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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)

Right there with you, babe! Love this, Sharing on Sunday Surf

May 21, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermamapoekie

Does the fact that I am nursing 6 mo old twins while responding to you make it OK by "them" that I am on the computer, I wonder? If mothers weren't allowed to be advocates until their children were a certain age, imagine the sad state our world would be in. My whole family benefits from the shared knowledge about a range of topics I read about online. Everything from recipes, to health and wellness, to green cleaning options, to bargain shopping, the list could go on and on. My family budget, health, diet, home, happiness, EVERYTHING is linked in some way to the wonderful knowledge sharing that goes on online. Without the time savings thanks to the time I spend online I'd never have the time to play with my two year old and take us all on nearly daily outings to the zoo, museums, library, parks, etc. Rock on! Those naysayers can KMA until they've lived a day in my shoes!

May 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKate

Well done!

May 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMandi

I think I meant, well said...don't want to be misinterpreted :)

May 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMandi

This makes me really sad. I read your 50 Reasons to Breastfeed post and I was really inspired by it. I thought it was a really positive and supportive entry. I didn't see anything accusatory or attacking in it at all. What's more, I'm really concerned that people would like to marginalize and attack someone for advocating a natural, healthy, and shame-free way to feed a baby.

May 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterChandra

First let me say that I love your blog so much! It is hard for a breastfeeding mom to get information about issues like breastfeeding in public (laws, rights, etc.) when so much around is bottle feedig culture. You are doing a real service and I'm sure your children will be proud of you when they understand exactly what you have done for so many. As someone else commented you are a voice to hundreds (me included!). I'm nursing my 16 month old right now. But she is happy to play at my fee while I blog. Mostly though I do it while she is asleep, or my husband and her are hanging out. Why are these woman berating you and not men? My husband loves to be a father and have special time with our little one. If I had to do all the parenting in our house I migh become spiteful and leave mean comments too!

May 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAmber Lee

I'm a lurker, but this is the first time I've been inclined to comment. While I am not a parent, I've been on the receiving end of similar "critiques" (really derails) as a result of my disability-related and feminist blogging (including "Why can't you focus on MORE IMPORTANT things?!" and "If you're disabled, what are you doing blogging?"). It's really quite sad that there seems to be a strain of thought that places blogging and participating in internet-related matters in the category of things that can only be done by a very specific type of person: one who is *not* a parent or caregiver, who is male, who is abled, et cetera--and if you do not fit into those categories, then what you say or blog about is automatically dismissible and subject to derailing.

Thank you for all that you do.

May 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAnnaham

Thanks for calling this bullshit out. I love that some commentors say you should STFU and spend more time with your kids, some say you should STFU and spend more time (quietly) being an activist (according to their standards, of course). Don't worry, no matter what you'll still get told to STFU and how your life is lacking (according to internet-strangers, again).

You do know, of course, that articles like these really do make a huge difference in the lives of people who remember you and will write to thank you (I'm sure they have already).

Thanks for writing this.

May 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKelly

This sort of crapola always reminds me that basically we're never going to do it right because we do it all from within the body of a woman. If you're a "stay-at-home" mother, you're weird, smothering, have no life, don't contribute to society, you're a leech on capitalism's bum, you're not working, you're probably fucking up your children by never allowing them to live since obviously when you're at home with them you tie them to you so they never do anything in another room or independently and you probably take those children out to public spaces just to torture the childless who you _obviously_ think are a crime against nature and this is how you're planning to make them see the light and start popping out babies. Breastfeeding them till they're old enough to vote is definitely one of my main goals in this parenting caper.

Of course if I have the temerity to be a mother and also own a computer which does more than pacman (jeez I just outed myself as one of those Older Mothers too, and we're really really bad to our children because they suffer under the weight of our perimenopausal behaviours since we're all totally hormone-driven with no conscious thought whatsoever!) then obviously the kids are unwashed, unfed, untended, probably playing with matches, and watching reruns of Something Violent on Nickelodeon. Like, what else on earth is possibly possible?!

Of course if I was a woman engaged in paid work outside the home, I would be selfish, unwomanly, uncaring, fucking up my children, acquisitive, Masculine, driven, ambitious, and just plain wrong, scary, dangerous and possibly going to bring about the Fall of Western Civilisation. (TM)

I am constantly reminded by this bullshit that the only Good Woman is a Man. So yeah oops and pffft. Good thing I'm used to always being Wrong.

Got vagina? Parenting, ur doin it rong and Basement Cat is after u.

[While typing this I have breastfed, tended to a small boy who needed some help with lego, listened to and commented upon some thoughts on how well robots hang from the door of the dresser, how you can feel a cat purring, how the cat's tail is the cutest thing ever, how the cat is learning to play like a kitten, agreed that the chickens will lay soon this morning and somehow kept the children from burning down the house. Yeah.)

May 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJanet

I've heard these arguments time and time again but directed at me.
Personally, I find that the people who throw them out there either have guilt because I've disected something they believe(d) in or practice(d), or they just feel flat-out intimidated.
What always makes me laugh is the suggestion from OTHER MOTHERS that I should be taking care of my kids instead of being online - aren't they guilty of the same thing?
Besides, I'm mastering typing one-handed (since the other arm is holding a sleeping and/or nursing baby) AND I spell better than most people while doing it. So nyah nyah!

May 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterChristie

Whoa, this makes no sense! What about all the working moms (like me) who work 8-10 hours days away from the house & kids. Because we make money. And enjoy doing work. Should we be told that we're neglecting our kids?? This is a crazy concept! I am so baffled!

May 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAlina

Totally agree!!!!!!

May 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAlina

Heather - We're all raised with the same cultural influences and it's difficult, if not impossible, to not "drink the kool-aid". That said, I believe we need to keep expecting better from the people who make these sexist arguments.

I have a uterus and a brain. I use them both!

Adding my voice to those thanking you for making the decision to step up and speak out (and to do it so well). Your point about needing to speak up to shift our culture away from a "norm" that suites middle-aged white males is dead on.

This post was so well-timed! I was at a work quiz night yesterday after being on maternity leave for 4 months and was promptly accused of being a "sucky mother who spends all her time watching TV" because I could answer all the current affairs questions. Your post just made me feel so much better and reminding me that being a mum doesn't mean that I have to be uninformed. Thank you!

May 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLaura

Well said, that woman! What I want for my daughter is for her to grow into a principled,opinionated feisty woman who sees the world in all its glory and its awfulness and values the glory but wants to change the awfulness for the better. She can learn that best from seeing it in action and she does...every day. She;s seen me volunteer as a breastfeeding counsellor, fight the government over propsed changes to home education law in the UK and express strong, informed opinions on the issues that matter to me. I'm there if and when she needs me, but she needs values as much as she needs cuddles and food and warmth and love! And it's working; she cares about issues. She willingly boycotts Nestle because she now understands why I do, she;s just chosen to become vegetarian (she's 7 and has been thinking about it since she was 4). Being there for your children doesn;t mean being in the home all the time; it means takng your children out into your world and showing them who *you* are, what it is possible for them to become

May 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSarah

I love your blog. Thanks for continuing to advocate and inform on attachment parenting.

My mom bought me a plaque which I use as reminder to put my children first. It says "Good mothers have sticky floors, filthy ovens and happy children." Today and my 4 year old plays dollies, my oven sits filthy while I read interesting blogs and work to help a dear friend troubleshoot nursing difficulty with her 4 day old.

May 22, 2010 | Unregistered Commentersblairc

What a great point about the sexism, Amber! And with dads, often it's not even something like advocacy or networking with other parents to learn and improve as a parent. It's hours and hours of World of Warcraft or similar. Yet no one is saying that a man is a bad father if he's absorbed in a computer game instead of spending time w/his kids. And you KNOW it happens. Now, I've enjoyed a MMORPG in my day, and I'm not saying I'll never play one again, but at this point in my life, it seems much less worthwhile than participating in an online community of like-minded mamas in the slice of time I'm not devoting to my family (and now, to my doula work).

May 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRebecca M.

I'm staring at my sleeping mop right now, can you tell? lmao. Loved this one

May 22, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterserena

"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."

ROKFL (Rolling On the Kitchen Floor Laughing)...cos, you know, that's where I am...heck, why do you think those internet fridges were invented?!?!?

You know, I had never directly recognised it but there does seem to be some attitude out there that any mother on the internet must be neglecting their child. Well done for calling it.

Toddling off to watch baby sleep now, like a good mummy...

May 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAnna

I was going to say something very similar, but you said it much, much better :)

May 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJuliette

I agree with Amber - "I freaking hate the ‘you must be a bad mother if you have an online presence’ argument. REALLY hate it."

I actually wrote a post on that topic a few months ago: http://metropolitanmama.net/2010/04/how-social-media-has-made-me-a-better-mother/.

May 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterStephanie

Too kind. *lol*

May 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJanet

Great post. Sexism really is rampant.

May 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAl_Pal

People should learn if they don't have something nice to say, they just should keep their mouth closed!

May 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterShane

Kate, HOW are you typing while nursing two?? You are my hero!

May 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCin

These moms who are complaining about you spreading information relevant to mothering should be reminded that if it weren't for mothers becoming politically active outside the home (the internet now counts as a much more convienient method of being politically active and is more conducive to attentive parenting) then the United States wouldn't have child labor laws, water purity standards, and clean food regulation. Mothers speaking out about issues relevant to mothering is how laws protecting children get passed. Good for you, keep up the good work!

June 1, 2010 | Unregistered Commenteralison

Joanna: this comment is exactly what I like (well, one of many things) about this community of bloggers and blog followers. I have noticed that the debates are very different between the AP parents and the "Traditional" parenting blogs. When discussing issues, AP advocates tend to give people the benefit of the doubt, and say, "I'm sure they're doing what they believe best for their children". Traditionalists (for lack of a better word) often accuse AP parents of being bossy, self centered morons who can't tell valid research from opinion. It shocks me to see how much anger there is, simply because some people choose a different method of caring for their children. I'm young, and I'm not yet a parent, but I have heard a lot more bossiness coming from the other side of the fence than I have from the AP side. Even if you don't agree with the principles (which I do believe in), wouldn't you rather teach your children to be kind and accepting of other people's differences? To acknowledge that they're doing the best they know how? I know that when I have kids, that's what I will want to teach them.
I can't help but wonder where all the anger comes from though... I theorize that perhaps the ones who criticize so heavily are the ones who secretly wonder if they should be following the AP route too, and feel guilty and defensive about the choices they have made.

July 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMegan

:O Are you looking in my window? Im reading this shaking my head at some of the comments, while I am 8 mths pregnant, barefoot sitting at my computer in my kitchen, while my kids are happily playing at summer camp for the day... lol... and I am sure my kids are just fine and loving the experiences they are having while I read the comments...

July 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRosilla

I am the master of one-handed typing ;) while babies "sit" in a V in my lap to nurse. How things change. Just two mos later and they think they need to type too!

July 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKate

Unfortunately, what Maggie doesn't understand is that the women receiving flack for breastfeeding in public aren't baring all and flashing their breasts. Women get harassed for nursing in public *even when* they are covered by a nursing cover, other clothing, or have already retreated to an area of the public space that is less crowded. In other words - even the most modest of NIP mothers are being treated like common trash, and they need someone to stand up for them.

August 19, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterApril

[...] people like Dooce and Her Bad Mother. Thankfully, I don’t receive a lot of it, but I have had some interesting comments. But I laughed out loud yesterday when I saw this video of Richard Dawkins reading his hate mail. [...]

Gaack. My youngest is 22 and I had to go through the whole attachment parenting is wrong crap a generation ago. We fired the gyne at 7.5 months when he wouldn't give me his episio rate. His question, "Why would you want to know that?" Got a midwife, found a sympathetic doc, had a midwife assisted hospital birth. Didn't clip the little feller - his dad was all like "Nobody is hurting my baby boy, no no no." (Sample comment "Don't you think he'll be confused not looking like his dad?" Response, tersely, "No.") Co-slept (oh, the f*****g weeping and wailing from people who thought I would CRUSH my BABBEE. Sample comment, "What about your sex life?" Answer "Babies sleep, duh."). Nursed all the time and everywhere and it's amazing how a simple receiving blanket will cover that boob. Second baby born at home. Co-nursed for 6 months (and now I wish I'd taken a pic but I was too modest - crap these days I'd be posting the pics on facebook!)

Obviously without my spouse being all over attachment parenting I couldn't have done it.

The point I want to make is that when you're looking back on your parenting, attachment parenting yields fewer regrets. And believe me, when you're 52 and looking back into the haze of nostalgia, it will be a comfort to you. You may have royally screwed up many things, but that is not one of them.

November 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAllegra

Allegra, thank you so much for posting about your AP experiences. My husband and I are expecting our first baby any minute :) We plan on doing many of the things you mentioned and have had to explain our reasoning for each to "concerned" (read = nosy) family and friends. Your final few sentences give me hope that regardless of what other say and think, I will enjoy my children and parenting because I plan to respond to my own instincts and to my child's cues. Thanks again for bolstering this new mom's courage to parent the way she thinks is best for her and her kiddo!

November 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAlison

Totally agree! The people negatively commenting are also wasting their time when they could be out solving world hunger, homelessness and advocating for world peace! You are doing a wonderful job bringing to light important subjects that have value and meaning to other mothers. Thanks for all you do!

May 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKatie

Go on sistah friend!

May 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLori

I recently wrote a post on my blog about judging mothers. It has everything to do with the person doing the judging and NOTHING at all to do with the person being judged.


OMG...imagine what the world would be like without people like you Annie...you say the things that I am thinking but cannot always write about...I love your opinion pieces( even if I disagree, it makes me think) I love the information that you share and I love the way we can blog and share over the internet to people far and wide.
I love that I can post this and say keep on writing and sharing and thank-you!

May 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLorette Lavine

Excellent. We can focus on our children all we want, but if the world outside of our home doesn't have opportunities, equality, acceptance, etc. we've wasted our time. Part of mothering is ensuring a great future for our kids OUTSIDE the home.

February 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKarissa

I do love this site :) and who's to say you don't have something baking in the oven, as well as the dishwasher on & laundry washing & drying, with your little one at your side working on a puzzle or something creative AT THE SAME TIME as you are on the blog. I mean seriously, work can be getting done while you're on the computer... have none of these "concerned citizens" ever completed the studies of a college course while they were also parenting small children??? Woudn't the same arguments "why aren't you tending to your child's every breath" apply right back at them, then?! I mean seriously.

February 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCounting My Blessings

Great post Annie...

oh hang on I have to go give my kids some matches to play with so I have time to leave a comment.....cus I too must be a terrible mother...

Guess I better start saving for my 4 kids therapy bills...

No children were harm in the typing of this but I did back my car over 4 trolls...

Keep on Typin' on...


February 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDee Brun

I'm applauding you loudly over here Annie. As a work-at-home, attachment parent also (who has sat and did conference calls while nursing my daughter), I totally know where you're coming from and I suffer the same statements from people as well.

The thing is, these same women who are showing up on your blog to tell you that you should go play with your children are sitting there READING your blog so obviously they aren't staring at their child's nostrils flaring gently as they sleep and breathe in and out repeatedly. The main difference here is that you are spending your time doing something productive, making people think and bringing light to certain situations while they are simply sitting in their home, feeling more than likely jealous that you've managed to find balance and have purpose, and they are lashing out.

It's immature and spiteful and rude but it's the nature of the Internet beast. People can hide behind their computer screens anonymously and say what they want because they are saying it to a computer screen. They can leave their nasty comment and walk away feeling puffy chested and ego inflated. These same people would NEVER say the same things if they were sitting across a table with you... but I doubt that would ever happen either because it would mean spending an iota of a moment away from their children and God forbid THAT happen.

February 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterErin Blaskie

PREACH IT! Thank you! I couldn't have put it any better!


February 17, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterkatie

Excellent point, C.M.B. :) I am currently completing graduate studies through a combination of on-line and on-campus course work, thus making me a full time student in addition to having full time employment outside of the home and making time to spend with my one and only.

I research, I prep, I mark, I blog, I write... and I also do dishes, laundry, floors, bathrooms... and I also read and sing to my kidlet each night, make and sit down to eat breakfast with him every morning, and play with him as I take multiple breaks from doing the previously mentioned items.

For those who are so critical, my snarky question is: how disorganized are you that you cannot parent while having other roles in your life that is not directly related to being a parent? And for those to whom this question was posed, note that I say "not directly related" because most parents are motivated to do the other stuff for and because of their love and devotion to their children.

February 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLara

Totally agree! Awesome blog btw, just found you through one of my fb friends.

February 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterFlor

"here in Germany" in the above post, are you based in Germany?

March 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAlyssa

I'm not now, but I was when I wrote that article. I'm in Canada now.

March 6, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

This is beauty in writing! You are such a class act, Annie. It would have been easy to write a snark-filled reply to your rather obtuse detractors, but your high-road, thoughtful reply really touched me, as a mom, a woman, and a person in general. Keep up the wonderful thinking, writing, advocacy, parenting, example-setting, etc.!

August 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer Vincent

I just saw this great post, following a link from a newer post. Amen!

I want to speak up from the perspective of a person who grew up helping Mama fold and stamp paper newsletters (1970s equivalent of a blog) and playing with other mother-activists' children in the background of meetings about establishing a battered women's shelter, advocating for breastfeeding and the Equal Rights Amendment, and supporting gifted education. My father also was very socially conscious and took me with him when he volunteered his time developing electrical and computer helpers for disabled children. This was not neglect! It was far more educational than bowing out of societal involvement to play with me. I've stayed involved in things throughout my son's life, and brought him with me a lot of the time, because I want him to develop a lifelong social conscience just like I did.

August 8, 2013 | Unregistered Commenter'Becca

Late to see this post, but I still think it's a great one. It's comments like "stop getting your panties in a bunch" or "stop complaining" just perpetuate this disillusionment that citizens shouldn't be active and should just be content with the way things are. This is even worse when people say that mothers especially shouldn't be involved because either 1. They can't actually do anything to help or 2. They have other motherly priorities. I think that's completely wrong because anyone, especially mothers, can affect so many people- from their kids, friends, spouses, family, support base, etc. I don't mean to write this post to put down people who hold these opinions. I am, however, disappointed that this disillusionment exists in the first place. I truly hope that every citizen does believe in their own efficacy, that they can affect change, that America isn't just this hopeless place where everyone is stuck.

May 9, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLisa

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