Finally! Something I can get behind! The woman has reportedly received death threats and incredible amounts of vitriolic hate since the photo when viral, but also an incredible outpouring of love and support, even from Bernie Sanders and his wife. The campaign, of course, used it as an opportunity to support and encourage breastfeeding mothers everywhere, no doubt clinching many votes and hearts in the process.
I was pleased to see the picture, pleased to see the Sanders’ response, and pleased to see the hashtag. My hope, though, is that it will spark a conversation much longer and larger than breastfeeding in public. Supporting mothers for breastfeeding in public, which in many places in the US is a radical act, is very important. But so too is supporting all parents of all genders who feed their babies in any way for the incredible amounts of work and dedication it takes to raise a child and the insistence on not doing the work of child-rearing behind closed doors or divorced from a full and integrated life.
I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about why policies in the US – a country big on “family values” – are so unfriendly, particularly to mothers, but generally to parents and caretakers.
There is never one answer to such a complex problem, but one thought I’ve had is that it is related to the way we do parenting here in the US. Compared to other cultures I’ve lived in and experienced, raising a child in the US is very compartmentalized from the rest of life. I know a lot of parents who do not live or parent that way, myself included, but the overarching message from American culture seems to be that children and parenting fall into a very specific category and time in our lives and it all centers around our homes, schools, and parks.
So, when a mother is seen breastfeeding her child at a political rally, or toddlers are at a nice restaurant, or parents find a way to have their children present with them at work, there is a reaction. Often, not a kind one; one that implies that there is a time and a place for children to exist and have their needs met and it is not the same space where adults interact and have their needs met.
This compartmentalization of parenting, then, marginalizes primary caregivers who have to make a choice about whether or not to engage in the world in a full way while they care for children. Because most primary caregivers are women, this affects women disproportionately, specifically minority women who are already marginalized by many other factors. Parenting shouldn’t be about choosing between taking care of children OR having a well-balanced and meaningful life. Children can and should be a part of our work lives, our spiritual lives, our community lives, our political lives – all of it!
So, I say let’s make this #boobsforbernie hashtag into a call to parent in public!
This is an original post written by Mrs. V for World Moms Blog.
Do you agree that we need to more openly parent in public?