I’m off my usual topics today, and am writing about breastfeeding and work. I’m past breastfeeding now. My kids are much older and I had forgotten how passionate I used to get when the topic came up in conversation.
It came up today, in conversation with a client who commented about how pleased she was to be able to breastfeed during our meeting. I was taken off guard. I had thought it the most natural thing since her baby was only a few months old. I had forgotten about the difficulties women have with their choice to breastfeed and especially to combine it with work.
I had gone back to work relatively early with both my children, when they were 6 months old and in wanting to maintain the breastfeeding relationship, I chose to express at work. I had expected resistance from my male boss but he said – do whatever you need to do. We were a small office and did not have dedicated facilities, but I was fortunate enough to have my own office. To get some privacy, I pasted butcher paper over the see-through portions of the glass wall. Not a great sight, I admit, but there were limited options.
It was the women that grumbled. I’m not sure if it was the sight of the butcher paper that offended them or the two sessions of pumping that I was afforded, the total time, which I should add, was less than what most smokers spend on their smoke breaks!
One said to me “why can’t you pump in the ladies’ toilet?”. I was horrified and if memory serves me correctly, I asked her whether she would consider preparing her dinner in the toilet!
Some people have referred to me as a closet breastfeeding militant. On the surface, I’m hardly what you’d call the “maternal type”. When I first announced I was pregnant, even friends closest to me were surprised. Most had dismissed me for the “career woman” who would pass on motherhood. They weren’t off the mark. The thought HAD occurred to me.
Once my choice to enter the realm of motherhood had been made though, and eventually the choice to breastfeed, I had expected to be supported in my decision, rather than ridiculed and ostracised for it. It makes me think about other women who are possibly still experiencing the same, trying to live their choices, perhaps compromising on their desires to combine the various aspects of motherhood with working or running a business.
I believe many women enter self-employment and start businesses so that they can have the flexibility to combine work and motherhood in the way that they wish.
I hope my vision of motivating and inspiring women in business means that I can also do my small part in supporting those who also choose to add motherhood to the mix.
I would love to hear your stories, successful or otherwise, of how you’ve combined work and motherhood.