There's a strange phenomenon that occurs when a woman is on the precipice of motherhood, whereby people inexplicably lose any filter their mouths used to have. And, sadly, that is but one of many things women who are about to become parents deal with that men just don't have to. It doesn't matter, either, how said women become parents — whether it is through childbirth, adoption, marriage, or any other means — these issues are essentially endemic to all women and, well, it's about time we brought to light how silly that is, right?
I'd love to tell you that it stops once you actually become a mother, but I'd be lying. Once you cross that threshold, you then get to field comments like, "It's so nice of your boyfriend/fiance/husband/what-have-you to watch the kids while you [insert any activity not involving said male figure and progeny]." What, like he's the babysitter? Eesh. Yes, these sort of things start when you are on your way to becoming a parent. But they don't end until ... uh, I'll have to get back to you on that one. I've yet to reach that mythical watershed yet.
The good news is that, as irksome as these things are, they'll pale in comparison to the joy (and sometimes shit show) that becoming a parent entails. Still, it's important to call them out when we can to bring awareness to the seriously skewed gender tropes that persist even today.
1. People Who Ask You Whether Your Career Will Suffer
Or, even worse, if you plan to return to work at all. Not that there is anything wrong with being a stay-at-home mom; every woman has the right to decide what is best for her and her family. The problem lies in the assumption that a woman couldn't or wouldn't want to have both children and a career. Again, none of your business, buddy. Men generally don't get asked this question because, thanks to ridiculous gender norms, they are seen more as secondary caregivers than primary.
2. The Constant Observations About Your Body
I will never, ever understand what it is about a woman becoming a mother that makes people feel like they have license to make unfiltered comments about her body — sometimes even accompanied by an unsolicited belly rub. "You hardly look pregnant at all!" "Whoa, are you sure you aren't having twins?" "Don't worry; you'll lose the baby weight." These are all comments that women routinely hear when they inform someone they are getting ready to become a mother. Not only is it troubling that people feel they have the right to weigh in on a woman's body, but it's problematic in that there are many different ways to become a mother, not all of which are apparent simply by looking at someone. That woman whose due date you just asked? She may have adopted. Or, like me when I heard the question, be three months postpartum. Or any number of other possible scenarios. And even though the term "dad bod" has now been coined, men really don't catch the same flack as female parents on this.
3. Being Told How "Brave" You Are
Uh, thanks? I mean, sure, being a mom is pretty gosh-darn heroic by nature. But what exactly is the implication here? That it's brave for a woman to believe she can have it all? That it's brave for a woman to believe she can endure a process as painful as childbirth or as scary as an open adoption? ICYMI, women are strong as hell. However, becoming a mother isn't some great feat to conquer. What's more, dads never hear this, and the implicit narrative there is that they don't have to transition into acts of bravery because they are brave.
4. Being Warned About How Hard It Is To "Juggle It All"
Once, when I informed a former employer I was pregnant, there was no congratulatory response or show of support. Rather, he asked if I was going to be able to "juggle it all." Um, yep — I think I've got it covered, brosky. As hard as it is for some people to grasp, women are entirely capable of being mothers and workers and wives and whatever else we want to be. In the same vein as being asked whether or not becoming a parent might damage our careers, this question marginalizes mothers and operates under the premise that we can only fit in one box at a time. No one ever gives a second thought to whether or not men can "juggle it all," so what's the inference?
5. Disgusting, Sexist Come-Ons
This happens. A lot. Once, when I was leaving Babies 'R Us with baby supplies in tow, a man approached me and — I kid you not — said, "Damn, I wish you were my baby mama." Or it could happen when a woman is simply talking about becoming a mother and hears those dreaded four letters tossed in her direction: M.I.L.F. Enough said, no?
6. The Trite Expression, "You're Such A Mom!"
Sometimes, this is delivered in the form of "You look like such a mom" or "You act like such a mom." These utterances begin when a woman first begins her journey toward motherhood and basically never go away. What does it all mean even? If you're trying to say I am a badass woman who is responsible for shaping a tiny human into a rockstar adult one day and who also happens to be trying to run the world, then I'll take it. Otherwise, I'm not sure what purpose telling someone this serves. Dads don't hear this. Do they have, like, parenting camouflage?
I'm certain there a metric ton of amazing dads out there who take equal part in waking up with the baby and feeding and changing and everything else that sleep-deprived parents do — once a baby arrives. But prior to a child's arrival in a couple's life, it's often the mamas who lose sleep. If she is pregnant, her child-bearing body makes snoozing virtually impossible. If she is bringing a child into her fold some other way, she keeps herself up nights worrying about every last detail. And while I certainly can't speak for all men, it's probably safe to wager that most snore through these restless nights pre-parenthood. Oh, and don't even get me started on the "You look so tired" comment moms-to-be have to hear a million times a day.