at a time. Babies aren’t concerned about time. They don’t know that they are supposed to sleep at night vs. sleeping all day long. Babies can’t control that they become colicky and start crying for hours at a time, which can last for weeks on end and in turn leaves you feeling like a failure because your baby won’t stop crying. Babies are all consuming. They are the opposite of “self ” as you must give ALL of your-SELF to this other being who is helpless and needs everything you have to give them to just survive. I suppose that I did garner a bit of self-reflection as I realized my life was not as important as this new amazing life I had created.
Childless women who agree with the meternity lady, let me explain something to you. As women we must focus on unity. There are so many other issues surrounding women and the workplace that bickering amongst yourselves on who just got so lucky to get “maternity leave” is the last of our issues. Have you forgotten we still are not paid as much as men? Those are real issues that we need to be putting all of our energy into rather than resentment because you haven’t had children yet but want the same perks. How are we going to be taken seriously to fight for equality in the battle of the sexes if we are still battling ourselves? I promise you, men are not battling each other over how Bob got to take some extra time off. Instead they know that whatever time was taken off is really none of their business.
My last point is directed toward Meghann Foye specifically. Meghann, you probably really did need time to self-reflect, build confidence, and decide what was most important for you in your life. What you needed was a vacation, some time away so you could think about work/life balance. Perhaps if a week’s worth of vacation would not have been enough, you could have had something different scheduled. If you planned properly, you could have possibly had several weeks stacked up together and told your manager you needed to take this time for yourself so you could come back refreshed. But that’s not what you did; instead, you created ideas from a place of jealousy and resentment that someone else was getting something that you weren’t given, and that’s why you are receiving so much backlash. Meghann, I promise you, you cannot compare your childless life in anyway to the life of motherhood. Motherhood is an entity that cannot be fully fathomed until you have literally become a mother too. So many light bulbs go off the day you become a mother, and you realize “Wow, I really had no idea what this motherhood gig was all about!” I suppose motherhood can teach you work/life balance but only because you are responsible for another life.
Ladies, those with children and those without, lets end the wars once and for all and start supporting each other rather than finding ways to blame, criticize, or act as if your way is the only way and the only right way.