Breastfeeding in Public – A Women’s Rights Issue

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It is now legal in every state for a woman to breastfeed in public. Awesome! Not so awesome is how long society takes to catch up. The internet is filled with stories from women who were asked to “cover up” or find some place private to go nurse. Women who chose not to use a blanket to hide her nursing baby are accused of “taking it too far.” Women are urged to “keep it classy” and put their breasts away. My new personal favorite comes from a quote I saw on Facebook today. The woman said, “I think women are fighting more to shove their boobs in my face than they are to feed their children.” This quote is from a woman who breastfed her child.

I’ve noticed that the majority of people who speak out against breastfeeding in public are other women. This cycle of shame has to stop. I’m talking about women intentionally tearing each other down. Men, particularly fathers like Jeremy Schark, are some of my favorite advocates for mothers. Jeremy said, “Being a man, I feel that society has degraded a woman so much by using the female body to sell their products on tv, ads, magazines, and wherever else they can and it’s become accepted. Yet a mother feeding her child is not accepted. It disgusts me how this is. So many things are geared towards sex instead of family, life, love for one another. Sad. Very sad.”

I am hard pressed to find a person who doesn’t agree that breastfeeding offers many benefits for both mom and baby. It can help ward off post pardom depression and breast cancer for mom. It is easily digestible for baby and filled with antibodies to keep him/her from getting sick. Even the can of formula on my counter says that breastmilk is the ideal food for babies. There are also many benefits for mother and baby to leave the house. The fresh air and activity is good to ward off depression, babies and mommas benefit from the natural vitamin D, and it is fun to show off your new baby.

Still, “helpful” people offer their own (unsolicited) advice to mothers who chose to breastfeed.

“Why don’t you just pump milk before you go out and bottle feed in public?”

Short answer for me is because pumping is the actual worst. Especially with a newborn who doesn’t sleep for very long stretches, and would prefer to be held all day long. It’s hard to lay your baby down to cry so you can get enough milk to last an outing. Breastfeeding is hard work at first, and then very easy once you get the hang of it. I did not put in all of that hard work just to attach myself to a pump to make sure I don’t offend anyone.

“I’m totally fine with women breastfeeding as long as they cover up.”

I guess now we are talking about modesty and how it’s super important in our society. Except experience shows that to be entirely false. I’ve seen more breast covered by a baby than by tops sold at Macy’s. When I was nursing, I really only felt comfortable nursing around my more educated friends. This is just personal experience, and I know that I am generalizing here, but I found that it was only my less educated and least modest friends who ever made a negative comment about a woman breastfeeding public. When I had to breastfeed somewhere I didn’t quite feel comfortable, it was usually because people of poor social graces were leering, trying to sneak a peak of my breast. These are also the people who would make comments about how they just didn’t want to see that. To that I ask, why the crap were you looking so hard then?

“Although this is a totally natural function, that does not mean it should be done in public. Why don’t we just go around having sex in public?”

Yes, someone actually said that. This comment made me wish that logic classes were a regular part of school curriculum. Comparing breastfeeding to sex is the reason we are in this mess in the first place. One natural function is not equal to another natural function. It is illegal to have sex in public. Sorry about it. There are laws protecting women who chose to breastfeed in public.

I do see that the younger generations are becoming more open minded and tolerant. I think it has to do with the internet and all of the information just waiting for a curious mind to discover. It is my hope that women in particular will start treating each other with the respect that we all deserve. We will never realize our full power in society if we are constantly finding ways to shame each other. We have to stick together. If a woman is nursing in public, even if she looks like she is totally comfortable, she is being very brave. Outside she may seem confident, but inside she might be nervous that someone will make a nasty comment or ask her to stop. Whether she intends to or not, she is taking a silent stand for women’s rights.

Next time you’re in public and see a nursing mom, I hope that you will try to see the act of a mother feeding her child, not a public indecency. If you have to reprogram your thinking, try imagining that her breast is a bottle. If you are interacting with a woman who starts breastfeeding in front of you, know she is just feeding her child, not shoving her breasts in your face. Try to continue to look her in they eye like a human being.

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What Makes Me Powerful?

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I feel a struggle between two parts of my personality. I am a strong, take charge, action oriented type of woman. I am also a soft, patient wife and mother. I know it is possible to be both of these things always. I have worked very hard to be the same person regardless of the situation. I used to change my personality to fit the role I needed to play because I’m a total people pleaser, but that got old and exhausting. I am relatively new to this whole wife and mother thing, and I’m not afraid to admit that I am struggling.

I’ve pretty much always known I wanted to get married and have kids. My husband and I only dated 3 months before I asked him to marry me. I knew he was going to be my partner and the father of my children. Still, we waited four years to start trying for children, just to be sure.

Our first year of marriage was a struggle for both of us. I had a tremendously hard time remembering that I was a part of a “we” now. I would constantly test and push my husband. I would get myself worked up and explode on him accusing him of not loving me anymore. I needed constant reassurance that we were okay. I also couldn’t stop trying to be in charge of him. My other boyfriends didn’t mind this quality of mine.  Inevitably, I would turn into “girlfriend mommy” and I would wind up restenting my partner. We have since achieved a better balance, but as our relationship evolves and dynamics shift, that balance requires a lot of work.

In January of this year my son was born and I became a mom. I talked a big talk about how I was still going to work full time after the baby came. Earning money was a very big part of how I defined my self worth. After the baby came, the countdown clock started ticking and I was so sad to think that I was going to have to leave my little boy. I went back to work, but my heart stayed home with my son. I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom, or at least only have to work part time. It was time for a change.

Losing my income feels very scary to me. Finances are not good right now, and I keep thinking that I can save the day if I just go out and find another serving job to pull us through. Never mind the fact that I need to go to school and raise my son. I can do it all! The “take action” part of me doesn’t see that I can save the day by helping my husband find the job that will make enough money to thrive. I can be a soft place for him to land when he feels discouraged. I can keep my spirits up and remember why we decided to make this change in the first place.

I am most certainly struggling to quiet the impulsive go getter in my brain. I know that things are going to get better very soon. I am excited to be putting some hard work into my personal future and the future of my family. I think that if I can let go of my perceived powerful role of primary provider, I will gain even more power as stay-at-home wife and mom.

My Time As a Server

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Like so many of my millennial peers, I grew up being told I could do anything. Well, there was one jerk who said I couldn’t be president of the United States because a woman would never be president. Lolz.

I went to college and floundered around. I learned about psychology, philosophy, music, and writing. I dropped more than half of my classes. The ones I finished I either got an A or an F. I pretty much had no idea what I was doing, but enjoyed myself for the most part. By the time I decided that I was done spending tons of money to skip classes, I had racked up $12,000 in student loans and had no degree or professional direction.

My first serving job was at Chevy’s Fresh Mex. I walked in with zero experience, filled out the application, showed the manager I was capable of balancing a tray, and was hired on the spot. My first few weeks were a train wreak. I completely ruined two sweet ladies’ lunch because I could not stop asking them if they were “still doing okay.” I lost balance of my tray while delivering drinks. The tray tipped spilling the entire contents of 2 full glasses of Mountian Dew on a small baby. I forgot to put in a food order for a family of 5 for over an hour. Thankfully I got better, but even as a terrible server I was making really good money.

I learned that serving tables isn’t just about bringing food from the kitchen to the dining room. It can be, but if you are doing it right it can be something so much more fulfilling. Serving tables became my way of learning how to connect with different people. I decided to actually talk with the people I was serving whenever I could. It was awkward at first, but it got easier.  By the time I got pregnant, I had so many lovely regulars who knew a lot about my life, and I knew a lot about theirs. It was fun to share updates about my growing baby, and hear stories about their family.

During the last month of my pregnancy people started asking when I was going on my maternity leave. I would smile and say that I would drive myself crazy if I just sat at home all day. Actually, I could only afford to take one month off of work and I wanted to spend that month with my baby. Servers don’t get sick days, paid vacation, health insurance, and definitely not paid maternity leave. I had worked hard for my shifts and regular customers, and I knew that if I was away too long I would loose them.

I feel like being a server is a lot like being a pirate. The money is great, and the lifestyle is wild! I am not going to say that I will never work in the restaurant industry again. I find that when people use definitive words they end up looking stupid at some point. I’m talking to you, “A woman will never be president” guy. I am very thankful for the personal growth I have attained through service. I am thankful that I have always been able to support myself and my family with the generous tips I’ve received. I’m also thankful that I have found my reason to go back to college. I know that my service experience is going to help me be an amazing nurse.

Learning to Love My “Mom Bod”

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My sweet baby boy turned 8 months old yesterday. He is a healthy, smart, beautiful little boy. He grew inside my body. It knew exactly what to do to bring him into this world. My body has nourished his brain and his body for 8 months. Despite all of the amazing things my body has done, every time I look in the mirror, I scowl at it.

My body has looked like this once before. When I was in my early twenties, my parents got a divorce. I ran away to Portland, Oregon with my boyfriend at the time. I left my brother and sister to deal with the separation without me. My foundation was cracked, and I was not strong enough to help my younger siblings, much less my parents through this time. My guilt turned to depression. By the time I returned home one year later I had gone from 140lbs to 200lbs.

I moved back in with my dad, brother, and sister and started jogging. It wasn’t long before my body responded. My depression disappeard and so did the extra weight I was carrying.

Jumping now to present day. I am married to a strong, stubborn, amazing man who makes me feel like I can take over the world if I wanted to. I have curious, smart and adorable baby boy. I live in a beautiful home less than 3 miles away from my brother. I also have post pardom depression and a body that doesn’t feel like it belongs to me.

I knew I wasn’t going to be one of those pregnant woman who looks like she’s smuggling a beach ball. I’ve always been… sturdy. I have thick, strong legs. No thigh gap here. I have hips, a booty and a bit of chunk where my arms touch at the armpits. I love those things about me.

My new body has a tummy that sticks out like I’m still 6 months pregnant. It has a “muffin top” when I try to wear jeans. My arms are thick, and my hips are bumpy. My face sports bags under my eyes and a creased brow. I am struggling to love this body.

I would never look at another person’s body the way I am looking at my own. I am committing to loving myself and being grateful to my body for doing a wonderful job. Loving my body right now also means that I’m not going to put crappy food in for fuel. I’m not going to let myself be hungry as a punishment for not being the shape and size I think I should be. I am going to work out. I’m going to look in the mirror and smile at myself.

I am starting this blog for myself, my family, my son and future children. I am choosing to love myself and live an extraordinary life.