When New York Governor appointed Kirsten Gillibrand to the United States Senate in early 2009 to replace Hillary Clinton’s New York seat in Congress, I felt a connection to her. She was born and raised in Upstate New York, which is where I was born and raised. She also had two young children, and her younger son was born the same year as my oldest son. I found it hard to imagine how a female politician could make it work so gracefully, but she then took it a step further by successfully winning a state-wide special election to maintain her seat in Congress. I thought she was a political woman who was sending working moms into the modern age.
Recently, we discovered Senator Gillibrand has good company in Argentina.
Earlier this month, a photograph of Argentinian legislator Victoria Donda Pérez went viral on social media. The political activist’s photo is not a nude photo, nor is it a sexy photo: it’s a photo of Perez holding her eight-month-old daughter in her arms while she’s breastfeeding.
This, simply put, should be a universally beautiful image. Controversy arose because Perez was breastfeeding during a parliamentary session. When an Argentinian news outlet (Infobae, whose Twitter account we credit the attached photo to) shared the snapshot on its own Twitter and Facebook pages, the debate continued further. Some supporters applaud Perez for helping to normalize breastfeeding, while others criticized her because very few women have the privilege of being able to bring their babies to work with them and even fewer women have the opportunities to breastfeed their babies while at work.
Similar to feeling a connection to Senator Gillibrand, I also feel a link to Perez. I feel fortunate that when my youngest son was born, I could nurse him on demand most of the time even if I was working. I worked from home and had wonderful customers who literally welcomed the sound of the new baby. One client even encouraged me to nurse while we were on conference calls because she said “everyone loves the sound of babies.” This customer’s support for my decision to be with my baby while I was working carried over to my other customers. When a client in Europe had a baby and we needed to discuss something via video conferencing, we were having scheduling conflicts because we both had tiny infants who needed to be bed – but we had work to do.
“Why don’t we just conference while we both nurse?” I asked her. She could sit in her office and her baby’s caregiver would bring him to her if he needed to be fed, and I could be in my home office and do the same. This worked out wonderfully because both the other mom and I felt comfortable and productive, both babies were fed and happy, and the project’s tasks were accomplished. It was a win-win-win. We laughed about it when it happened, but now I look back on that time very fondly and I feel a tremendous amount of respect for both the client who encouraged me and the client who felt my own words of encouragement.
Imagine if the rest of society were this encouraging to our fellow working mothers. If more men and women could applaud or even support a breastfeeding woman, a breastfeeding politician, a breastfeeding mom – imagine how much easier the breastfeeding experience could be for all of us.
We at Moms Pump Here applaud and celebrate both Senator Gillibrand and Argentina’s Ms. Perez for their gifts of service to their respective countries and for the great leaps they are making for women around the world.
Note: Blog image is credited to Infobae's Twitter account.