Wiping gross noses, catching vomit in the middle of the night, and keeping track of the family’s socks aren't for the faint of heart, yet they take these and other challenges in their stride.
Two ultra-badass moms have been in the news recently: Sophie Power and Jasmin Paris. Both British ultra-marathon runners, these moms have made many of us take a long, hard look at ourselves and wonder what we’ve been doing with all that free time between feedings, school runs, and sibling argument mediation.
Last September, a picture of Power feeding her 3-month-old son on a rest stop of the 170km marathon, Ultra-Trail Mont Blanc in the Alps, went viral.
This year, Paris won a 430km race, beating both her male and female competitors, and pumped breast milk for her 14-month-old daughter at her rest stops. To top it off? Paris is also completing her PhD.
You’d think that these amazing feats would be celebrated, but, as with anything on the internet, the trolls came out to play. Both athletes faced backlash of one kind or another, most of which focused on two aspects of motherhood: breastfeeding and maternal guilt.
Also see: 6 ways to kill the mommy-guilt
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How do boobs work?
A few hecklers displayed their ignorance about the mechanics of breastfeeding. One commenter wondered why Power didn’t pump before the race. Any breastfeeding mom could tell you that missing a pumping or feeding session can compromise milk supply, something which Power did not want to risk with her 3-month-old.
Another commenter claimed that extreme exercise has a negative effect on breastmilk, saying, “Surely this is a case were breast isn't best.”
Not true, says lactation consultant, Marie-Louise Steyn:
“Even when you exercise to exhaustion, the taste and composition of your milk shouldn’t be affected. Neither should your milk supply.”
Paris’s critics, on the other hand, argued that at 14 months, her baby should no longer need to be breastfed.
Not that it’s anyone’s business how long a mom chooses to breastfeed her baby, but if the article had been read properly, it would have been clear that Paris had decided to temporarily exclusively breastfeed because, following a viral infection, that was all her daughter wanted.
Guilty as charged
Moms are made to feel guilty about everything, from whether they’re good enough, to having the audacity to go out and earn a living.
Power’s remark that she chose to stay physically fit and take “mental breaks” from motherhood through her exercise regime drew some vitriol:
“Take care of your baby instead. The world can wait for your 'glory'. Your child cannot,” instructed one troll.
Power herself responded publicly to this criticism, saying that she was glad to have sparked a conversation about maternal guilt:
“There is this huge mother’s guilt that all the time you need to be 100% focused on your baby, and I’m saying that by not focusing on your own physical and mental health you can’t be the best mother. When we become mothers, our self-identity doesn’t change. We shouldn’t have to lose who we were before we were mothers. Men certainly don’t.”
There’s never a shortage of news stories of moms doing badass things: from winning a grand slam while pregnant, to returning from maternity leave to run a country, to breastfeeding while addressing parliament. [This story, Fierce: pregnant Serena Williams, the Ice Tiger, and the marathon runner who delivered her baby after the finish line, highlights even more amazing stories.]
These two women have joined their ranks and achieved something remarkable. But trolls will be trolls, and what becomes apparent when reading their comments is the ignorance regarding issues affecting women, and the sexism and prejudice surrounding moms who dare to excel.
Send us your comments and stories, and we could publish your letter. Do let us know if you'd like to stay anonymous.
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