To unlock a truth that you may never find, For it was in a cup of kindness all the time
I read two articles this morning about mothering.
The first one involves a study of working mothers and is found here: Do Working Mothers Really Still Need to Justify Themselves?
The second is a post by Julie at A Little Pregnant, regarding World Breastfeeding Week. Her post is called Breastfeeding is awesome. There. I've Encouraged You.
I know that working mothers and breastfeeding are not the same topic, but what they do have in common is that they are both hot and touchy topics.
When I first pregnant with Gabriel, way back in 1999, I spent a lot of time reading the parenting discussion boards at babycenter.com. I don't think those forums exist anymore, at least in the way they did then. What I found both shocking and upsetting was how ugly an argument could get on the Internet. There were very personal attacks and there were several times, just during my pregnancy, where the moderators of BabyCenter threatened to shut down the "Great Debates" discussion forum.
I wasted a lot of time on those boards.
I mean that. I wasted a lot of time. I spent a lot of time defending my own decision to work and watching the wretched sparring match that would go on between formula feeders and breast feeders.
What was the point of all of those hours wasted? To the extent they had any bearing on my real life or real choices? I would have been better served watching daytime television, I'm pretty sure. Or reading more mysteries. Painting my toenails? Learning to make Moroccan food? Crocheting Gabe's initials on the backs of diaper cozies?
My point is that I had a lot of time and emotional investment in those boards, and, in retrospect, it was absurd.
It didn't matter.
Being a working mother was the reality for my life and my family. I don't regret it, and I don't feel guilty about it. And I don't feel a need to justify it. (Some of you are sitting back and saying, "well, if you don't feel a need to justify it, why are you writing about it at all?" and I say, "I'm getting there, really, I am.")
Similarly, breastfeeding my son was the reality for my life and family. I was suffering from a wicked case of post-partum depression during Gabriel's first year, and there is very little that I enjoyed about his infancy.
Nursing Gabriel was one of the few things I enjoyed about mothering an infant. Yes, it was hard at first. Yes, it hurt. Yes, I was tired. I'm still glad I did it. It was fulfilling in a way I cannot adequately explain.
But, my decision to nurse Gabriel or be a working mother is not a judgment about other mother's choices. I have held the hand of more than one of my good Girlfriend's and said, "If you don't want to do this? Don't do it."
What worked or works for me is not always going to work for other mothers. I'm happy to be the biggest cheerleader for a girlfriend who wants to breastfeed and is having trouble getting started. I'm happy to look at a resume for a girlfriend who wants to go back to work.
But I'm equally happy to hold their hands and say, "This mothering business? This mothering gig is HARD. It's hard and sticky and messy and sometimes the only way to experience it is to hold on to the people you love and drag them with you through the sticky mess. And let them drag you when you are too tired to do the dragging."
The most powerful sentence in the piece Julie has written is this one:
"What I want, more than to promote breastfeeding itself, is to promote kindness to mothers."
Hallelujah. Hallelujah and Amen.
There is no point to finger-pointing and nay-saying and "I love my kid more than you love your kid because I did X and you did Y."
So don't say those stupid things.
Instead, be kind. Be kind to each other. Be kind to other mothers. Grab hold and help them be the best mothers that they can. Be kind. Be gentle. Remember - Everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.**
*Emmy Lou Harris, Cup of Kindness
** Plato (Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle.)