When you become a mother, it often feels like your basic humanity is being assaulted. You no longer have control over your time or even your body; someone else’s needs to eat or sleep come before your own. We mothers generally accept our lot with equanimity, but sometimes we can be pushed too far. I’d like to propose a Mothers’ Bill of Rights, 16 things that all mothers are entitled to. Below, 16 “birthrights” you’ll automatically receive after the delivery of your first child.
1. The right to pee alone, calmly wash our hands and leave the bathroom in our own good time, without anyone screaming, sobbing or pounding on the door.
2. The right to eat our own plate of food, which is a pristine plate of food that no one has touched before us. It’s also hot if it’s supposed be hot.
3. The right to not get up more than twice during a meal for more milk or ketchup or to wipe off a toddler who is freaking out about ketchup on his hands and then needs more ketchup.
4. The right to return to work after a leave of absence to care for children or an elder without taking a huge career hit.
5. For six weeks after delivering a baby, the right to have someone bring us a plate of food for every single meal and snack.
6. A reasonable amount of time to tend to hair and makeup alone each morning, without having to wrestle a child off the sink and keep another from climbing in the bathtub and turning on the water, say 15 minutes.
7. The right to have strangers keep their mouths shut when we take the kids out. No, the baby doesn’t need a hat—it’s not that cold. No, it’s OK with us if the toddler sucks his thumb—leave him alone. Yes, I know my kids are kind of noisy, but you know, we’re in a McDonald’s play space.
8. The right to not care if we don’t like to cook. And to not care if we don’t like to clean.
9. A partner who is equipped with the same Spidey-sense of what needs to be done, so that we don’t have to roust him off the couch by saying, “Um, there’s still dishes, lunch packing, laundry folding and soccer-gear washing to be done before we go to bed. Can I get a hand?”
10. Some amount of time alone in the house each week to putter, tidy up and maybe even read a little bit. A half-day—four hours—would be ideal, but okay, fine, we’ll settle for two.
11. A certain number of vacation days that can be enjoyed with or without kids.
12. Date night once a week or at least twice a month.
13. The right to go to the doctor by ourselves, when we need to, without putting it off because “things are crazy right now.”
14. The right to eat off paper plates sometimes because, oh my God, the dishes.
15. The right to be babied when we’re sick and not have to time our Tylenol consumption around school drop-off and pick-up.
16. Finally, the right to have enough time and help, either from partners or family or paid help, to feel like our lives are something more than sprints from one thing to the next. In short, the right to enjoy being mothers.