More Musings on Maternal Rights (Repost)

Repost from Chicago writer/new mom’s Oct. 1 blog b/c I can’t say how I feel about this any more eloquently:

“Until I was a mom, maternal rights weren’t exactly on my radar. Nor was the fact that the US is the only industrialized nation (of roughly 4 countries in the world) that has short, unpaid maternity leave while the rest of the world actually puts the concerns of moms and infants ahead of those of business and offers paid maternity leaves that are substantially longer.

One of the second wave feminists big concerns, rightly, was about women working–manifesting big destinies and freedoms, being able to be self-supporting. This is America, and we’re generally operating on the freemarketcapitalism version of freedoms–those gains for second wavers were crucial and huge and unfortunately, predicated largely on financial freedom. Women wanted parity as earners, but there was no real attention given to maternal rights–because women wanted equality–asking for “exceptional treatment”–i.e. paid maternity leave, or a maternity leave longer than 90 days never really came to pass. Maybe second wavers really wanted to show they could do it without help. Or maybe were so desperate to move beyond being (only) stay at home moms–eyes were on the other prize.

Which is how, in 2010, we have situations like this, with fewer and fewer babies being breastfed because moms have to go back to work. And how we wind up with federal laws where crucial things like a private space to breastfeed in/certain aspects of maternity leave are predicated on women working at companies of 50 employees or more. I know like, maybe, maybe, a dozen people who work at companies that large. The moms I know who had to return to work, they are pumping breastmilk in bathroom stalls. Which is gnarly. I wouldn’t pump breastmilk in my own bathroom. Women I know who are pregnant and have not even had their babies yet are afraid they are not going to be able to breastfeed past the time of their maternity leave because they have to return to work and the legal provision for their breastfeeding needs hinges on it not being “an undue hardship” for their employer. MEANWHILE: Some women wind up having to leave their jobs because of totally routine newborn issues because they are forced to go back to work while their baby is still waking up 4 or 5 times a night. It boggles my mind that the gov’t is focusing their breastfeeding campaign on education and support initiatives–granted, an important part of the solution, surely–BUT if the main reason women aren’t able to breastfeed for the doctor-recommended one year minimum is because they have to go back to work so soon, and are like, pumping breastmilk in their car in the fucking parking lot of their job and it’s a big sad hassle–a zillion fucking pamplets and pediatric doctors reminding moms how good breastfeeding is for infant (duh) and maternal health doesn’t make a shit of difference in the practical lives of women. Especially when only 24 states have laws relating to nursing moms in the workplace; only Puerto Rico is the only place that demands all public buildings need to have places for breastfeeding and diapering that are not bathrooms. Illinois law asks only that employers make a “reasonable effort” to provide a non-toilet stall space for nursing moms to pump. Meanwhile, in the EU, maternity leave is being extended to six months at full pay for all women. I imagine the gov’t would have more success upping breastfeeding rates if there was any sort of legal providence that made it easier to be a new mom–you know, moving beyond just making it legal to breastfeed in public. In comparison to the rest of the world, America really looks like a nation of Milton Friedman worshipping baby-haters. BECAUSE IT IS. The flag, on the white striped parts, should just read “HEY MOM GET BACK TO WORK” and then the next one should read ‘FUCK YOU, BABY, FIND YOUR OWN FOOD!’.”


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