I remember being on top of a double-decker bus on my way to work and as the bus stopped at a traffic light, I gazed into a downstairs window and saw a boy of about 18 months to 2 years old, sitting on his own, a few toys around him, staring at the telly. “We will never be those kind of parents,” I ranted to my husband when I arrived home that evening. Ha. That prejudgement is clearly sticking a middle finger right up in my face. I had lots of them though. Prejudgements. About everybody else’s parenting when I wasn’t even one myself yet. “I’m never going to be one of parents that shouts at their kids.” “I’m not going to buy them a million toys just for the sake of it.”
But the judgements don’t stop. They’re constant. It’s a way to detract from my own feelings of inadequacy and guilt at everything I feel I’m not achieving as standard. Here’s my list of guilt (not exhaustive as it gets added to daily):
- I didn’t give birth naturally guilt
- Going to work guilt
- Leaving a child at nursery guilt
- I shouted at them today guilt
- My house isn’t tidy enough guilt
- I’m a shit Wife guilt
- I don’t bake cakes guilt
- Not enough vegetables guilt
- They watch too much telly guilt
- I played with one more than the other guilt
- I didn’t play with them enough today because I was trying to do something about the untidy house guilt
Like school girls in a playground, you join cliques so you can judge together. The most obvious being, the Boobers and the Decanters (I hate the term bottle feeders – sounds too much like bottom feeders). I now express my boob juice and decant it. However, I find myself justifying it to complete strangers by telling them, “that’s my milk.” They normally respond by slowly side stepping away from me because I’m clearly a loon but at least I don’t have THAT judgement being made on me. *Wipes brow with relief*
I buy into The Boobers. Of course I do. I love the fact that’s it free (especially as my Son has a dairy intolerance and the milk alternative costs a fortune) But what I don’t buy into is the vast number of groups on the interweb naming themselves ‘Badass’, ‘Alpha’ or ‘Pro’. This just makes us look like dicks.
Equally, what pisses me off about the Decanters is when I hear stories such as a Mum recently posted in a Facebook group I belong to; she was boobing her 10 month old baby in a Cafe and two women turned to her and loudly said, “wrong.”
To quote one of my favourite films, who made us all Judge Judy and Executioner? Why have we all not moved on from the playground? Well, I want to turn over a new leaf and hope you’ll join me.
Decanters – Boobers are not all cocky and most of us will be cacking ourselves when we have to publicly feed just incase we’re faced with our worst nightmare of being told to move on even though we know it’s illegal to do so. We try to be discrete by covering the baby with blankets, pashminas, muslins, shawls, which is like having to eat your lunch under a duvet. Some of us were lucky enough to have boobed our babies with no problems but the majority of us struggled, possibly losing part of a nipple along the way, only succeeding by chance or by having a large amount of support. If you notice one of us boobing our baby in public, give us a reassuring smile because inside we’re trembling.
Boobers – remember, the majority (not all) of Decanters wanted to be a Boober, they were just given shit, sometimes appalling advice, from health professionals and other trusted members of society. Not only do they live with their extensive lists of guilt, they have to add a ‘didn’t bond properly with my baby because I failed at breastfeeding guilt’ on the end. My Mum still gets emotional at ‘failing’ 35 years later. If you notice a Decanter in public, feeding her baby, give her a reassuring smile because we still share the same puke encrusted shoulder.
I’d like to join forces and unite against a common enemy – bad advice.
We tend to get stuck in our birth/boob experiences from bad advice, held frozen in time by shame and guilt not even realising it wasn’t our fault. But everything else around us moves on. Bad advice is a major sticking point for me. A very good Mummy friend of mine recently took her 11 month old for his health check. The Health Visitor strongly advised her that she should see her GP to get her Son changed to a specialist formula because of his food intolerances (yes, breastfed babies get them too!) so she could stop boobing him. Fortunately, she had enough boob knowledge to know that this was nonsense. However, it still left her feeling very low. Her words were, “Breastfeeding is the ONLY thing I feel I’m getting right and she would have taken it away from me.” I also recently read a comment on a breastfeeding blog, about a Mum that was advised that her Son was dairy intolerant and that she shouldn’t breastfeed and to use a very expensive formula instead. She feels terrible about this as she breastfed all of her other children. She wasn’t as fortunate as my Mum friend and believed it, and still does as I didn’t have the heart to put her right. She will remain stuck in that experience and pass on that same bad advice to other Mums.
Decanters, I need to ask you a favour. If you come across a fellow Mum friend struggling with boobing or even your own daughter, niece or granddaughter. Before you empathise their experience with your own, let them know there may still be a way round it and to seek further advice. Send them to the local Boob Group (or this blog, of course. Winky face).
Boobers, Decanters. Let’s stand erect, stick out our bosoms and roar. Rule Titannia.