Is Breastfeeding Compatible with Marital Equality?

March 31, 2006

Gloria’s post about the striking husband reminded me of an essay I read in the latest issue of Brain, Child. In “Formula for Success,” adoptive father and psychotherapist Gary Greenberg revealed that he and his wife equally shared parental duties because they formula-fed their baby.

“Breastfeeding, primordial and irrational and demanding of surrender, doesn’t square well with fairness, justice and autonomy, ideals that underlie contemporary marriage,” he said.

I was thus spared the fate of many of the men I know or see in my therapy practice. Finding themselves on the outside of an impenetrable wall erected by biology and need, they tumble down a steepening slope, away from the conjoined mother and child and toward work and lawns and friends, toward whatever doors are open, toward, sometimes, the disaster of a liaison with a woman whose capacity for intimacy is not all spoken for. “A hidden cost,” a lonely friend called it a few years ago, “the best kept secret of the twentieth century.”

What a bunch of whining asses. Even if you are married to Valentina Wilson and must sleep on the couch, marital infidelity is not cool.

As for nursing, these men are right to believe that engorged, leaking breasts are not sexy. Nursing had to be the most grueling and taxing thing on my body after pushing out my 8.5-pound boy. I’d be curious as to how other women balanced nursing their children with cutting out time for themselves and their partners. (I stopped nursing at nine months, which, in Berkeley, is akin to supporting the war in Iraq!)

But, hopefully most men — thankfully, my husband is one of them — are mature enough to desire what is best for their children, even if it means their own needs temporarily take a backseat.  I mean, did these guys expect nothing to change once the children arrived? How about changing a few diapers before taking time for that “liaison”?