This week’s headlines included: "Ms. Duckworth, has made history, by becoming the first senator to give birth while in office." “Jacinda Ardern will be only the second elected leader to give birth while in office, and the first to go on maternity leave.”
In case you are wondering, the first elected leader to give birth while in office was Pakistan’s late prime minister, Benazir Bhutto. She set the precedent in 1990. I am thankful to these bold leaders for taking a stand and normalizing something that should have been accepted decades ago.
Motherhood is one of the oldest, most important jobs in the world. Yet, shockingly, it is viewed as a disadvantage because it supposedly means you cant do anything else anymore. Ironically, women are excellent multi-taskers. We run households, juggle calendars, take care of families, work and communities. It’s just what we do. And yet, we have to prove that we can find a balance and are worth the investment.
More importantly, we have to find the energy every single day to take on this challenge. Senator Duckworth’s daughter, Maile, was allowed on the Senate floor after months of negotiation. Until Wednesday, the rules barred children from coming onto the Senate floor.
I only have two full weeks left before I return to work full time. Maternity leave has been bitter sweet for me. I have loved my time with Raza. And I have also witnessed how alienating the world can be for mothers. Restaurants tell you, no you can’t come with an infant. The fanciest of hotels are not equipped with changing tables. You breastfeed in bathrooms because there is no other option. And to top it off, you receive constant judgement. It is exhausting. But you make it all work (with a lot of help) because your love for your child comes above anything else.
There are 85 million mothers in the United States. With that large of a number, you’d think the norms would be different.