Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Mompetition and Momparison Game

As anyone who has read this blog knows, I have spent the last three and a half months agonizing and probably (definitely) overreacting over my feeding issues with Ebba.  A lot of the overreaction probably had to do with hormones and my possible PPD, but some of it does stem from all the messages out there about how if you don't breastfeed, you aren't doing enough for your baby.  

I talked about this a bit before, but it has come up again after a conversation I had with a close friend of mine.  I had read an article in Mothering Magazine about cosleeping (I would link, but it's from a 2009 edition from a stack someone gave me when E. was born. :) ).  The first line of the article was, 

"Although every human female is different, there is no doubt that her body is endowed with a unique capacity to breastfeed, should she choose to do so."
I was a bit miffed over this, because I was expecting an article about sleep!  I was reading and relaxing to get my mind off of the whole feeding kerfuffle, and here it was thrown back in my face.  I skimmed through a few other articles, all with a similar message, whether the article was meant to be about feeding or not.

Anyway, I brought up this quote with said friend, who responded:

"[All this bombardment about the benefits of breastfeeding] isn't to make women like you, women who have struggled, and fought, and sacrificed, and, unfortunately, been unable to breastfeed feel bad.  It is dual purpose, I think.  First, to encourage and educate women about breastfeeding, because, as we know, there are women out there who do not want to breastfeed, or choose not to [...]due to lack of knowledge or confidence etc.  And, the second purpose is to make those women, like me, who have been blessed and lucky enough to successfully breastfeed, feel good about it...  Basically, so we can toot our horns, and feel good.   Unfortunately, that makes women who cannot, feel like shit. :("

The last two lines resonated with me.  Not just about the breastfeeding issue, but about all things surrounding pregnancy and birth and parenthood.  It seems we're all ticking boxes: blissful pregnancy? Check.  Natural labour?  Check.  Breastfeeding?  Check.  Cloth diapers?  Check.  Baby yoga?  Check.  Infant massage?  Check.  Babywearing?  Check.  All organic?  Check.  Etc, etc.

What my friend said made me think back to my own birth, which I still think was fantastic and totally what I wanted, but that isn't why I'm proud of it.  I'm proud of it because I carried and grew a child for 9+ months and then brought her into the world.  It was icing on the cake that it was a natural and fairly peaceful birth at home.  But the real reason I'm happy it was natural and at home was because I'm a coward!  I'm terrified of hospitals and the thought of a needle in my back (as for an epidural) just makes my skin crawl.  If I had had to do my birth differently, I'm not sure I would have made it.

And, that's why I am becoming so impressed by women who do go a different.  Women who have had to be induced and endure long and painful contractions; women who have been in labor for over a day, or two or three!  Women who have had to have their babies surgically removed from them because of complications.  Those women are strong.  They have encountered the unthinkable and the certainly unexpected and have survived and even thrived.  They are just as much birthing heroes as the women who birth naturally.

All of these ticked boxes above are awesome, but not ticking one of these boxes doesn't make anyone a bad mum!  There are many reasons for some of those boxes to be unchecked.  Some are good reasons and some are not so good.  But as long as a woman is educated and supported, she has the right to make whatever choice she wants, and we all should be pretty okay with that.  And, if she's educated and supported and she is still unable to make the choice that she wants (as in my case with breastfeeding, or in the case of someone needing an emergency C-section, for example), then we should be more than okay with that.  We should look at that mum and say, "Wow, you must be so strong."  Because, getting what you want and what you planned for doesn't make you strong.  Not getting those things and still moving forward is what takes the real strength, as I am learning.

So, let me try and get back to my point.  What was the point of this post again?  Sorry, it's after 9 pm so my brain has gone to sleep.

Oh!  Right.  My point (which I've said before, so sorry for the redundant post) is that all this mummy comparing and mummy competition isn't helpful for anyone.  We shouldn't be putting other mums down because it makes us feel better and more secure in our own choices.  We should support each other no matter what.  And we should feel strong enough in our own role as a mum that we don't count ticked boxes to make sure we're doing things right.

I'm not trying to be all high and mighty.  I'm a ticked-box counter too!  Truth be told, that's why I started reading that article about cosleeping -- I thought to myself, "Well, I might not be breastfeeding exclusively, but I do cosleep, so that means I'm still an okay mum, right?  Surely better than all those people who don't cosleep."  But that first line snapped me right out of my box-ticking ways.

My mum chose to stop breastfeeding me before 4 months.  She couldn't wait.  My husband's mum didn't cosleep with any of her children.  My best friend was born by C-section.  As far as I can tell, we've all turned out okay.  So, while on a large scale I'm sure a lot of these things matter, on a small scale, what really matters is just relaxing into motherhood and loving your kids.  So, let's stop competing and comparing with each other and just give each other and ourselves hugs for taking on parenthood and succeeding.


  1. Great post, Amanda. And, yes, i totally agree...mompetition, boo! Interestingly, though, I think sometimes, I secretly compare myself to other moms, like you with the co-sleeping, so I can tell myself, "Ok, you are doing X and you are doing it well!" I need to tell myself this, and some measure (via cokparison), so that I can cope with the Y, Z, and Q (I don't know why 'Q'!) that I feel I am NOT doing, or not doing well, or well ENOUGH. And that is when the comparison backfires on me. :) Like, I never thought co-sleeping was a good idea. until you did it. And then I thought, "Hmmm...maybe it isn't so nuts after all! Maybe she loves her baby more than I love mine! Maybe my children will not love me or feel secure enough because I chose never to co-sleep, and not only that, but to do....(gasp) CIO!" :) Anyways, my point is, I never wanted to co-sleep, out of choice, until I saw someone else doing it, and then i wanted to do it, because I couldn't. And, as we all can admit to, we sometimes want what we cannot have. I am sooo guilty of that.

    I do like your comment re. stregth being more about not getting what you want and moving on. :)

    And, CORRECTION: Born by C-section AND not breastfed! (Maybe this is where my need for birth goddess/motherly perfection stems from...??) And I am relatively normal....most of the time....:)

    But, that goes to show, it is about LOVING your kids. And modelling for them. Strength. Courage. Wisdom. Patience. Forgiveness. Empathy. And you have those qualities in spades.

  2. And, btw, I am happy I was "forced" not to co-sleep. I would be a horrible co-sleeper! :) When it comes to sleep, I think families just have to do what works best for them, in their current situation. My example of my desire to co-sleep because you did it was just an example of how easily influenced I can be. :) Esp. when that influence comes from someone I admire. xx

  3. Hah. :) Sometimes I think I cosleep just because I can't breastfeed, so I can say "at least I'm doing THAT!" Though recently, Ebba has been preferring her crib (and by prefer, I mean she wakes up about 1/4 as much when she sleeps in there), so we're usually only cosleeping the second half of the night. :)