I found this sign at the Laundromat Cafe in Reykjavik to be representative of the overall climate in Iceland – supportive of women breastfeeding, supportive of mothers and children, and supportive of women in general. I was nursing my son when I was in Iceland over the summer and I felt perfectly comfortable nursing him anywhere. It was so easy to be out in the world with him there – there were highchairs or Bumbo seats in the shower rooms of pools and every store, library, airport, or business establishment had play areas for children. It was incredibly comfortable to go out to eat with him in any type of restaurant (high end or casual) as it was clear that children were welcome (and there were functional highchairs, something you don’t find in every country).
I thought about this sign from the Laundromat Cafe again after reading an article on the New York Times blog, Motherlode. A 24-year-old woman with a baby writes about being a college student and having nowhere to pump except for the bathroom.
The fact that she has to sit in a dirty bathroom to pump is upsetting; however, the thing that really bothered me was the fact that people wrote some really awful comments that were incredibly unsupportive. Here are some of the humdingers below:
“You are a grown adult. You chose this decision. You chose your school. So stop whining about it. You know full well what you are getting yourself into.”
“..the best thing you could have done for yourself was to wait to have a child till after you were finished with college. Why the rush to parenthood?”
“I don’t mean to sound harsh. I totally support you and, as a mom who had to pump in rental cars because my job required travel, I totally get that it is not easy or convenient to juggle an infant and full time school. But you can’t expect others to just solve your problems for you– they don’t care about your needs as much as you do.”
One person wrote a comment that captured the ridiculous nature of the comments above, “So many of the posts on this blog and other parenting blogs are about infertility, which as we know increases with age. And so many of the comments to those posts are “you shouldn’t have waited so long, it’s your own fault.” Here we have a woman who chose (chose!!) to have a baby at a more fertile time, and many comments are about how she should have waited. Maybe the only conclusion is that haters gonna hate, whatever you try to do.”
It’s true – if women are dealing with infertility, they are criticized because they waited too long to have children. Here, you have a woman who chose to have a child during her most fertile years, who is also trying to better her life as well as that of her child by going to university – and she is still attacked (and in many cases, she appears to be attacked by other women). Where is the support? The sense of community? A sense of understanding for the very thing that put us all on earth in the first place – motherhood.
I spoke to many Icelanders who commented on the fact that it is common to see young mothers breast feeding on university campuses. There is a reason that Iceland has been voted the number one country to be a woman for five years in a row – the rest of the world could learn a lot from Iceland.