Larissa Waters Breastfeeding In Parliament Shows the No Win Situation For Mothers
— Karen Barlow (@KJBar) June 22, 2017
First time I've had to move a Senate motion while breastfeeding! And my partner in crime moved her own motion just before mine, bless her
— Larissa Waters (@larissawaters) June 22, 2017
Greens Senator, Larissa Waters, breastfed her 14 week old daughter yesterday while giving a speech in parliament. Unsurprisingly the internet had a lot of feelings about it.
I want to start by saying the vast majority of the comments I’ve read on various news and social media outlets were positive. Most people think this is pretty awesome – myself included. She’s a woman who’s been supported by her workplace and her own network to be able to return to work with her baby. This is great news! Especially because she is someone who not only a public figure, but also someone who has some level of influence at a parliamentary level. I’m not saying she’s in a position to make this possible for all mothers. But I think it’s a win for new mothers nonetheless.
The Predictable Backlash
I could probably have guessed the issues people would raise about this without even reading the comments online – however the glutton for punishment that I am I had a little scroll around. And there they were. Singing the same old tune.
I’m going to summaries their complaints into five basic key issues.
- “She should be focused on working, not distracted by feeding her baby.”
- “She should be at home focusing on her baby, not putting her career ahead of her baby’s needs.”
- “Why should she get to take her baby to work when the rest of us don’t? It’s not fair.”
- “She’s just attention seeking. Mothers take their babies to work all the time. This isn’t a big deal.”
- “She should be covered up, or left the room to breastfeed.”
So, to summaries further. Mothers should be both at home to focus on their babies and at work without their babies or else they’re being attention seekers for doing something everyone else does and also can’t do.
And boobs are scary.
You Can’t Win Motherhood
It’s a bit of a no-win situation really. Mothers are expected to do all things, at the same time. They’re expected to work like they don’t have children, and also be at home with their children as though they don’t work.
We’re also under pressure to breastfeed, but it’s still something that isn’t always considered socially acceptable!
Obviously one solution is to just ignore the chatter and do what works for you. Do what works for your baby and your family. Which I think is part of why people are so excited about what Larissa Waters is doing. It’s a small and simple thing – she’s working and looking after baby. But in our culture that is still a brave and defiant thing to do.
And maybe this will help other women feel brave too.
Different Workplaces – Different Families – Different Choices
Returning to work with a newborn isn’t going to work for everyone. It’s not going to be practical, or even desirable for some mothers. I could barely manage to put on pants every day, let alone make speeches in parliament. This arrangement isn’t going to work for everyone. However I did take my son to work with me when he was a little older – he was six months old. And I did breast feed him at work also. It was appropriate in my work place. And maybe seeing Larissa Waters breastfeeding while being productive at work will help other new mums broach the topic in their workplace, and also show employers at it is possible.
Aside from the negativity online, this looks a whole lot like progress to me.