Not to stoke any tension between parents and child-free folks, but I never felt like I was missing out on anything once I became a mom. I didn’t have kids until I was in my 30s, so I racked up a lot of “adult” experiences prior to parenthood. But I also knew that choosing to become a mother meant I was willing to accept the differences between a parent life and a child-free life. So when I had a baby, and was breastfeeding, I never actually felt that bad about not doing certain things that my non-breastfeeding friends were busy doing. But the expectation was that I’d feel I was missing out, so I found myself fake feeling bad, if only because I was exhausted (hello, newborn) and just didn’t feel like spending time explaining that I was pretty OK with disengaging from events due to my lactation situation.
While I did occasionally feel frustrated about being tethered to my infant since I was her only source of food, I knew we were existing in finite time. In hindsight, I have no regrets about what breastfeeding kept me from doing. As a working mom, spending my maternity leave with my babies and nursing them during those months allowed me to maximize my time with them. I didn’t go out much when they were little. I put all their needs first. Self-care was shelved, perhaps to my detriment (note the “mom cut”), but I knew it wasn’t going to last. I could give up a lot in such a short period of my life that would be such a big part of my children’s lives. While I totally respect moms who choose to spend their time differently, or don’t have options to be home for 12 (mostly unpaid) weeks with their newborns, that is what worked for me.
So if I acted disappointed about not signing on for certain events while I was breastfeeding, I may not have totally been communicating the truth. Here are some things I fake felt bad about not being able to do because I was breastfeeding at the time:
Staying Out Late
I used to like New Year’s Eve, and then, somewhere in my late 20s, it just got old. Sleep was the thing. Breastfeeding a baby as the best reason to have to run home, so I got myself out of many late nights that I fake felt bad about. That way, my host wouldn’t feel insulted about me gleefully leaving, since I was pulling the “so sorry I have to leave early” card… with convincing pseudo sincerity. #sorrynotsorry
Having Some Drinks
I was not someone who craved alcohol when I was abstaining during pregnancy and my time breastfeeding. I love wine, but I never missed it when I stopped drinking it for over a year and each time I had a child. I know this isn’t the case with all moms, but for me, I didn’t feel the desire to have even one drink.
Given that my social life before kids was often drenched in cocktails, my friends expected me to be jonesing for a glass of pinot noir and, to avoid coming across smug (especially to other new moms who did express that they missed having an occasional drink), I pretended I was bummed about the seltzer in my cup. I think it must be hard for other people to understand how you can change your behavior when it comes to alcohol, just because you had a child. But I was able to do it, probably because I wasn’t drinking excessively before having kids.
Relying On Coffee
Being pregnant and breastfeeding didn’t stop me from having my one crucial cup of coffee every morning. My obstetrician and pediatrician were both OK with it, and thank goodness, because I needed just that much to get me over the hump of feeling like a complete zombie upon waking.
But since I limited my coffee intake to that one dose, I had people feeling bad that I would need to curb my caffeine consumption when they invited me to chat over coffee. It took too much effort to explain that I really didn’t feel terrible because, though I was tired all the time, I didn’t to rely on stimulants to be functional, especially with a baby around. So I would nod sleepily and sip decaf green tea, murmuring how envious I was of their cappuccino.
Having In-Depth Conversations
You know when you make the mistake of answering your phone and the person on the line actually wants to talk? Breastfeeding will be able end that call with a quickness you will never believe. Use that maneuver as much as possible, while it’s still feasible… like before your kid goes off to college. I haven’t breastfed a child in more than five years and I miss that excuse so much.
You know all those times you drag yourself to adult birthday dinners and co-worker goodbye happy hours and weddings with cash bars? Breastfeeding affords you an elegant way to turn down those invitations. I have never felt less guilty about saying “no” to something, knowing the invitee would totally understand, given my situation… on the couch… in front of the TV (occasionally breastfeeding my baby).
Contributing To Holiday Gatherings
“I was going to make my signature bean soup*, but I’m afraid to work over the hot stove, since the baby just cries every time I put her down.”
“Well, do you need me to bring anything, beside our adorable newborn?”
“Oh I can help with the dishes, as soon as I’m done feeding the baby.”
As a new breastfeeding mom, I am totally guilty of throwing these excuses out there.
*This is the only thing I cook and it takes 20 minutes of actual “cooking” and all the ingredients come from cans or boxes.
With my second baby, I was so relieved to use breastfeeding as an excuse to be anti-social. It was work to arrange playdates for his older sister, who was not quite 3 years old. At that age, they still need adult supervision, in the same room, and I was just not up to the task with a nursing baby in my arms. Small talk with other parents while feeding an infant and watching a toddler would have leveled me.
Wearing Anything Other Than A Nursing Top
Though postpartum fashion is pretty much non-existent, as it’s hard to find clothes that fit well in the fourth trimester when I was too small for maternity pants and still too big for my pre-baby wardrobe, it actually made my life a little easier. I had far fewer choices, so my brain wasn’t cluttered with decisions about what to wear. It was nursing tops and leggings, every hour of every day.
If ever there was a time to give in to poor food choices, it’s while I was exclusively breastfeeding. This is not to say I did not feed my body nutritious items to support my breastfeeding efforts, and thus my child’s health. I ate vegetables daily and stayed away from fatty foods, pretty much. I just always felt like I was on call to nurse my baby and thus meal-planning took a backseat to all things kid-related. It was catch as catch can, digging into a bag of baby carrots as often I was scooping honey mustard pretzels out of the bag for a makeshift lunch in those early months of breastfeeding.
I took a seven year exercise hiatus, hitting my last spin class on my daughter’s due date and returning to the gym when she was in second grade. Breastfeeding two children, for a total of four years, in that time frame was a huge accomplishment for me. It was more than getting my miles in on the treadmill, or upping my chest press weight. While I didn’t love the fact that I wasn’t working on my fitness during those seven years, I had to give myself a break about it. I was doing far more important work in that time: raising humans and learning how to be a good parent.
When I could finally find a way to work exercise sessions back into my life, I approached it from a new perspective. It was no longer about keeping my weight down. Instead, it was about staying strong and fit so I could move through life with my children as an active participant.
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