I can’t speak for all new mothers, but a particular experience happens to women like me: high-achieving, type-A strivers who give birth to highly sensitive, non-sleeping, stage-5-clinger babies. I call it the inevitable mental breakdown.
Our patriarchal, capitalist society has heaped many a reward on women like me. My ability to perform has earned me countless shiny awards, a great career with an excellent salary, speaking gigs, opportunities to work overseas… the list goes on. Life was great! And then I had a baby.
Leading up to the birth, I had been told by many around me how important it is to be a mother: what a sacred, necessary role that is. But when I arrived in the thick of doing the caretaking every. single. day… the very same patriarchal, capitalist society that had so generously rewarded me for my pre-baby efforts had fuck-all to give. This work is unpaid. The people who follow you for content around professional interests don’t want to hear about it. There’s no “30 under 30” or “40 under 40” for mothering.
What happens when you are told one thing by a societal system, in this case: that mothers are essential, but the system’s actions and output prove the opposite? You are driven a little more insane every day, that’s what.
And now that you can no longer rely on external validation to prop up your worth, you attempt to turn to your usual personal tools. But as they are steeped in productivity culture, they also fail you. You can’t check anything off your to-do list because the baby wouldn’t let you put them down today. You could write “hold and feed the baby” and check that off, but it doesn’t have quite the same effect on your psyche.
And so you begin the breakdown. The breakdown of your self-image, ego, attachment to achievement and productivity, what you thought your worth was to the world, and why you’re here.