Lessons from the Mothers' Room

by Liza Wyles

I knew who she was, could tell by her voice. And I knew she had
kids. But sitting there on a lidless toilet, business casual and bare-chested,
I didn’t locate the sympathy in her statement. I only heard her say I was doing
this all wrong.

I don’t know what she could have said that would have stung
less, that wouldn’t have made me feel like a fraud as a mom. If she had said
nothing, I wouldn’t have felt any less self-conscious and small on that toilet,
knowing she could hear the grinding gears of my mothering in a tiny stall where
she might have changed a tampon just minutes before.

But I know now I should have thanked her. Because after that, I
started to ask for meetings to be rescheduled if they fell during my pumping
times. I worked at refusing to feel bad about putting life before work when
need be, because the work never suffered. I exchanged smiles with the other
moms I’d see, their boxy Medela bags dead giveaways in the elevator. Instead of constantly
operating from a point of apology, I committed to normalizing the act of
pumping during the workday. Like
people normalize having lunch or non-work-related chats in the hallway. I found my working mother
voice, and I used it to my benefit. My employer noticed. I was promoted.

Writer's excerpt courtesy NYWIFT (NYWIFT.ORG)