Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Mother Wars

What is it about motherhood that brings out the worst in so many?

You have:
breast versus bottle
extended feeding vs weaning
SAHM vs working mums
MCN vs disposable usage
CIO vs responding to every cry

Obviously most people have a way of parenting in these areas that they have chosen. Often, in the case of some of the choices perceived as more alternative, there is a belief and values system that underpins it. For example, I know many people who use modern cloth nappies (MCN) because they see it as their way of helping with the environmental impact a new baby can have, I really respect that.

But why can't people on one side of the fence see that the people on the other side have their reasons for their choices too. And just because the reasons behind their choices don't match with their own, doesn't make them any less valid or important. It simply makes them different.

A bottle feeder might have many reasons for not breast feeding. They might have had difficulty with milk coming in or with feeding, their baby may have had trouble feeding from the breast, there might be a deeper reason behind their choice including previous sexual abuse. Imagine asking someone why they chose to bottle feed their baby and getting a response regarding sexual abuse. Imagine how bad that would make you feel - now imagine what it would be like to be that person constantly facing judgement for a choice they have made for a very good reason, and a very personal reason.

Everyone wants to convert people to their way of thinking, especially if they feel they have experienced an epiphany. I know that I am a breast feeder extraordinaire these days - funny, as prior to giving birth I always said I would give it a go but not push it if it became too hard (well, i had to pump after every feed for weeks and had the bleeding cracked nipples and I still kept going - but that was right for me, I don't need a mother of the year award). But where does that pressure end?

Information is power. It is very important that choices that people make are as informed as possible. So if you have a cause that you want to push, give information, not judgement. I hope that is what I do with the things i am passionate about.

Some days it seems that we have enough to fight without fighting each other.


Deborah said...

Of the 10 options you have listed, I have done 9...

So often it's to do with what works for that particular woman and that particular child in their particular circumstances. We forget that sometimes.

Undomestic Goddess said...

That is so true deborah. It is like we need to realise that we can't truely walk in someone else's shoes so we have to trust that people are making the best choices for them and their families at that particular time.

Hannah said...

Hi! Great post. Its a luxury that we have so many options. I totally get what you mean.

Mikhela said...

I think it's okay to make judgements. Can you imagine saying 'Spanking vs positive reinforcement - we have our reasons for choosing either option'? Raising children is important work, and being non-judgemental when we see clear injustice devalues that. If breastfeeding advocates weren't so vocal we'd still have formula companies convincing us that artificial milk was scientific & superior.

That said, I do hold my tongue. My brother pressured my sister in law to give up breastfeeding because he felt left out, and I was silent, because it's none of my business. I still have judgements about it though.

Mikhela said...

PS great blog, gorgeous baby

Mikhela said...

(Next day) you really go me thinking so I posted a response to this on my blog. Thanks for the thought provoking.

mum2one said...

This feeds into your previous post about it taking 'a village to raise a child.' The choices we make as parents are often chosen out of a lack of confidence, or a lack of support to pursue another option.
For example, with breastfeeding, especially at the begiining, it is time consuming and physically draining (literally!) If you don't have the support of family/whanau to help take care of all the other things that need doing during the time you're parked on the sofa - seemingly for hours on end - then it can be a matter of expedience to give it away.

Out of the eleven women in my ante-natal class, only two were going to be raising their baby in the same city as their mother. Two women weren't even in the same country as their mothers.

When you're unsupported and unsure, not to mention exhausted and overwhelmed by the huge transition you've made into motherhood, it can be so easy to take the option that requires the least emotional/physical energy and stamina. And that often means adopting a CIO approach, weaning early or not breastfeeding at all. Even disposables vs. cloth nappies.

What I'm trying to say is that I've hardly met any mums who say they left their baby's to cry b'cos they couldn't be arsed going to them. It is usually a choice born of exhaustion and one that carries a lot of guilt and uncertainty with it.