Assumption Free Zone

You don’t have to look very far to find a hulabaloo about parenting.  Helicopter, Tiger, SAHM, WOHM, Attachment, Ferber, etc.  Everywhere you look someone is labeling and then judging other moms.

16260068_117490_rawRecently, on Facebook, a friend posted a picture of a baby being fed with a hands free system.  Her comments weren’t overly assuming (and I love her so I’m not trying to call her out or anything) but many of the comments that followed were terrible. (The picture on the right is NOT the picture posted but it is an example of a “hands-free” feeding system).

Some of the things said (I’m paraphrasing):

  • “why even have kids if you don’t want to touch them?”
  • “who needs moms?”
  • “that mom is lazy.”
  • “she thinks cleaning her house is more important.”

They knew NOTHING about the baby or mother in this picture. N.O.T.H.I.N.G.   A few people pointed out that she probably has twins (there was another empty boppy in the picture) but most didn’t think this was an excuse and some even said that breastfeeding twins is “easy”.

Gah!  You can imagine how that made me feel!

But here’s the thing – I would have said the exact same thing a few years ago. I remember actually seeing the Podee bottles in BRU and thinking “geesh, so lazy!”  Of course now I know those bottles to be life savers [1. You see I use (and promote to everyone I know) the Podee bottle system.  I really love it and it was definitely the kinder, more nurturing thing to do when my twin preemies were hungry and I had to pump and bottle feed.  (And before you ask “why didn’t your forbid bottles in the NICU?” it was more important to get my babies home, with me, than to exclusively breastfeed.  Don’t think you can know until you’ve lived it.)]

In an ideal world we would all have six arms and six breasts (and six months of maternity leave *cough*) and babies would never have breastfeeding challenges. Of course having the ability to hold your baby all day and flood their systems with oxytocin is the ideal but if you think that is worth the cost of an infant crying in hunger and not understanding why mommy isn’t coming and the resulting cortisol flooding their systems then I’m just glad you don’t have multiples. It isn’t a question of bottle propping being better than hand feeding it is about bottle proppiygng being better than being hungry and alone. I could SAFELY feed one twin while holding the other and pumping while I gently sang. He heard my voice, he wasn’t hungry and crying, and he got good cuddles in later.

In hindsight if I ever needed to bottle feed again I would choose Podee because it is an active rather than passive system – so the baby has to draw milk up and when he wants to rest he can with no drip more like from the breast.  It is not dangerous and not meant to be used unsupervised.

I wanted to leave this part out.  It was originally in the body of the post but I thought it took me off point so I took it out.  Then I thought about people assuming things about hands-free and felt I couldn’t leave it out. ]!

Then the last few weeks have been full of bashing extended breastfeeders (I prefer the term child-led) thanks to the TIME cover featuring Jamie Lynn Grummet nursing her 3 year old. The assumptions here were outrageous!  Some people called her a child molester.  They knew nothing about her or her son or the research on extended breastfeeding but they could make that massive jump from “wow, that’s odd” to “devil woman”!

It is like road rage.  It always struck me as odd that normal people could become monsters behind the wheel of a car.  My theory is that we allow cars to depersonalize us.  That isn’t another person trying to go about their day – that is a DRIVER IN MY WAY.  I DON’T CARE WHERE THEY ARE GOING THEY NEED TO MOVE!

I think our media saturated world does this too.  The anonymity of an image or a blog story allows us to depersonalize the issue and then we forget our humanity.  If you met Jamie Lynn in person and she nursed her son (probably NOT on a chair standing up) would you start screaming pervert in her face?? Most of us probably wouldn’t.  We would have a degree of respect even if we disagreed with her.

I say we challenge ourselves to STOP making assumptions.  STOP labeling people we know nothing about.  STOP treating “virtual” people differently than we would treat a flesh and blood person in our living room.  I guarantee if we can stop these things the positive energy will improve all aspects of our life.  That’s not me being new-agey – I literally think that love and peace are like a river and negative thoughts are like a dam.  It clogs the flow of ALL the energy not just the bad stuff.

Actually, Buddhism has a term for exactly this concept: Mettā (or maitrī in sanskrit).  Mettā, often translated as universal love, is a strong wish for the welfare and happiness of others.  Acharya Buddharakkhita talks about Mettā:

“Through metta one refuses to be offensive and renounces bitterness, resentment and animosity of every kind, developing instead a mind of friendliness, accommodativeness and benevolence which seeks the well-being and happiness of others. True metta is devoid of self-interest. It evokes within a warm-hearted feeling of fellowship, sympathy and love, which grows boundless with practice and overcomes all social, religious, racial, political and economic barriers.”

Imagine that! Overcoming social, religious, racial, political and economic barriers? What a radical change that would make in the world!
Of course, Christianity has the concept as well (John 13:34) but I love the way Buddhism talks of this.  The Karaniya Metta Sutta (Hymn of Universal Love) says it beautifully;

Cultivate an all-embracing mind of love
For all throughout the universe,
In all its height, depth and breadth —
Love that is untroubled
And beyond hatred or enmity.

 Ok, if you are rolling your eyes and calling me a hippy peace-freak (so?) let me make it practical;

Four Ways to Live Metta:

1. Stop commenting on other’s appearance

Even if they are “celebrities” on TV.  It is none of your business how much weight Jessica Simpson gained during her pregnancy, how quickly Beyonce lost her baby weight, or if Christina Aguilara “should” have worn a backless dress because of her body.  The excuse that they make it our business by being in the spotlight doesn’t work.  Remember we are doing this for our own well being.  Why did every description of Jamie Lynn mention her as “thin”?  Would it have been different if she was a fat mom?  Do we have a greater right to sexualize her because she’s pretty?  When you feel the urge to critique – compliment instead.  The more you do it the easier it comes.

2.  Stop commenting on other’s parenting choices.

Now, I don’t mean not commenting on the topics.  Speak out about the parenting topics you believe in but do it with a heart of sharing and support.  STOP making assumptions about the actual people behind the choices.  You can’t look at a ferber-mother and assume she has no patience for her kids.  Or a formula feeding mother and assume she doesn’t care about her child’s nutrition.  Or a non-vaxing parent and assume they don’t care about the health of the community. You can’t look at a baby using a hands-free feeder and assume mom is too self-absorbed to care.  Maybe she’s taking the picture to blog about how this thing saved her sanity?  If you don’t know all the facts then don’t speak.  Even if you do know all the facts – speak kindly with compassion.  Talk softly and carry a bug hug[2. that’s how that goes right?]. 😉

3.  Assign the best of intentions to everyone.

In gentle discipline we remind people to not assume their toddler is trying to annoy them or disrespect them when they throw a toy – but to assume they had a legitimate need.  Same here.  I always try to imagine that everyone is the best person they could be in that moment.  On the highway when someone cuts me off or gives me a rude gesture I try to think about what in their life is currently making them so angry.  Perhaps they are in a hurry on the way to the hospital to visit a sick loved one.  It would be an assumption to say they are just rude drivers when I don’t know the facts.  Basically, if you have to assume – assume the best.

4.  Stop and ask “what would I do if this person were in my living room?”

Most of us are very kind in our real lives but become “road raged” in an online environment or when we think we are removed by the cult of celebrity.  If you want to treat all people with kindness (and reap the benefits) then make it a way of life regardless of distance.  (right before publishing this I was sad to hear how this type of vitriolic attack has affected Mayim Bialik – she reminds us she is a real person.)

These four things were actually my New Year’s Resolutions back in 2002 and I can’t say enough about how they’ve changed my life.  I’m not perfect and I can snark with the rest of them (I have a hard time saying nice things about octomom or sean hannity, for example).  It is certainly a journey I choose to take every day.  I see people now wherever I go.  I never see a “driver”, “slow bank teller”, “rude nurse”.  I see people.  Good and bad – each living their own lives and trying to be the best they can be.

Acharya Buddharakkhita goes on to say that “metta is a “solvent” that “melts” not only one’s own psychic pollutants of anger, resentment and offensiveness, but also those of others.”  I have felt this work for me.  When someone is rude I don’t have to take on that anger and often my reaction is a balm to the other person.  Better yet, my kids see a mom who is (mostly) happy and accepting of all kinds of people.  My kids don’t see me call the guy in the car next to me a bad name.  I model metta and teach them to assume the best of intentions in people.

So, who’s with me? Let’s start a kinder world revolution by striving for Metta – An Assumption Free, Kinder World.


8 thoughts on “Assumption Free Zone

  1. LOVE this post!! Such a great one. I think the metta philosophy sounds really neat, I've never heard of that before. And my favorite quote of this article is speak "softy and carry a big hug!" So great! My last comment is that it is so true you never know what people are going through. I went to work the next day while I was still miscarrying my baby and it was funny to me when people would ask "how are you doing?" and I would say "Fine". And I also walked in a restaurant after getting off the phone with my Dad who told me my grandpa died (never forget this one) and the order-taker said "How are you today" and I just laughed…. if he only knew.


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    "everyone is the best person they could be in that moment"

    YES! This is how I imagine it as well – this lends compassion to ourselves in the process… as I was making very different choices in my life 5 years ago – I was still doing the best I could at that time… I don't regret the choices I've made – I look forward to the future and at the even greater things I am capable of.

    Love your post!!
    My recent post BEWARE of Sanctimommy


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