Meghann Foye used to joke that she wished she could “clock out” and go on maternity leave. Then, she went a step further, and wrote a novel called Meternity about a woman who fakes a pregnancy so that she could do just that. She told the New York Post recently how she thinks single, child-free women deserve to take a leave, as well.
And then, every parent’s head exploded. Even my relatively tame Facebook world of smart, levelheaded folks had near-apoplectic fits.
Now, I want you to try to open yourself up to the possibility that this isn't an idea that you need to waste time being upset about. Let me try to explain why: Everyone, including Meghann Foye, knows that maternity leave is not a vacation. It’s not a sabbatical. It’s not even any fun. It is a messy, sticky, painful, emotionally torturous, sleepless ordeal that, were it not for the sheer beauty and joy of the baby itself, would be an unspeakable thing to do to a person.
Foye knows that a comparison between maternity leave and a vacation is going to raise hackles. She's aiming to be incendiary. It's a way to drum up interest in her book. Free publicity, if you will.
But if we respond by undermining Foye's perspective, we're doing more to reinforce gender discrimination than to diminish it. Just as women are gaining more power and influence than ever (hello, Hillary), we are being goaded into a constant girl fight. If we let it, it will distract us, blind us with rage, and divide us as women. Quite frankly, we cannot afford to let happen.
So, no. Child-free women don’t actually think your maternity leave is a three-month-long sleepover. As a child-free woman, I respect and healthy fear of motherhood.
I look at a mom running on three hours of sleep, pushing one kid down the street and pulling another by the hand, and I think, there but for grace of God go I. I am under no illusions. I don’t see the myriad responsibilities of being a new mother as a “perk”—and I don’t know one woman who does.
So, take a moment to consider that this movement may not have anything to do with motherhood at all. In my opinion, the push for paid leave is about single, child-free women trying to figure out who they are and what they’re supposed to do now.