TIME Parenting

7 Things More Offensive Than Breastfeeding in Restaurants

Smartphone photo before fine dining
Thomas Lai Yin Tang—Flickr/Getty Images

Plantiffs are flirting with near fatal levels of hypocrisy, as patrons can commit some truly outrageous sins during their meals

I have a confession to make. Before I had kids, I was uncomfortable with moms breastfeeding their babies in public. Specifically, I thought it was offensive when they did it in restaurants.

My narrow view at the time saw it as women exposing themselves at tables populated by men, women and children simply trying to enjoy a meal. Why couldn’t they do that out in the car or in the bathroom? At the very least they could cover up and sit off in the corner. It’s just common decency, right?

Naturally, once I became a father and gained some perspective, I realized how ridiculous I was being. Breastfeeding is the healthiest way to nurture a baby and one of the most natural and instinctive things a mother can do for her child. It isn’t something that should be hidden away or made out as shameful. If anything, it should be celebrated and encouraged.

But when restaurants make news for shaming breastfeeding moms, it’s particularly grating.

Any restaurant employees or patrons upset at breastfeeding moms are flirting with near fatal levels of hypocrisy, as there are some truly annoying things that happen during meals that are far more offensive than a woman breastfeeding her child. So in observance of World Breastfeeding Week, here are my top seven.

7. Personal Cell Phone Conversations

So, you think breastfeeding moms are revealing too much? Then I hope you’re not one of the dozens of people who go out to dinner and inevitably have awkwardly personal cell phone conversations within earshot of everyone. A mother feeding her child isn’t nearly as offensive and inappropriate as a room full of strangers knowing intricate details of your most recent colonoscopy.

6. Splitting the Check

As someone who worked in restaurants, I can say without a shadow of a doubt I’d rather wait on an army of breastfeeding moms than deal with one large group who hands over 10 different credit cards and asks to split the bill evenly. If anyone should go to the bathroom and feel shame for a few minutes, it’s check-splitters.

5. The Sound of Your Eating

Misophonia: a neurological disorder in which negative experiences are triggered by specific sounds. While some people claim they need bleach for their eyes after seeing the “horror” of a woman’s partially exposed breast giving the milk of life to her baby, that same person could be horrifying nearby diners with lip-smacking, open-mouthed, wet chewing noises that easily drown out any sound of suckling from the baby.

4. Bad Tipping

Too many people complain about seeing gratuitous flesh when moms are feeding their babies, and not paying enough attention to leaving the waiter or waitress an adequate gratuity. It’s ironic these people are full of generous suggestions for mothers regarding how, when and where to feed their children, yet their generosity is nowhere to be found when it’s time to leave a tip.

3. Taking Pictures of Food

Stop. Instagramming. Your. Dinner. People complain about nursing mothers in restaurants being exhibitionists, yet they’re taking 27 pictures of the food they’re about to consume so they can post it on various social media platforms for the world to see. At least breastfeeding is productive.

2. Hitting on the Wait Staff

Women baring their breasts in restaurants are inappropriate and unbecoming? That’s funny, since I’ve seen moron after moron staring at the breasts (and other parts) of their waitress, and then engage in a pathetic attempt to hit on her. For people so quick to be the moral arbiters of breastfeeding in public, decorum quickly disintegrates when it comes to their delusions of grandeur regarding their waitress’s nonexistent romantic interest.

1. Drunk People

We get it, you think breastfeeding in public is gross. Do you know how we know you think that? It’s because your “drunk whisper” is actually a sonic boom reaching even the far corners of the restaurant. While these people lament the lack of common decency amongst breastfeeding moms, they seem to have no care in the world when it comes to screaming, being belligerent and making drunken asses of themselves while mothers quietly feed their kids.

If we’re going to encourage mothers to breastfeed, then we need to get over ourselves and stop sexualizing breastfeeding. We also need to stop making mothers feel ashamed and self-conscious for it, while attempting to relegate them to the bathroom during feedings. And if common sense isn’t enough to make this a reality, then we need more laws on the books protecting the rights of moms to feed their kids not just in restaurants, but anywhere out in public.

Aaron Gouveia is a husband, father of two boys, and writes for his site, The Daddy Files.

TIME

My Wife’s Abortion vs. Your Free Speech

I still remember the harassment the day we visited a clinic four years ago. By ruling the 35-ft. buffer zone unconstitutional, the Supreme Court is putting people in danger

Planned Parenthood Clinic Will Open After Court Battle
A truck covered with anti-abortion messages is used to protest the opening of a Planned Parenthood clinic in Aurora, Ill., on Oct. 2, 2007. Scott Olson—Getty Images

Thirty-five feet.

It’s a little more than half the distance from home plate to the pitcher’s mound on a baseball diamond. It’s slightly longer than the length of two Cadillac Escalades. It’s 5 ft. shorter than a standard telephone pole.

And until today, when the Supreme Court unanimously ruled the buffer zone unconstitutional because it allegedly infringed on free-speech rights, it was the distance anti-choice protesters were forced to stay away from people entering abortion clinics in Massachusetts.

“That’s a lot of space.”

That’s how U.S. Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan described the 35 ft. during oral arguments in January. And I guess it is a lot of space—depending on your perspective. For Justice Kagan, 35 ft. on a tape measure might seem like a lot. But I have a slightly different perspective, one that is far more personal and relevant to this particular issue.

In 2010, my wife and I went to a Brookline, Mass., abortion clinic after a team of renowned Boston doctors diagnosed our 16-week-old unborn baby with Sirenomelia. Our baby’s legs were fused together, but that wasn’t the worst of it. The baby had no kidneys, no bladder and no anus. We were given the heartbreaking news that there was a 0% chance of a live birth.

Because my wife’s health wasn’t in immediate danger, the hospital couldn’t get her in for a termination for two weeks. However, that meant it’d be a 50/50 chance of being able to have an abortion or having to deliver a stillborn. After much soul searching and contemplating a no-win scenario, my wife decided a stillbirth was more than she could handle and so the hospital sent us to a recommended clinic to perform an abortion.

When we pulled into the parking lot and got out of our car, the saddest day of our lives got exponentially worse.

Two women, 35 ft. away, were standing across the street holding signs. When they saw us, they immediately started yelling things like “Don’t do it!” and “You’re killing your unborn baby!” I couldn’t have been more horrified. I couldn’t believe how these people would willingly stand outside and harass others at their weakest and most vulnerable. I couldn’t mask my anger, nor could my wife hold back her tears at being unnecessarily and unfairly vilified.

But you know what I could do? I could hear them.

I heard them exercising their First Amendment rights from across the street. I heard them over the din of passing traffic. I heard them from 35 ft. away. Loud and clear.

Those protesters made every use of their right to free speech. Even with a 35-ft. buffer zone, they delivered their message of shame and guilt with ease. In fact, the only thing that was restricted that day was my wife’s ability to walk into a medical facility free from harassment.

And ironically, when I went out to videotape a conversation with them after my wife was in surgery to challenge them in a nonviolent manner, it was the protesters who threatened to call the police and have me removed.

So, Justice Kagan, with all due respect, 35 ft. is not a lot of space when you’re shouting insults at strangers and judging them absent any facts. What it does do, however, is put some very important space between emotionally volatile people enduring copious amounts of heartbreak and those who seek to shame them. Space that could be the only thing preventing physical altercations and scuffles. (The Brookline clinic is where John Salvi shot and killed two Planned Parenthood workers in 1994.)

Had SCOTUS upheld the constitutionality of the buffer zone it would’ve preserved the free speech of the protesters while ensuring women have unobstructed access to the buildings that house their reproductive-health specialists. But without that separation, I worry how often and to what degree future conflicts will escalate.

Too much space? With all due respect, Justice Kagan, 35 ft. wasn’t nearly enough to block out the horror and insults while running the gauntlet that day at the hands of those whose free speech you seek to protect.

Even after 35 ft. and four years later, my wife and I still hear them.

TIME

Yes, You Could Forget Your Kid in the Car—I Did

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Flickr RF/Getty Images

Another sad story of a child dying from being left in a hot car should remind us of one thing: it could happen to any parent

“Oh my God, what a horrible parent. I would NEVER let that happen!”

This is a common refrain shouted across the Internet when summer inevitably brings a smattering of tragic stories involving young children who die after a parent forgets they’re in the car. This time it was 33-year-old Justin Ross Harris of Georgia, who apparently forgot to drop his 22-month-old son off at daycare on Wednesday, leaving him in the searing backseat of his SUV for seven hours while his dad was at work. Harris has been charged with murder.

Perhaps it’s human nature to automatically assign blame, or the simple power of denial in convincing yourself you would never forget your child – which is understandable. But it’s also inaccurate. I can tell you in brutal, intimate honesty, because it happened to me.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says 25 kids every year die from similar incidents; this year, that count is already at 13. There is of course no stat on the number of kids who get forgotten, but then remembered in enough time to survive. If you have the emotional fortitude to read Gene Weingarten’s Pulitzer Prize-winning piece on the subject, you’ll see it happens to moms, dads, parents young and old.

I won’t sit here and tell you I’m a great parent, but I’m not a bad one. I love my kids and they are my world. I take great pains to make sure they are kept safe and out of harm’s way, and yet… I’m human. That’s what we are. Our perpetual capacity to make mistakes is innate, and should be reason not to judge.

Six years ago, when my oldest was born, I was his primary caregiver. I worked full time but my schedule was flexible, and my wife made most of the money. That meant I had the privilege of making him breakfast, getting him ready, and doing all the drop off/pick up from daycare. And I had my routine that went like clockwork every day.

Every day except Wednesday.

I had Wednesdays off, and one of my relatives was nice enough to come down for a few hours and help me out by watching Will. I used this time to run errands, go to the gym, and decompress from the standard pressure of raising a 10-month-old.

But on this specific Wednesday, she couldn’t come. And since errands wait for no man, I had to take Will with me to all the stores on my list. I remember feeling very grateful he fell asleep just before we left, and even stayed asleep as I transitioned him into the car seat. Then, just like every other hump day, my mind wandered to the litany of things I had to do and places I needed to be.

It was winter in Massachusetts, and temperatures were in the single digits. As I parked the car I was more intent on bracing myself for the arctic blast of cold air than anything else. I took a deep breath, pushed the door open, and hustled out into the deep freeze. As I got to the door of the grocery store—roughly 50 feet from the car—I kicked myself. I had forgotten my shopping list on the passenger seat.

Oh, and one other thing.

When I realized what else I had forgotten, I learned the true meaning of “panic attack.” I just stood there, paralyzed by a deeper fear than I have ever known. I could try to sugarcoat it by saying I was sleep-deprived and out of my normal routine—factual statements—but there was no denying another fact: I simply forgot about my son. If not for remembering the grocery list, there is a very good chance my boy would’ve been frozen to death upon my return.

I’m a writer. More specifically, I’m a parent blogger. That means I’ve detailed some very personal and often humiliating stories. Yet it wasn’t until yesterday that I told my wife this happened, and it’s taken six years to get the courage to post it publicly. The shame was just too great.

There are times when parents leave kids to die in cars because they’re doing drugs. With cases of clear neglect I have little difficulty joining the masses in summoning righteous anger and outrage. (And in Harris’s case, the investigation has not at this time been completed.) But when well-meaning parents have a tragic memory lapse that leads to a lifetime of guilt, shame, and blame, I can’t help but muster up some sympathy and recall that day six years ago.

The day a missing grocery list was the only thing that prevented me and my son from becoming a headline. And I’m willing to bet I’m not alone in the close-call department.

 

Aaron Gouveia is a husband, father of two boys, and writes for his site, The Daddy Files.

TIME Parenting

Yes, Mila Kunis, WE Are Pregnant

Mila Kunis is pregnant. And so is Ashton Kutcher. (Sort of.)
Mila Kunis is pregnant. And so is Ashton Kutcher. (Sort of.) Jon Kopaloff—FilmMagic

Maybe we can't physically carry and bear that baby, but we can—and do—share in the pitfalls and joys

The road to completing our family was fraught with four years of bad luck and emotional torment. So when we finally got a positive pregnancy test and then made it to the 12-week mark, you know what I shouted to anyone who would listen?

“WE’RE PREGNANT!!”

But according to Mila Kunis, the actress and ridiculously beautiful person who is having a child with Ashton Kutcher, my words were poorly chosen and out of bounds.

Kunis, in what was actually a really funny segment on Jimmy Kimmel Live, corrected the host when Kimmel said he and his wife are pregnant and expecting a child in February. Then she launched into a fake public service announcement.

“Hi, I’m Mila Kunis with a very special message for all you soon-to-be fathers. Stop saying, ‘We’re pregnant,’” she joked. “You’re not pregnant! Do you have to squeeze a watermelon-sized person out of your lady-hole? No. Are you crying alone in your car listening to a stupid Bette Midler song? No.”

Even though I’m someone who says, “We’re pregnant,” the bit made me laugh and I thought it was well done. I even posted it to Facebook with a message saying I disagreed with the premise, but had a good laugh.

And that’s when things got ugly.

Apparently some women are very touchy about the whole “We’re pregnant” thing. Comments like “WE aren’t carrying the baby, I am!” and “YOU aren’t going to have your most holy of orifices stretched, I am!” began arriving in droves. And those women are right.

Men cannot get pregnant. Men will never know what it’s like to endure morning sickness, lose control of our bladders (when we haven’t even been drinking), or have a miniature Jean-Claude Van Damme going all Bloodsport on our internal organs. Carrying and birthing a child is something only women have to endure, and the whole process is much harder on them than on us dads.

But that’s not what “we’re pregnant” means when I say it, and it’s certainly not how my wife interprets it. (I asked her.)

“We’re pregnant” means “We’re having a baby.” It means, “As a dad, I’m excited as hell.” It means, “This is actually happening.” But most importantly, when I say “We’re pregnant,” I’m letting everyone know that even though I’m not carrying the baby, I’m fully invested.

I’ll be at all the OB visits, I’ll read the baby books, and I won’t come near you with that smelly food that doesn’t even really smell but you think it smells so I’ll eat in the basement to avoid you vomiting for the 456th time.

Even though I didn’t go through the pains of pregnancy and childbirth, I was with my wife every step. Holding her hair back through the nausea, holding her hand through contractions, and getting her Kit-Kats and grapefruit (yes, seriously) when she had cravings.

Or, think of it this way:

While I’m not a professional athlete, I am a lifelong Boston Red Sox and New England Patriots fan. Fanatic, actually. I’m a crazy person with my sports. That means I sat through the dark years of the Sox and the even darker pre-2001 era of the Patriots. I invested money in the team via tickets and merchandise, I subscribed to the local cable channel that shows the baseball games, I brought them good fortune through a bevy of “lucky” trinkets that absolutely influenced the outcome of games, and I lived and died on every pitch and play.

So despite never donning a Sox jersey or strapping on football pads, guess what I said when my favorite teams won their respective championships?

“WE’RE CHAMPIONS!!”

Even though “We’re pregnant” is technically wrong because it ignores some biological impossibilities, my wife understands and appreciates the intent behind my words. Others might feel differently, and that’s fine, too. To each his and her own.

But during a time when more dads are stepping up and heeding the clarion call for added involvement, I’m not sure striking “We’re pregnant” from the expectant-parent vernacular sends the most productive message. If you have a supportive and doting partner, is this really the hill you want to die on while quibbling over semantics?

All I know is if that + sign ever appears on that magic stick again, my wife and I will happily announce: we are pregnant. And then I’ll stock up on Kit-Kats.

Aaron Gouveia is a husband, father of two boys, and writes for his site, The Daddy Files.

TIME

Paid Paternity Leave Saved My Family

"Paternity leave is not only good for families, it’s good for business."
"Paternity leave is not only good for families, it’s good for business." Chad Springer—Getty Images/Image Source

Before we talk (some more) about equal parenting, we need to enable dads to spend time at home

“So, how was your vacation?”

I can’t tell you how many people asked me that question when I returned from paternity leave following the births of my sons. Despite the sleepless nights, constant uncertainty, feedings every 90 minutes, and the avalanche of meconium-filled diapers, that’s how my paternity leave was seen by many. A vacation. Some time off to relax and recharge. Because what earthly purpose can men serve in the aftermath of childbirth? And what could businesses possibly have to gain by investing in paternity leave?

The answer, in both cases, is “more than you know.” Dads both want and need to be home in those early days, but it’s not so easy—an issue addressed yesterday at the White House Summit on Working Dads.

When my older son was born in 2008, my employer was one of the 85% of American companies that offers no paid paternity leave (only 1% fewer than offer paid maternity leave). That left me cobbling together nearly two weeks of vacation and sick time to help out at home, and despite having access to 12 weeks of unpaid FMLA leave, our financial situation at the time rendered that option moot.

During those first two weeks, my wife had health issues combined with the onslaught of severe postpartum depression. When I had to go back to work, I was out of time and options, a confused and harried new dad bidding a teary-eyed farewell to a wife struggling to take care of herself as well as a new baby. The stress from not having enough time at home quickly began to impact my work, resulting in an unhappy and unproductive employee, and a new dad who felt like he was constantly drowning.

By the time my second child was born last year, I had switched companies and had access to two weeks of fully paid paternity leave in addition to vacation time — all of which I was encouraged to take if I needed it. That extra time (and positive company attitude) was invaluable to me; it gave me peace of mind.

I was able to take care of my wife. I was able to supervise my oldest’s transition from only child to big brother. But most importantly, I was free to bond with my baby. I held him, changed him, got up at night to support my wife during feedings, learned his sounds, and developed a routine. Whether it’s moms striving for perfection or dads being hesitant (or already back at work) during those first few weeks, uninvolved dads lose out on so much of that initial experience that serves as a foundation for fatherhood. But paternity leave allowed me to be an active participant in parenting, as opposed to a bystander.

If we’re ever going to do more than just talk about men being equal partners in parenting, we need to make sure both parents can afford to have paid leave. So when discussing paid paternity leave, two vital things need to happen.

First off, companies need to recognize the societal shifts underway in America. Namely, more women are entering the workforce and becoming breadwinners, while men are asking if they can “have it all” as they place a greater emphasis on balancing work and life.

Second, fathers need to feel assured they’re not putting their career at risk by taking paternity leave, and that there’s no shame in it. However, that is easier said than done when people like New York Mets infielder Daniel Murphy — who attended the White House summit — are publicly blasted for taking paternity leave instead of immediately going back to work.

Murphy, who missed the first two games of this season for the birth of his son, was lambasted by sports radio hosts Boomer Esiason, Craig Carton, and Mike Francesa. Esiason said he would’ve had his wife schedule a c-section before the start of the season, while his co-host Carton said “You get your ass back to your team and you play baseball…there’s nothing you can do, you’re not breastfeeding the kid.”

Employers who maintain this antiquated attitude are putting themselves at risk in numerous ways. And Esiason’s suggestion (which he later apologized for) to have an elective c-section is especially troubling—it’s a major surgery that significantly extends recovery time, meaning dads would be home for even longer helping their wives recover. Call me crazy, but I don’t think sidelining your wife for a couple extra weeks just so you can go back to work sooner makes you a “real man.” Real men take care of their families.

Companies that refuse to identify what employees value will fail to attract top talent, be unable to retain existing high performers, and suffer increased turnover costs. As more and more men focus on things like paternity leave, flexible scheduling, and working from home, it becomes clear that happy employees with a satisfactory work/life balance will be more productive and ultimately increase the bottom line.

Paternity leave is not only good for families, it’s good for business. Hopefully America will follow the lead of so many other countries, and start offering mandatory paid leave for mothers and fathers. But trust me – it’s not a vacation.

 

Aaron Gouveia is a husband, father of two boys, and writes for his site, The Daddy Files.

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