The Gift of Solidarity

Ahhh, the holidays. Such a fun time. Such a relaxing time. Such a beautiful, nostalgic, warm and fuzzy time.

Unless you’re a mom of small children. Then there is no rest. There is no relaxing. There are warm and fuzzy moments, but they are usually peppered in-between the chaos of thrown nap schedules and candy cane induced meltdowns. And as if that wasn’t enough, throw in a nosy relative or two bombarding you with questions about your parenting tactics, and you’ve got yourself quite a merry mess on your hands.

When I had my first son, Dax, I was dead-set on breastfeeding him. First of all, I’ve had access to Google and opinionated mothers long enough to know that it’s “what’s best,” or whatever. But also, at the time, my husband and I were so poor we could barely afford ramen and diapers, let alone formula, so I resigned myself to nursing lest my child go hungry. (A bit of an exaggeration but seriously, have you tried buying formula lately? Good GRIEF.)

Thankfully, Dax was a champion nurser right out the gate, and despite your usual literal and figurative breastfeeding growing pains I was pretty good at it, too. It was easy and it was enjoyable. So I set a goal to nurse Dax as long as the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended at the time, which was until he was two years old.

Dax was five months old at his first Christmas, which means he wasn’t eating solid foods yet. I had to take several breaks during our family gatherings to nurse, which prompted honest questions from relatives like, “How long are you going to do that?” and “Wow, does your husband get jealous?” etc. Dax’s next Christmas he was a toddler of nearly a year and a half old and was not only still nursing, but had also learned how to ask for milk in sign language. This meant that whenever he asked for it, my family had to watch me stop, pull him onto my lap, wrangle a nursing cover over his wiggly body, and let him nurse. This prompted fun questions like, “Wow, are you really STILL breastfeeding? Doesn’t he eat enough regular food now? Shouldn’t you wean since he can ask for it now?”

All of these questions were completely harmless; I know that they came from a place of love and curiosity, but because I was so young and quite frankly had no idea what the heck I was doing most of the time, it made me feel extremely uncomfortable and insecure. It made me dread each impending family get together.

I ended up nursing Dax until he was two and a half, and I only weaned him because I was pregnant with his little brother Case. When Case came around I had the same thoughts about breastfeeding. Though we were in a much more stable place financially and having to purchase formula wouldn’t have sent us into financial ruin, I knew I enjoyed nursing and I wanted to give it another go.

Just like his brother, my sonCase has been a nursing champ straight out the gate. He’s now 18 months old and, you guessed it, still nursing (and signs for it, too). But unlike before, I am now a more confident mother, and make no bones about my plans to nurse as long as possible. And that nursing cover? I tossed it the second I had the chance. I haven’t used a single nursing cover the entire time Case has been with us.

For me it was nursing. But for some moms, formula feeding. For others it’s cloth diapering. Or disposable diapering. Or using pacifiers. Or not using pacifiers. Or working outside the home. Or staying at home.

Regardless, parenting choices tend to be fodder for holiday dinner table talk, and it can be extremely overwhelming and intimidating for a new mom. At least, it was for me.

Mamas, if you’re feeling a bit nervous about holiday get-togethers this season because of the parenting interrogation you’re facing, I’m raising a glass of eggnog in your direction and offering up my own line of questioning instead.

  1. Are your kids breathing?
  2. Did you feed them today?
  3. Did you hug them today?

You are nailing it. Cheers.

Happy Holidays, ladies. Let solidarity and confidence in your parenting be your gift from me. And feel free to open it early.