Wednesday, August 20, 2014

National Breastfeeding Month - Respecting Nursing Moms in the Workplace.

August is National Breastfeeding Month.  All I can say is that I wish there was this much exposure to normalize breastfeeding when I had babies.  When Marie was born, I remember feeling so self-conscious when learning how to nurse her.  I felt like I had to leave the room because I was afraid I would make other people feel uncomfortable. 

When Tomas was born, I gave up after three months since it wasn’t working.  Sometimes I wonder if I wasn’t nervous to feed him anytime anywhere that maybe we would have had a better chance.

And none of this took into account working outside of the home.

Here is a guest post from one of my favorite people in the whole wide world.  Her name is Ashleigh, and she is my cousin (or as I like to think of it, the sister I never had). 

National Breastfeeding Month Mommy on the Spot Erin Janda Rawlings
Look at that beautiful mama and her sweet daughter!

I asked her to share her experience when this awful incident happened at her office to highlight the need to respect nursing moms in the workplace.


It’s hard to reserve the Mother’s Room at my office.

I work for a large company. There are many nursing mothers and we have to book the room up to a week in advance to get slots that work on our individual pumping schedules. So, when I went to the room at my appointed time to find it occupied, I was frustrated, but I tried to be understanding.

Our days are full of meetings and deadlines. More than once, I’ve arrived late to my pumping appointment. Or worked through the end of it, realizing five minutes late that someone else was waiting outside the door, eager to pump.

So I sat outside the closed door, opened my laptop and let the minutes tick by, enabling the nursing mother in the slot ahead of me to collect her things and finish pumping.

Twenty minutes later, the door opened and a man walked out of the room. He had been using the mother’s room as a quiet place to sit in on a conference call. Another mother, I could forgive. But this, this was unacceptable. (I believe my exact words were, “You’ve got to be f@*#ing kidding me!”)

I understand that I am lucky to have a Mother’s Room at my disposal so that I can continue breastfeeding my five-month old daughter. But, even with these perks, there are still battles that I fight daily in order to be a successful working mother. I don’t need to add men stealing the Mother’s Room to the list.

Unfortunately, even with the benefits my job offers, I find being a working, nursing mother to be extraordinarily difficult. It’s no wonder – even though the American Academy of Pediatrics encourages women to breastfeed for a full year – most women quit early.

In honor of National Breastfeeding Month and on behalf of all nursing mothers, I ask the following:

1.    Please be sensitive of our time. We are still juggling the same number of meetings, the same tight deadlines and the same client demands. But we’re doing all this with 1-3 additional “meetings” on our schedule: pumping appointments. And those appointments are time sensitive, as any woman fighting through a conference call with engorged breasts will understand.
2.    Please don’t comment on our pumping. I’ve had colleagues ask where I was when they dropped by my desk, only to reply “TMI” when I tell them I was pumping. It’s not gross. It’s not embarrassing. I’m literally just trying to feed my child.
3.    Don’t make it sexual. I’m feeding a child, not filming a porno. Please, don’t make this uncomfortable for both of us.
4.    Give women a chance. I know I’m lucky to have a Mother’s Room at my office. Some mothers at other companies have had to squat in empty offices and even closets. Others don’t have any respite at all (although a necessary update to the Affordable Care Act will change this). Breastfeeding has been proven to be beneficial to babies. Please give working mothers a chance to do this for their children, too.
5.    Please don’t re-appropriate our facilities. Men, you flaunt free reign over the rest of the office. You don’t get to borrow our room, too.

National Breastfeeding Month Mommy on the Spot Erin Janda Rawlings

Thank you for sharing your story, Ashleigh!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Great Expectations: Summer Travel Edition

I love to travel – it lights me up inside.  I love the journey.  I love the destination.  I love experiencing new adventures and finding comfort in familiar places.

I also love traveling because I learn so much about myself.

When we were in Myrtle Beach, I learned that despite all my focus on self-awareness, I still keep secrets from myself.

And expectations are my best-kept secrets from myself.

Unbeknownst to me, I expected to relax and play while we were at Myrtle Beach.

I (unexpectedly) expected everyone, especially the kids, would be happy.  In fact, I expected them to be so happy that they would spontaneously forget about their devices since they were so happy to be at the beach.

Clearly, these expectations were too great.  Yes, we had fun. 

mommy on the spot erin janda rawlings travel with kids myrtle beach
Every time Thomas says he hates Myrtle Beach, I will show him this photo
so he remembers how much fun he really did have.

mommy on the spot erin janda rawlings travel with kids myrtle beach
One of my most favorite days ever.

But the battle of getting ready to go to the beach and unplugging from devices, and the battle with food  - it wore me down a bit.

Maybe if I just lowered my expectations to ensuring everyone stayed hydrated I would have had a better time.

Ironically, the Oprah magazine that I brought with me had a piece by Brene Brown about vacations and expectations.  She talked about how she had zero expectations for her family trip to Disney World – or so she thought.  When she talked to her husband about how she was looking forward to reading and napping and having a magical time, she realized that she had some secret expectations.

I tried to remember these insights when our next adventure took me and the kids with my mom to New Jersey to visit family.

I thought I was doing pretty well when I expected a horrible 12 hour road trip, and they were fantastic. 

mommy on the spot erin janda rawlings travel with kids road trip new jersey
Road Trip Warriors.

I was also not sure what to expect from them in terms of their behavior as houseguests, but my manners boot camp seemed to pay off.

mommy on the spot erin janda rawlings travel with kids new jersey
Look at them - sharing a chair and being all cozy.  I wonder how I can get them to
use their houseguest behavior in our own home.

What I didn’t expect was to be so damn tired.  I was with them almost every single moment since they required me to sleep with them in the same room.  It was super cozy, though.  How could it not, sharing a twin bed with an 8 year old and another child in the other twin right next to you.

mommy on the spot erin janda rawlings travel with kids  new jersey
Yes, I had my own bed in another room.  No, I didn't sleep in it.
Mom guilt is strong with these kids.

I was also caught off guard by the sharp twinge of nostalgia.  There is nothing quite like going to a place you went every summer as a kid and then share that experience with your own children.  I usually like to bask in the warmth of nostalgia, but this time I felt more sadness than fondness. 

I think being in a place that looks and feels just like it did when I was five highlighted the fact that I am The Caregiver now.  And as much as I love my role as The Caregiver to my children, I miss the safe feeling of knowing that someone else has the wheel.

mommy on the spot erin janda rawlings travel with kids  new jersey
Me and my brother - New Jersey circa 1981

mommy on the spot erin janda rawlings travel with kids  new jersey
Thomas and Marie - New Jersey 2014

I realized when we were in Myrtle Beach that traveling gave me a way to connect with my kids that is hard to due to the daily grind, but this road trip to New Jersey helped me to connect with myself in a way that I haven’t done in quite awhile.

Have you traveled this summer?  Did you have fun?  Did you learn anything new about yourself?