You have to surround yourself with people that understand, a friend told me a (long) while back. Who understand what? Extended breastfeeding (oh, you mean past 3 months?), homeschooling (my 5 year old?), a commitment to eating whole, organic foods, living more simply, co-parenting in the fullest sense of the word… oh those things. Those really strange things. Apparently.
I guess we all have our lists. As families. As parents and leaders of our families. A top 10 or a top 5 or, goodness sakes, a top 20 – of things that we are committed to, our priorities, our areas of spending and focus and time. And extra love. Sometimes those seem to jive well with those of lots of people around us in our communities, and sometimes, well, they don’t.
Now I did take her advice, or it just sort of happened. We ended up some new friends, and navigating through understanding with old ones.
What has been much harder, perhaps, is finding understanding and real true support and encouragement and enthusiasm from within our own, extended ranks. Blood relatives. Our own parents. Our top lists and theirs are so massively different. And did their parents offer them the kind of genuine support they had needed? I don’t know, and I doubt it. And I know we aren’t alone.
I don’t want to be told by a close family relative, walking down the street, nursing my 1 year old in my carrier, that I should “just cover up”.
But initial anger has subsided and now I get it. Many of the things we are doing, the changes we have made, they just aren’t part of what they understand or support. And that’s ok.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this: “Judge nothing, you will be happy. Forgive everything, you will be happier. Love everything, you will be happiest.” - Sri Chinmoy
Especially the forgive part.
In Canada our breastfeeding rates are rather abysmal, especially after a few months. Statistics from 2005-2009 shows that though a majority of women actually tried to initiate breastfeeding, over 30% of those same women had stopped after onemonth. The World Health Organization (and now Health Canada) recommends 6 months of exclusive breastfeeding for newborn babies, at a minimum, but in Canada in 2009 only 24% of women had followed this.
It’s a complicated problem, and a serious one that justifies more than a little paragraph this Monday morning. But I know one thing, I know that breastfeeding can be challenging and draining and that women who choose to do this, what is best for their babies, need support. Support and encouragement that is so often absent, or even replaced with calls to turn to formula and parent a different way. From our own extended families. When I think about it that way, the numbers don’t seem all that surprising.
As my partner, my Mister Mister said yesterday, “You’d have to be a super woman to withstand all that pressure.” Indeed, finding the courage and the guts to hold onto convictions when you’re exhausted, drained, facing a mountain of diapers, and bills and weird, hormally-induced moods that come and go… not easy.
SO in this space, today, in a tiny but fully committed gesture, I vow to remember all of this when I have more gray hairs than brown. When, hopefully, I have grown older and wiser and have the chance, perhaps, to mother grown children and grandparent little ones. I vow to listen with my heart, not my mind, and to offer true, unselfish support that doesn’t judge, that doesn’t place demands (even silent, conniving ones) or require “thank-you’s”. I vow, I promise, to break a cycle that has gone on for too long.
Do you promise too?