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3 Choices Moms Shouldn't Be Afraid to Own

baby feeding himself a bottle of milk
Photograph by Getty Images

"I would have, but I couldn't."

In mom forums, many women seem to feel that the only way their choices are worth defending is when the situation was out of her hands. If someone posts something sanctimonious about formula feeding, for instance, you'll find dozens of women replying, “Well, I’m sorry that my kid’s pediatrician said that if I didn’t give her formula she would starve to death” but not a lot of women saying, “I never wanted to breastfeed. The end.” This is one of the three issues where, often, people view a woman's choices as acceptable only if she didn't fully make them, and that needs to end.

Formula feeding

When I was deciding whether or not to exclusively formula-feed, there seemed to be special dispensation, in online forums about breast vs. bottle, for women who couldn't breastfeed. Formula feeding was acceptable if you had gone the distance, tried as hard as you could, breastfeed until your nipples bled and your lactation consultant gave you a special certificate saying "I Formula Feed—But I Tried!"

There wasn’t a lot online that was nonjudgmental about women who just straight-up chose formula without even giving breast a shot. That was me, which is why I try to be vocal about it. I thought it was absolutely the right choice for my family and I didn’t get a single raised eyebrow from my pediatricians. I have no regrets and will tell anyone who asks why I'm fine with the choice.

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I know that Team Bottle vs. Team Breast is like the Civil War but at the very least I think fewer women should need to qualify the fact that they went to formula. Absolutely, a frustrating breastfeeding experience can be a killer, but a kid gets fed the same whether or not his mom chose bottle feeding or had to do it, so there is little need to imply that you are somehow different from a woman who didn't have to formula feed.

Abortion

The first fundamental choice of motherhood is, of course, whether you choose to become a mother. For many women, abortion is a way to keep their lives on track, and many precede (or follow) the establishment of a happy family—on the parents’ own terms.

There are myriad reasons a woman needs an abortion, but it doesn’t matter because it’s legal (at least, in some parts of the country.) However, politicians are often asked whether they approve of abortion in the case of rape or incest or the life of the mother being at risk. This implies that women who get abortions due to something happening to them are deserving of mercy, yet women who get abortions for other reasons do not deserve the right to abortion, or at the very least, deserve less consideration.

...there is no mom who is happy and organized and not tired all the time, some moral authority on what the ideal parenting scenario is.

Childcare

Most women I know seem to feel compelled to qualify how they manage their work/childcare situation. People sometimes seem to assume that daycare was a backup choice to having a nanny. Or they say they feel bad about working when they really don't. Plenty of women seem a bit embarrassed to have a nanny and so refer to them as “babysitters.” And I also know women who don’t work and who stay at home with their kids who seem to feel like they need to give a reason why that choice made the most sense for their families.

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Who are we worried is judging us by this point? I think enough mommy-blogging ink has been spilled by now that we have established that there is no mom who is happy and organized and not-tired all the time, some moral authority on what the ideal parenting scenario is.

Some women are called to be, and love, being stay-at-home mothers. A lot of others, like me, love both work and their children, and make life work accordingly. Those of us who have some sort of say in how we sort our work/parenthood balance should enjoy our autonomy—it's never perfect, but we do well by our children to show that mothers come in all stripes, work-wise, and that there's nothing sad about a woman who chooses to work or sad about a woman who chooses not to work.

With childcare, as with all of our choices as humans and as parents, we make our decisions not because “This is the 100% right thing to do.” We measure all our pros and cons, and what we have available, and we round up to our decision.

While we don’t need to become cheerleaders for all the choices we've made, moms should feel more, not less, compelled to say that they made their decisions and that they weren’t made for them.

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