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10 to Twins

By Jessica T

About this blog: I'm a late thirties mother of a ten-year-old and infant twins. My family moved to Menlo Park 6 years ago from Virginia - where I grew up, went to college, got married, had my first born, and got an MBA (in that order). I'm a manag...  (More)

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The booby burqa - part deux

Uploaded: Oct 23, 2013
OK - the truth is, I wouldn't be honest if I didn't update my last post with a story about my own misplaced modesty coming on the heels of penning "The booby burqa and why I won't be wearing one."

A member of my team at work wrote me last week to inquire if he could come and visit the babies.

I replied, "I'd love to see you...Just to set expectations - there's a lot of breastfeeding going on here, and it's tough to be discreet with twins when they are both hungry! As long as you are comfortable, I am."

I didn't hear back from him for days. I wrote back "OK - either you are having a really busy week or I successfully scared you away with my breastfeeding...I still want to see you even if I have to feed these babies bottles in your presence!"

He replied, "I don't have ANY problem with the breastfeeding... come on, I'm Italian! :)"

Even so, I planned to feed the babies before the two male members of my team showed up? Well, that didn't happen. A confluence of events led to the twins being famished five minutes before my team showed up. I was feeding them tandem (one on each breast), and when I heard their car door shut, I promptly kicked them off the breast.

"Are you crazy?" My husband asked. (He knows how strongly I feel about this topic.)

I conceded and fed them one at a time in front of my team. I wasn't embarrassed for myself, but I was embarrassed for them. If I was a man in my mid-twenties, how would I feel about seeing my boss's breasts?! Would it undermine the respect they had for me? Would they live to tell about this fateful day in their professional lives?


The twins managed to scream and feed constantly the entire hour they were over. Maybe they knew I was stressed or perhaps they sensed that these were the people who eventually would take their mom away from them.

My team member sent a few photos after the visit entitled, "It takes an army." All I can see is my cleavage in those shots, and I cringe seeing myself through new eyes as their manager, kissing baby heads and singly focused on these little beings.

How has having babies made you question tenets of your own identity? Have you found yourself shocked and ashamed at your own mixed emotions and changing image of yourself?
What is it worth to you?


Posted by a male engineer, a resident of Barron Park,
on Oct 23, 2013 at 12:56 pm

It's definitely not up to you to change the world, so you shouldn't feel ashamed if you don't live according to your own principles on occasion. We all have those moments. But I wish breastfeeding in public or the workplace or wherever were not even an issue: it was just done all the time, with nobody thinking twice about it. Breastfeeding is all good with no downside: good for babies, good for the world, a good example to others, etc. Nutritious and zero packaging waste: what could be better?

As for respect: If you and your colleagues are working hard to solve worthwhile problems, then respect for each other is founded on the contributions you make to the team effort. At workplaces that have gyms and lockers, guys see each other naked in locker rooms all the time without affecting their respect for each other, even if the middle aged ones start to get a spare tire, etc.

Posted by Michele Dauber, a resident of Barron Park,
on Oct 23, 2013 at 1:31 pm

It sounds like you did in fact live up to your principles and kept feeding your kids. It's not like you handed them off to your husband and then listened to them screaming from the other room while you made small talk about some project and milk ran down the front of your shirt. You fed them and you worried about whether your subordinates were judging you but ultimately you made the right call.

Googlers are smart, even if they are 20-something men. I am sure they thought you were a total badass for what you were doing, and left with even more respect for you than they had when they got there. I think the email that they sent you shows their respect for you (it takes an army, you are a badass, see?).

And don't feel like you have to apologize -- you taught them a super-valuable lesson about women that they will be able to use in their own lives eventually if not now.

Posted by Mother of 4, a resident of Palo Verde School,
on Oct 23, 2013 at 6:48 pm

Strangely enough, I am not on your side about this one.

Now I have nothing against breastfeeding in public, did it myself all the time. I am just not sure that it is right done in a workplace type environment. I mean, if you went to see your Bank manager and she was breastfeeding would that seem strange? Or if you went to see your dentist and she was breastfeeding?

I think that there is a difference between being open and understanding and letting it invade your workplace. It is the same as wearing jeans to work, or something. If you are a professional then there are standards that are generally accepted. I would not like to see my Bank manager wearing jeans to work and I would not like to see her breastfeeding while I am trying to negotiate an overdraft.

Or maybe I misunderstood the type of meeting you were having.

Posted by Michele Dauber, a resident of Barron Park,
on Oct 23, 2013 at 7:39 pm

She wasn't having a meeting. Her colleagues came over to the house to see the babies and wish her well:

"A member of my team at work wrote me last week to inquire if he could come and visit the babies."

I am not sure why any professional would conduct business with clients while taking care of his or her children (your examples, bank manager, etc.) however it is perfectly reasonable to breastfeed in your office, at your desk, or on one of the many, many, comfy couches in many workplaces during a break. There's no business being transacted, it's a break. And at the modern workplace for many workers, such as at Google, it's very informal. You wouldn't expect to see your bank manager playing with Lego Mindstorms or playing volleyball in a sports bra either but it is par for the course over there.

But anyway, this was a social visit to her home, so...

Posted by Jessica T, a Almanac Online blogger,
on Oct 23, 2013 at 8:56 pm

Jessica T is a registered user.

Michele got it right - this anecdote was a social visit to my home during my maternity leave. Google and many local tech companies are casual work environments - jeans are often acceptable (but to your point, Mother of 4, I don't think they are necessarily worn in a meeting with clients just as breastfeeding wouldn't be common either!) We have gyms on campus, so I often see my colleagues in workout attire. Around the office, I will wear jeans once a week or so, but I always keep Sheryl Sandberg's words of wisdom (from her days at Google) in mind: "Dress for the job you want to have." And this was none to easy when I was pregnant with twins.

Male engineer - Thanks for your support and perspective. We need more enlightened colleagues like you!!

Posted by Get real, a resident of Ventura,
on Oct 24, 2013 at 11:54 am

It's not that hard to cover your breasts while feeding the babies, just keep a lightweight scarf, or towel, a clean diaper, anything over the area.
It is very different from wearing jeans which are casual wear, to exposing your breasts. Get real.

Posted by LoveYourDNA, a resident of Old Mountain View,
on Oct 24, 2013 at 3:56 pm

Bravo all you savvy people out there!

Posted by Aran, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park,
on Oct 24, 2013 at 11:59 pm

I think it is totally fine to not cover up. What I think is not OK is to pass judgement on the people who do choose to cover up, and by calling it a burqa, you are passing a rather severe judgement on them.

In some situations, you might be right that the covers are used for modesty, but that is not always the case. Even if it is the case, then isn't that the woman's choice?

In some cases, babies are just so easily distracted that they will not calm down to nurse without the cover. In our situation, my wife resisted the cover at first, because she wasn't at all bothered about the modesty issue. Then she tried to get our baby to latch on in public, and it was a disaster, because the baby was just too distracted to be able to calm down long enough to form a latch. She decided to give up her reservations and get a cover, and it was an instant success.

With the cover, we were able to get out of the house and do nice things like take walks around the lake and go to restaurants. In our case at least, it was more about what the baby wanted and less about what the mother wanted.

Later on when breastfeeding was easy, they were able to breastfeed without any cover at all in public.

Posted by Jessica T, a Almanac Online blogger,
on Oct 25, 2013 at 9:01 am

Jessica T is a registered user.

Often these breastfeeding covers are referred to as Hooter Hiders which I think is a pretty offensive name too. I don't think we should pass judgment on women who are exposing their breasts in the name of feeding their children.

Aran - I'm glad your wife was able to nurse comfortably in public. The early days of breastfeeding were exceptionally challenging for me, so I can understand wanting to be more discreet in the beginning. But I'm also happy to hear that she went back to nursing without a cover once things got easier.

Posted by mandy, a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights,
on Oct 25, 2013 at 5:44 pm

Please do cover up modestly. Nursing isn't an excuse for flapping your boobs around. My husband, age 67, was mortified when a trio of women at the next table to us in fancy restaurant made no effort to be tactful about their breast feeding; I was pretty uncomfortable myself. We skipped coffee and desert that day!

Being modest is not the same as being ashamed; it is simply having some respect for oneself and for other people's feelings. Personally, I have no respect for 'militant mothers.' Get over yourselves!

Posted by Leo Tolstoy, a resident of Midtown,
on Oct 26, 2013 at 1:47 am

And the angel\'s body was bared, and he was clothed in light so that eye could not look on him; and his voice grew louder, as though it came not from him but from heaven above. And the angel said:
I have learnt that all men live not by care for themselves, but by love.

Posted by Jessica T, a Almanac Online blogger,
on Oct 27, 2013 at 11:44 am

Jessica T is a registered user.

Gentle readers, I appreciate the different points of view on breastfeeding in public. It's 2013. Women got the vote in the US in 1920, and while we haven't (yet) had a woman president and have a lot of progress to make with women in high powered positions across every industry, we are making progress. In my mind, progress means being able to lead a country or feed a baby in public whether or not it is appetizing to all. On to another topic!

Posted by C. Barker, a resident of Old Mountain View,
on Oct 28, 2013 at 1:05 pm

Masticating food is a natural part of life, and certainly not a cause of shame. We all do it in public. But mom taught me to close my mouth while chewing, not out of shame, but politeness.

Etiquette is about empathy and accommodating the comfort of those around you, even (especially) when you don\'t personally feel their discomfort. Nobody needs to hide their boobs out of shame, but you can be discreet just because you\'re a a polite person.

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