The Babysitter Confesses
Glad to be back post-WBW hvoc, and I’m here to discuss an unexpectedly frank and factual conversation I had recently with my child care provider.
Let me start by saying that I think my sitter is pretty cool. She is not a schooling-type caretaker, and believes that the kids should be allowed to be kids, generally being left to their own devices while supervised appropriately and learning to treat each other with respect and love. At first I wasn’t sure this was for us since the previous sitter, though less trustworthy, at least had a kind of structured ‘school’ that she did at least three days a week. I’ve seen, though, that despite a structured environment, she loves my kids like her own, and I trust her to take care of them in my absence, which is worth its weight in gold.
When we started there, my youngest was still nursing at 15 months, and she is still doing so, but I was already well past the point of needing to pump to keep up with her, so she’d never really seen her ‘in action’.
About a month ago, it came up in conversation that her internet was on the fritz. I, being the ‘conversational’ gal that I am, inadvertently offered for my IT-savvy husband to have a quick look to see if she was dealing with a large or small problem. We sat on the couch and chatted, expecting that he’d be finished in a minute.
An hour later the kiddo was getting restless, and as her biological clock directs her to do at roughly the same time each night, she very politely hopped into my lap and said, “Mommy, I want bub please. ” I wasn’t sure how much longer the Man vs. Computer Eternal Techno-Showdown would be, so I unobtrusively pulled my shirt aside, covered with my blazer, and started to nurse.
“Is it okay if I ask you something?” says the sitter abruptly.
Hm… a loaded question or not? I felt my body tense, waiting for a showdown. At the twinge of any negative commentary, I was ready to spew the latest positives of breastfeeding, go on about benefits of nursing a child past two, preach the miracle of the female form, etc. I feared the worst but consented to the interview; I could handle whatever she was going to throw my way, right?
“I have zero problem with any mom nursing,” she went on, “and it’s cool that your’e nursing Ripley right now, I’m fine with that, I’m just curious… What made you decide that you wanted to nurse the girls? I mean, I never did it with either of mine. Even though I know that it’s better and all that, honestly, for some reason, the thought of having to do that and have them at the breast made me, personally, physically ill. I mean even thinking about it now is a little hard to fathom… So… I don’t know. How did you know that’s what you wanted to do?”
So… really? It was just a simple question? I felt bad about thinking she was just trying to engage me in a battle, and a bit humbled that she was just asking for my thoughts. Even with all the yikkity-yak I do about breastfeeding on a daily basis, not one person has ever asked me why I nurse, so I didn’t know exactly what to say.
I blinked. I breathed. I squinted and scrinched my face in thought and turned my eyes skyward to search for the answer. I was also a little afraid that I’d say something that offended her, being not only my sitter, but also another mom who obviously hadn’t made the same choices I had, but was nonetheless deserving of a respectful answer to her query.
I guess it wasn’t so much a ‘decision’ to start for me as it was a part of my more base animal instincts to protect and feed my kids. Almost as a spider knows how to make a web to catch food, I somehow knew that the changes in my body were meant to sustain my child. (Not to say I was very good at it–pain for 2 months was the pennance I paid for my ignorance.)To be honest, I don’t remember even making a conscious decision toward bottle or breast. I knew nothing about feeding babies, and I was too busy working and failing out of college to care. My education on the subject consisted of an oft-repeated story about poor medical advice from Mom (“they made me stop nursing because they thought he was allergic to my milk–it was really the juice the doc told me to give him”) and Grandma’s tale about her abusive spouse’s marital restrictions (“he said ‘those aren’t for the kids–those are MINE”), with a dash of what What to Expect… thrown in.
She was alright with the fact that I couldn’t give her a good answer, and we just moved on from there. I feel pretty awesome that she felt comfortable enough with me to speak honestly about something that, too often today, is considered taboo. But it still left me feeling horribly awkward and ashamed. Why had I become tense about talking to a woman that I trust with my kids almost as much as I trust myself? Why did it make me uncomfortable to broach the subject with even one of my peers?
I don’t have a great answer for that, either. Figuring out why I bristled at the thought of someone talking about my parenting choices has been a bit of a mental exercise. In large part, I think, it’s because there are so many opinions thrown out and judgments made based on sound bytes or commentary on a web page that we are always at attention, expecting a fight, or ready to defend our causes with venom. I was surprised to have someone just be interested in my experience as a mom without looking for a reason to pick apart my parenting style. I don’t even get that at home some days. It felt good to have an ear to air my opinions and feelings for a change, even if we didn’t or don’t plan to raise our kids exactly the same.
I’d love to see more moms opening up and asking each other these questions, being there for each other with civil discussion and genuine curiosity without feeling judged or threatened. It’s simple acts like the “Confession” that endear me even more to this woman, and things like this that keep my brain from getting smooth.