On Motherhood & Sanity

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

"Why buy the cow?" the politician asked

Last week I came across a magazine with a woman holding a baby on the cover. The woman, a beautiful blond model, was entire naked and painted to look like a cow. The title of the article was: “mother or cow?”

I kid you not.

Just below you could read:

“the World Health Organization & UNICEF defend with insistence the benefits of maternal milk. Many women feel pressured into breastfeeding and live traumatic experiences. Some feminists see behind these campaigns an attempt to distance women from the job market”

It was –of course- an article on breastfeeding. Take a wild guess where the journalist stands.

The article presented the opposing sides on breastfeeding: on the red corner, the WHO, UNICEF, and other such business interests arguing you should breastfeed your child exclusively for the first six months, and continue to do so, together with normal food stuffs, for the first two years.

On the yellow corner, feminists and history argued that it was rather convenient that this whole “you must breastfeed or die” philosophy started at the same time as THE War ended, and women had to be sent back home and out of the factories.

It went on to expose how the so-called scientific grounds behind the international campaigns for breastfeeding were biased and not entirely scientific, (find me a scientific study that is NOT biased by whomever funds it, no really). That research so far “indicates, suggest, associates” that breast milk is best, but that this does not amount to hard evidence.

It presented cases of women who had been pressured nearly to the point of depression to continue breastfeeding, in spite of hardships, and the case of one woman who breastfed with no problems whatsoever until her child was two, with the sole complain that everyone criticized her for doing so.

The article argued that breastfeeding could cause physical and psychological problems for the mother. Other cons: the mother must consume additional calories and lead a balanced diet; must watch any medicine intake to ensure it does not negatively affect the milk; women with health problems, like thyroid problems, can have complications.

All true. All apply equally to pregnancy and childbirth, yet I don’t hear anyone suggesting women should stop having children all together.

So let’s take a step back and analyze this a bit:

Would breastfeeding be a problem if men where equally implicated in child rearing? as in doing many of the other things that a new born needs. Burping the child during breastfeeding so that mom can run to the toilet, (admit it, been there done that).

And would women of a certain age be discriminated by the job market if men were entitled to AND took full parental leave?

What about flexi-time or working from home options?

In the Netherlands most parents (as in both the mother and the father), take one day a week off, which essentially means children have at least one parent home four days a week.

In the Netherlands I have seen the most shocking and unusual sight yet, and it wasn’t a topless lady or a punk with pierced nipples; it was a man, in a suit, on a bicycle, picking up kids from school.

By the way, the Netherland consistently comes out on top on international quality of life surveys for the developed world.

I don’t agree that women should be forced to breastfeed. Some have a really hard time, and at the end of the day, it should be their decision. What I do argue is that women should be provided with enough information to make this decision, and more importantly, they should be given enough support in order to be in a position to choose, i.e. breastfeeding every three hours day and night is not really sustainable when you have to work for 12 hours the next day.

The thing is, women have been bearing pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding for centuries, for free and on top of their other responsibilities. Women look after the family and the home, more so than men even if they both have paid employment outside the home. So my guess is the state, the politicians and the policy makers are thinking:

“why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?”

So my question is, when are journalists going to bother doing some research and writing about the real issues, highlighting things like the fact that during that same WAR the US (for example), provided women that worked with free day care. And when that tired women arrived to pick up her children after a long day of work at the factory, she would also pick up her cleaned clothes and the family dinner, all at the expense of the state.

So really, when there is a will there is way. Me thinks.


Soli said...

It is a problem when women are lead to believe that it is one option or the other, a combination of both is possible, and I speak from experience. Some women get terrified at the idea of having such huge responsability all to themselves, and it is true that the pressure can be too much. As always, the more information, the better...

Jennifer said...

Well said...

It is a shame that true "family values" are not supported here in the U.S.

Women are forced to feign superhuman powers and thus do it all or be damned.

I went back to work after my twins were three months old under the false pretense that my schedule would be modified so I could continue to work full-time and nurse my babes at home. I was wrong. The solution would have been quite simple, but of course that would have been too easy. I ended up having to choose my kids or my job. I chose my kids and thus leave without pay. I still had my job waiting for me a year later, but what a ridiculous "choice"...

Your insight is refreshing...