Someone needs to talk about this issue, and it looks like it’s going to be me. Women get really, really sensitive over all things pregnancy and parenting related. That’s not hyperbole. It’s just true. Yes, this is a sex/gender stereotype. But sometimes stereotypes exist because they have a kernel of truth to them. I have not met a single woman who went through pregnancy, childbirth and the early days of parenting, including myself, who didn’t get her panties all in a bunch over some issue that, at the end of the day, is truly insignificant in the greater scheme of things. However, in the heat of the moment, when you’ve given in to that internet troll who says that daycare causes violence in children, or overhear some comment by a stranger at a party about how breastfeeding in public is just so gross, nothing is more important than turning red in the face and letting loose a mouthful of just how wrong that person totally is. And it never feels good, either. It just feels awful, and you realize that you were reacting to the possibility–however remote–that maybe, just maybe, YOU are the one who is wrong. Either that or you are confident that you’re right, but simply can’t understand how everyone around you can be so stupid. Don’t tell me that you’re open-minded and non-judgmental. Because then you’d be lying. Because every single one of us has our own opinions, rationalizations, and yes, judgments.
Judgment is not always wrong. However, even if it’s right, that doesn’t mean it’s effective. Once the judgee picks up on the judgment, the judgor can pretty much forget about winning said judgee over. Because most people act out of emotion, not out of logic, even when they say they are doing precisely that. Our brains find ways to rationalize the things we want to believe, and discredit the things we don’t want to believe. Subjective reality.
So, are there objective truths to things like breastfeeding? I don’t know, and I’m not going to pretend to know. Based only on the information that has been presented to me, I’ll wager a guess that exclusive breastfeeding in the first 6 months of life, followed by starting solid foods and continuing to breastfeed, is better for the baby than supplementing with formula, or skipping the boob for the bottle altogether. That’s not a judgment. Well, it’s not my judgment. It is a fact, the truth or falsity of which I am leaving to others to determine. But because I believe it to be a true fact, based on my own “research” (reading internet articles and books, not conducting lab studies), I have voiced this fact from time to time in what I feel have been appropriate situations.
One such appropriate situation was a Facebook conversation with a nice woman who is nearing her 40’s and, I believe, has no interest in pregnancy, childbirth or child care. Oh, the conversation with her went great. She questioned the wisdom of women who accept donations of expressed breastmilk from other women, because they cannot produce their own milk–she thought this was inherently unhygienic and dangerous. This was in relation to an article about a nonprofit that matches up donors with donees.
So, in the process of explaining to her why this is totally legit, I say something like “donation of expressed breastmilk is preferable to the use of formula.” Because I read somewhere, probably in something published by the World Health Organization, that the preferences for feeding an infant are: 1) mother’s milk directly from breast, 2) mother’s milk pumped and given in a bottle, 3) ANOTHER WOMAN’S BREASTMILK, and finally 4) formula. Or something like that. I’m not going to look it up now because it doesn’t matter. The point I was trying to address was the underlying question of “wouldn’t it be easier to use formula?” Sure it would, but kudos to the women who want to try to give their babies breastmilk for the all the extra nutritional yummies it packs compared to formula.
So far so good right? None of this is judgment. It is only fact, disguised as judgment. Because you can’t say “you shouldn’t use formula,” because that’s judgment. And judgment is bad (see above). But you CAN say, “the WHO recommends expressed breastmilk, from yourself or another woman, before formula.” Because that’s a “fact” instead. But those two statements are kinda sorta that same thing, if you read them closely enough.
Anyway, I was completely blindsided when a friend of mine, L., found my comment on this Facebook thread and proceeded to rip me a new one for being judgmental. Something about high horses and how we needed to get off of them. “We” as in me and the other person? The other person was, again, a woman at the end of her fertile years who doesn’t have kids and as far as I know doesn’t want any, and knows or cares nothing about breastfeeding. And on top of that, those two were not even connected on Facebook. So L. had no idea who this person was; she stumbled upon our conversation through the newsfeed. I thought this was all hilarious, personally.
But what I did not find funny at all was being accused of being judgmental when clearly that was not the intent. See above re: sensitive women. It was L. reading too much into a perfectly non-judgmental fact. And being upset and taking out on me, because she wished the fact were untrue.
L. had previously threatened to unfriend me on Facebook for “talking too much about breastfeeding.” I still have no idea what she was talking about, but the only instance I can think of was when I mentioned that there was probably a time when daycares didn’t accept bottles of expressed breastmilk when you dropped your kid off. Instead, they probably only took formula back in the day. Somehow this was a bad thing to say. It wasn’t even close to a judgment on formula users, so that one left me perplexed.
But see, the things is, I am too nice. So sweet and friendly and nice, that instead of dropping her like a hot potato, which people advised me to do, I just said, ok no problem. I don’t think I apologized (and I’m so glad for that), but I did say hey, to each her own. We all have our individual forms of crazy. You can have yours!
So, this time, with the Eats on Feets/WHO comment, I wasn’t surprised when she dropped me. I didn’t hear from her for a long time but people–our mutual friends–know about the situation and just sort of rolled their eyes and thought it was weird. Because it is weird. But no one talks about this stuff out loud, to anyone in a public forum, so our friends go on with their weirdness and we all look the other way. It’s funny because her and I have spoken recently, like everything is normal. And in a way, I guess you could say everything is normal. Much of friendship involves silent criticism, talking about each other behind your backs to mutual friends (who promptly go and talk about you behind your back next, haha!), and carrying on in public like everything is normal and this is the way women’s friendships are supposed to be.
And then, maybe, this is exactly the way they’re supposed to be. Because can you imagine what life would be like if we directly confronted every single person we encountered and had a relationship with, ever, about anything and everything that ever pushed our buttons?
For example, I have friends who are devoutly religious, and friends who are devoutly atheist. Where those two circles happen to intersect, you can bet that some fascinating and provoking things get said about each other. I’m usually somewhere in the middle of it, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t contribute to the gossip once in a while. But how can you not? It’s interesting, and a little bit of drama–real or perceived–spices your friendships up just enough to keep things interesting.
Well, I have no idea if L. will read this, but she is welcome to. For what it’s worth, one of my best friends from college, M., is someone with whom I got into a particularly nasty fight that ended with me throwing and breaking things. Glass things. That was scary. It felt awful. We’re still really good friends today, and I think that fight was actually a turning point for us that made our friendship stronger.
I have yet to break any glass over issues like breastfeeding, sensitive people, or the innate weirdness that lies within the hearts of women’s friendships. Maybe, like with M., that would actually help the healing process along.
But I’ll try this blog post instead, as a start.