What the Heck, Moms?

I will straight up tell you right now that motherhood – whether you stay at home or go to a job – is hard. But you know what makes it 562.39999 percent harder?

When we declare war on each other.

Two separate things came to light this week that have people sniping and carping about a divide that really doesn’t have to be there. The most recent, of course, is the debate about whether or not stay-at-home moms “work.”

I think anyone who is a parent – regardless of employment status – knows that parenting is work. Period. Mothers who work outside the home are keenly aware of the amount of work that goes into taking care of children and making sure they live, even if they are physically apart from their child (or children) during the day. 

I know it’s easy to forget, but I’m assuming that many of us stay-at-home moms at one time worked at a job outside our homes. Remember? Even on the fun days, you came home for a reason – work is work. Now think about doing everything you do every night and every morning, on top of that?

Ahhhh – not the cakewalk, right?

And you moms that work outside the home – I assume here that you have weekends at home with your children. Are there not times that you wish you could fast forward the clock so Monday would come sooner and you could talk to a grown up and pee alone?  Multiply that by seven days.

So yeah, not the easy thing, either.

But I’m willing to bet one of the two water cups I came home from the hospital with because they just kept bringing me more and I like water cups that all of us already knew that. So why the fighting?

Because suddenly society kind of wants us to. It’s sexy TV to see moms fighting about stuff, when at the end of the day, all we all really want is to raise tiny humans into big humans that don’t become serial killers, politicians or Courtney Stoddard.

So seriously – the next person that forwards you a link about how stay-at-home moms work, too, take a deep breath and just point out that everyone knows that, it’s just a sexy talking point for a presidential campaign season. Be all kumbayah, bitches, because frankly, we’ve got a lot more to fight for – together – than we do to fight about.

But I’m not done.

There has also been a big debate over (again) breast feeding versus formula feeding, after Public Citizen called out several hospitals for offering free formula samples in the swag bags they send home with patients, asking them to remove all sample bottles of formula from them.

Sigh.

Seriously. We all know that breast milk is superior to formula. It’s made for a baby. It passes on all kinds of immunity and such to the baby from the mother. Of my close group of friends, every single one of us wanted to nurse. Hell, I wanted to so badly I pumped exclusively for six months. In the early months, my day was an endless cycle of attempting to get Tiny to latch, watching him root and fuss and not latch on, feeding him a bottle of pumped milk, getting him settled, and then pumping (he had a condition similar to reflux – Happy Spitter. You have to do all the extra things you do for a reflux baby’s feedings, so getting him settled wasn’t just a matter of laying him down). By the time I washed out all the pump parts, it was time to start the cycle all over again.

But in the first few days after John’s month early arrival, I gave my baby the demon juice they call formula. The hospital brought it to me, not because they wanted me to deviate from my chosen path of breastfeeding, but because his weight was dropping precipitously and my milk production could not yet match his needs. No fewer than three lactation consultants came by repeatedly to help me, and I pumped every three hours, around the clock, as well as taking all the usual herbs and staying hydrated.

Sometimes, no matter how hard the mother tries, breast feeding doesn’t happen as easily as it does for others. And let me go on record as saying I think it’s somewhat foolhardy to demand that hospitals never send parents home with any formula. We were sent home with just a couple more days supply of it, because my production was increasing. By the time Tiny had his two week checkup, he was just drinking breast milk.

But I also disagree with some who have called the Public Citizen group “gestapo.” Likening them to Hitler’s minions for genocide is a little much, when at worst they are just misguided. I doubt that many hospitals will ever completely quit giving out formula, given that there ARE circumstances where it is necessary. I, for the record, gave birth at a “baby friendly” hospital. But it was also a realistic hospital that ultimately was charged with doing what was in the best interest of the patient – my baby.

But what this did do is open up a dialogue. Anything – in my opinion – that gets people thinking about breast feeding and their potential choices for birthing and postpartum support is a good thing. What I do hate is that it once again has made those who – for whatever reason – couldn’t nurse feel like they have failed their child. They didn’t feed them Rockstar in a moldy bottle. It was formula, packed with nutrients.

Which again, boils down to one thing: We are all doing the best we can, with what we have emotionally, physically and economically. I agonized over the decision to stop pumping. I was – at that point – taking a prescription drug with side effects that included shutting down or inhibiting my brain’s dopamine production, just so I could increase my supply to keep up with John. I was taking every herb, keeping hydrated, drinking Mother’s Milk tea like a linebacker at a Texas two-a-day.  I never felt as frustrated and sad as the night we were stranded at an airport when John was 7 weeks old,  and he was inconsolable and hungry, and I couldn’t just find a quiet place to nurse him, quiet him, and sooth him. No. It had to be a giant production of carting frozen breast milk through the airport, finding a way to warm it, feeding him, getting him settled, and then standing up  at the sink in a bathroom where everyone was washing their crotchy hands to pump because it was the only place that had outlets.

I was not lazy. I did care. And yet, eventually I did have to turn to formula. I cried the day I took my last “Canadian bootleg booby juice making” pill. I cried every day after that, as I watched – despite my attempts to pump even more – my supply dwindle away. I cried the first day I had to feed my baby formula all day, because I didn’t even have my stash anymore to give him even one bottle of breast milk a day. I did not enter the world of formula because of convenience. I was dragged there, every step of the way, and shaken until I let go of my pump.

I just think, as mothers, we’re above all this – the fighting about who works harder, the fighting about who cares more about their babies. At the end of the day, we’re all superwomen. Some of us grew entire other people in our bodies. Some of us opted to open our lives to children who didn’t grow in our bodies, but grew in our hearts.

And each of us, regardless of belief, love our children to the ends of the earth and farther. If we can recognize that fact about each other – why do we need to fight?

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2 Comments

  1. This: “What I do hate is that it once again has made those who – for whatever reason – couldn’t nurse feel like they have failed their child.”

    What about those of us who had premature babies and very difficult pregnancies and births? Are these same moms going to judge me for my use of formula? It’s ridiculous and don’t get me started on my choosing to work. My baby loves her teachers at daycare. Her sweet little face lights up when she sees her morning teacher. And, she’s always getting snuggles when I pick her up.

    What really chaps my hide is when she’s gotten sick and someone (always another mom, never a dad or a friend with no kids) implies it’s because she’s at daycare. Like, our house is a bubble of no germs, right?

    Sigh… I have been feeling like I read too many SAHM blogs lately because it makes me think of all the things I’m missing. But, I will say that my time in the evenings and weekends is cherished. Would I like to get to the gym so I can get my pre-baby body back? Absolutely, but there’s not enough time in the day and I’d rather snuggle with my little one.

    Anyhow, that’s all. I agree with you that this needs to stop. Moms are so powerful when we work together, but even more destructive when we go against each other. Let’s all be a force for good!!!

    Reply

  2. Yes, both of these things really aggravated me this week too. We women are missing some big-damn-things by bitching at and/or judging each other over stuff when we could be banding together to make some changes to our world.

    One of my friends suggested last summer that the legislators in our state are purposely and endlessly debating a bunch of stupid legislative bullshit in order to distract laypeople from the BIG problems our state faces. We women are doing that to ourselves. Rather than backbiting each other for doing things (or daring to exist in circumstances that require said “things”) differently that how we’d choose to do it (again, assuming there’s even a choice here), we need to figure out a way to put those differences aside and advocate for each other.

    ‘Cause the menfolk* sure as hell ain’t gonna do it for us.

    * Menfolk in this situation mostly referring to male legislators and certainly not any of the wonderful and sensitive men we all have in our lives who realize we’re completely awesome and awe-inspiring.

    Reply

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