Ok, ok, I know how late I am to the game of commenting on the "World's Toughest Job Video" thing. (If you are even later than I am, watch it here.)
But I've been mulling over this video for a couple of weeks now, and finally had to put digital pen to digital paper.
First I ought to say that I mean no disrespect to the people who loved, got verklempt over, and posted/shared this video. If it made you happy, I'm happy for you. And if you are a mom, I bet you're awesome at it, and deserved a moment of feeling appreciated.
And I get it. I get that sappy "moms are the best" videos play to our nostalgia and gratitude for our own mothers, and for current in-the-thick-of-it moms, play to our exhaustion and deep desire to be appreciated and recognized for what we do. I also get, as might sometimes be overlooked, that this video was made BY AN AD AGENCY, TO SELL A PRODUCT FOR A BUSINESS. That business? Trying to sell us cards to give to our moms for Mother's Day. So, job done. A kazillion people have watched the video, and I'm sure both agency and card-selling-company have lavished in the click-bait.
One of the toughest parts of working and breastfeeding is the dreaded Business Trip. I'll cover other aspects, like pumping in clients' offices or at conferences, and storing milk in hotel rooms, in forthcoming posts. For now, we're going to focus on what it is like to *magically fly through the air* with breast milk.
Warning: none of this is fun or exciting. It is mostly stressful, messy, cumbersome, and weird. Excited? Here we go!
Packing for the plane
Some women call their pump "medical equipment" and try to get around the one carry-on and one personal item thing. But it's a good idea to pack as if this were not an option, in case you encounter an ornery TSA agent (so much of traveling with milk comes down to the individual agent).
First, pack your purse into your suitcase and cram a makeup bag down one side of the pump bag, and your wallet, keys, and phone down the other side.
I love my kids. I mean, I flipping LOVE them. I love their little faces, their funny smiles, the way they smell. I love that they are mine in a way that is unique to them and me. I love that they surprise me. I love that they are curious and happy and amazed by the world. I love that they don't judge me; they just love me. I love them.
I feel I need to state that up front, in case anything I am about to type seems to contradict that incontrovertible fact.
OK. Sometimes I don't want them to touch me. Not, like, not EVER. But there are some times - a moment, a minute, an hour - when I really think I'll just take leave of my sanity if someone touches me. I think breastfeeding has a lot to do with this. It is so much physical touching, which everyone says is supposed to be wonderful and borderline ecstasy-inducing. It sometimes is those things, but many months into it, it is just as often tedious, and it is sometimes even overwhelming.
I am having a holy-shit breastfeeding insight this week. Here goes: Guilt = response to what one does. Shame = response to what one IS. Which one is at work for me, and for other breastfeeding mothers?
Guilt played a huge role in my breastfeeding struggles, and in those of many, many women I've interviewed. Or at least, I have always thought of what I experienced as "guilt".
Recap: Guilt = response to what one does. Shame = response to what one IS. As women struggling with breastfeeding, are we feeling guilt?: "I had a hard time balancing breastfeeding and work/older siblings/whatever"? Or - so much scarier - are we feeling shame?: "I'm a failure." "I'm not a good mother." "I'm not enough." "I'm not fully a woman."
I remember exactly what I said to my husband when breastfeeding my first child was ridiculously painful and hugely anxiety-inducing: "I'm a failure. Women have done this for all of human history, yet I can't do it." That was shame. That was me feeling that who I was just wasn't good enough for my baby. Or, maybe, not good enough, period.
Work. pump. repeat.