Comedian Amy Schumer’s experience of being ‘mum shamed’ for returning to work a fortnight after giving birth is not an uncommon one, with Australian comedian Amanda Blair revealing she was sent hate mail for going back to radio work weeks after giving birth to her children.
Schumer took back the mic in an impromptu set in New York on Sunday (US time), after giving birth to son Gene on May 5. She later posted a photo of her set to Instagram captioned, “I’m back”.
Among the supportive comments were those who scorned the 37-year-old’s decision to return to work “so early”.
The comments ranged from, “I’m sorry. What?! Didn’t you birth a human like 5 minutes ago?” to, “Jesus, Amy. Let the stitches dissolve first. I’m still on the couch and my youngest is three”.
It’s an experience Blair can relate to. She hosted a charity comedy event in 2006, just six hours after giving birth to her second child.
When Blair found out her due date clashed with the event, she brushed it off, thinking, “What are the chances?”.
It was 4am on the day of the event when she woke to contractions. While waiting to go to hospital, she wrote a run sheet to hand over. By 6am she’d given birth to her daughter. By noon she was onstage introducing the event.
“I’d put so much time and effort into (organising it),” the Adelaide comedian told The New Daily.
“It was an easy birth … I felt pretty good, so I thought, ‘Might as well’. Now, I think, ‘What was I on?’. But I was so high on endorphins.”
She fed her newborn, put her to sleep in the hospital’s nursery, and briefed the midwife. She was still wearing her hospital admittance band when she took to the stage and said: “Hello, welcome, I’ve just had a baby.”
Individuals will differ
It’s generally accepted among medical professionals that, given there are no complications during the birthing process, it’s up to each individual as to when they want to return to work. Doctors and obstetricians will advise each mother and her family on what’s best for them.
For Blair, there were usually mere weeks before she returned to work for her third and fourth children. At the time she was presenting on radio.
“There was no paid parental leave, and I was the breadwinner,” she told The New Daily.
“I used to get hate mail, saying that my kids would grow up to end up in juvenile detention or as drug addicts … I used to read them out on air.”
Blair’s decision to return to work was a combination of financial necessity, and feeling ready.
And it’s a decision she believes should stay with the individual, away from public comment.
“We need to stop judging mothers, and start asking, ‘Why are they returning to work? Is it because there is no paid parental leave?’,” she said, adding the construct around new parents was the part of society’s parenting culture that needed adjustment.
Schumer took the backlash in her stride, the next day posting a photo of herself expressing milk with the caption: “Sending out love to the moms shaming me for doing standup last night!”