DaMomma linked to this blog post on Facebook this morning. She’s very funny, and I thought the link might be funny, too. Turns out it was a post about a mom who was breastfeeding her baby at a mall and caught a lot of flack for it. According to Maryland law, breastfeeding in public is legal, but mall management did not tell its employees not to harass nursing moms. It wasn’t just mall employees; there was a customer–another mother–who objected. Apparently her child asked her what that lady was doing and she was too embarrassed to tell him the truth. It was much easier to ask a complete stranger to stop feeding her child. I understand that it’s the right of the mother to decide how to feed her infant. Reading the post, though, I was struck by the fact that all three times she was asked to move or cover up, she responded with, “It’s my right.”
As Americans, we have a lot of rights. Some are given to us legally under the Constitution or case law; others are perceived and socially accepted rights. My question is, do I have a right if it infringes on your right? Is it right for me to exercise my rights if it hurts someone or makes them uncomfortable? Maybe I’m too concerned with keeping people happy, but I don’t exercise my right to free speech if I want to say something mean to another person. I don’t exercise my right to keep and bear arms if I’m going to the bank. Rights do not over-ride common sense or politeness.
Was the mom right to stand up for herself? I can’t make that call. I nursed my babies in public, but I always covered up. I covered up in my home, too, if anyone besides my family was there. I’m painfully modest and didn’t feel comfortable nursing in front of other people. For moms who aren’t afflicted with modesty, I say go for it, but I never took any flack for breastfeeding my children. In fact, I had someone tell me I wouldn’t have to buy formula if I’d kept breastfeeding. Never mind that I was working full time and my milk dried up despite my best attempts to keep it going.
If we think a little less about our rights and a little more about taking others’ feelings into consideration, we just might short-circuit a lot of conflict. Unfortunately, consideration of others is far down the priority list for some people, and it’s getting further by the day. I guess it’s my right to feel sorry for them, and for those who infringe on their rights.