Monday, August 29, 2011

Do Online Parenting Boards Fuel the "Mommy Wars"?

I was driving to school this morning, Heading to my Oral Communication class, thinking about things we had discussed and what I had read. It was about perception and how we use our experiences to perceive things.

This got me thinking- about a time when Lil Man was around 2-3 months old. I was taking my niece to the zoo and had stopped in a back area to nurse Lil Man while she played on a slide in the zoo. A couple other moms came with their infants, bottle fed, and let their older children play. I smiled at the moms, and they gave what I perceived as a forced smile to me. They then stared at how I was nursing my child, and then got up and walked to another area. To me, it seemed clear that they either did not approve of my nursing in public (even though I was using a cover to keep my fair child from getting scorched by the sun) or they were worried that I was going to say something about the method they chose to feed their child.

Now, I am not sure that they moved because of my nursing, but the body language, and expressions made me feel like they well as one other experience with a popular online birth board. Online, I had read countless stories of breastfeeding mothers getting dirty looks, being asked to leave, or rude comments made in passing. I had also read several stories of formula or bottle feeding mothers saying they were chastised out in public for not breastfeeding. I had never SEEN in real life, any of these events take place, yet these stories skewed my perception of how breastfeeding and formula feeding moms interact with each other.

In real life, every mother that I know uses disposable diapers. The few I have met (in passing) that use cloth, never talked about it. They just did it, never paid attention to if my child wore cloth or disposable diapers, and we talked about other, more important things. If you go online, to a birth board, cloth vs disposable is one of those "hot topics" that will ultimately end in a show down. Cloth Diapering mothers arguing to the death about how cloth is more cost effective, cute, less toxic, and so much more. Disposable Diapering mothers feeling as though they have to explain why they chose to go the route they did. Not only that, inevitably, a EC mommy (elimination communication) will come in and point out there would be no issue if everybody just did EC.

The list goes on and on- CIO vs No-Cry sleep methods, stay home mom vs working mom, purees vs baby-led solids, vaccination vs not, circumcise or not, and so much more. The words that spill out on these "threads" can be snide, crude, antagonistic, and so much more.

I can't help but think that these online sites have taught us to put up our defences. These interactions, often quick and thoughtless by those who antagonize, make us feel that everyone is waiting to judge or comment on each choice we make as a parent.

Now don't get me wrong, there would always be people who judge. Those that think "if they would just do this, their child wouldn't be like that" and so on..... BUT- how often in real life, do we TELL people these things? Not very often. If we think them, we usually keep them to ourselves, or at most, say something to our spouse, or friend. While this doesn't make those thoughts right, it does spare feelings, and unnecessary confrontation.

So while I would never, ever, say anything like that in real life, and most of us probably wouldn't, the online forums have made us feel as though someone will. Online, people chuck their manners out the window before sitting at the keyboard, they have no one to answer to, no "real" consequences, and if things get heated, it is easy for them to walk away. They also usually find a group to back them up in how they fill. If they word things just right, the bully, can even come off as the victim.

But in real life, we are usually in a one-on-one type situation. We are just as vulnerable as the other person. Not only that, we want to be liked in real life. We want positive interactions with other moms. We want to share common experiences, not dwell on the choices we make that are different.

If I had never been to this online forum, and never seen some of these "wars" I would not even know of their existence. I would never have thought that those moms were either judging me or waiting to be judged, I would have thought they just were wanting some privacy (since there were 2 and they were in a conversation).

Technology and the internet are wonderful tools. I have made some wonderful friends through these online sites, but I can't help but notice they have taken the "Mommy Wars" to an entirely new level. We expect to be judged for every choice we make, and we feel that we need to label ourselves, and group ourselves with other moms that have our labels. Is there an answer to this? Yes. The answer is to stop putting labels on ourselves and others, educate but be respectful, and use the same courtesy we would in person, online. Will people do this? Probably not. While it would be AMAZING if they did, every month, a new birth board is started for expected mothers, and every month, their are new moms to get in wars. Moms seeking advice will get strong advocates- some that are respectful, and unfortunately some that are not, and the mommy wars will continue.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

You Don't Have to DO It To SUPPORT It

I am an athletic supporter! I LOVE college football (GO BOISE STATE!) and really enjoyed going to any type of sporting event in school. I love soccer. However, I am not a big athlete. NOPE! Even when I was younger and loved soccer, throwing a baseball, and if I do say so myself- had a killer serve in volleyball- I was never what I would consider an "athlete."
I still understand the games, appreciate them, enjoy seeing the advertisements, watching the ratings, and have a little fun taunting with my friends though. I love seeing our home team challenge the system, the United States take some gold and silver medals, and seeing the world unite over the Olympic Games.

You don't have to do something to support it. Just like I support athletics, but am not an athlete. My friends supported me as a musician/singer in school, even though they did not play an instrument or sing in the choir. So let me say it again- YOU DON'T HAVE TO DO SOMETHING TO SUPPORT IT!

While I do care if someone chooses to breastfeed- I understand that not every mom will. I do hope though, that every mom, husband, family member will choose to support breastfeeding- even if they do not breastfeed.

What is support? So many people say they "support" breastfeeding. What do they mean? In my opinion- supporting breastfeeding is more than not giving dirty looks to someone nursing in public.
When I think of the word support, I think of bras. I know- strange- but I do. First, you have the training bra- that is comparable to that which I just mentioned- you don't give dirty looks at someone who is breastfeeding in public, or you don't lead them into booby traps. You aren't discouraging, but you could do more.

Next, you have a simple bra- no underwire- soft cup. Very comfortable but still leaves you flopping around when you need the best support possible. I would compare this to those that who really urge breastfeeding, but then come back and say things like "start solids early", "you are nursing too often", "if it doesn't work out then just switch to formula", or "formula fed babies sleep better at night." A lot of times they bring up wives tales, make the mom feel like any struggle is her fault, they don't support breastfeeding past a year, and more. They don't understand why a mom would not leave her breastfed baby for a week, tell them to pump and let others give a bottle to bond- not understanding how it will effect the breastfeeding relationship.

One of the most wonderful inventions was the underwire- Add that to a firmer cup and you have a pretty supportive bra. This is the friend who, no matter what her feeding preference, will support you, look up answers to your nursing issues for you, tell you how proud she is of you. This is the husband, like Disney Daddy, who comforts you when you are crying from feeling like all you are is a big breast or milk sac to your child, tells you how proud they are, how much they appreciate what you are doing for your child and lets you know that you can do it. This is the pediatrician who reminds you the benefits of breastfeeding, lets you know that your child is healthy- even if they are smaller than a formula fed baby- and tells you to keep breastfeeding until you and child are ready to wean when your child is already 18 months old. This is true support.

I like to call myself an athletic supporter. Whether you like the term supporter, fan, encourager- whatever, I hope that you will find yourself being a breastfeeding supporter.

At the same time- I hope that moms will support each other in general. I would much rather a mother feed her child formula then have her child starve. I would prefer a mom who can not exclusively breastfeed supplement knowing she is still giving her little one the benefits of breastfeeding then feel like a failure. I hope everyone learns that the important thing is to support each other in being the best parent we can be.