Jessica Shortall returned to work shortly after giving birth to her two babies as the Director of Giving for TOMS Shoes, so she totally gets how awkward, difficult, and sometimes hilarious it is to take your baby's food source with you to the office ... because that food source is you. Jessica has a new book out entitled Work. Pump. Repeat: The New Mom's Survival Guide to Breastfeeding and Going Back to Work, and to celebrate, she created a series of parody stock photo images that depict the reality of being a breastfeeding working mom.
Jessica is the total coolest and funniest, trust me, I got to speak with her on the phone, and she told me all about her project:
What was your favorite part of creating this project?
I was seriously giddy about putting this together. Being a breastfeeding mom on the job can be SO isolating, and the thought of just totally shamelessly putting these realities out into the world made me so happy. I also really enjoyed shopping for the gray business suit you see me wearing in the "sales presentation" image of me leaking through my dress. I knew that gray would show fake milk wetness the best, and found that little 1990s Talbots gem at my local thrift store.
What do you wish more employers really understood about the challenges of being a nursing mom at work?
In my wildest dreams, I wish that employers, politicians, and just people in general would see mothering (including breastfeeding) not as an inconvenience to minimize, but a reality to accept and even to want to celebrate and support. We are doing our jobs and we're tasked with literally creating the next generation of workers, customers, taxpayers, and military servicepeople. This isn't optional, but when we do it, it's treated like it's an individual choice we made that is going to put people out. I also wish employers would understand how much loyalty and love breastfeeding women give to the companies that are supportive of them.
What do you think is the most important way we can support breastfeeding women in the workplace?
National, paid maternity leave for every working woman, with no exceptions. No small-business exceptions. No "you haven't worked here long enough" exceptions. No "only for women in X or Y industry." Every. Woman. And then once we're back at work, every single woman needs to have the legally protected right to pump at work, in a private, non-bathroom space (currently there's a patchwork of federal and state laws, and not everyone is covered). Even if that means, for a workplace that just doesn't have a private room, hanging up a curtain in a corner and telling your other employees to mind their damn business. But, at the risk of repeating myself: pump-at-work laws alone are not going to cut it. We NEED paid maternity leave. 88% of American women get zero paid maternity leave, and almost 25% of us are back at work within two weeks of giving birth, because they don't even have unpaid leave, or can't afford to take it. If we don't address national maternity leave, we're saying we don't really care about ALL new mothers getting to recover and rest, and to bond with and feed their babies.
What is next for you?
My book -- a survival guide for breastfeeding and going back to work -- came out yesterday, so mostly I'm going to be creeping around bookstores to see it on shelves. I'm developing curricula for companies that want to better support nursing mothers, and I'm also gearing up to give my first TEDx Talk, on a lot of the topics we're talking about here, at TEDxSMU in Dallas in October. So I'll be a nervous wreck (and maybe drinking) if anyone needs me.