You’re reading about someone’s breastfeeding experience … nodding in agreement or not … empathizing … sympathising … connecting with it on a range of emotional and intellectual levels … then you get to the point or paragraph … the one that tells you about how the writer’s points are not meant to cause offence … how other options are okay too … and so on and so forth. Oh yes, bring on the tiring and unnecessary ‘breastfeeding emotional disclaimers’!
I’ve come across these a lot and I’ve caught myself multiple times writing them too. Breastfeeding is one of life’s raw beauties that really gets my attention and I’m done with its accompanying emotional disclaimers.
You see, as a mum who breastfeeds, the creator of the breastfeeding and I project and the breastfeeding and I linky (starting again next month), BritMums’ breastfeeding round-up editor, and part of the Positive About Breastfeeding blogger collaboration, I read and write lots about breastfeeding.
So, I perhaps read and resist these ’emotional disclaimers’ more than is usual for most.
Why do so many of us worry (consciously and unconsciously) about the feelings of those with different experiences, when we write about our own.
Some ruminate over particular breastfeeding posts so much that they don’t write it.
I suspect they get too worried about causing offence, though this isn’t their intention.
Others spend hours reading over what they’ve written, to make sure it’s couldn’t possibly be misconstrued
This of course doesn’t just apply to breastfeeding, but breastfeeding is one of the areas where it’s so common that it sometimes gets overwhelming and annoying.
It’s like you ought to feel somewhat uncomfortable for writing about aspects of your breastfeeding experiences if breastfeeding is one of your top cups of tea, because it might make others feel bad. You write with the burden to carefully watch how you come across to those who don’t breastfeed for whatever reason. It’s like, it is your responsibility to equally affirm other people’s infant feeding choices and decisions.
I mean, you better make sure you make others feel good about their experiences or else …
I don’t get it. Why should anyone be so weighed down for other people’s feelings, with breastfeeding and other aspects of life.
I know breastfeeding is a very sensitive area for many, but surely it’s not above critical discussion. We can politely agree to disagree, without taking it personally.
I can’t remember how many times I’ve hesitated about sharing aspects of my breastfeeding journey because it’s not inline with the views being expressed.
I think it’s brilliant to be considerate of others – their context and their feelings – but not so much that important discourse is stifled.
Take the post I wrote in response to someone’s article about breastfeeding pictures on social media. I had to resist writing a ‘breastfeeding emotional disclaimer’ about my intention not to hurt anyone’s feelings, and affirm how inclusive I am. I mean, why ever would I assume that my intention would be questioned thus by anyone? And why did I feel the need to clearly state what I didn’t intend in black and white.
Some dismissed my post as a breast vs bottle debate without engaging with it. One of the organisations I shared it with pointed out their support for all mothers, ‘making me feel really bad’ that I was advocating the opposite, though my post was about a different issue. I’m actually pleased they didn’t take my potential feelings into consideration in their comment. You see, I take my responsibility for my feelings seriously; I refuse to give others that kind of power over me.
So, as I continue my breastfeeding journey and commence another shortly, here is a note to myself:
- No more worries about making others feel good
- No more concern about affirming everyone’s choices
- No more need for breastfeeding emotional disclaimers
- No more compulsion to ensure that I look inclusive enough
- No more assumption about people’s likelihood to take offence
- No more walking on egg shells in my reflections because of someone’s different experience
- No more responsibility for people’s potential bad feelings about their experiences because of mine
I know it’s going to be uncomfortable; emotional disclaimers are a safety net … a washing off of hands … an abdication of a responsibility that isn’t anyone’s. Yes, they have a way of making us feel better, as they seem to free us to share our experiences and views without worrying about potentially unsettling others, even if this isn’t our intention.
However, they foster the blame culture we live in, shut down important conversations, and subtly reinforce giving other people power over our feelings. I can’t think of anything empowering about them. Can you?
I hope resisting breastfeeding emotional disclaimers comes more naturally to me, and to you if you so desire.
I hope we can have more civil conversations about different aspects of breastfeeding without emotions running so high, or the need to be apologetic about our positions.
I hope we can all find ways to confidently own our decisions, however difficult they are, and whatever others might think.
I sure do hope that breastfeeding emotional disclaimers aren’t the only way to show consideration, sensitivity, and thoughtfulness, in this often touchy area of breastfeeding.
What do you think?
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