With the news that Janet Jackson is reportedly pregnant with her first child at the age of 49, the singer received mixed reactions to her delaying her tour in order to start her family. Although many people were supportive of the singer, others expressed anger that someone so successful would cancel an important step of her career to have a baby.
In a way, the society we have built today surrounding women who juggle both careers and motherhood is kind of confusing. We have worked so hard to prove that women can “have it all” and “do it all” that sometimes, it feels like we just expect them to want to do all the things.
But like Jackson is exemplifying, just because you have the ability to combine motherhood with other pursuits in life doesn’t necessarily mean you have to. And yes, I know, I know, it’s a privilege to have the resources to opt out of work that pays the bills to stay home with your kids. The point is, I feel like there is a lot of pressure on mothers, strangely, especially when their children are babies and very small. It’s almost like we have created this Instagram culture to see who can look the most fashionable, the most fit, the most put-together, all inversely correlated to your child’s age. The younger the child + the better you look + the more you are managing = winning.
I feel like so often women think that because we can “do it all,” that we should. That somehow if they don’t start a business or build a following or conquer the world while having kids, that they have somehow failed.
The truth is, some women still very much live in a world where the full burden of parenting falls solely on their shoulders. Or some women have different abilities. Or literally can’t afford to work, which sounds crazy, but have you ever checked prices for daycare for four kids?
For some women, having babies and giving birth is like a force and a creative energy that propels them forward and onward, but for others? Well, their brains just kind of turn to mush and it’s a struggle to put on pants.
I’ve been both of those mothers and when I was trudging my way through the mush, I felt pretty down on myself. In a strange way, I felt like it wasn’t acceptable to “just” be a mom basically chilling at home doing nothing anymore. Even being a stay-at-home mom has blurry boundaries these days, between the mommy bloggers and the Beachbody coaches and the millions of other ways moms are now able to make money while staying home with their kids. I felt so much pressure to not let having babies “slow me down” in any way shape or form that I was literally writing articles while I was in labor with my fourth kid. I mean, granted, I was just chilling with my epidural for a long time, but still, it sounds a little ridiculous to admit it, doesn’t it?
Maybe it’s just me, but I feel like there are a lot of women who feel the same kind of pressure I do — to prove to themselves and to the world that they can have the family and the job they love and fit in the exercise, but still tell ourselves that it’s for us, not for anyone else. Even when it’s exhausting.
In a twisted way, I feel like Jackson publicly saying, “You know what? I’m taking a break, for real” is a good reminder to all of us Type-A overachievers that it is really, seriously, absolutely OK to take a break. And by that, I mean an actual break, not a “well, I’ll just start a teensy business while breastfeeding” kind of break or “I’ll just run a small half-marathon after giving birth” or “I’ll just throw a small family party to celebrate the summer solstice” or whatever we are supposed to celebrate next.
It really is OK to take time off — from everything — to have kids. It really is OK to clock out, punch out, or check out, literally and mentally — if you want to or have to. It really is OK to not do all the things while you’re in the intensive phase of childbearing. Again, all women are different but I know that for me, being able to do it all sometimes makes me feel like I should do it all.
I wish I would have given myself a little bit of slack because I was in such a hurry to do it all, and I applaud Janet Jackson for setting an example that it doesn’t matter what the world thinks or what image you present on stage, whatever platform you’re rocking — it only matters if you’re content with yourself and your family.More On