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There’s a lot of pressure on mothers to be perfect. Here’s why that idea is toxic.

For women, the pressures of parenting are real, whether you choose to have a child or not. And despite tremendous progress in equality from the bedroom to the boardroom to the kitchen, women still bear the brunt of child-rearing.

Another taken-for-granted assumption is a woman’s ability, physically and otherwise, to do parenting tasks. Every step of parenting is hard, but what about the expectations we put on mothers to have a certain lifestyle? We expect them to be middle class (not on welfare!), maternally and eternally selfless, even to the point of deeming someone — who may not tick all these boxes — downright irresponsible for deciding to have a child.

This week’s Divided States of Women digs into this unfair standard around ability and child-rearing. We talk to an expert on disability law and a mother who has battled being considered “unsuitable” for parenting, but is doing so successfully, joyfully, and lovingly.