I was recently asked if I felt that there was a “prejudice” against breastfeeding, that I experienced in my work. I was a bit taken aback by the question. Why would someone even think to ask that? Then I realized what I was being asked to take a side in.
The “mommy wars” is a ridiculous term used for the ridiculous practice of pitting women against one another based on their parenting choices. Working, or staying at home. Day care or not. Breast or bottle.
Because if there’s one thing I learned in social work, it’s that all families are exactly the same, and there is a one-size-fits-all solution to every problem that may develop.
Personally, I was raised by a working mother and father. If either of my parents were suited to stay home and take care of the kids, it was probably my dad. (He actually offered to do this when I was about 22.) I was fortunate to be surrounded by a supportive extended family and exposed to quality day care. This was my family’s situation, and it is what worked best for us.
But when it comes down to the families I work with, things are a bit different. My answer when people ask where I stand on these
non-issues-breastfeeding, baby wearing, sleep training-is: I honestly don’t care. In the line of work I do, these are not choices. Being a “stay at home mom” or even more irritating “full time mom” (because my mom ceased to be a parent while working) as opposed to a “working mom” (yes, you’re the only one who has ever worked, your medal is in the mail) is not a choice. It’s whatever works, based on a number of factors: if the father is involved, if there are other family members available, if affordable child care is an option, if mom’s education, health, and job history make work a viable possibility.
It’s the same with breastfeeding. Like it or not, it doesn’t work for everyone. Some women need to leave their babies with whatever family member is willing. Those pumps you all register for, I assume for the express purpose of making me uncomfortable, are expensive. It might not be an option. And, as one 21 year old mother was kind enough to tell me, breastfeeding makes your titties hurt.
People who get to choose what works best for their family, or what they really want to do, and what is most fulfilling for them, are extraordinarily fortunate. A lot of people don’t have that. They do what they have to do. “OK, we can’t afford camp this summer, so I’ll stay home because my husband was able to get some extra hours.” “Well, I don’t love this day care, and I wish she didn’t have to start so young, but it’s the only one the city will pay for.” “I’d like to breastfeed, but I need to leave the baby with my grandmother and I just don’t have time.”
So, as for prejudice against breastfeeding – no. No one gives a shit. Be grateful that you have options and move on with your life. I’m sorry if someone looks at you askance for doing it in public, but if that’s the worst moment of “prejudice” you experience…as a great philosopher once said, “You’re gonna write a sad poem in your journal, and move on.” I’ve seen women breastfeed in public. I don’t fall to my knees to thank the universe for exposing me to such a beautiful and natural moment, but I. Don’t. Care.
I say this as someone whose mother is fond of telling friends about the time your favorite social worker was breastfed at the Bronx Zoo.
My point? I do have one. A lot of people on both sides make it an issue when it’s not. There are important things going on in the world. My concern and moral outrage is reserved for children without after school programs, families who have their child care or housing subsidy cut off, fathers who neglect their children, mothers who bring abusive men into their homes, kids in school systems with a 40% graduation rate, children who are forced to be soldiers in actual wars.
These issues simply don’t register. Let’s all learn to mind our own business and recognize that we don’t have all the answers. Because this is just getting silly.