Perhaps you have heard about the American University professor who decided the first day of her Sex, Gender, and Culture class was bring your daughter to work day. Hey, what better way to teach the subject matter than to bring your young nursing baby to class right? But you see, this wasn’t meant to be a prop, so claims the professor. It was done out of necessity because the baby was sick and could not go to daycare. So the teacher felt that cancelling class was not an option. As a single working mom she felt she had no other choice but to bring her sick baby to work with her. So that’s exactly what she did.
And Thus Begins The Firestorm
So rumors began spreading around the college campus about a professor who breastfed in class, or brought her child to class perhaps, but then breastfed. Some people on the student newspaper caught wind of it and felt they had to set the record straight. So a reporter began interviewing the teacher and I would assume some of the students in the class too. I don’t know, I couldn’t get all of the information. It appears the school paper did not run with the original story. Perhaps because the professor beat them to the punch by giving her side, and her side alone of the story in a blog post.
And hey, that’s what blogs are about. We as bloggers are not reporters, right? We don’t have to give unbiased opinions and just the facts. We don’t have to get all sides of a story. We’re not journalists. We just give our side of things. And that’s fine, I do that all the time about my own life.
Of course it has also sparked other bloggers to share this story and turn it into a breastfeeding debate, or a mom war.
Here is the thing, I have not read the original article that sparked the professor to strike first. As a matter of fact it is my understanding that the school newspaper never ran with their original story. And the professor didn’t know what the article was actually going to say to begin with. She felt that all of the questions were centered around breastfeeding, but she also felt caught off guard and perhaps she’s not remembering any other questions. But it appears the school newspaper really only gave a rebuttal to the professor’s story. So who knows what the true focus of the article was going to be? Only the paper and the reporter who wrote it know.
From What I Have Seen
Even the professor admits that the students felt the child in the class was a distraction. She does not say that the breastfeeding was the distraction, but I suppose it’s easy to make that sort of assumption. She did breastfeed in class. However, as someone who has been in a college classroom and based on the professor’s description of events the distraction was the child, NOT THE BREASTFEEDING.
The child was crawling around the classroom and at one point a student had to point out to the teacher that her child had a paper clip in her mouth. Then the TA (Teacher’s Assistant) had to remove the baby from an electrical outlet and needed to distract the baby for the professor. Even the professor says she didn’t want the TA to care for her child, as that was not her job, but she chose to. Well, really what choice did she have? Let the baby get electrocuted? Yeah that doesn’t sound like the best option to me.
So the students were distracted by the baby. The professor was distracted by the baby. Had she fed that child with a bottle or with her breast it was still a distraction and it was unprofessional. And not for nothing, but it was irresponsible parenting.
And That Is The Issue Parents Took With It
Not one comment I saw from anyone who objected to this woman breastfeeding in class was actually about her breastfeeding in class. It was the same objection that I had. This was a sick baby. She wasn’t well enough for daycare, but she brought her to work and exposed all of her students to that baby’s illness. What if one of her students was medically compromised in some way?
But even without that, there is the fact that this clearly was not the best environment for this sick child. It was an environment that was not baby proof and had a caretaker who did not have her full attention on her. It was not a place which she was comfortable in that she had no place to sleep and did not have all of the amenities of home.
Again, even the professor admits that the best place for her child was home and in bed which is where she happily took her once class ended. That is what people took issue with. That this was not the best option for the child to be in a classroom instead of at home. Not the breastfeeding, but rather the irresponsible actions of taking a sick child out of the house.
Did She Have Options?
Of course she did. She could have canceled class. However, she feared that would hurt her evaluations which could effect her tenure. Funny, I wonder what this whole incident will do for those student evaluations? I can’t imagine it will help her.
If canceling class wasn’t an option why wasn’t teaching from home? Technology is an amazing thing. Many classes are taught this way. My father attends a classroom which is actually taught via a television screen. A TA comes in and hands out whatever is needed and is there to facilitate what needs to be electronically. A video camera is set up in class and students are capable of asking questions of the teacher. Why was that not an option?
The professor actually mentions the idea came from a friend who was visiting from Peru. This friend said what choice did she have, but to bring the baby to work with her over breakfast. I sure am curious why the friend wasn’t able to watch the baby for her.
Of course it’s easy for me to say as someone from the outside looking in that she had options. I wonder if she had it to do all over again she still would have made that choice. Day two of school she chose to find another sitter. It cost her more, but she found someone to watch her.
As A Parent We Make Sacrifices
I know women want it all and we think we can have it all too. The fact is we’re constantly being pulled in a million directions, especially as a working mom. A single working mom I completely admire for finding a way to make it work. For being everything to her child.
I think our children should always come first over our careers though. If you are married, then by all means it should not always be the woman who has to sacrifice and use her sick time when the child is sick. Dads can and should take that time off too. However, single moms might have a slightly more difficult time with that. And it probably will become a sacrifice she has to make. That will of course depend on the custody situation. Probably also on the kind of relationship the mother has with the father.
Bottom line is I don’t think anyone ever really cared that this woman breastfed in class. That they saw her nipple for a second. I must admit, that’s not the first impression I want to make on people who I am in a position of authority over, but that’s just me. The issue seemed very clear to me that having the child there was a distraction and possibly a health concern as well given the child was sick. It had nothing to do with breastfeeding.
However, leave it to people to make it about breastfeeding. And don’t get me wrong, I support breastfeeding. Working women should be given time and a place to pump. Women should not have to go to the bathroom to breastfeed. But in this case the issue was not in breastfeeding. It was simply a question of whether or not it was right for her to bring her child to work when she was sick. Do you want to walk into your doctor’s office and have your doctor caring for her sick child at your appointment? Do you want a pilot or a flight attendant to be chasing after her sick baby while on a flight? All of that would be considered unprofessional. Why is it any different just because she’s a professor?
And then she went and made things worse for herself by calling people out on a blog by name and by providing phone numbers as well (which have since been removed). People have been fired for saying and doing much less on the internet by jobs. That was a huge risk she took by being so vocal with her story and so publicly.
So what do you think about this AU Professor? Was she right in bringing her sick child to work or did she have other viable choices?