Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Confessions of a breastfeeder - the final chapter

A few mornings ago, Shaune, exhausted and at his wits’ end that both the kids refused to eat and were crying for me as I was heading upstairs to get ready for work, spit this out:
“You’re raising these kids to need you every ten minutes!”

It hurt me a little.

I got why he said it – it’s his job in the mornings to feed Deaglan and Naveen breakfast while I shower and get ready. Then once I’m together he can get off to work, leaving me to dress the kids, take them to their respective daytime places before heading to work myself. Dealing with resistance and tears throughout this delicate yet oh so hectic balancing act?

So. Flippin. Irritating.

But his words left me guilty and defensive. Guilty because the statement implied that I’d somehow manipulated my children into needing me all the time to fulfill some inner need to be needed. And defensive because Shaune in a moment of frustration with one badly chosen accusation had taken all the good mothering I thought I was doing and twisted it into something ugly and self-serving.

I tell you this not so you can shake your heads at my husband. I purposely left out the profanities I muttered under my breath in response to his little dig, but also, I am certain you all have similar moments in your marriages where crying, uncooperative kids has one or both of you searching for someone to blame, a direction to point your weary finger because not only are you tired and questioning your decision to embark on parenthood in the first place but the sound of howling kids is enough to make you want to cry or shatter your own eardrums to drown out the sound.

Or both.

No, I tell you because his words gripped me by the throat, making manifest the trepidation that constantly lurks just beneath my surface, the fear that I indeed am doing something wrong in delaying my children’s independence. That it absolutely is my fault the four-year-old refuses to sleep in his own bed even after we moved his brother and a shiny new set of bunk beds in to keep him company. It is somehow atrocious and socially unacceptable that I continue nursing the almost two-year old, the same one who can actually ask for breast milk by name; a name he came up with all on his own because well – he can talk and you know the unwritten rule about breastfeeding a talking child don’t you?

Never mind my internal battle raging about being a full-time working mom of small kids; that it’s just plain wrong to be away from them at these ages for so long every day, and the opposing - we couldn’t afford to live on just one salary and also, I like having a career.

Every day the good and the bad of how I’ve conducted myself on this journey play out in my mind:

No wonder you don’t get enough sleep, you never set boundaries with them!

But they’re so small, how can I expect them to not need me? I work all day away from them, it’s the least I can do to comfort them when they cry.

You’ve never heard of crying it out? Formula??

On and on.

These are definitely Western-world (First world?) problems my friends. And I write about them not to complain (especially not to complain about Shaune who is mostly a saint as far as husbands go) or garner your sympathy, but to share my world for a few moments, to put it out there.

Life is tricky, don't you think? 

I have had such a good run of breastfeeding and yet lately I dread the four AM call to task when our pint-sized Naveen, the monkey boy that he is, climbs out of the lower bunk, walks into our room to my side of the bed and asks ever so sweetly, “Mama? Milky-da-da?”.

I spring awake, move Deaglan to make room, sigh,  look  over at Shaune who is often helpful in the night if I ask but is likely snoring very loudly, and think,

What the hell does Da-Da have to do with this?
This was at Easter dinner last week - Shaune's family were sweet in remembering my upcoming birthday this Friday.

If by chance you're interested in what else I had to say about breastfeeding my boys please go here and here.


  1. I know you know this but I often have to remind myself - raising kids is about teaching them and fostering them to their potential but is also about us parents growing as individuals and human beings in stretching ourselves to the limits so we can achieve our maximum potential. With that being said, we all have these moments in our lives. We can all relate. If not, I think we're wearing rose-colored glasses or not really living life.

    There is a fine balance to fostering independence but also providing structure and guidance. I don't think I'll achieve this balance until the last child leaves the nest, if ever. We are dynamic beings living in an ever changing environment, we adapt as best as we can. If co-sleeping allows for a few precious hours of sleep, I'm all for it! Goodness knows, we have a dysfunctional sleeping arrangement in our house. So dysfunctional it's has actually become quite functional.

    And I am a strong proponent of breastfeeding as long as babe and mother are mutually enjoying the experience. There's not magic cut off date - only your comfort level.

    Just know, from my perspective, I think you're doing a pretty darn great job and you and Shaune need to step back and view the work that you do each day and know that it is good.

  2. It's amazing you have been able to breastfeed for so long! Good for you :-)

    It was really emotional for me when I weaned the twins. Probably more for me than for them. But we each hit our time when we're done. And for all of us, that has to be an individual decision - what's right is simply what's right for you and your child - not for anyone else.

  3. You don't have to rush them into independence...it comes soon enough. I was much like you when the kids were little, they always wanted me. But they grow out of it, and now they want their Papa just as much as they want me, and some days I miss the neediness, and other days it's nice that they don't *always* need me.
    I think it's wonderful you continue to breastfeed. You won't ever regret it!
    P.S. Husbands are wonderful, but they're men...and they don't always "get it"...you know?

  4. Parenting is so exhausting and I had no idea. None. I often wonder if I'm doing something wrong b/c Donut is beyond clingy to me. But I tell myself it's only for a little while and then she won't need me anymore. But until then, yes, it's tiring.

  5. Kim, Amy is 16 and I still worry about independence. Speaking for myself, I don't think mothers ever stop worrying about it.

    Follow your heart and your boys will be fine. I truly believe that. I know Shaune said what he said in a emotional moment, but the thing is your boys do need you a lot now-that is just how it is. As exhausting as it may be cherish it, because it won't always be that way.

    And to your credit, just the fact that you worry shows that you are a good mom-not all parents are as concerned. Sad, but true.

    Hugs, sweet friend:)

  6. I don't know if you set out to attachment parent, but that's exactly what you are doing. All the time you are investing in your boys at their tender ages is going to pay off when they are older because they will have that inner security. I can't quote any scientific studies, but it has been shown that adults who were deprived of attention as babies, toddlers tend to be more nervous, less independent. This doesn't mean we should coddle or spoil our children, but it does me were should follow our own individual compass as to how to nurture them. And sometimes only mama will do!

  7. Since I exclusively breastfed my kids, I often heard the spoken and whispered comments about the kids being "too" attached to me (literally and figuratively). Honestly, I went with my mother's gut and gave them all that I could when they were little. Guess what? They are independent at times and needing me at others. And that's okay with me...they are not adults yet and can have their moments to look for me. As teens, they move away quickly, but it's nice to see how they still look to me once in a while when they need advice or a shoulder. You're doing an awesome job Kim. You and Shaune have a valid, genuine bond of love with your boys. Being attached to their parents is really a good thing.

  8. Oh, you are such a fantastic writer!! We struggle too. I lost it Sunday and started playing the blame game. I'm sure it was hormones...but, Devin and I had it out pretty good. The truth is, parenting is the hardest thing I will ever do. Balancing establishing roots to ground them and giving them wings to fly when needed, is so tough!! Hugs and kisses!


Thanks for your comment!