It's no secret that parenthood is "work." In fact, motherhood is constantly being described as the "hardest job in the world," which is a description I tend to stay away from because, well, I'm not getting paid. This isn't a job, it's a choice, and one that is difficult and taxing and exhausting and extraordinary and awarding. However, some of the things associated with motherhood, can absolutely feel like a "job." Breastfeeding is one of those things, and it didn't take me long to realize that breastfeeding and going to work are basically the same thing.
Just like having a job, breastfeeding can rewarding, and just like having a job, breastfeeding can be taxing. There are so many mixed emotions about being employed and about breastfeeding, that often times those two things are interchangeable. While I loved being able to exclusively breastfeed my son for seven months, there were times when I hated it and didn't want to do it anymore and wish it was someone else's (hell, anyone else's) problem. While I absolutely love my job (it's literally my dream job and something I have worked my entire life for and toward), there are days when I'm so exhausted and overwhelmed that I simply don't want to do it anymore. All that glitters isn't gold, and even the best things can, at times, suck.
Which is why it helps to talk about the bad sides of even the best experiences. I love having a job (and am acutely aware of how lucky I am to have one), but sometimes I need to vent about how difficult it is. I am so very grateful that I was able to breastfeed my son, but sometimes it wasn't all that fun and, at times, felt exactly like having a job.
You're At The Mercy Of Someone Else's Schedule
When you report to a boss (usually) you have a set schedule you must adhere to. When you're breastfeeding, there's a set schedule you must adhere to, set forth and changed at the convenience of a tiny, mini-dictator, also known as your baby. You don't get to call the shots, my friend. Oh, no, you're on their time table, now. Just. Like. Work.
You Won't Always Appreciate The Person In Charge
I am pretty lucky to work with a wonderful boss, but in past jobs, I haven't been as lucky. Even when I appreciate a boss I, at times, don't always like them. When I was breastfeeding, and while I love my child dearly, I didn't always appreciate the things he was doing. Like, refusing to latch on or refusing to eat once he was latched or biting down (ouch), because that's just completely uncalled for.
Someone Is Going To Assume They Can Do A Better Job Than You...
There will always be someone who just automatically assumes they can do your job better than you can. Their claims are unfounded (usually) and completely ridiculous (most of the time) and it's just annoying. Likewise, there will always be someone who thinks they can do a better job at breastfeeding, or just being a parent, than you can and do. If you're having trouble breastfeeding, they'll go on and on about why they didn't and all the things you should try that worked for them. Sigh.
...And Will, Inevitably, Question Your Choices
People who don't have your job, will question why you do it in the manner that you do it. Perhaps they think that your diligent note taking is a waste of time, even though you're well aware that it's beneficial.
Of course, people are going to question your choices when it comes to breastfeeding (and every other aspect of parenting). If you breastfeed in public and without a cover, people will want to know why. If you're breastfeeding on demand, people will want to know why. Hell, if you're breastfeeding at all, people who don't choose breastfeeding are going to wonder why.
Unforeseen Problems Always Occur, And Usually At The Worst Time
It's usually on the days when I can't have coffee, running late to work and behind on a deadline, that my computer will stop working or I'll be delayed (even longer) on the train or my child will need something that requires my immediate attention, delaying my ability to work efficiently. It's, like, the science of life, or something.
The same can be said for breastfeeding. Whether it's running into a breastfeeding complication (because there's never a good time for that) or having trouble latching when your kid is crying and hungry and making a scene in public, something crappy will happen and it will be the worst and it will make the entire act of breastfeeding all the more exhausting.
You Get Tired Of Explaining What It Is You Actually Do...
If the bulk of your job isn't obvious by the title alone, I suspect you'll be rather exhausted at even the prospect of having to explain exactly what it is you do. I mean, after the 15th time it just gets old.
The same can be said for breastfeeding, especially if you're breastfeeding in public. Having to explain to someone that you're simply providing your kid with a meal (and not, you know, ruining the youth around by engaging in some sexual act) can be exhausting. Get it together people, I'm too busy feeding my kid to stop and educate you. Again.
...And Why You Do It
You do your job because you either love it, or you have to do it. It's that simple.
You breastfeed for, basically, the same reasons.
Sometimes, It's Absolutely Boring
Any job can, eventually, feel a little monotonous. I'm lucky in that I absolutely love my job, and work with people that make it exciting on a daily basis. But, still, a job is a job and, sometimes, it can be a little boring.
Breastfeeding is the same. While it is miraculous and precious and all of those other great things, it can also be boring. Sorry, kid, you're great, but in the middle of the night with no one to talk to and nothing to do, feeding you is anything but exciting.
Sometimes, You Just Want To Be Alone
While I absolutely adore my coworkers, sometimes I just want to work in a tiny office space by myself, without any distractions.
While I absolutely love my partner, and my baby, sometimes I just want to take a vacation without either of them, where I won't be needed or wanted. Everyone needs their space and, yes, that includes breastfeeding mothers.
There Are Days When You Feel Like Calling In
Even though I love my job (it's literally the job I have always wanted) I have days when I am so exhausted, I just don't want to work. I just want to call in and have my job be someone else's problem.
Even though I love my son, sometimes I am just so exhausted, I don't want to mom anymore. I want to call it in and buy that damn formula and have the job of feeding my son be someone else's problem.
Of course, I won't do either of these things, but these fleeting feelings (fueled by exhaustion and being oh-so overwhelmed) are still pretty valid.
The Introduction Of New Technology (And The Need To Learn About It) Is Annoying
Whenever something new (or, at least, new to us) is introduced at work, there's a learning curve that, you know, sucks. Whether it's a new platform the office has decided to use, or a technology update that changes how we do things, it's such a pain in the ass to learn or re-learn something.
When it comes to breastfeeding, I just have two words for you: breast pump.
Sometimes, Even If You Don't Want To, You Have To Quit...
I don't see a scenario where I will have to quit my job. I mean, I honestly can't imagine or envision it. However, that day could come and if it ever did, I would be devastated.
The same can be said for so many women who breastfeed, and love it. They don't want to quit, and when it's time to wean and their baby/toddler has had enough, the end of that experience can be devastating. You know that, eventually, you have to quit, but it doesn't make it any easier.
...And Sometimes, You're Pretty Excited To Quit
And, of course, sometimes you work at a job that sucks so hard, you're looking forward to the day you can throw those papers in the air and say you're done. Trust me, I have worked plenty of jobs in which I spent the majority of my time employed, waiting for the day I wasn't.
While breastfeeding can be a remarkable experience, plenty of women hate breastfeeding, and look forward to the day they no longer have to and/or chose to. Gaining complete body autonomy back is a pretty miraculous thing, so please, don't ever feel sorry or bad for not hating the fact that breastfeeding is over.
There Are People Who Wish They Could Do What You Do
Whenever I am frustrated or exhausted when it comes to my job, I remember that so many people would kill to have those problems. I work at a pretty incredible place, doing some pretty incredible work with some pretty incredible people. Even when it's hard, I know I'm lucky.
Whenever I was frustrated or exhausted by breastfeeding, I would remember my friend, who was unable to breastfeed her daughter because she was born early. I remember her crying and telling me how horrible she felt and how she thought she failed and how she wanted that experience so badly. IT helps, sometimes, to put things into perspective.
In The End, It's Worth All The Stress And Hardship
No matter how difficult or frustrating or exhausting my job is, it's always worth it (for me). Of course, not everyone can say this about their job, but I'm one of the lucky people who can, and that makes me eternally grateful, even when I feel like I couldn't possibly work another day.
No matter how difficult or frustrating or exhausting breastfeeding is, for me, it was worth it. Again, not everyone can say the same and when a woman feels like breastfeeding is no longer worth it (for herself or her baby or both), she should stop (and never, ever, be shamed for that decision). However, if you're like me and you faced some serious challenges while breastfeeding, but chose to push through them (and was able to push through them) and made the decision you knew was best, you know that, in the end, it was worth it.