Sunday, May 16, 2010

Parenting in Public, the Cover Up

Reading about some "reality" TV show about people's reaction to nursing in public raised in my mind my experience with being asked to cover up while nursing the Baby Piranha.

I was in Texas due to a death in the family, at a restaurant eating lunch alone with the BP.

Lunch had just been served to me, and the BP also wanted to eat. She was only four months old at the time and not wiggling around a whole lot, so there was probably almost no skin showing.

A server (not the one assigned to my table) asked if I would like to cover up, not specifying what needed covering but gestured towards the BP with her hand.

I was stunned and the only thing I could manage as a response was something along the lines of "my right to nurse in public is protected by Texas state law."

The server looked taken aback, and muttered something along the lines of "protecting children who don't know about breastfeeding" and left.

I was alone, feeling nauseated and shaking with anger. I couldn't believe anything as simple as breastfeeding my precious baby could be reason to ask me to cover up. I doubt she felt she was doing anything wrong; on the other hand, I felt attacked and singled out.

I wanted to leave, to go somewhere and hide under a rock, but I figured that would be letting them win. So I stayed, and picked at my lunch half heartedly.

Later, a manager came by to check on my meal. I was sure to let him know how unhappy I was to have been treated this way. He quickly agreed I was in the right and said he'd speak to the server, though in retrospect, I'm not sure how he'd know who it was.

This critique of my parenting in public bugs me. I had someone come up to me out of the blue the other day and tell me the BP's arm was squished in the Ergo. (It wasn't, I'm squishier than I look).

Later the same day, a woman helped me get a bag of frozen blueberries out of a freezer at Costco - out of the blue, as it was - when I was holding the BP's sleeping head with one hand and trying to hold the door open and remove the bag with the other. I'm glad I had the grace to thank her profusely.

I'm reminded of Gina's call to help each other out at The Feminist Breeder. I think she has a really good point.

Have you been hassled for your parenting in public?


Melodie said...

I once had someone tell me my baby's head should have a hat on it on a particularly cold day. He was right but I couldn't find one before I left and was holding her and protecting her head the best I could as we quickly scuttled into a store. It made me feel awful. What do people expect us to say to them? "You're right, thank you so much for saying something. I sure an a bad mom and you've made me see the light! I'm going to do just what you say!" And i fwe did answer them I don't suppose thy'd stick around to hear our answer anyway. Cowardly, it is!

punk rock michelle said...

that kind of stuff ticks me off b/c you know that people will look the other way when someone is screaming at or hitting their kids but , heaven forbid they breastfeed them or wear them! For the record , I've also had someone ask me how my Lo was possibly comfortable in the Ergo carrier too, & insisted that I must be hurting her carrying her that way! When I used a simple fabric sling..more than one person asked if I wasn't worried that I would drop her..

TheFeministBreeder said...

Nauseated and shaken with anger is exactly how I'd feel about the NIP incident. Truthfully, I just wait for someone to say something to me in public. They would rue that day. Illinois has an enforcement provision meaning I could sue the shit out of a restaurant who tried to tell me not to NIP and I'd do it too because I'd want to send a message to ever other restaurant or store in Illinois that this law exists, and we will USE IT.

On the babywearing thing - I shunned babywearing for a long time because we saw somebody doing it when Jonas was first born, and my dad made a comment that the baby looked like they were going to fall out and break their neck. Truthfully, I do remember that the woman had to people helping her try to put the baby back in because she was falling out, but looking back I think she may have just been readjusting? I don't know what she was doing, but it didn't look safe. That was my first experience with it and it took me a while to figure out on my own that I could do it safely (and that my dad could stuff it.)

Danielle said...

My little one was just a few months old. We were living in Japan and were out for a walk on a rainy day. An older Japanese woman ran up to me, hit me in the shoulder, pointed to the sky and said, "rain" in Japanese.

I can only guess that she thought it was absurd that I was out with the babe on a rainy day. Crazy old bat!

Lauren @ Hobo Mama said...

Wow. I'm so sorry you had your day ruined like that, but good for you for standing up for your rights. I would be devastated if someone criticized me for nursing in public — I've only been teased about it by a restaurant owner (loudly), and that was bad enough.

When my little brother was a baby, we were outside on a beautifully mild and sunny day when two older ladies rushed up and one screeched, "Cover that baby's head!" She grabbed the burp cloth my dad had on his shoulder and draped it over my brother's head. Um, okay. We like to tell the story to this day (clearly).