From the moment a woman announces she's expecting, what should be a series of decisions on everything from where to give birth to how to feed her child instead becomes opportunities for judgment.
At a time when the government is trying to take away a woman's right to make decisions about her own body, you would think women would unite in sisterhood to at least support one another's right to make individual decisions on how to mother — and yet we instead too often see another mother's choices as a way for her to be wrong. So while I was disheartened that Chrissy Teigen received so much criticism for going out to dinner with her husband nine days after giving birth, I was not surprised.
American society expects mothers to be martyrs rather than women — to give at all costs and be happy to do so. But the inevitable result of nonstop giving without any reciprocal getting is that we run out of things to give. When our neglected marriages crumble and our own needs are so long abandoned we become hollow and bitter, we're clearly not in the best place to administer good mothering.
And yet, when Chrissy Teigen is shamed for leaving her newborn at home to have a date with her husband, the implication is that this run-down state is somehow the nobler one to mother from. It makes me wonder where our priorities are when we value self-sacrificing mothers over self-nourishing ones.
A child's entire well-being is based on the mother during gestation, and we give pregnant women due allowances for the extra rest, food, and exercise needs they have in the process of growing human life — and yet as soon as that baby is born, when it's time for the tremendous task of raising a child, that same woman's status is reduced from sacred vessel to tireless caregiver. Her needs as a woman are no longer respected, yet we expect her to continue to perform as wife, mother, and often a member of the workforce. But with nothing to fuel her, she can only give so much.
Taking time to nurture yourself — be it by having a caretaker sit in while you get a manicure or a partner come home early from work so you can take a walk — or to make time for your marriage as Chrissy Teigen did, is not only OK to do, it's responsible.
I also went on a date night with my husband a week and a half after my baby's birth. Getting dressed, going out of the house, and having a moment to pull our heads out of the baby fog and reconnect as a man and a woman, even if just long enough to process all the profound things that had just happened in our lives, was cathartic and revitalizing. We came back home to our infant son refreshed. It takes an emotionally healthy and physically strong parent to raise a child — let us support Chrissy Teigen and each other as we work to be that woman, each in our own way.