Working mom covers herself in breast milk bags to make a point about how our society doesn’t value mothers
Artist and mother Kasey Jones makes a glaringly obvious point by covering herself in breast milk bags: we treat mothers in this country like garbage. And the extent to how awful mothers are treated doesn’t get any more visible than in the workplace.
In her latest project, titled “Working Mother Suit,” Jones dons a breast milk bag suit she made herself, sporting a powerfully stoic expression. In one of the most blunt images, she’s seen pumping on a toilet in a bathroom stall. Talk about a truth bomb. The photo is both radically candid and relatably real.
“Pumping liquid gold as the smell of shit and piss lingers in the air. If breast is best, give mothers the space they deserve in the work place so we can comfortably collect the food that nourishes our baby,” writes Jones.
Jones went back to work just four weeks after her second daughter was born because she had a deadline for a commissioned art project. While working, she pumped over 14 gallons of milk. Federal law requires companies to provide a private space for pumping mothers. But the harsh reality is the space is often a place you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy. Think dirty closets or the supply room that houses unsafe stacks of old office equipment. Which makes pumping in a bathroom, sometimes, more appealing.
Beyond finding a clean and safe environment to pump at work, there is an additional challenge of time. Yes, mothers are given a “reasonable” amount of time to pump every day, but how can they find time to pump when they’re being forced to cramp pump sessions in between back-to-back meetings and relentless deadlines?
Jones tells Scary Mommy she felt like she sacrificed her health being engorged during her shifts, as it can lead to serious health issues, like mastitis. The pain and the risks inevitably take a toll. “You want to scream, you want to cry, but you have to keep it together and show no emotion because you are a professional,” Jones says. Yes, on top of everything a new mom is going through postpartum: healing from pregnancy and childbirth, breastfeeding, sleep deprivation, and transitioning back to work (to name a few), she is often faced with workplace judgement. Which that in itself is exhausting, on top of being exhausted from a baby.
Jones says she was tired all of the time. Some nights her baby would be up three or four times, other nights, every hour. “This kind of sleep deprivation is very taxing on your mental and physical health, it impacts your immune system and your ability to be functional for the rest of the day,” Jones tells us.
Sleep deprivation that could be easily handled by giving mothers more time at home to care for their babies. The lack of federally mandated maternity/paternity leave in this country is criminal.
“It’s disheartening to know that most mothers do not have a choice and are forced to work full-time on top of caring for an infant,” writes Jones. “The United States is still the only developed country that does NOT guarantee paid maternity leave. This is a disservice to the betterment of humanity; to the physical and mental health of the people who are in this transitory state: mother, father, child.”
Jones, who has a a 6-year old and 17-month-old, wishes maternity leave was one year or longer. She also wishes parents could get a percentage of their wage while on leave, so as to not cause financial hardship. She’s hopeful it will change, if more women unite and speak out.
“I would encourage breastfeeding and working mothers to speak out against the injustices that you face. Do not hide in the shadows. Share your voice. Share it loud. We will be heard.”
If you’d like to see Kasey Jones’ full project you can view it on her Facebook page.