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Mothers shouldn't have opinions

I should be barefoot, pregnant and tied to the kitchen sink. Or, as they say here in Germany, "Kinder, Küche, Kirche" (children, kitchen, church). I should spend my entire day, every day, gazing adoringly into the eyes of my children. Or so they say.

In my post on 50 reasons for breastfeeding anytime, anywhere, jenny said:
People make snarky comments about all sorts of behaviors that go on in public it’s not just BFing. You’re not singled out victims. Getting SO wrapped up in this issue just seems like time you could be spending bonding with and feeding your beautiful child.

When I wrote about the sodium levels in Nestle's Stouffer brand food, a Concerned Citizen wrote:
And the bigger question I have heard the parenting community ask is, “How does she have time to take care of her kids and spend quality time when she spend ALL HER TIME on her blog and answering tweets.” I think a call to the equivalent Child Protective Services in Canada is in order. This behavior is NO BETTER than the Octomom or Kate (of Jon & Kate plus 8 ) of the US.

I only hope you take a hard look at yourself and realize the values you are sadly exposing your children too. Kids mirror their parents and I would hope you want more for your children than someone who presents herself falsely to the community and spends ENDLESS hours attacking others. Really? Take a few lessons from Mahatma Gandhi, although I am sure you would attack him too.

Do better, so your kids will know better. You reap what you sow…..

Later, on a my post called Nestle Answers: Canada being a signatory to the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes means nothing, the same Concerned Citizen wrote:
Wow. You really need to focus on making the world a better place. Try volunteerism… peace.. you might like it!

Ah yes...because blogging has nothing to do with making the world a better place or volunteerism. And then there was Maggie, who thought I should be trying to solve the homelessness problem:
I’ve been around long enough to understand that breast-feeding can be done without flashing your breasts to everyone else around you. So why has this become such an issue, do you really have nothing else better to do but bitch and complain that not everyone else in the world wants to see your breasts? I agree that it is a natural beautiful thing but I would hope that if you have children then you are adult enough to understand that there are differences in what people are comfortable with, and that you would at least have the decency to respect that. Grow up and quit making such a big deal out of nothing. If you guys made such a big deal out of something that actually mattered, like how solve the homelessness problem then it would have been solved by now.

So I told Maggie a little bit about the homelessness problem.

I could find more examples of comments like these, I'm sure...but I should probably go and stare at my sleeping children or mop the kitchen floor or something right now.

Anyone who reads my blog regularly knows that I'm a huge proponent of attachment parenting. I believe that the bond between a child and her parents is essential. But I also believe that women in general, and mothers in particular, have an important role to play in shaping our world and in changing it for the better. From that perspective, I'm always perplexed and amused, but also annoyed, when I get a comment saying that if I am spending time doing advocacy work or writing articles to help other mothers, that I must be neglecting my children.

This is ridiculous because:

  • My children (and everyone else's children) are the ones I'm doing the advocacy work for.

  • My children do not need my undivided attention 24/7 (and if they did, I would never survive). They sleep. They spend time with other loved ones. They occasionally even entertain themselves. I know, I should probably be knitting them sweaters, ironing their underwear, and baking fresh bread every evening. But I'm not. How awful.

  • I want to be a role model for my children. I want them to observe how I balance family, work, volunteering (yes, advocacy is volunteer work), and me time. I want them to be proud of my accomplishments and also to learn about the importance of balance in life.

  • Society needs mothers, who are often caring for three generations, to speak up about the issues that are important to them. If they do not, our world will continue to be about the issues of middle aged white males, rather than about the issues of our women, children, seniors, people with disabilities, and more. The voices of mothers can help restore balance in society.

  • Giving birth did not turn off my brain. I have opinions and I am going to share them with the world.

To those commenters who do not think I should share my opinion with the world, I will say the same thing I say to those who don't think women should breastfeed in public: It is your problem, not my problem. If you don't like what you see, look away. Because I'm going to keep on exercising my rights. That said, feel free to disagree with me. I'm happy to debate and discuss as long as it is done civilly. But pulling the "shouldn't you be with your kids instead" card when you've run out of other things to say is just plain ridiculous.

Image credit: stobor on flickr
« "Poor cities, expensive day care" | Main | Breastfeeding and Early Weaning »

Reader Comments (100)

I really freaking hate the 'you must be a bad mother if you have an online presence' argument. REALLY hate it. I certainly don't see accusations of 'bad fathering' in the same way. It is, quite simply, sexist. Being a mother does not mean that I have no interests outside of poopy diapers. I am still a whole person, and it's better for my kids to see me that way. It's setting an example for them, should they one day have children themselves.

But then, here I am, commenting on a blog when I could be getting my whites whiter, so I suppose I am every bit as negligent as you are. (insert big eyeroll here)

May 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAmber

I love you so hard core. Really, truly.

And yes, like Amber said, accusations like this are absolutely sexist, and further are a part of a double bind placed on women with children: if we dare to speak up, we're neglecting our children, but if we focus on our kids, then we're boring and useless and a waste of [education, resources, time, air]. No matter what we do, we cannot win in the eyes of a public that has already decided to scorn us when they're not ignoring us.

So keep doing what you do, because you're amazing. And I so hope your kids reap what you're sowing -- the world will be a better place for it.

May 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterArwyn

Right on sister. I get trolls too. Everyone wants to tell you why you're wrong. I say "Go start your own blog then, and say whatever you want."

My children are in the other room. Entertaining themselves. (gasp)
Just yesterday I woke up to a Twitter attack from a mother suggesting if I wanted to "work at home", why not do so by playing with my kids. Among other insults, the message was clear: moms shouldn't choose work outside of their kids. Apparent work alongside kids isn't acceptable either. The thing is, as Amber so adroitly pointed out, why doesn't the same standard exist for fathers? Why must only mothers shelve all outside interests?

The whole argument of, "why aren't you with your kids?" begs the question: why is it that people believe kids need mom to be with them all the time? Have we lost faith in our childrens' ability to create their own games? To resolve their own conflicts? I think it is a disservice to our children to be constant entertainers & mediators.

Finally, as an attachment parent and working mother (who has worked at home and out of the home with childcare & without), I have no doubt that my doing so shows my children that women have a choice, a voice, and a presence in society beyond wife & mother. Mom can do lots of things... And still be awesomely committed to her children.

May 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKelly (@kblogger)

Hurrah! Love this post, especially cracked up at this line: "I know, I should probably be knitting them sweaters, ironing their underwear, and baking fresh bread every evening" which I also am not doing.
I really resonated with your opinion that you are trying to be a positive role model for your children, by living a full-life, using your brain, and standing up for what you believe in. This piece will stay with me, when I do have those moments of guilt - usually inspired by someone's judgement or off-handed comment about what I should be doing. Thanks for this!

May 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLiesl

I'm gobsmacked that these comments are from other women. Really, what wil it take for us to support each other? It's exhausting. Besides, if anything I've found that motherhood has made me more political, more attuned to injustice... I'm always thinking about the world my daughter will inherit. Keep doing what you do!

From another mom with a brain.

May 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterHeather

Mothers shouldn't have opinions? Oops, I think I missed that memo. I think your trolls did too - no doubt if any of them are mothers they somehow believe they're exempt. I mean, judging and attacking other parents is an expression of an opinion, however badly conceived.

Your work here is important. And it inspires and encourages other advocates. It's a happy to thing to witness you firmly refusing to be told otherwise.

May 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSpilt Milk

Awesome and rock on! (No children suffered while typing this)

May 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJamie

While I'm not a mother, I also get totally ridiculous comments from blog readers. Like, for instance, the gentleman who thought that since I had posted some music videos and I have been unemployed since January I clearly am not doing any work looking for work and spend all my time watching music videos. X_x I think people who are unhappy with their lives just want to make everyone else unhappy with theirs, so they attack any thing they consider to be a weakness or a flaw. Instead of taking things at face value, they spin nonsensical fantasies about what the rest of our lives are like based on the tiny amount of it they have access to through blogs.

..Anyway, that's my thought on it. I just started reading your blog because of the breastfeeding post the other day. I'm a big supporter of natural childbirth/rearing. Keep up the good work :)

May 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMay

Here, Here!!! A resounding YES to you... I know I would be totally floored by these sort of comments but you answer succinctly and intelligently to criticism I never even saw coming!!! Well done you. You a do a great job both advocating and parenting!!! Keep up the good work!!!

May 20, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterse7en

That is absolutely absurd. So...any mother who has a job or otherwise spends significant amounts of time outside of the presence of her children is a bad mother? I am in SERIOUS trouble if that's the case. I not only work full time. I blog. I go to school. I go out with friends. I travel. I go on dates with my husband. I attend rock concerts. I read books. Call protective services now! Great post.

May 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCyndi

Yeah, I sure wish Elizabeth Cady Stanton had shut her mouth, stayed home and gazed at her kids. :facepalm. Those are the most ignorant comments I've ever heard.

You are making a difference for all of our sons and daughters. Thank you!

Brilliant post!

I really wonder when we put parenting on such a pedestal that it is supposed to totally fulfill and consume a person. Do I love my children immensely and enjoy being an at-home parent? Yes! Would I be a happy and healthy individual if I never wrote, read, spent time alone with adults, or exercised my brain beyond cutting crusts off of sandwiches? Heck no!

I find the comment about setting an example to be amusing. I think that all moms who stand up for issues and write or speak out really *do* realize what they are showing their children, and they are proud to do so. When my daughter pretends to run LLL meetings for her dolls, I know that the work I do is having a ripple effect and it makes my heart glad.

Mothers are mothers every moment of their lives but they are women and people during all those moments too.

(Written by a mama who managed not to neglect her kids while writing a comment because she nursed a sleeping babe and smooched a bonked kid head.)

May 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKim

Well I must be one horrid mother (and wife) then. I am commenting on this post while my youngest are coloring. I posted on my blog while the baby was napping and the boys were at school. I have been on both twitter AND Facebook today. And my husband does most of the cooking and an awful lot of the other stuff I apparently should be doing. And yet... my kids are smart, sweet, love me, love themselves, love others, have many talents and abilities, and are simply amazing. Wonder how that happened?

May 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBrenna

I've been doing such a horrible job of attending to my high needs daughter for 5 1/2 years that I decided to stop it and start blogging instead. Funny. Now she has a more balanced mother who looks after her needs too, who has interests outside of herself and is more able and happy to attend to her daughter's needs because she is using her brain and advocacy values to make the world a better place and learning how to be a better parent at the same time from other moms in the same boat.

May 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMelodie

Seems they got one thing right...kids absorb the behavior parents model. And yours would be intensely lucky, intelligent, thoughtful world citizens if they use your behaviors as a model.

---typing one handed during the one hour of the day that both my newborn and my preschooler are asleep...one in my arms and one in my bed. Finding people like PhD make me feel less alone and help me stick with the toughest job I have ever had...parenting mindfully, thoughtfully, and lovingly

But you're right...damn that Gandhi guy. What did he know? He should be solving whatever homelessness is left after Maggie's done yelling at people to fix it.

May 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNaptimewriting

I have to say, I laughed out loud when I read this post! The sheer ridiculousness of the comments you refer to is freaking hilarious... because obviously these people either a) don't have kids themselves, in which case they have no business intimating that they would make a better parent than you, or b) do, in fact, have children, but SPEND ALL OF THEIR TIME READING BLOGS THAT THEY CAN MAKE DEROGATORY COMMENTS ON INSTEAD OF BONDING WITH THEIR CHILDREN. (Would you like a big old side of hypocrisy to go with that snobbish self-righteousness?)

Also, people who make anti-breastfeeding comments on pro-breastfeeding posts deserve a big old facepalm.

May 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAlannah

What a well written response! (As usual!) I must be a horrible mom then because I actually own a business and will hopefully be providing for my family in the future as it grows. Even though I work out of my home. OMG! I'm here when they get home from school, up when they leave, make dinner nearly ever night. I play with my daughter during the day, but I can still carve out time to work. Wow I can multi-task. Crazy!!
In fact every blogger-mom I know, work out of the home mom, work at home mom, or stay at home mom (they work too you know!) the are also all amazing multi-tasking!

May 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNichol

Nothing brilliant to say other than, "I second everything Arwyn said!"

I'm still trying to work out that balance of feeling ok to do things for ME (and the world) and still be the main care-giver to my son and I'm pretty sure most people look at me like I'm NOT working (because "all" I do is mother), even though I'm working furiously to impact my world and my loved ones simultaneously.

Comments like the ones you refer to are straw men meant to take away from the real weight (and truth) of your words. It really IS everyone else's problem if they don't like seeing a flash of flesh in public during a breastfeeding. Just as it's MY problem if I cringe when I see someone's ass crack when they bend over to tie their shoe.

Anyway... you rock.

Wait. You don't iron your kids' underwear?

Unfriend. Unfollow. Unsubscribe.


May 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJill

^^ Too funny! The trolls probably don't appreciate the irony, but really -- that's WAY too funny! Hey Trolls! Get off YOUR computer and look after YOUR kids, or they may reap what you've sowed... negativity, female passivity and stupidity.

Another perfectly awesome blog post to match all the rest of them -- thanks! And thanks for doing what you do. The blogland leads more of you. And less trolls, but we can dream, right?

May 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLorien

Sounds like this is a good time to say thank you for what you are doing, despite and because of comments like this. I love your blog and I've shared it with others. I'm pleased to report quite a few people have then started sharing your posts. So I think you have a lot of 'horrible moms' in your camp(-;

I also wanted to mention that there are times when I am not totally in tune with my kids. When I am so upset and emotional about what is going on in this world that I can't be the mother I want to be. That I'd like to always put my children's needs first, but sometimes when its the 50th time my little one wants to be picked up and I'm at my wits end and I read something on the Internet that breaks my heart.... It's hard to balance everything. Sometimes, if I think a virtual mom might need a little support, pick me up, or information I MIGHT just ignore the whines of my own children. I'd like to say that I'm able to perfectly balance it all and never make a mistake in judgment for where my time should be most well spent-- egads, even my husband might sometimes proclaim he wished I'd just not do something or not... well, not care so much. Oh there are other times, too where a subject he was originally dismissive of comes back up and suddenly he's singing my tune, too. We all need to listen to multiple voices and opinions. It is through the parents that our children will learn.
I want my voice to be heard.

May 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJessica

I think sometimes people intentionally seek out blogs such as yours and forums to attack people and start a fight. You hit the nail on the head when you said it was THEIR problem. I LOVE your blog, so thank you for doing what you do. you rock!

May 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMegan

Just a quick note of encouragement... but remember not to take the e-trolls too seriously ;-) To be on-line is to be exposed to attack from people who feel safe in their electronic anonymity (or electronic alter-ego)--and that applies to anything that happens on-line, sadly (regardless of gender etc.). Our basement test server (my husband is in IT) used to have people (not just bots) trying to hack into it constantly, there's a constant flood of spam in by inbox, and I see truly deplorable comments on any place where comments can be left. I would have disconnected (and probably chucked my computer out the window to boot) a long time ago, but fortunately there are some people--yourself included, of course--who actually do something useful online. Thanks for making the effort, and good luck maintaining the mental equivalent of a spam filter when dealing with the abuse which is bound to come in, hopefully along with a good dose of positive feedback!

May 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterIsabelle

So...while those "concerned citizens" could be making the world a better place themselves, they choose to seek out opinions they dislike and put them down. Hm, I think Ghandi would LOVE that tactic.

Sheesh. Sorry you get such snarkiness.

May 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterEmily

Politeness is all well and good, but advocacy is advocacy. In order to be a good advocate, you must have a loud voice. That voice is loud because it represents hundreds (if not more or less) of smaller voices that cannot rise up on their own.

Where would we be if our mothers, grandmothers and great-grandmothers had stayed polite and only thought of other people instead of being "selfish" and thinking of herself and her rights? I guarantee we wouldn't be voting. We wouldn't be making decent wages. And we definitely wouldn't be speaking out like we are now.

There are times to be polite and there are times to stand up and proclaim. This is our time to proclaim; to change things for our own children and the generations to follow.

On a more direct response note to something that really bothered me in Jenny's comment was where she told you to get off your high horse. It really irks me that people assume having a strong opinion means we look down on others. Why can't she say the same thing to those that insist nursing (in public or otherwise) is offensive, disgusting, unnatural, etc.? I believe it is those folks who are on high horses. So high up they can't see who the hell they are stepping on.

Keep on!

May 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLisa

Holy screwed up first sentence, last paragraph! Go ahead and just remove the first seven words. :)

May 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLisa

I hear you and I love it!

I heard Ani Difranco in the past year in concert and she commented on how weird it is when reporters ask her how her political views have changed since becoming a mother. (And not that your political views can't change, but it's almost like an assumption that we give it all up for talk about vacuum cleaners.)

I liked your number 1: I do it for my children.
Hell yeah!

May 20, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterhillary

Beautifully put A.

And oh my word my head exploded several times reading those comments. UGH.

May 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBoston Mamas

I never tire of the irony and hypocrisy of people attacking someone b/c they "attacked" someone else. I guess it's ok when THEY do it, but not when YOU do so (for a good cause).

BTW does that Concerned Citizen work for Nestle or something? I mean... really?? You're mad at a mom who's looking out for the health of not only her kids but other people's kids? WTF?

I also completely agree with Arwyn-- it's a double-standard, either we're neglecting our kids by doing anything other than paying attention to them all the time, or (as Her bad Mother recently experienced and posted about) we're looked down upon as a waste of humanity b/c we're taking care of our children. No win.

I've been loving your blog for a while, but these past several posts have had me throwing fist-pumps. Please, please, please keep up the good work.

May 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMarcy

I simply want to say that I admire and appreciate you!!! This line really speaks to me: "But I also believe that women in general, and mothers in particular, have an important role to play in shaping our world and in changing it for the better." I agree with you, 100%. Keep doing what you are doing. Some people are just angry, jealous, bitter, attention seeking, or whatever else is wrong with them.

May 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAmy

I would like to personally thank you for your work and for being a wonderful example for your children. I agree that 1) the troll who commented about the Nestle posts works for them OR feeds them to their own children every day 2) the other trolls either have no children or parent on a different planet than us OR possibly 3) rather than listen to your opinions they have knee-jerk, angry reactions that come out as pissy little name-calling tantrums. And probably they grew up with parents who heaped judgement upon everyone around them.

May 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJessica

I haven't commented before, but after reading that I just want to say rock on! Advocacy and raising awareness is so important. I love blogging and reading blogs; I really feel like it has helped me immensely as a mother to read others' experiences. Keep it up and don't listen to those naysayers!

May 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMonica

Love your blog!

If we leave it up to the middle aged white males to make policies that address woman's/children/family nothing's ever going to change. We should take charge of our destiny and that of our children!

May 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLAmargarita

Hear, hear!! Well said. I can only imagine how hard it must be to receive these types of comments when you are out there doing it for all of us, and giving us a voice.

I love your blog, and it helps me stay focused on the things I really care about when it comes to parenting. Thankyou for all your hard work.

May 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPurpleRhino

Beautifully said. Now go make me a sandwich.

May 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFoxyKate

Get back in that kitchen!

Seriously, what are these people thinking? Why can't we moms have opinions and activities outside of our children? Our thoughts are still worth something, even when they aren't about how precious our little babies are. I couldn't decide whether to laugh or wince at some of these comments.

You GO, girl!

May 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterChristina


Don't they know that being barefooted in the kitchen leads to sticky feet? *eeww*
Well, at least in my kitchen it would, I am forever spilling stuff.

I would like a whack-a-mole mallet to use on ppl like that, but that would bring me down to their level. Instead I will go back to sitting on C while I comment, that is the only way I know to keep close tabs on an almost 3 year old --she wants to be elsewhere

May 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAndy

Oh ffs. Get OVER yourself.

May 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKimberley

Shaking my head at some of those comments.... I guess everyone is entitled to their opinion, even us barefoot and pregnant women sitting typing in our kitchens... LOL

May 21, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterkatepickle

It is such a ridiculous suggestion that advocating through blogging or tweeting is neglecting your children. Do these same individuals think that mothers working outside the home are awful parents that ignore their children's needs? Doubtful. Do they criticize parents who use TV as a babysitter? Probably not. These individuals just plain don't like the topic here-breastfeeding. It isn't supposed to be seen and certainly not discussed. Trying to guilt you into shutting up is nothing more than further attempted oppression of women by reinforcing their place is not in making things better for the world but quietly cleaning it and happily making it dinner.

May 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBloomy Mommy

i am not a regular blog reader. but i read this. quite brilliant thoughts. ride on. i will actually try to follow your blogs.

May 21, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterharkay

You make me proud to be a parent!

May 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSimon

I really have to laugh at these kind of comments. Imagine, a woman spending some of her time trying to make the world a better place for her children, and all children, through raising awareness and initiating discussion (and yes, even debate). What a waste of time! (Insert eye roll) Of course, posting personal attacks on blogs simply because you disagree with the blogger, now THAT is time well spent, THAT is really helping the homeless...)

May 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAndrea


I don't even fold underwear. Or match socks. I suck.

LOL, sorry these comments are brightening my day. This is exactly what my husband said when I told him about it! (joking of course)

Well done! I'm writing this while my 14yr old son is at school. I suppose I should be there volunteering full time....but.....I'm not. Instead I elected to run my own business so I can afford for him to ski race (the benefits of which would fill another blog), and allow me to be around when he needs me. He's a bright, funny and fun-loving kid who would never be as self-sufficient if I had 'ironed his underwear'. You write a great blog.

May 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJudith Cane

Thanks for speaking up. Advocates are important. I'm sure some of those folks wer just having bad das, and I'm glad to see you didn't let their comments get the best of you. I hope one day we will all be happy and civil!

May 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJoanna

Oh I love you so much. I so understand everything you are saying. I can relate to you on more levels than one and now that you are living abroad in Germany (like myself) I can relate even more. I am slightly tempted to forward this on to family members!

May 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKrista

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