How the Career Myth Is Failing Millennial Moms
According to a new study out of Norway, a mother’s confidence decreases during pregnancy. It has a short uplift during her child’s first 6 months of life before plummeting until the baby hits the age of three. Sounds weird, right? Writing for Parents magazine, Hollee Actman Becker asserts that this emotional trauma surrounding motherhood is essentially the result of women who are unable to see themselves as mothers.
"When someone experiences a significant shift in identity, such as becoming someone's mother, the psyche has to adjust," Columbia professor Corinne Laird explained to Rewire. "Simply because someone is a mother doesn't mean that they always identify as a mother. This means that the rest of the world has already shifted their perception of who you are before you've had a chance to catch up. It's disorienting."
“If you've been struggling with feelings of guilt and doubt and inadequacy since becoming a mother, you are not alone,” Actman Becker writes. She echoes Laird’s bizarre conclusion that all OB-GYNs should have a cadre of mental health professionals working alongside them to service the mental health needs of mothers. This begs the question: Why do millennial moms need mental health services to cope with a change that has, up until this moment in time, been a normal, healthy, and even expected part of a woman’s life?
Feminist author Jeanette Kupferman answers this question in her timely essay published in the UK Daily Mail in which she concludes:
The well-meaning battles we embarked on in idealistic youth have somehow robbed young women of the soul of femininity. We’ve lost something precious, distinctive and unique. …The spiritual joys and physical pleasures of womanhood had become "mechanised" as I put it then; things that needed rectifying with political schemes to make us more like men, or medical treatment to quell our hormones and control our childbirth pangs.
Motherhood, the ultimate “spiritual joy and physical pleasure of womanhood,” was, as Kupferman so wisely put it, “rectified” by the feminist push for career over children. Forcing women to value and be valued in terms of career success instead of raising children created a generation of women for which motherhood is treated as a mental health issue.
Actman Becker cites mom-shaming as the fruit of motherhood depression. Women already far too critical of themselves lash out at other mothers in an attempt to justify their own parenting choices and behaviors. Here’s a wild theory: What if mom-shaming is just the way women trained to view life as an endless competition transfer the “bitch” skills they cultivated in the workplace into their new roles as mothers? In an article titled "Why Do Women Bully Each Other at Work" published in The Atlantic almost concurrently to the statistics in Parents, Olga Khazan explores why female coworkers are not trustworthy and why women managers in the workplace are often viewed as “bitches” dreaded by their female underlings. Interviewee Shannon commented of these bosses:
Still, the senior women’s behavior made sense to her. They were slavishly devoted to their jobs, regularly working until nine or 10 at night. Making partner meant either not having children or hiring both day- and nighttime nannies to care for them. “There’s hostility among the women who have made it,” she said. “It’s like, ‘I gave this up. You’re going to have to give it up too.’ ”
After 16 months, Shannon decided she’d had enough. She left for a firm with gentler hours, and later took time off to be with her young children. She now says that if she were to return to a big firm, she’d be wary of working for a woman. A woman would judge her for stepping back from the workforce, she thinks: “Women seem to cut down women.”
So, it isn’t just motherhood that brings out a woman’s brutally judgmental side. Apparently, it’s just as vicious in the working world as it is on the playground. The natural conclusion then is that women, in general, aren’t miserable being mothers; they’re just plain miserable. That’s because women are being culturally forced into a set of norms that, as Kupferman observed, goes against the natural physical and spiritual inclinations of being a woman.
But, shh! Don’t say that too loudly. The bitches will be out to get you!