Last month, I went on my first ever business trip abroad since becoming a mom.
Prior to that, Garrett and I went to Burning Man for a week, so for the bulk of September I was away from my 14 month old. It was tough and I missed him a lot, but I was also having the time of my life.
But unfortunately, some words brought me down, and I’m both surprised and disappointed. Although my partner and I were there together, I’m the only one who repeatedly was told,
“Wow, I’m Surprised You Could Leave Your Baby”
One person even asked if I was still breastfeeding, which is a little invasive, no?
I asked Garrett at the end of the week if anyone had said the same to him, and nobody had.
I know they didn’t mean any harm, but they didn’t think it through, either.
What does that statement really imply?
That maybe I’m not bonded enough? Maybe I lack responsibility. I’m having fun and being selfish when I should be parenting instead. Or, even worse, it must be easier for me to leave my baby than it is for other mothers.
I’m ascribing a lot of meaning to what may seem like a harmless sentence, but the more I heard it, the more I felt incredibly judged and mom-guilted.
And what am I supposed to say to it?
The saddest part is that it always comes from other women.
What Are We Putting on Moms?
I used to work on the road 100% of time time when I started my other business, Be My Travel Muse. It’s a brand dedicated to solo female travel and I loved encouraging other women to travel alone. After a couple nomadic years, I had a loose home base in Berlin and still traveled more than half of my days.
Since becoming a mother, I still travel with my family. We’ve been so incredibly lucky to take my son to 10 countries already at 15 months old. But out of all of my trips, only two of them have been solo. That’s a huge departure from what I used to do, and it’s forcing me to pivot.
It’s okay, because I’m loving the direction my career is going in, but it was a tough transition and my career was majorly impacted while my partner’s has largely stayed the same.
With the rise of the travel influencer and YouTube star, I can think of several high profile men who had young kids when they were almost 24/7 traveling and working and getting their millions of followers. Their art was amazing, and I was a fan of it myself, but looking back, would society have been OK with a mother doing that?
How often did they get pressed for where their children were or who was watching them, compared to what a woman would hear?
Time away from the kids to work is something society will generously award a father, but not a mother. I know moms who work out of the home feel this daily, too.
The Absence of a Village
While I was away, my little guy was bonding with all of his grandparents, and that’s important, too. After their time together, my mom said she felt closer to my son than she ever otherwise could have. That made me so happy, and reminded me fondly of growing up down the street from my own grandmother, whom Felix is named after (his middle name – Harrison after Harriet).
We don’t otherwise live near family. Everyone has to travel a meaningful distance to get here. That means that I don’t have a village most of the time, and my brief times away are the only moments that I get to myself out of the entire year.
A woman should take time for herself and do things that fill her cup alone. Otherwise, how can she show up as her best self in her family?
She probably can’t. As a society, is that really what we want for the future generations?
Parenting used to involve a village. It involved an extended family and close friends. When did we start expecting the mother to do it all?
My Husband Also Doesn’t Hear,
“That’s great your wife is such an involved mother.”
As though a dad deserves a medal when he watches his own kid.
While I’m glad we’re not both getting it, because he doesn’t deserve it either, I have to call it out.
This modern expectation that a woman do everything for the child while letting men off the hook, often perpetuated by other women, is disappointing. It’s why some women lose their identity and for me, perpetuated some of my postpartum depression.
Mothers deserve better. We deserve better from each other. We deserve to ask how much of what we say and assume is really our own thoughts vs. an ingrained patriarchal viewpoint.
I know I have some questioning and undoing myself, too. And it’s not out of anger or shame that I call out what was said, but rather to point out a double standard we might not have even realized existed.
Being a mom is a full time job and so is being a dad, and both roles are important and valuable, and the more that we all see both parents has having an essential role while still being allowed to have their own individual identities, the better off we’ll all be.
Thanks for letting me get that off my chest.