Still running for the cheese (or why this blog still exists)

As my regular readers can tell, this has been a dry year for me. Just look at the number of posts this year vs. 2008! Awhile back, I had considered either shutting down the Maze, or starting a new blog that would more accurately reflect where I am in life now. Truth be told, sometimes I come here, look around, and feel distinctly hypocrytical about the things I want to write. I'm sure I'm not the only one to ever be in that kind of place.
As the time in between posts has grown longer, I came to realize something. Without the past years' material, where I am now makes very little sense. What good is the destination without the journey? As Christians, so much of the best stuff that happens to us is in the times God is molding us to His image. To throw away the evidence of that process would somehow cheapen the result, I think.
So, here we are, dear friends. I think my little mousie may just have rounded a corner finally. Some things will change around here to reflect the changes in my heart. And you know what? That's ok. As much as I typically rage against anything changed in my life, I'm learning to accept the God-given ones. My prayer is that some of you may be encouraged by what you read here. Hey, you may even be challenged. And of course, if you know me, then you know you always stand a good chance of being offended too. Not intentionally, to be sure! Just know that what you find as you wander this Maze with me may surprise you as much as it does me.

All that to say this:

Welcome to

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Power of words, anonymity of the internet.

Before I launch into what's really on my mind, I want to share this link to give some background on my personal history with the battle over breast vs. bottle. Fearless Formula Feeder is an excellent resource for moms who formula feed while still being very pro-breastfeeding in nature.

Now that you've (hopefully) read and gotten more insight into my own struggles, here's what's really been churning in my brain lately.

The Words We Choose
Any mom who has felt caught between the different sides of this debate can tell you that there are no easy answers. Guilt abounds, and even words intended to bring comfort can fuel the shame raging inside us. As mothers, we try to do what is best for our kids in our own estimation. We all fail from time to time. Somehow, this battle over feeding method gives women lingering emotional pain like nothing I've personally seen before.
Last week was World Breastfeeding Week. Blog carnivals, Facebook status updates, and message board debate were in plenty last week. On a board I am quite active on, a debate arose about how the zealous promotion of lactation (say that 10 times fast!) around mothers who have already chosen, or had no choice, to formula feed could fan the flames of the mommy guilt we already feel. I personally believe that most of the fighting comes from the words we chose to express ourselves, particularly on the net. Here's 1 of my posts from that board, edited of course for privacy and all:

As a FF mom, from our point of view, the language used is by it's very nature divisive. I personally feel that we as women have no clue as to the power and influence of the words we chose to express ourselves. I'm gonna use G. in my example because I know we're friends and she'll get that I'm not bashing her. This next bit is all to show how our words can effect others.
What if G. and I were out to have some coffee with a few other moms that we didn't know too well? Say a moms lunch out. What if she heard me say this to those other moms?
"I just can't understand moms who work outside the home. Don't they realize that's not giving their kids the best? I mean, it's just not natural. God designed us to be the heart of the home. A WOHM is just putting herself first. How can her kids receive optimum mothering from her if she's gone all day? It's just an inferior way to raise kids. Studies have shown that kids are more bonded, well-adjusted, and intelligent when they have a SAHM. I mean, don't get me wrong, I know WOHM love their kids, but let's face it, they aren't giving them the best."
I would imagine G. would be horribly upset at hearing that from me, her friend. And even though it wasn't directed at her (directed towards the other moms so they know the benefits of a SAHM), she would be well within her rights to be hurt by my words.
Now do I believe for an instant that any of the WOH/SAH junk is true? No. That goes for any parenting choice. G. and I have boys that are the exact same ages. I can without doubt say that although the picture of how we raise our boys is very different, all 4 kids are smart, healthy, well cared for young men. How do I know? Because their mothers love them and want to give them the best they can. That's gonna look different for every family.
All the words I used above in italics are phrases you typically hear in the breast vs formula battle. Just look at them. Those are words meant to divide, to evoke an us vs them scenario. A good example of that is superior/inferior. An example sentence would be: breastmilk is superior to formula OR substitute infant milk is the inferior choice. The implication here, however true or untrue the statements are, is that a mom who chooses formula is giving her kids sub par parenting.
How can we as women refuse to acknowledge the power of the words we use? As the caring and empathetic creatures God designed us to be, how can we brush off the guilt and shame many of us experience as " that's on you to deal with"? Are we not called by God as sisters? How can we truly love each other if we choose to fall prey to the "mommy wars" and perpetuate the hurt so many of us feel?
I know so many women say that no one can make you feel guilty, that you do it to yourself. I say it takes an inner strength of character to stand firm in your choices- guilt free- that many of us do not posses.
To say that the truth is paramount at all times, regardless of audience, is unfortunate. And to refute that shame and guilt tactics are regularly used amongst moms (for any parenting issue really) is blinding yourself to the realities of the worldwide community of moms that has been built up in recent years.
I don't know about anyone else, but were I to cut out of my life all the people who either do not support my choices as a mom or who do use, often unwittingly, guilt tactics to influence me, I'd be an awfully lonely lady. I think many of us, no matter the way we mother our kids, can say the same. No mom is an island. God did not design us to be so. How can we support each other while still giving other women the facts of various parenting issues? I don't know. I think until we can all have more compassion and love for each other, we won't find a solution to this cycle of hurt.

Now am I saying that all the studies regarding the myriad benefits of breastfeeding are wrong? No, not at all! I've been known to say that unless you've been living under a rock, everyone knows "breast is best". What I am saying is that a little tact can go a long way...which leads us to

Under Protection of Anonymity
If you spend a little time reading any of the various blog posts, news articles or message boards, you'll quickly see that people tend to let loose with whatever may be swirling in their minds without thought to how it may effect others. It's so easy to be cruel or heartless when you're protected by the screen. You'll never have to see the crestfallen look on another woman's face at your words. You'll never see the tears shed over regret and shame that gets dredged up with a quick tour of the comments section.
I think that many women (and some men too) would chose their words more carefully were they sitting across from each other in a cafe. I could be wrong, but I doubt it.
If you ask around the group of moms you may know in real life, you'll most likely find that few, if any, of them have been harassed for how they feed their infants. Flip that around, and ask your group of online mom friends, and many of us can say that we have indeed had our motives and parenting skills questioned. I do realize it goes both ways. If you formula feed, you don't love your kids or are lazy. If you breastfeed, you're a perv or a show off, perhaps even a boob Nazi. I'm only speaking from my personal experience as a failed breastfeeder, otherwise known as a formula feeder.

Maybe one day, we will realize our words have impact. Maybe one day, we'll treat the women on the other side of the debate with the same compassion and respect we want for ourselves. And maybe one day, we'll step back and realize that in the long run, not much of these fights matter.

Til next squeak,

3 Squeaks from the Maze:

The Fearless Formula Feeder said...

Just stumbled across this beautiful post... I am, as always, so impressed with your ability to explain difficult issues with grace and sensitivity. You are one amazing person, Mrs. P.

Laurie said...

Hey! I practically stumbled in today and I am so glad I did! Congratulations on your growing family! Congratulations for the amazing grace I see coming through your recent posts! It is glorious to have a moment of contact with you again. I had been popping in from time to time but after the loooong pause in blogging I had thought maybe you'd moved on and therefore I hadn't checked for an equally loooong time. Yeah - reuinted! So good to hear your voice.

Mrs. P. said...

Oops on me! I really need to check this blog (and post to it) more often.
*totally embarrassed*
Sorry it took so long to approve your comments guys!

Blog Design by Split Decisionz