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Suppressing the joys of motherhood at work: Don’t do it!

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Parenting is certainly the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but it is also the greatest thing in my life. I’m not afraid to say it … anymore. I’m not the type who talks incessantly about my kids or posts daily Facebook pictures of everything we do, but there is nothing that even comes close to the joy (and fear) that I receive from being a mother. I feel honored that I have these three people in my life, not to train, but to share life with, and watch them as they blossom into young adults. And I know I’m not alone in that feeling, yet, I have encountered countless moms that downplay the joy they get from motherhood.

One reason a mother might do it is because she’s at work and doesn’t want to be known as “that mom,” or she may shelf her abundant mommy enthusiasm, because she wants to appear as hip as she was before she had kids. But being a mom is the most important job we’ll ever have. You can have all sorts of professional success, but being responsible for another person’s health, education, emotions, outlook on life, safety, and more is nothing short of meaningful in every sense of the word.

Much of the mommy stigma starts in the workplace. During different times in my life, I have worked alongside hostile childless co-workers who resented my part-time status, and I have felt the need to purposefully not discuss my children at work. After all, work is for working, not divulging personal information, but I also knew that any swooning over my baby would result in certain co-workers holding the new mommy status against me. I have also witnessed a boss berate a co-worker for taking her child to the doctor and coming in 30 minutes late!

When I was an editor, I went out of my way to make new moms on staff feel included and just as valued as they were in their pre-pregnancy days, while also empathizing with their home situation, lack of sleep, and general emotional turmoil that can come with being a new mom. I have been around too many pregnant women — who felt embarrassed for taking extra bathroom trips, having bad morning sickness, or calling in sick, because they had a colicky baby — to not have compassion for women making the sometimes abrupt transition into motherhood.

At the same time, I’ve often heard snickers from childless employees about how the new mom was mentally scattered. Well, that happens sometimes. The swirl of pregnancy, birth, and new motherhood is, at best, daunting. Women need to support other women, in general, and it’s not only the women who are stay-at-home moms or working moms — it is also the childless women.

Women should not feel the need to downplay the joy in the workplace they derive from motherhood, but I think many of us still do. I’m not advocating having an all-day session about Junior’s new tooth, but we should also be able to say, “I’m taking a sick day, because my child is sick,” without suffering repercussions from it.

My career is vitally important to me, but if it were a choice between it and my children, my kids would win hands-down. In fact, with most anything, I would choose my kids. It’s not the trendy parenting subject that gets talked about these days. It’s an old-fashioned notion, I suppose, that even in this time of feminism and equal rights, I would value being a mom above all else. And, as much as I like to think of myself as progressive and modern, I still do value being a mom above anything. No matter what professional success I attain, I would feel like a failure if I failed at motherhood.

Throughout my career, I have changed jobs according to my family’s needs, and I don’t regret any of it. My career has thrived on the changes, and in each circumstance, I have grown personally and professionally. Motherhood transforms a woman, and there is no reason we should hide that fact. It’s beautiful. Priorities change, and we often grow into more empathetic and caring individuals as a result of being a parent.

Despite the difficult times, sleepless nights and worry that comes from parenting, it remains the most important job most of us will ever have … and we shouldn’t be afraid to say so.

Danielle Sullivan, a mom of three, has worked as a writer and editor in the parenting world for more than 10 years. Sullivan also writes about pets and parenting for Disney’s Babble.com. Find her on Facebook and Twitter @DanniSullWriter, or on her blogs, Just Write Mom and Some Puppy To Love.

Updated 4:45 pm, July 9, 2018
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