I went to the doctor today because I was dying (or so I thought...) Turns out that I have a raging sinus infection. When the doctor was getting ready to write a prescription for me, he asked if I was breastfeeding or not (I had Charlie with me).
My first instinct was to respond, "I was, but I had to stop because my rheumatologist wants me on a baby aspirin and Charlie's pediatrician won't let me take aspirin and breastfeed because of the risk of Reye's". WTF? Why did I feel the need to justify my parenting choices to a physician? Why wasn't my first instinct to simply respond, "No"?
Society seems to have this expectation that mothers sacrifice all for their children. You must breastfeed, you must have the best car seats on the market, and GOD FORBID if your baby accidentally catches a glimpse of TV. On days when a SAHM is feeling crappy because of, say, a sinus infection, and her 4 year old watches a little too much TV, she also feels guilty because of the rotting of the brain that is going on. When our 13 year old wants a cell phone, we are made to feel horrible if we don't get the best one on the market...but then when we do get them a phone, we are made to feel horrible because OMG, you are giving your child BRAIN CANCER!!! (On a side note, it is really probably the 13 year old trying to make you feel like crap for not having the best phone...but that is besides the point.)
Never, ever, in a million years, would any of these actions be judged horrible and awful if they were performed by a man. Men, you see, have this reputation of being clueless, and therefore just the fact that they were aware that the child was a.) in the house, and b.) watching TV/having a cell phone/eating crappy food/etc. means that they deserve the superhero awesome totally cool that he is so involved title for the ENTIRE YEAR.
No one ever stops to think of the disservice that we are doing to each other with this kind of thinking. All that people who judge your parenting are thinking of is the guilt that they carry, and how looking down on someone makes them feel better. Women are expected to be consumed by their children, and men are expected to not be involved. Neither option is very good, both for the child and the parent involved. Yet we continually perpetuate these as the only choices for each as we bemoan the fact that things are like this. What has got to give? The answer to that is probably a lot more complex than people realize. It goes way deeper than a simple "we must support each other". It lies in the notion that you must be strong and independent and pull yourself up by your bootstraps. It lies in the notion that there are biological differences in the sexes that make it impossible for men to be nurturing and women to be independent (though when women ARE independent and assert themselves thusly, there is something incredibly wrong. Same for men who are nurturing...) It lies in the notion that despite all kinds of lip service to family values and supporting families, children and those who raise them are still very much at the bottom of the totem pole.
So did I try to justify myself to that doctor? Nope. I caught myself and simply responded "No". I highly doubt that he realizes that like so many other things in life, my "No" was the very simplified answer to a highly charged question. I also highly doubt that he cared about the back story to why I was not breastfeeding. His main concern at that moment was that I was sick and he needed to know the proper medications to prescribe to get me better. Why wasn't that my focus? Right. Maybe I need to read my own posts...