With the recently renewed and lively discussions about breastfeeding, cyber daggers have been plunged into the viewpoints of those on both sides.
Let’s get some facts straight before we discuss the issue of mothers who choose breastfeeding vs. those who choose formula feeding –
The breast is best.
There. Done. Now let’s move on…
There will always be a better way for a parent to do something for their child. There will be healthier laundry detergents, ‘allergy-free’ pets, time-outs vs. spankings and the list goes on. Ad nauseam.
This renewed argument about parenting and breastfeeding stems from the recent cover of a magazine (whose name I won’t mention lest I give it yet more publicity) where a 20-something woman maintains an I-dare-you-to-challenge-me pose as a child who is supposed to be three years of age (yet looks like he’s already started primary school) stands on a chair with his mouth latched onto the woman’s breast – which is exposed, by the way, not through a nursing bra but rather from a tank top she appears to have tugged below her breast, literally whipping it out for the kid. The taunting title above this photo? Are You Mother Enough?
Apparently, the assumption is that if you’re not willing to nurse your kid for eons, then no, you are not mother enough.
Which is absurd.
A mother’s job is to care for her child in the best possible way she can. That does not mean her life and her identity end when she has a child. It means her life changes and she must adapt for the sake of her sanity and her child’s mental, physical and emotional health.
A woman can be many things. A doctor. The sole breadwinner. An athlete. A business owner. A student. A caregiver to an aged parent. It is her responsibility to her child to show how she can be all that and a mother. That she does not have to choose one over the other.
In a world where women are still considered breeders – and judging by the way politics have addressed women’s health lately, the term ‘barefoot and pregnant isn’t the archaic term we hoped it would be by now – it is difficult for women who do not intend to sacrifice everything for their children.
How many of us grew up in homes where ‘dad’ was the breadwinner and ‘mom’ was a housewife? We learned that mom’s role in life was to care for us. That mom’s family came first. The house came first. The bills came first. Balanced meals came first. Freshly pressed shirts came first.
And what of mom? Well, mom came last. Of course.
That is no longer the case. Or rather, it shouldn’t be now and should not have been then.
Women, like their male counterparts, have layered lives and should live them to the fullest. A woman dedicated to her career is not a woman who cares little for her family. If anything, she is a role model. A first hand lesson on how to balance care of self, career and family.
Now, understand, I am not knocking housewives. If you can and want to be a stay-at-home mom, that’s great. It’s your choice and you should do what you feel is right for yourself and your family. However, let your children understand that it was your ‘choice’ and that one day they must make choices for themselves and those they care about. Being happy and fulfilled is not selfish. Modifying your life to allow time for everyone is difficult and a healthy family runs as a unit – not with one member of that family sacrificing all.
Don’t we want well-rounded children? Coddling them doesn’t provide that. Loving them? Yes. Being there when they need you? Yes. Being at their beck and call? No. Absolutely not. Co-sleeping? Picking them up at their first whimper? Being their one and only who will do everything for them?
Don’t we want self-sufficient, confident children who will grow into successful adults capable of making their own decisions who accept the occasional – and inevitable – defeat and failure without suffering severe breakdowns or loss of self-esteem? Letting them learn from us – from our successes, failures, hopes and shattered dreams – gives them the tools to overcome their own hardships. To accept them as part of everyday life. To realize that defeat does not mean ‘the end’.
Will breastfeeding a newborn prevent them from ever feeling inferior? Will it give them confidence? Determination?
Of course not.
I chose not to. While I absolutely respect the choices of other women to do what they feel is best for their children, I never gave breastfeeding a consideration – much to the annoyance of nurses and ‘specialists’ in the maternity wing of the hospital where my child was born.
To address the comment from so many who insist the breast is, my nature, there for the purpose of feeding babies and is not sexual, I say this -
Breasts are multi-purpose. Yes, breasts provide nourishment for newborns. But women’s breasts also attract men…and sometimes other women. Women’s breasts play a big role in the mating game. They are of great interest during lovemaking.
Breasts ARE sexual. And most people, myself included, like it that way. To say otherwise is to show ignorance in human sexuality.
As for the ‘fact’ that the breast is best – so are organic fruits and vegetables. Yet, I can’t help wonder how many of those who insist there is no ‘excuse’ for a woman to formula feeds a child or say mothers who choose that option are knowingly/purposely not providing proper nutrition for their children have never given their children a hot dog, a grilled Kraft American cheese sandwich, Oreos, Hot Pockets, Doritos, frozen fish sticks…
No matter what choices we make, there will always be an argument for or against it. And while we can’t always be perfect, we can at least acknowledge that ‘different’ does not always mean wrong.
And maybe, just maybe, women can stop ranking on other women for the choices they make for themselves and their families.
Maybe. Some day.