Pumping is Work!
I don’t know if it’s a mom guilt thing or just a need for a shift in how work gets viewed in society, but sometimes I feel like I’m under some sort of weird judgement when I’m pumping. I am a little concerned about pumping at work because I know that there will be some who think that I’m getting extra attention or perks because I need to pump and when I’m home, I sometimes feel guilty ‘relaxing’ while I pump. Fortunately, I am a smart woman and I refuse to let these thoughts persist. Instead, I am here to remind myself, and all of you pumping mamas, that the time you spend pumping is work! It may be unpaid, unappreciated, and completely misunderstood, but it’s work.
While working on my PhD, one of the major works that I was reading dealt with the work that mothers do and how it is unpaid and undermined. Even more than that, mothers often have to work around other people’s schedules so they get no say in the work they do or when they do it. This reading has always remained in my head and I work very hard to remind other people that the work mothers do is just that: work!
Here is how you can help other people understand the WORK you are doing:
Pumping for a stash: When you are busting out that breast pump after every feeding, in the middle of the night, and while your sweet baby does her tummy time, you are “working ahead”. You are doing work now, so that you will be able to leave at some point to do even more work. This may entail going back to work, doing groceries, or gasp an evening away. In my experience, my evenings “away” are not usually my choosing but rather an event that requires your presence such as a friend’s birthday, engagement party, wedding, baby shower, or anything else that you are more or less obligated to attend to keep your friendships going (since you’ve probably abandoned all other non-essential friend-related outings). On the other hand, you may be pumping to build your stash so you can go back to work. In this case, you are working so that you can work more in the future. Somebody should give you a medal and throw a parade! (But I’ll be happy if they just support you and recognize your time as work).
Pumping to replace meals: It always makes me laugh when people smile at me and say ‘isn’t it nice that you have a stash so you can skip a feeding here and there?’. The part that makes me laugh is that if your baby is drinking your milk from a bottle, your breasts are also ready to feed the baby at this time. You might be able to get away with a few hours of not letting that milk out but a more realistic scenario is that you will need to stop what you are doing to go off on your own and pump in some isolated non-inviting place (unless you are in a place that is pumping friendly like my university!). Either way you slice it, you are working! Even if someone else is taking care of your baby and providing the feeding facilitation, you are still caring for your baby by providing the milk that they will need for another day.
The next time you start to feel guilty for watching YouTube videos, having a cup of tea, or just trying to relax while you pump, read this post again (and send others to read it as well!) You are working and the work you do is precious, life-sustaining, and only you can do it.