Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Pumping, Privacy, Professionalism

Let's talk about some privacy issues.

It's a common sentiment out there on teh internets that the boldest public breastfeeders are significantly less bold when it comes to pumping.  Why is that?  Well, from a practical standpoint, it's not as easy to whip out a double-electric pump and take care of that while doing . . . hell, anything else besides listening or watching or talking.  Also - though many first time moms wish they had transparent babies to check that milk is actually going in, the transparent breast shields leave you more exposed than an opaque baby.  Does it also have to do with this mechanization of an otherwise natural process?  Does it just look too damn goofy?  I don't have any answers here, just thinkin'.

Pumping takes place primarily at work which brings us to the 3d P of the post - professionalism. Stick with me, this is convoluted.
I've nursed the Fidg at the office a few times - always with the door shut.  An upcoming business trip is going to test my NIP credentials, my professional identity, and probably some things I haven't even thought of yet.

Why this two-world take?  It started when I was pregnant.  The only time I ever had anyone lay an unsolicited hand on my belly was a coworker.  And I was (oddly?) peeved by questions about my status - how are you feeling, how's it going, baby baby baby.  Kind inquiries, sure, but they still bothered me.  I think because suddenly the focus was on me, the physical person, not on me, the mind, the professional, the intellect. 

And the sensitivity to THAT probably comes from being a woman in a traditionally male field (though that's soon to change) with a client base in an even male-er field. That's as specific as you'll get on my actual work here, so you'll just need to trust me.  Overt sexism in the field? Not often. What does peek through at times is of the sort that I honestly don't think the speaker realizes is sexist.  An example?  Well, an illustration would be combining an introduction of me with a comment on my physical appearance.  Even when meant as a compliment, it's inappropriate and unnecessary.  And makes me think I spent about a quarter-million too much on brain when the few thousand I'd invested in the gym was just as important in this person's eyes.

So back to pregnancy and nursing -

Even my OB commented on the struggle for professional women in traditionally male fields - you work as hard or harder than before pregnancy because you don't want people thinking pregnancy is a disability. At the same time, you're more aware of your physical limitations than ever before, and every day a bit more, and want a bit of understanding about that as well. Conundrum!

My daughter is coming with me to my work conference because she's got to eat and I can't pump enough to leave her at home for four days.  My schedule should allow me to avoid obvious mealtime conflicts, but what about free time? What about casually walking around the conference city feeding my kid?  In the hotel lobby? At informal evening meals?  I'm not looking forward to it.

Are these teachable moments I'm feeling like avoiding?  Is it right - or reasonable - to want to separate lactivist leanings with professional settings? Or does that undo any lactivist cred I might've accrued at this point?  I'm pretty sure it's the latter, but I'm not sure I'm willing to be a role model in this situation. 

This isn't really about lactivism, of course.  It's about my identity.  It's about the continuing disconnect between the size 10, snappy-suited professional gal who could drink, swear, and stay out all night and whoever I am now - definitely not a size 10, suite-less, bed at 10pm (on a late night), but still with a bar card.

I'm not immune from the stress of the false choice - professional vs. maternal.

1 comment:

  1. Oh, I totally feel you on this one. Even though my coworkers have been uniformly solicitous of baby photos and stories since I returned to work, I feel eager to shed the label of "new mom." While I enjoy the opportunity to talk about the boy during the day, another part of me just wants them to forget that I have a kid at home. When it comes to work, I'd rather just be associated with my strategic skills and ability to implement. I feel totally confident about maintaining a dual identity; I'm just not sure everyone else is capable of realizing that I can do both jobs equally well.