Mummy musings: A many-splendoured thing
by Esther Au Yong
ARE you a SAHM, FTWM, WFHM or PTWM? That’s stay-at-home mum, full-time-working mum, work-from-home mum and part-time-working mum respectively.
And mama, do you BW, practise BLW or BF? That’s babywear, baby-led weaning and breastfeed.
Seriously, WTF and FFS. I’m not going to explain those.
The acronyms are all loaded to different degrees – it’s high time we be just Mothers. I have said this before and I’ll say it again: Mums are each other’s worst enemies. We judge, we assume, we define and we jump into conclusions about other mums too easily.
Let’s tackle one of the biggest challenges – and no doubt, blessing – a mother can face: breastfeeding.
Now, does it matter to you if another mother doesn’t breastfeed? To a lot of women, it matters very much.
When my elder son was two months old, I was shopping at a mall and had him in a baby carrier (so I guess that made me a BWMLM – baby-wearing maternity-leave mum). A sales assistant who looked like she was in her 40s approached us. “Oh is your baby drinking breastmilk?” she asked. A first-time mother, I replied rather hesitantly that no, I was not breastfeeding. I started to explain why (I simply had no milk) but I should have just told her to mind her own business. It wouldn’t have made a difference anyway as she simply would not hear it. “Rubbish! Every mother can make milk. Why do you choose not to give your son your milk?” she chided.
Things did not change two-and-a-half years later. A female stranger, about 50 years old, came up to me when I was feeding my second child, who was then three months old (I was a FFMLM – formula-feeding maternity-leave mum). “Are you breastfeeding?” she asked. No, I replied, this time rather defiantly. “Why? Do you not have milk or did you choose not to?” she demanded.
Like I said, FFS. Here’s the thing: While breast is best, it is also only one part of what it is to be a mother. Is it necessary to be so judgmental?
There are so many ways to mother, whether you work full time, choose to stay home with the kids or if you’re going through a challenging time of your own. There are countless ways to care for your child, be it having him or her in a baby carrier or in your arms; labouring over the stove each day to make fresh food with no preservatives or ordering in because you’re just too damn tired to cook; letting your baby co-sleep on your bed or “training” him to sleep in his own room from Day 1. Motherhood is a many-splendoured thing.
I think we need to learn the R-word: Respect.
My gynaecologist, a man, put a lot of mums to shame when I told him I couldn’t breastfeed at my check-up 10 days after the birth of No. 2. He put down his pen, closed my file, looked at me and with a kind smile, he asked, “How do you feel about that? Are you okay with it?” It was something even I did not know I needed to hear.
He cared and supported me as a mother, and most importantly, respected my mothering choices.
We can be better mothers together, by being kinder to each other. Happy Mother’s Day!
Esther Au Yong is a mother of two young children and TMG’s Lifestyle Editor.
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