Lactivist-splainin’ is not support, no matter how much lactivists insist that it is

img_1493

Yesterday I wrote about lactivist-splainin’ and compared it to mansplainin’.

Lactivist-splainin’ occurs when a lactivist explains to formula feeders why they choose not to breastfeed. The fundamental problem is the same as in mansplainin’: a group of people so enamoured of their own opinions that they never listen to anyone else.

Those who truly wish to offer support take ownership of their behavior and then ask how they can do better.

Lactivist-splainin’ shares another important trait with mansplainin’. When confronted, the splainers insist that they were just trying to be helpful.

Point out the biological essentialism of lactivism — demeaning formula feeders for not using their breasts is no different from demeaning gay people for not having heterosexual intercourse — and the splainers insist that they were just offering “support.”

Point out the misogyny of lactivism — judging women by the function of their reproductive organs — and the splainers insist that they were just offering “support.”

Point out the sheer obnoxiousness of campaigns like “Breast is Best” and the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative — imagine a health facility where any woman fearing an unwanted pregnancy was forced to navigate staff and signage that proclaim that “Pregnancy is Best” and boasting they are a Pregnancy Friendly hospital — and the splainers insist they they were just offering “support” (just like the anti-abortion crowd whines that it is only offering support.)

But they’re not offering support; they offering lactivist-splainin’ instead of support.

How can we tell the difference? It’s pretty easy.

Support depends on the perception of the recipient NOT the feelings of the donor. In a medical setting, support always starts with listening to the patient, emphathizing with her feelings and perceptions, determining her desires, and helping her achieve HER goals, not yours.

Lactivist-splainers ignore all of them.

Consider this thought experiment:

Imagine if a 35 year old woman came to you requesting a tubal ligation. She and her husband have been happily married for 10 years and have decided they don’t want children.

Would you tell her that she was made to have children? That’s biological essentialism.

Would you tell her that she will never know her true power as a woman unless she gives birth? That’s misogyny.

Would you force her to listen to a lecture or sign a “contract” acknowledging that remaining childless is an inferior option? That’s obnoxious.

When she became frustrated and angry that you weren’t considering her goals and feelings would you angrily declare that you were just offering “support,” that surely she would want children if she only knew more about them?

No one would consider those actions to be “support” and rightfully so. They are directed toward the goals of the provider, NOT the goals of the patient.

There’s also a quick and dirty way to tell the difference between lactivist-splainers and those who offer support:

What do they do when informed that their efforts do not feel remotely supportive?

Those who truly wish to offer support take ownership of their behavior and then ask how they can do better. In contrast, the splainers immediately become defensive and insist that those who are upset are at fault for misunderstanding.

That’s what has happened in the Twitter discussion I referenced yesterday, when called out Prof. Amy Brown for the biological essentialism of claiming:

We are animals. Mammals. Did you not realize? Or are breasts the animal bit? …

She and her many lactivist colleagues have continued arguing — over and over and over again — that they only offer support.

But if they truly offered support they’d be asking what they could do to improve, not incessantly splainin’ that they do everything right and that women who feel pressured and bullied into breastfeeding are at fault for their own despair.

  • OttawaAlison

    It was so annoying when people told me why I used formula. It was like they were using a script. The reality was my story was ignored.
    Apropos this morning I told my daughter I would buy formula for a food drive at her school, and she said “why do people think formula is so unhealthy. I was fed formula and now I love vegetables and am super healthy”. Ah my kid, gotta love her pragmatism, though I really don’t think her love of veggies are due to drinking formula when she was a baby 🙂

  • Amazed

    Breastfeeding makes kids super smart? I wish. Amazing Niece is hospitalized right now. She used the two minutes when her mom was not in the room to knock the pot with a poisonous flower over and start grazing at it. Surely an EBF kid should be smarter than this?

    She’s getting better now, thank God.

    • N

      Thank God. That was a dangerous situation.

      My exclusively for years breastfed children take everything in their mouth as toddlers. Everything. Sand. Wood. Stones. My daughter at 2 years once tried to eat a snail shell. The snail that still lived in it liked that knew hot wet spot that was her mouth. It was about to come out the moment we realised what she had in her mouth… When my big boy was 3 years old, he found some blue pearls along a garden, … and ate them. Fortunately it was “only” artificial fertilizer, as our ped pointed out. Had it been poison for snails or similar, we would have had a very big problem! But with fertilizer we could joke in the end: Perhaps it will only be his hair now, that will grow a lot…

      • Amazed

        Brrr! A poison for snails sounds scary. Now that it’s all over, the snail in your daughter’s mouth sounds hilarious. A man, err, snail of fine tates, this one!

        If BF could make such accidents preventable, I might have considered advocating it. The way it is now? No way. So no worth it.

      • namaste863

        Perhaps she will later develop a taste for Escargot?

        • N

          For the time being – she is 5 now – she thinks snails are her friends. She plays with them, When she was between 3 and 4 years old, she build houses out of stones and dirt for her snails,… not so good for our garden…

          • StephanieJR

            I used to do that! Age eight…

          • Sean Jungian

            When I was 3-4 I thought little dust fluff along the edges of a room were mice, and I made them little “books” of folded paper with scribbled lines on them (I could neither read nor write myself). Reality has such a wavery, dreamy quality when you’re very young, doesn’t it?

          • Sarah

            Or very lactivisty.

          • sdsures

            Awwww!

    • MI Dawn

      OMG! Hope Amazing Niece does OK. WHY do kids do these things (innocent eyes, whistles…uhhh….yeah…rhubarb leaves when I was 2 or so….)

      • Amazed

        Thank you! She is getting better but toilet time has became a luxury for her mom!

  • Inmara

    Unfortunately, many women have been in scenario you describe, where they get lectured and even refused to perform tubal ligation because “why would you do that” and “surely you will change your mind” and “what if you divorce and another man wants children with you”. Friend of mine had 3rd CS and wanted tubal ligation as she’s done with children, yet she didn’t get it because doctors were not supportive and she didn’t have enough energy to fight for it. Now she pays out of pocket for Mirena (neither free healthcare services nor most of private insurance policies cover BC in my country).

    • TheArtistFormerlyKnownAsYoya

      That’s what I was thinking as I read…this actually happens to a lot of women!

    • BeatriceC

      Yeah, I was having the same thought. I mean, I can sympathize with a doctor for not wanting to do permanent surgery on, say, a 16 year old, but an adult woman generally knows her body. I can also understand reluctance on the part of a doctor for a woman in her early 20’s, simply because it’s not easily reversed and in this sue-happy society who knows who’s going to come back and sue you claiming you didn’t tell them it wasn’t really reversible. I don’t begrudge doctors wanting to protect their livelihoods. That said, once the appropriate “this is permanent, here sign all this paperwork saying I told you all that”, then it really is up to the individual woman.

      On a related note, it’s not just women who get this sort of attitude. I have a male friend who’s 47, life long bachelor, and no desire ever to have kids of his own, and he’s had major difficulty convincing a doctor to perform a vasectomy. He still hasn’t been able to get it done because “he might change his mind”. He’s all, “damn, I’m staring down 50, I’m pretty sure if I haven’t changed my mind in the last 30 years I’m never going to.”

    • Erin

      My Doctor won’t do it during my section as he feels that if I got counselling/dealt with my issues surrounding childbirth, I may regret it.

      I’ll be 39 when the bump makes an appearance. He or she is my second child. Apart from one slightly insane moment as a 17 year old when I thought I fancied 7 or 8 kids (was in love with an older farmer who had a massive house… actually no, I was in love with the house but willing to take the farmer too), I’ve never ever wanted more than 2.

      I might be able to make him change his mind but I don’t feel I can risk rocking the boat because he’s being so supportive in every other regard.

      • Linden

        I understand about rocking the boat, but he’s being incredibly paternalistic in not trusting a 39 year old with her own body. You could point out that by not doing it during the section, he is increasing the risk to you when (say when) you decide to have it separately. Two procedures are more risky than one tgat has to happen anyway. Ask him why he’s so adamant you not stop at two.

      • nomofear

        Is it possible you’re delivering at a Catholic, or maybe Baptist, hospital and/or he’s Catholic and just doesn’t want to tell you that? That’s a big problem around the world.

        • Dr Kitty

          Not in the UK, where Erin is though- no Catholic hospitals, and if your surgeon conscientiously objects to certain procedures they are required to refer you to someone who doesn’t.

          Erin, if it is any help, tubal ligations a done at the time of C-Section have higher failure rates and copper coil and Mirena are equally effective to TL, with Nexplanon being more effective.

          • nomofear

            Good! They don’t have to here, as far as I know. And bonus on finding out other things are more effective.

        • Erin

          I think as Dr Kitty says, it’s primarily the higher failure rates and the fact that I’m a bit of an emotional disaster zone at the moment.

          I was just taken by surprise because according to most of the birth related groups I’m in on facebook the NHS tries to convince everyone to have their tubes tied after 2 or more sections so I wasn’t expecting an outright no.

    • 3boyz

      I’ve heard of people experiencing this too. I have 3 kids, and I want 3-4 more, but I can totally understand why someone might want zero! And you know what? Maybe someone will end up changing their mind and regretting it, but so what? That person has to live with regret, but is that really the most terrible thing that can happen to someone? Everyone has regrets due to decisions that can’t be undone. As an adult, it’s YOUR responsibility to do your homework and weigh the pros and cons of any major decision you make. It’s nobody else’s responsibility to save you from “regret”. If you regret it, you’ll deal with it. As long as the doctor has ironclad proof of your informed consent, it is no longer his concern whether you “might change your mind”.

  • An Actual Attorney

    Sort of OT, good news. I am sitting literally right now in the er of a major children’s teaching hospital with Actual Baby. She’s fine, just apparently allergic to an ingredient in tabouleh. I am also literally right now feeding her a bottle of formula, and no one gives a rat’s ass. We’ve both been screened for dv, asked a bunch of questions relevant to her health, and not one of these amazing pediatric providers thinks it’s even worth commenting on.

    • BeatriceC

      I’m not sure if I should up vote. I’d up vote on account of no formula shaming, but it sucks that you’re in the ER with the little one.

      • An Actual Attorney

        Thanks, but as long as we’re just hanging out for observation, not going through a bunch of tests or being rushed into a procedure, I’ll call this one a win.

        • FormerPhysicist

          Hope it stayed that way.

          • An Actual Attorney

            Yep, all good. Only fall out is that I’m going to be dragging at work today.

    • MI Dawn

      Hope Actual Baby is doing much better! Hope you can figure out what she reacted to. And yay for no formula shaming.

      Though I *can’t believe you were feeding Actual Baby tabouleh. What kind of unnatural mother ARE you? Don’t you know babies need Salsa and Chips????*

      (grin…my 9 month old ate salsa like it was going out of style in a Mexican restaurant. Charmed the heck out of the waitors and shocked every other patron in the place.)

      • Tokyobelle

        I’m going to share this detail with my husband. He’ll be so jealous that our 10 month old shows no interest in salsa yet. Hubby? He can drink the stuff straight and a 55 gallon drum would probably last a couple of weeks top if he had constant access to it. Addicted is an understatement…

      • nomofear

        Oh my gosh I wish I could share the video of my then about nine month old going to town on salsa. She was about to scream if I didn’t give her the bowl, and, even though they hadn’t brought drinks yet, I thought fine, just don’t scream, here! She’d taste, make the hot face and go ooooooh, then go for it again. We were dying laughing.

        • sdsures

          Hilarious mental picture going on here!

    • TheArtistFormerlyKnownAsYoya

      We supplemented our son wih formula his second day. The pediatrician at the hospital’s only comment was “good”. We were actually afraid for a nurse to walk in on us like we’d be in trouble or something! I just didn’t want to deal with any crap. And all the nurses were so bloody “supportive” of breastfeeding…

      • Tokyobelle

        Yup, when it became apparent that Tokyoboy was starving because the taps were dry, we started supplementing on day one after starving him for 12 hours and causing his blood sugar to crash. Many of the nurses were pissed that I asked for formula, a few were supportive and kind. As for the docs, they were so stoked they were giddy-particularly the peds! I thought it strange that one even kept praising me for making a smart choice to supplement, but in retrospect, I’m pretty sure he was thanking me for not being stupid and stubborn.

    • sdsures

      Hope Actual Baby is OK! Allergic reactions are scary.

  • Jules B

    I had an argument with a lactation consultant (online) a few months ago, making the same argument Dr. Amy makes here – namely that if the “support” I got back when I was struggling to breastfeed felt decidedly unsupportive, perhaps LC’s should re-think their approach. Well. She went OFF on me! First she did the usual “not all lactation consultants” thing (much like how some guys say “not all men” when discussing certain issues), then proceeded to tell me that if I felt unsupported that the fault was with me, because obviously and clearly most lacatation professionals only care about helping women and babies! I mean, how dare I make her feel bad by talking about my own personal negative experiences with members of her profession!

    Not only that, she later wrote a lengthy blog post, tagging me in it (and messaging me about it), where she once again defended her approach and basically insisted that I back her up in what she was writing, as a “good faith” gesture on my part, and tell her readers in the replies section that I realize that not all lactation consultants are bad and are on the whole just trying to be helpful and supportive.

    I told her I wouldn’t do that and she blocked me, after calling me an “anti breast-feeding troll.”

    And ALL I had ever said was “This is what I personally experienced, and I did not find it helpful or supportive.” But clearly, they cannot handle it when their victims speak up about the bullying!

    • Tokyobelle

      Like many here, I too had a bad LC experience, and others have defended her actions and those of others as enthusiasm, as in “please don’t be upset at them, they’re passionate about what they do and they want you to be as well.” Sorry, but I could never accept that because I fervently believe that if you’re a professional, you should fucking act like one. I can’t think of many other professions were someone is allowed to bully desperate women and be validated/feel good about having done a good thing.

      • Petanque

        Exactly.
        I am a veterinarian so of course I am passionate about animal health, but I must put my recommendations for each case within the context of the owner and their family to provide appropriate care. Shaming people who are in different circumstances helps nobody.

    • The Bofa on the Sofa

      She went OFF on me! First she did the usual “not all lactation consultants” thing (much like how some guys say “not all men” when discussing certain issues),

      Bofa’s Law!!!!!

      • Petanque

        #NotallLactationConsultantz!

  • Megan

    OT but is anyone else as disgusted as I am that the AMA endorsed Tom Price??

    • EmbraceYourInnerCrone

      Yes, he is an opponent of the Affordable care act, believes in privatizing Medicare, and cutting funding to Medicaid. This is one of Trump’s more frightening appointments.

      http://www.commondreams.org/views/2016/12/01/we-condemn-ama-and-aamc-endorsements-tom-price-hhs-secretary

      He’s also a member of the AAPS-American Academy of Physicians and Surgeons, A professional sounding group that is actually anti-vax, amoungst other things:

      http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2009/11/tea-party-doctors-american-association-physicians-surgeons

      “Some of its former leaders were John Birchers, and its political
      philosophy comes straight out of Ayn Rand. Its general counsel is Andrew
      Schlafly, son of the legendary conservative activist Phyllis. The AAPS
      statement of principles declares that it is “evil” and “immoral” for
      physicians to participate in Medicare and Medicaid, and its journal is a
      repository for quackery. Its website features claims that tobacco taxes
      harm public health and electronic medical records are a form of “data
      control” like that employed by the East German secret police.”

      • sdsures

        As a Canadian-British citizen, is there anything I can do to help you guys out in the US?

    • New Mom

      Yes, he’s horrible. We want to have another baby but I’m kind of afraid to get pregnant again. I don’t know that I’ll have access to all the healthcare I may need.

      Planned Parenthood is has this urging the Senate to reject him. I’ve signed it.
      https://www.plannedparenthoodaction.org/blog/tom-price-trumps-pick-to-lead-hhs-would-take-away-millions-of-womens-access-to-health-care

      • New Mom

        “is has this”? Apparently my coffee hasn’t kicked in yet.

      • Megan

        Thank you for posting this. I signed it too.

  • True support is hard to find. Women live in a minefield of judgment – much of which is tied up with very intimate decisions women make with respect to their lives. Men seem more free to take a “live and let live” philosophy and to feverishly and fervently protect their right and the right of others to autonomy in the personal decision domain. Unless, it is with respect to the rights of a woman to have autonomy in the personal domain. Ironically, there’s a Canadian Dr. (Dr. Klein) who would argue rather strenuously that women cannot and should not be able to choose a caesarean, and yet, is on record as supporting physician assisted suicide.

    • OttawaAlison

      Wow, not that I’m against physician assisted suicide, but one is literally a life and death choice while the other is to get a baby out of its mother. I don’t understand at all.

  • Empress of the Iguana People

    i had to stop reading your FB page this morning because that poor victimized breastfeeder. //sarcasm She reminds me of the goldfish.

    • Azuran

      Maybe it was indeed her, she just started posting on the previous post this morning.

    • Heidi

      Personally, I think it looks more like a clown fish, which seems more than apropos.

  • StephanieJR

    Great article, but many, many people do respond like that when you say you’re childfree. It’s probably more normal to get told things like that than get support. Why people can’t just mind their own business I don’t know.

    (As an aside, I am childfree; which basically means I don’t eat babies, I just don’t want any, but people seem to think I want to have a barbecue with their ‘precious’ little brats)

    • Sean Jungian

      The only issue I ever have with child-free people (and I know several lovely couples who are) is when they either A) insist they know better how to raise children (they don’t) or B) insist that their pets are “just like my children” (they’re not). It also kind of ticks me off when they get sanctimonious about it, as though I am a barely sentient knuckle-walker because I did choose to have a child.

      I never thought I’d have children, tbh. I never planned to. When I was married I assumed we would have children but I never did much to actually bring that about. I was fine with the idea of not ever having children, and I knew I wouldn’t want to adopt. I did get pregnant by accident but I was happy about it.

      I didn’t want any MORE children, though (my relationship was a disaster and being a single mom of one was tough enough) so when I got pregnant the second time, even though I had vaguely thought about having another baby, I knew I didn’t really want more in the situation I found myself in, so I terminated that pregnancy.

      I will admit that a lot of things I thought about kids before having them turned out to be wrong-o BIG time lol.

      • Erin

        A annoys me, both my husband and I have childless (wanted but couldn’t have) Aunts and some of their advice is “interesting”. However I’m not a fan of unsolicited child rearing advice full stop.

        B doesn’t. I think probably because growing up our dogs were always treated as part of the family. They’d get presents under the Christmas tree, have their names on the Christmas cards and Dad always says our Cocker spaniel was his favourite “child”. I know from a few people it’s a coping mechanism for their infertility too which has softened my response over time. Plus we joke about my son being the reincarnated version of my exceedingly crazy cocker spaniel when he’s charging around so it’s a bit hard to criticize others when we’re essentially doing the same thing.

        • Sean Jungian

          I think of my pets as family, too. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t. But that isn’t the same as being my child.

          My pets are the dog and cat part of the family. Raising a human child is far more complicated than raising a dog or a cat. We also expect them to have much shorter lifespans that we have – something we do not expect with our children. There is a universe’s worth of expectations, hopes, and dreams that we (rightly or wrongly) consider for our children while we only expect a handful of things from our pets.

          No, I do not agree. Pets are not children, and although they may be a child substitute, it still doesn’t make them as complicated as children.

          Now, that said, I don’t go around disparaging people who earnestly claim “OMG FLUFFY IS MY CHILD!!”. But do they annoy me? You betcha.

          • Azuran

            As we say in the work field. Their dog is like their child….. up until they get the bill 😉
            I don’t really have problems with people who say their pets are like their children, it’s cute.
            But deep down it’s just not true. They care a lot for them, but it’s never going to be as actual children.

          • mythsayer

            It really upsets me when people put pets down because they can’t afford something completely fixable. My cat had a blocked urinary tract (the urine crystallized or something). It would’ve killed him if I hadn’t taken him in when I did but it was COMPLETELY fixable. They told me it would cost $1500…they were very tentative about the cost. Too many people will put their pets down when it costs that much. And that’s outrageous, IMO. I fully understand being broke. I’m severely broke. But if I were to take on another pet (my kitty ultimately was put down YEARS later when he got a pancreatic tumor…he was only 10 and the best cat ever…it broke all our hearts…he was truly my soulmate kitty… the second we saw each other we were in love…he started purring the second he was put in my arms), I would find a way to pay for treatment like that. I would beg, borrow, or steal if I had to (okay, I wouldn’t steal, but you know what I mean). When you take on a life, it’s just wrong to snuff it out like that. My cat’s life was more important than my credit card balance.

          • Kate

            My cat had the same issue and we had family members ask why we didn’t put him down. And the cost was only about half of what you spent! He’s now on a special diet but is a completely new cat…turns out the pain from recurring urine crystals were a big reason why he “missed” the litter box often, and he was just passing them before they caused serious issues.

          • Azuran

            It’s a really hard part of the job, but I try not to judge the amount of money people are willing to put on their pets. Everyone has their own set of circumstances and values.
            The attitude that goes with it is actually what gets me. Some people are just downright assholes who don’t give a shit. Some other are 100% responsible for their pet’s situation due to negligence or lack of preventive care. But most are generally heartbroken when they can’t afford the care.

          • Who?

            We’ve taken the view that it’s about not suffering. Our dog has had a femoral head osteotomy, and surgery on his eye for a cyst. On both occasions it was expensive, but the good prognoses were borne out. He has dodgy joints and is on pain relief that longterm may damage his stomach, but we keep him lean and he’s active and painfree.

            It’s a balancing act.

          • fiftyfifty1

            I agree that on certain levels it isn’t the same. For example exceedingly few people mourn the death of a pet as much as the death of a child. But on a regular day-to-day basis, what you need to do for them can be, and feel, pretty similar.

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            But on a regular day-to-day basis, what you need to do for them can be, and feel, pretty similar.

            Not really. Setting out a bowl of dog food and making sure they have access to water is not how I feed my kids. And sending them outside to pee and poop is not something I allow my kids to do. My kids are older, but we are still at the help the younger guy wipe stage, but we only worry about that with dogs when they have the runs.

            No, caring for the dogs is not similar to caring for the kids.

          • fiftyfifty1

            “No, caring for the dogs is not similar to caring for the kids.”

            Meh, feels similar to me. I found changing a diaper a few times a day to be similar (but easier!) than dealing with the neurotic dog who peed and sometimes pooped inside, and that needed to be taken out on a leash and then took forever to decide where to go and then I had to pick up the crap in a plastic bag. And the nasty dirty dog bowl, and the dog constantly trying to break into the food closet. And don’t get me started on the vaginal antifungal I had to apply into the dog (or bitch rather). Dogs and toddlers both can be super annoying. That’s why I’ve chosen not to have pets. When people ask me why we don’t have a dog, my husband and I say we already have 2 kids and that’s all the pets we can handle.

          • Kerlyssa

            Part of it is there’s a weird language gap for describing the relationship. Calling myself my cat’s owner feels weird to me in most situations- I mean, it’s relevant for legal/commercial situations, but it’s kinda weird saying ‘o, fluffy loves her owner’. Granted, it’s also weird in a different way to call myself fluffy’s mom, so I try to avoid that too.

          • BeatriceC

            I refer to myself as my parrots’ staff.

          • StephanieJR

            Rabbit slave.

          • Sean Jungian

            I agree to an extent, it’s a tough relationship to describe accurately. This is why I always say that my pets are the “pet” part of the family – they aren’t a brother or sister, or a child, to any of us. Our dog – and she is lovable, let me tell you – fulfills the “dog” niche in our family. Our cat – not as lovable but certainly beautiful and interesting – fullfils the “cat” niche.

            That’s the only way I can think about it that makes sense to me.

        • guest

          I agree about pets sometimes being a coping mechanism for infertility. That and the fact that childfree people can never really “get” what it’s actually like to have a child makes the comparison of pets to kids not bothersome to me. It’s the only reference they have and the difference in responsibility between having a pet and not is huge, and that is their reality. I’m not going to minimize their experience just because my level of responsibility is greater with kids. We can all only speak from our own reality and I try to keep that in mind.

          • TheArtistFormerlyKnownAsYoya

            But I think that’s all that’s meant by people comparing their pets – the pet is dear to them and like a family member, and satisfies any desire they have to care for something small and vulnerable. I don’t think they mean it’s literally the same as having an actual child.

            Signed: a formerly (until very recently) childfree individual with very dear pets.

      • MaineJen

        I think what annoys me about B) is that…they are honestly trying to commiserate, and I do get where they’re coming from, but…no. Pets are not people. Getting up at night with a puppy is not the same as getting up at night with a baby. Nothing about pets and babies is the same. I get that the pet is dear to you and feels like a member of the family, but…no.

      • fiftyfifty1

        Interesting. The comparing of pets to children thing has never bothered me at all. I think that caring for a pet is pretty similar to caring for a kid.

        • guest

          No, it’s not at all similar. I have cared for numerous pets in my life, and all different kinds: dog, bird, fish, hamster, mouse, guinea pig, turtle, frog, snake, rabbit, cat. I had a bird for 27 years that was bonded to me and he was special to me and I even threw him birthday parties…but taking care of all of those animals was nothing at all like taking care of a child. Even if you feel the same intensity of emotion (I do not, but I’ll allow others might), typical pets don’t require anything near the same level of care. Maybe some exotics or larger mammals do, but it’s usually a cat or dog owner claiming the work they do is just like having a baby. It’s not.

        • Who?

          But if you shut the kid in the laundry with a bowl of water and a chew toy for 8 hours, you’ll attract unwanted attention.

          • MI Dawn

            I am currently doing that with my new kittens (shelter rescues) when no one is home because the poor things are so freaked out by not being in a cage all day. When my daughter and/or I are at home, the house is open to them – even then they hardly ever leave the laundry room. But it’s early days yet…a little over 1 week in my house compared to over 4 months in the shelter.

            They get lots of love, pats, play and attention when we are home. We figure they’ll adapt; they just need time.

          • Amy M

            Im currently hand-training a couple of parakeets. They are nowhere near as intelligent as my children, and startle way more easily. 😉

          • EmbraceYourInnerCrone

            They’ll adapt. But it takes awhile. I am the crazy cat lady(2 now , used to have 3 and had various cats in other homes I’ve lived in) cats are extremely territorial and just the change in living space freaks them out(when I moved from San Diego to Connecticut with my 2 cats the older one came out of the bedroom after about a week. The younger one hid under the bed and came out only at night/to eat for a MONTH)

            If they have a cat travel crate or card board box turned on it’s side, with a blanket in it or an old tshirt that you have worn they may treat it as a home cave/safe space.

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            I agree. We leave in the morning and kick the dogs out into the garage with a bowl of water and a bowl of food, and a kong treat ball. Have fun, we’ll be back 10 hours later.

            We are going on vacation? Drop the dogs at the kennels. Can’t do that with the kids.

            The level of responsibility with kids is well beyond what there is with pets. It’s not even close.

        • FormerPhysicist

          If you’re stressing that your dog will need therapy, won’t go to college and be self-supporting, might have to support their sibling … seems odd. I just have to care for my pets, not raise them to be good citizens as well as being happy.

          • fiftyfifty1

            It’s true. Kids stay with us much longer and as they grow older their needs are more complex. But a toddler and a puppy? A LOT of the same needs: feeding them, dealing with their pee and poop, basic behavioral training and socializing, frustration because you can guess at their needs but they can’t tell you verbally. The day-to-day stuff can feel pretty similar.

          • Sean Jungian

            I have to echo the disagreement. I care a great deal for my pets, I spoil them, I talk babytalk to them sometimes. But it’s just nowhere near what I have to do for my child.

            I don’t have to help my pets cope with bullying, or wondering about their gender/sexual identity. I don’t have to guide my dog to a suitable profession that takes advantage of her interests and talents and yet will also allow her to afford a somewhat-comfortable lifestyle for herself and her family. I don’t have to talk to either of my pets about sexual expression and consent, as they’re both neutered.

            Basically, my pets stay “babies” forever. With a child, you’re not raising a child, you’re raising an eventual adult, that has to be socialized and savvy enough about the world to be able to cope and to be successful. If my dog isn’t socialized appropriately, it isn’t a big deal to keep her at home most of the time with the people she likes. My cat isn’t going to hold up a liquor store if I’m somewhat negligent with his upbringing.

            It’s just not really the same.

        • Allie

          The key difference is you can leave pets home alone while you go out for the evening. Also, they sleep more : )

      • fiftyfifty1

        “I will admit that a lot of things I thought about kids before having them turned out to be wrong-o BIG time”

        Can you give any examples? Was it that you hadn’t had much contact with children?

        • EK

          Not the original poster here but here are a couple of things I realized after becoming a parent.

          1. Kids are not machines. You can be doing EVERYTHING according to the book and they still don’t do what you want. Like, we never ever gave into temper tantrums but our toddler still had one every time we went to the grocery store for a few months there right after she turned two. I used to judge people whose kids had blow out tantrums in public but I now I know it’s just a phase kids go through.

          2. Same rule applies to picky eaters. I thought kids who were picky eaters just had lazy parents. Not true. It’s just a phase for toddlers. You can lead your two year old all you want to spinach but you can’t make her eat.

          3. Television. I used to think parents who let their kids watch television were lazy. Yeah, sure if you just throw on the tv in the morning so you can drink the rest of that 40 and head back to bed… But the reality looks more like, you hit the ground running somewhere between 6 and 7am and have a million things to do. So yeah, morning cartoons are a life saver. Being a parent feels a lot like being a fast food worker during lunch time whose co-workers have all called in sick.

          4. I used to think parents who let their four year olds still ride in strollers and chew on pacifiers were horribly lazy. Now I think they’re genius. I wish to god my toddler had stayed in the stroller longer. It would make running errands so much easier. And if it keeps her from screaming or gabbing my ear off while I’m trying to think, I don’t care if she were to chew on a pacifier.

          5. On the up-side, kids are perfectly capable of picking up after themselves and saying please and thank you. It can be taught although it’s not always full proof and you might have to remind them often.

          6. I used to not think I was “good” with kids. Before I had kids of my own, when I smiled at a child they would inevitably turn away crying or something. After kids, I had random children coming up to me to say hello at the park or the grocery store. I became a child magnet of sorts. But I still see my childless friends do the awkward, “Um hello… How are you?” while standing two arm distances away and looking scared as shit. The kids inevitably run away and then my friends say, “Oh I’m not good with kids.” The reality is, kids are just like anyone else. They want to be liked and if you seem stand offish and nervous around them, they pick up on that think you’re weird.

          7. The last thing, which is more something I realized about myself is that I get really sick of adults acting like children. I was a hipster wannabe (because there is no other kind of hipster to be) throughout my 20s and early 30s – before kids, that is. I basically had to break up with most of my friends after becoming a mom because they got on my nerves so badly. The childless ones grated my nerves the most. It’s like they expected kids to act like adults while they themselves acted like children. It’s an absolute shame when a child of three runs around the restaurant and the parents have to eat in shifts to contain him, but it’s totes okay for some grown man to dress like pantsless Darth Vador while riding a unicycle at 3 in the morning playing the bagpipes terribly.

          • Inmara

            This is incredibly well put, thank you!

            What I have realized once I had my kid is that I’m becoming much less judgmental about how other people parent their children (well, except really important things, like giving enough food, vaccinating, seeking appropriate healthcare and such). Yes, I might shake my head internally and bitch with close friends or husband about some parenting practices that I think put unnecessary strain to other families (like, our SIL and BIL who chase and reprimand their children for what is annoying yet harmless behavior – but hey, we’re not the ones who can’t sit and enjoy a cup of coffee during family gatherings!) but I’m not going into their face with my “advice”. I’m not judging parents with “misbehaving” children in public and I’ll be the first to shut up my relatives or friends who grumble about how it was better in good ol’ days (better for whom?) I can offer my perspective and then leave it at that – maybe it helps, maybe not, but only parents are qualified to decide how they want to run their family.

          • EK

            Yeah, I hear you on the chasing and reprimanding the kids constantly thing. I care a lot about my kids, but I’ve realized that if they aren’t actually hurting anyone or doing (too much) damage to my things then I try not to sweat the small stuff because there is just way too much big stuff to sweat out there.

            I have a play date mom who is a big worrier. She’s freaked out because the kids discovered the light switch and can turn it on and off themselves. Not sure what the problem is there. In the summer I filled up a kiddie pool in the back yard and she said the water was too cold. The kids were already playing in it so I couldn’t understand what the big deal was but to pacify her I put some hot water in it. Then she said the water was too hot because the kids’s legs were just a touch pink. I said not to worry. They wouldn’t be in it playing if it’s too hot or cold. Once there was a cardboard box the size of a VCR that I let the kids jump on and the she thought the kids might fall and twist an ankle or something. At that point I offered her a glass of wine. To which she freaked out and said that she never drinks in front of her son. So I was like, “Is that a no, then?”

            I’ve always kind of had it in the back of my mind that she must think I’m just the worst mom ever because she probably thinks I don’t care or something which couldn’t be further from the truth. But then the last time she was here she let it slip that she didn’t know how I did it all and I was like some kind of super mom because I’m always so confident and relaxed and she felt like she was just paddling around blind. So there you go.

            I realized that I didn’t need to judge her or worry about her judging me. That she was perhaps even more insecure about her parenting than me. Which humanized her for me and was somehow a relief.

          • guest

            Keep doing what you’re doing. My husband and I were like your friend with our first, but after spending enough time with his cousin who is more like you, we looked at each other and said, “well, her kids are still alive and relatively happy, and her way is much easier, so let’s go with it.” I think we just needed permission to relax and seeing her older children doing fine gave that to us.

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            My wife and I really get a kick of the Luv’s commercials, with the first second and third kids.

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZMhHzucl9lI

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1jSHzYS9V88

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tD7N3ko_7Jo
            “I think your kid’s eating sand.”
            “Probably.”

            Adding in the fact that we used Luv’s diapers.

          • EmbraceYourInnerCrone

            I love those commercials, especially the one where the babysitter has a nose ring( I think?) and the Mom is like ” he likes to grab jewelry so lose the nose ring”

          • Empress of the Iguana People

            lol, i’m pretty sure that i skipped 1st kid and went directly to 2nd

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            She’s freaked out because the kids discovered the light switch and can turn it on and off themselves. Not sure what the problem is there.

            It’s annoying as hell if you are sitting in the room.

            Then again, when I tell my kids to knock it off then, I tell them it is because it is really annoying.

          • Madtowngirl

            My husband didn’t spend a lot of time with kids before we had our own, but I’m actually trying to deter him from constantly chasing a reprimanding our toddler. The other day, she got ahold of my coupon book, and he started to tell her no. I had to explain to him that there was nothing in there that could hurt her, and if it entertained her for a few minutes, let her play. It doesn’t take me that long to go through and resort them.

            It’s kind of surprising that he’s so upright about every little thing she does, he’s normally quite easy going.

          • EmbraceYourInnerCrone

            And the thing is, if you make everything a NO NO NO, they stop listening. Then most of what you say becomes like the voice of Charlie Brown’s teacher in the Peanuts( blabla blablabla) and NO loses it’s power.

            You want the NO, STOP that’s hot! or STOP, CAR! to actually stop them in their tracks. My sister says it’s like swearing or using full names. She’s got 5 kids and is a fairly chill parent (don’t hurt other people, try not to kill yourself doing something really stupid) but if she swears or uses their full name they stop whatever they are doing because they realize they have REALLY screwed up.

        • Erin

          I believed despite having godchildren and numerous nephews and nieces that my children would just work the way I wanted them to.

          I thought tantrums were just a sign of bad parenting. Had a laugh about that one yesterday whilst my son was rolling around on the floor of supermarket screaming because he wasn’t allowed to take all the chocolates off the shelf and eat them.

          I wasn’t going to give him “junk” food either. No chocolate, no crisps, no fruit juice until he turned 16. He’s just opened his chocolate advent calendar and before he could talk, his absolute favourite BSL sign was “cake”, followed by “biscuit”. He still signs as well as asks when he’s after them just to make sure the message gets home.

          But then I also believed that I’d have an easy normal birth because I wanted one…

          • Inmara

            It’s especially hard to not make these statements while you already have a kid but not old enough to have typical toddler behavior. IT HAS STARTED in our home, and oh boy, is it upsetting when LO is bawling his eyes out because of a small bump into a chair which he would have dismissed just a week ago, or wailing because of diaper change. Bracing myself for what is still to come…

        • guest

          For me, being the constant source for teaching all the life lessons is overwhelming. I knew intellectually that it would be up to me and my husband to set the example, teach appropriate behavior, and answer all their questions, I just didn’t really get how all-encompassing that would be. It is non-stop explanations of social behaviors, how literally everything in the world works, like banking and sewer systems and cars and voting and digestion and manners and on and on, how to be a good person, what makes someone a good person, how everyone has their own quirks and on and on and on, why some people believe in God and others don’t, why do some kids have more than them and some less, teaching about being careful around strangers but still being friendly and outgoing and on and on and on. There is a lot more verbalizing the why and how of things than I expected. I guess I just thought kids would learn things through observation or something. And of course I am never ready for the questions they ask so I always feel like I am answering wrong.

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            We were happy when our first went to daycare at 14 months, because we realized, up until then, EVERYTHING he knew was what we had taught him. That was the extent of his interactions with the world.

            Aside from the responsibility that comes with that, I don’t want him to just know what I know. I want him to know so much more, and to get that, he has to learn from others.

            To tie to the discussion below, I don’t want my dogs to do that. 🙂

          • guest

            My oldest starts kindergarten next year and I’ve taken to answering some questions with “you’ll learn that in school.” When he was born, my husband and I were contemplating homeschooling, but I’ve come to realize that I don’t want my kids to know only what I know. Maybe that’s what really bother’s me about being the “source of all knowledge”? 🙂

          • New Mom

            This. Just the gravity of this responsibility is enormous. I mean, I knew my husband and I would be responsible for teaching these things, but I never thought I would be thinking about it constantly. It’s kind of terrifying sometimes.

        • Sean Jungian

          I am sorry I couldn’t get to this sooner, but wow, so many covered just about everything for me already.

          First, I’ll say, I did have a lot of contact with children growing up. I was the oldest grandchild and I had a LOT of much-younger cousins. I babysat a lot. I have a sister who is 13 years younger than me. The thing is, I wasn’t a parent to most of them, I was their good-time, super-fun, creative cousin/babysitter, such a favorite that parents wouldn’t tell their kids I was babysitting until the last minute because they’d get too excited. I was the one that did craft projects and ordered pizza and let them stay up a little later than usual. That did gymnastics and cheerleading and taught them how.

          Being Ms. Good-Time Cousin & Babysitter is not being a parent.

          My sister, who was born when I was 13, was more of a pet to me than a child. When she was 12 I was 25, and she was failing school, getting in fights, skipping classes. My (mentally ill) mother was unable to care for her. My (alcoholic) father did not want to. They gave me custody of her. It still wasn’t as all-consuming and all-encompassing as being a parent, because on some level she was still my pet, still a baby sister. Not to mention the loads of emotional and trust issues she had developed from the time I moved out of the house 6 years earlier.

          The main thing I learned when I actually had a child of my own was what EK stated – that even if you do everything “right”, children are still going to test and challenge you. I was also shocked by just how deeply and completely I not only loved this child, but was invested in his success and happiness. One of the first things I realized is that everything about parenting really IS a cliche, and for a reason.

          My list goes on and on, really it has all been said in-depth in this thread already. Since my own parents had been so miserably inadequate in so many ways, I thought if I just did everything “right” then I was guaranteed a “good” kid. I didn’t realize what a gamble it all is, how unsure I’d be.

          Bottom line, I did have some advantages and advance knowledge of how to entertain kids, but I really didn’t realize the depth of the commitment you have to have 24/7 to be able to cover all the bases. I have learned a lot.

          • fiftyfifty1

            Thanks for replying. That’s really interesting. Your experience of parenting was so different than what I felt. I realize I’m an outlier, because most of the parenting cliches you mention actually don’t resonate with me. I had always chalked it up to my having much younger sibs and being responsible for them, but here you have a sister almost as much younger than you as my youngest sib, and yet you don’t feel as I do. To me, becoming a parent didn’t really feel new or different emotionally. Having a newborn felt a lot like a Q3 residency rotation: you are sleep deprived and annoyed and anxious and your needs and wants must come last. Having older babies and toddlers felt a lot like being a sib felt to me, or like times when I would babysit a large family for an entire day. Then again, I was never the fun babysitter.

          • Empress of the Iguana People

            me neither. And i was “baby-sitter” every afternoon and weekend except for major stuff. The ending responsibility is the biggest difference.

        • New Mom

          I was such a food snob. I thought that people who ate canned soup and such were lazy. I love to cook and I thought meals were supposed to be made from scratch, with wholesome ingredients. Now, I really appreciate fast, easy meals. I still try to cook healthy foods, but a frozen pizza or macaroni and cheese isn’t the end of the world. Looking back, I sounded like a judgmental jackass.

      • cookiebaker

        I was attending a friend’s wedding by myself and I had a child-free woman corner me and emphatically insist her 1 dog and 1 cat were just as much work as kids. I don’t think she realized she was talking to a woman with 2 dogs, 3 cats, 6 children, 8 rabbits, and 30-something chickens. I just nodded and smiled. I’m too polite to call BS in public, but internally I was rolling my eyes.

      • guest

        There are a lot of childfree people who criticize all “breeders” for destroying the environment by having children, as well. I think we need a term like “childfree” that conveys it as a positive or neutral condition (which “childless” doesn’t do), but unfortunately, most of the people who apply the term “childfree” to themselves are the obnoxious ones, and some actually are anti-child (as in, “don’t inflict your horrible brats on me by bringing them out in public”). I respect the decision not to have kids, but the respect has to go both ways, and “childfree” seems to be the rallying cry for those who don’t respect children or the people who have them.

        • Sean Jungian

          I run into more of that type online than I do in real life, the kind that has a sort of smugness about being childfree? They also tend to be the ones that state things like, “I’d run into a burning building to save a dog or cat, but not to save a human child’ (paraphrasing but an actual comment I’ve seen more than once).

          I don’t have any problems with someone who decides not to have children, I think that’s great if that’s your choice. I don’t think you have to denigrate people who have children to validate it, though. As I said, though, I run into more of that type online than I do in real life, luckily.

        • Allie

          How about child-adjacent?

  • fiftyfifty1

    “demeaning formula feeders for using their breasts”

    Should it be “demeaning formula feeders for NOT using their breasts”?

    • Amy Tuteur, MD

      Thanks!