Friday, February 17, 2017

Comments from a Working Mom: Why Beyoncé's Performance at the Grammy’s Mattered

English: The American singer Beyoncé. Portuguê...
Beyoncé (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I missed the Grammy's because I was traveling. However, I have heard all about it via social media. Here's what I have heard. Working moms were the focus of the show. Adele had a pitch problem. And Beyoncé sang in her pregnant glory. She also allowed herself to be tilted back in a chair that inspired a meme that read, "I wish that I trusted anything as much as Beyoncé trusted that chair…" Yo B, I get your commitment to your art, but be safe!

Pregnant Beyoncé Almost Broke the Internet, kinda...


Anyway, I digress. This post is about the Queen B having the audacity to flaunt her pregnancy on stage. People talking about it seem to fall into two camps. One camp equates Beyoncé to the Madonna—singing on stage with twins is being extolled like it's the immaculate conception. "All hail, Queen B! The second camp is mad that she's getting any press about "singing while pregnant" at all. They're like, "She ain't do nothing special. Pregnant women go to work every day, DAMMIT!" (There was a third fringe camp that equated her costume to devil worship and swears that Beyoncé is part of the illuminati. I think he was a camp of one though.)

A very pregnant me on a date with my hubby
When I first started reading about it I wondered what all of the fuss was about. Based on the clips I saw, it was noteworthy that she was obviously pregnant and not in a "I just started showing kind of way". Beyoncé was on stage in a "I am clearly shopping in the maternity department and qualifying for special parking spaces kind of way". Yet she still donned a scantily clad costume and belted out a song. Still she's a performer and she was on the Grammys. Singers have appeared on there nearly naked before, right?! But Beyoncé dared to do it pregnant. And that made all the difference.

Even though I write about working mom issues. I was a little surprised about the social media activity about Beyoncé's performance. Then I realize that I shouldn't be. Here's the thing about pregnancy. Most people believe that they are entitled to comment about pregnant woman's choices in a way that they never would have before.  

Beyoncé's Performance is Relevant for Policy Reasons 


I've even experienced it. I have been pregnant twice. Each time, people have asked me the same question, "How long do you plan to work?" Each time, I have thought the question a bit odd. 

Here's why.

First, they don't know my job responsibilities. They don't pay my bills.  They don't know my doctor's recommendations. However, more importantly, from a policy perspective, America has no mandatory, paid maternity leave. And my home state of Pennsylvania has no mandatory, paid maternity leave. So, asking me when I planned to "stop working" was based on some antiquated notion that it was simply a matter of choice. 

They never prefaced the question with, "So, do you have paid leave?" They just assumed that I should be stopping because of "my condition". Like I told my sister, "I'm a lawyer. I could be picking cotton. I'll be OK." I could have said, "working in a factory, flipping burgers, digging ditches, etc. I was blessed with healthy pregnancies and literally worked while I was experiencing contractions. It might sound crazy, but I did it.

Why might I have done this crazy thing? Am I a martyr? Was I looking for fodder for a blog post? No. I did it for two reasons. My family and I needed the money. Also, I was stacking my vacation time so that I would have more paid leave time to bond with my baby. Fortunately, my plan worked. I also had a very understanding boss who believes that family is everything.

Although I was fortunate, it disturbs me that my ability to take maternity leave was at the discretion of my employer and my supervisor. For that reason, I am grateful that Beyoncé's performance has drawn so much attention. I celebrate whenever I see a pregnant woman doing her thing and performing to excellence. I think that can only help people to appreciate that pregnancy isn't the end of one's career--even when that career is world domination of the singing world and reigning over legions of fans. I also hope that it helps to continue the more meaningful conversation of providing much needed benefits to American women who so desperately need them.

I'd also like world peace...  

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