That ‘meternity’ essay that Meghann Foye wrote for the New York Post sure is gaining a lot of attention — and not the good kind.
For those of you unfamiliar with it, Ms. Foye is the author of a book titled Meternity, about a woman who fakes a pregnancy to gain a maternity leave. In response to her book, Meghann wrote the now infamous New York Post essay explaining why she deserves a maternity leave despite the fact that she’s not pregnant or planning on becoming pregnant.
Her essay bemoans the unfairness of parents using their kids as an “excuse” to leave work on time — even going so far as to say that leaving work to pick up children from a daycare that closes at a specific time is equivalent to grabbing a margarita with a friend who was stood-up on a date. Because picking up kids, heading home to make dinner and do homework and try to get your house into some kind of order all while still fielding phone calls and emails and text messages about work before passing out face first into your pillow at midnight in the clothes you wore all day is totally the same thing as hitting up the bars with a friend at 5 p.m.
But before I start comparing apples to oranges, let’s take a moment to reflect on what this article really does.
Articles like this ruin it for mothers everywhere by painting a picture that maternity leave is a vacation — a period of rest and relaxation instead of the time for recovery from a major medical event that it truly is. After reading viewpoints like Meghann Foye’s, why would any lawmaker want to provide mandated maternity leave, let alone paid maternity leave?
And let’s talk about how Ms. Foye also describes maternity leave as a ‘socially mandated time and space for self-reflection’.
Yes. You read that correct. Self-reflection. The only thing I was reflecting on during my first maternity leave was how I was ever going to keep nursing my new baby with blistered, swollen nipples and milk ducts with enough clogs to dam a river. During my second maternity leave, I bled out twice and needed emergency surgery which ended up leaving me bedridden with a newborn and a four-year-old to care for. All the while trying to figure out how I was going to keep paying out-of-pocket for our medical benefits and all the hospital bills while I wasn’t bringing in a paycheck. #mymaternityleave
But self-reflection y’all.
Her entire concept of ‘meternity’ drips of privilege — complaining about the fact that she doesn’t have assistants to help maintain a work-life balance. A work-life balance with no little people who constantly need you? Excuse me? I had absolutely zero idea how good my pre-child work-life balance was until after I had a kid. If I could go back in time, I would most certainly appreciate all my free time and disposable income a lot more.
Here’s the thing: You can say that, yes, having kids is a personal choice and just because one person decides to have a child doesn’t make them more deserving of work-life balance considerations over their childless counterpart. But guess what? People are going to keep having kids. Mothers who stay at home and mothers who work are all going to keep having kids. It’s going to happen — it has to happen to ensure our survival as a species. And as long as women keep having kids (which again, is going to be forever), they’re going to need a maternity leave to recover from the very physically-draining act of childbirth. Going back to work at two weeks postpartum with stitches and swollen breasts while you’re still bleeding and not sleeping is absolutely not doing anyone any good.
So go ahead — advocate for taking time off work for self-reflection. Workplace burnout is definitely a problem, and I’ve certainly experienced it pre- and post-kids. I won’t even begin to deny that a little time away from the hustle and bustle of a career is a good thing. But please, can we not compare it to a maternity leave? Call it a sabbatical or even (gasp!) a vacation. Because let’s be real: a maternity leave and Ms. Foye’s concept of a ‘meternity leave’ are two entirely different things.
Perhaps we can squelch this whole idea of maternity leave as a vacation by being more vocal about our experiences and what maternity leave actually did for us. Should we have to explain and defend ourselves? Absolutely not. After all, does Bill from accounting have to explain every gory detail of his appendectomy in order for others to not questions his need for time off? Nope. But while we shouldn’t have to, apparently we need to. So ladies, we urge you to share your maternity leave experience — the good, the bad, and the ugly — with the hashtag #mymaternityleave in hopes that we can put an end to this insanity.