By now you may have heard of Kristen Osborne. She's the mom who was escorted out of the National Restaurant Association trade show for attending with her ten day old infant. The trade show has a strict policy that does not allow children under the age of sixteen. Kristen knew about the rule and ignored it. In less than an hour, she was asked to leave.
Kristen Osborne wanted entitlement. She believed that being a new mom somehow made her an exception. She thought because her child was a breastfeeding newborn, rules would bend and this would be different. One might say Kristen was being pragmatic and using some common sense. Perhaps Kristen wasn't much of a realist. But then again...
Kristen's story isn't about breaking rules and policies. It's not about public breastfeeding. It's not about child safety. It's not a story about entitlement or arrogance or ignorance or pity. Kristen's story is about all that is wrong with a culture that doesn't really value what maternity means.
That's why you have a rule in place that doesn't make an exception for a nursing newborn less than two weeks old. That's why you have commentaries all over the internet suggesting these tough choices are just par for the course. That's why you have columnists pushing formula supplements and women and men alike wondering why her husband didn't just go.
You see, this trade show was a big deal for her family business. The business that puts bread on the table. The business that helps Kristen live the ideals only found in an Enjoli commercial. Apparently.
It is absolutely absurd that Kristen would have to neglect this fantastic business opportunity just because she gave birth ten days ago. I'd argue it's a misogynist culture that tells mothers you can't have both. A culture that still wants women who are barefoot and pregnant in their kitchen while the man gets to go to work. A culture that keeps reproductive rights some sort of logical debate and treats infant feedings with scorns of shame. We pay lip service to working mothers and can't even give respect to the ones who stay home.
Remember Professor Pine? A couple years ago she brought her baby to a lecture and caused an uproar. That's our culture. Remember Licia Ronzulli? She wore her infant while addressing Parliment. That's the way to go.
But maternity isn't viewed by our society as something that benefits the whole. We dismiss the needs of newborns and families with discriminatory policies and primitive norms. From pay gaps to the outrageous cost of daycare, we strip women of choices and tell them they can't have it all.
The United States ranks dead last in parental leave policies. We offer absolutely no mandatory paid leave and only twelve weeks of unpaid is guaranteed. Battles make it all the way to the highest court in the land attempting to control how women choose contraception and when. Public scorn rips through motherhood with vengeance. We hate women.
Something has got to give.
Kristen Osborne ought to be your hero. She embodies exactly what our cultural norms could be in regards to maternity. Women making informed educated decisions for themselves and their children and their dreams. Her toddlers cared for. Her newborn in her arms. Her job secure. She exemplifies the pinnacle of success.
And Kristen would not have to be an exception to a rule if we as a society simply grasped all that.