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First Inaugural Moms’ Motherhood Summit Shatters Myths About Moms

A woman’s fertility drops at age 35. Avoid eating sushi at all costs during pregnancy. If you don’t breastfeed your baby, you are a bad mother. There are enough myths about pregnancy and parenthood – which all women have undoubtedly heard of, regardless of their status as a mother – to fill a book (series). But myths are meant to be busted. And this week, some of them were.

On May 14, the nonprofit Moms First, in collaboration with InStyle, hosted its first-ever Motherhood Summit, where thousands of mothers and allies tuned in for a day of programming focused on motherhood culture and commitment to gender equality. During the panel titled “Debunking Myths About Moms: The History and Data Behind Motherhood,” moderated by In the style Editor-in-Chief Danielle McNally, Parentdata CEO and four-time author Emily Oster, Real Self-Care founder and perinatal psychiatrist Pooja Lakshmin, MD, and qualitative sociologist and author Gretchen Sisson, discussed the false narratives that have contributed to systemic failures in our country and has enlightened millions of mothers.

They came to set the record straight on what being a mother looks like, starting with an unequivocal declaration that it is not, in fact, a one-size-fits-all role. “There’s a very common myth that there’s a right way to do it… there’s a right way to parent, and we just have to find it and do it. And if you don’t, you’re a failure, just like your child,” Oster said. “I would just completely abandon this idea that there is one right way to do it and replace it with the idea that there is one right way to do it. You.”

Jessica Ball


Medical guidelines are not, or at least should not be, not universal either. Oster proposes that effective medical advice must be contextualized for each patient. Yes, doctors are experts in their field of practice, but mothers are experts in their situation. Medical conversations must connect medical data and evidence to patient preferences. The fact that the latter is rarely taken into account can contribute to the feelings of guilt and shame that mothers often feel.

And it’s not just a question of preference. Lakshmin reminds us that medical guidelines often neglect to consider social determinants of health (i.e. conditions such as economic stability, support network, access to nutrition, etc.) – even though she did at one point. Lakshmin shares that while studying at George Washington University, she learned that mothers who slept four to six hours straight significantly reduced their risk of postpartum depression or anxiety. “At that time, I wasn’t a mother yet, so I told patients that,” she explained. “They looked at me like I was the devil.”

Jessica Ball


She said she did not take into account whether her patient was a single mother or a partnered mother, whether her patient or her patient’s partner had received paid parental leave, whether her patient had relatives nearby or could afford additional care. “(The medical community is) changing, of course it is changing, but the focus is still on pharmacology and biological treatments,” Lakshmi said.

Oster brought up another pesky factor in this equation: guilt. When faced with a dilemma like getting enough sleep for themselves or breastfeeding their child, she said many mothers will forgo the first solution because it “seems selfish.” “We need to understand that caring for the parent and caring for the family unit in a broader sense is the key to caring for the baby,” Oster told the audience.

So how to solve these problems that mothers face? To begin, Sisson suggests pushing back against the idea that individual choice is the guiding principle.

Jessica Ball


Take the example of breastfeeding. Sisson explained that a mother’s decision to breastfeed (or not) can be influenced by things like her employer’s breastfeeding policy or her ability to have a flexible work schedule to travel with her children. . “We need to think about how individual choices reflect the world we offer mothers and how we can offer something more,” she said.

“People will only make good choices if they have good options,” Sisson continued. “If we put the burden of…that on every mother, every family, to go their own way to have it all, right? Then you miss the opportunity to make a collective call to action.

Lakshmi advised mothers to have a “both/and” approach. They must both recognize that the system is broken And defend yourself within this broken system; it is the only way to catalyze collective change.

“If you are a person giving birth, if you go to the doctor, you have to fight. You must defend yourself. And I tell that to all my patients, and it sucks. It shouldn’t be like this,” Lakshmi encouraged. “We have to be willing to exercise and step out of our comfort zone. And when we all do that, it frees up space and gives permission for others.

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