Be Considerate (NIP)

She sits off to the side of the coffee shop, a month old infant cradled in her arms. She looks exhausted, or like she has been crying. It is mid January and she feels like the cold has seeped into her soul, but the coffee shop is warm and bright with people chattering happily. She is there alone with her baby, but for the first time in a month she is starting to not feel lonely.

Then her baby cries. He’s hungry.

She hurries through the grocery store with a two year old and a newborn. Her husband has been deployed on active duty. She is alone with two under three. Her heart is full with missing him, and her days are full of just trying to figure out how to split her attention between her older child who is missing daddy, and her newborn.

Then her baby cries. She’s hungry.

She climbs onto the bus, two children in tow. She is an hour from home and it is rush hour. This is the last place she wants to be, but she had to pick up her oldest child from visitation at his father’s house, and her car broke down last week. She has no one to help. She sits at the back of the bus, her older kids share a single seat and she stands, baby in her arms, rocking back and forth. No one offers her a seat, and she does not ask for one.

Then her baby cries. He’s hungry.

One mother desperately needs to be around people. Lonliness is crushing. One mother needs to shop for food to feed her family. One mother is doing the best she can in a situation where she faces losing her child if she cannot manage.

All three have to feed their babies. All three are struggling.

All three do what they have to do and take care of their baby.

What choice do you make in this moment? Do you choose to smile? Do you choose to seethe at the fact that a woman has the audacity to nurse her child right there where you can see? Do you insist that she let her baby scream while she rustles through the diaper bag looking for something to cover with? Do you choose to approach her and offer to help her somehow? Do you choose to approach her and make her feel ashamed?

Some people seem to think that it is okay to shame a mother for feeding her child, to choose what a woman should and should not do to make those around her feel comfortable. They choose to place a burden on a woman who may be struggling. To place a burden on a hungry baby. To make assumptions about a mother’s ability to “cover up” without knowing the context of what she is juggling. They choose to be so offended that they are unable to avert their eyes a few millimeters in one direction or the other.

What do you do? Do you choose to be considerate, or do you choose to demand consideration?

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