Your Breast Pump Offends Me: When Coworkers Can't DealMonica Bielanko
I was scouring the web for the latest parenting news when I stumbled across an article called Should Breast Pump Parts Be Hidden in the Workplace?
I can understand coworkers being a little squeamish about spotting a coworker’s errant boob while she’s pumping, but just glimpsing a breast pump is now offensive?
A recent reader of the New York Times Motherlode Blog sought advice for dealing with a co-worker who was “uncomfortable” seeing her breast pump parts peeking out of her unzipped bag. Commenters noted that they too had negative experiences with colleagues who didn’t like to see them washing their pump parts in communal sinks, or seeing their pumped milk in the shared refrigerators:
I washed pump parts in the shared sink and stored milk in the shared fridge/freezer. I always put the milk in an opaque plastic bag or freezer bag. The ONE day I forgot the bag and put the helpfully labeled “my mommy’s milk” baggies directly in the fridge an anonymous note appeared on the fridge door declaring that “bodily fluids should not be stored in public places”, which struck me as more than a bit silly given that it was a sealed bag and there is no shortage of genuinely gross rotting leftovers in the back of the fridge. I responded with a typed signed note saying that anyone who had concerns or questions should come air them to me in person in my office #, but of course no one did.
I completely support your right to do this. However, I also sympathize to some extent with people who don’t want to be reminded of bodily functions while in the workplace. I wonder if it would help to take the whole breastfeeding-rights issue out of it, and consider how this would be treated if it were an insulin pump and/or syringe and needles, or a person’s catheters. My own feeling is that the workplace needs to accommodate people’s personal bodily needs as much as possible. In return, people should be willing to go to some effort to make it possible for colleagues to avoid consciousness of those bodily needs.
If we do, as a previous commenter suggested, take breastfeeding rights out of this I think it becomes even more unbelievable! The person suggested we think of this as someone who doesn’t want to be reminded of body functions and gave the example of an insulin pump or a catheter. I cannot imagine a situation where someone would ever have the guts to ask a diabetic to please refrain from testing blood glucose or to please do it but don’t allow anyone in the office to know that he/she is a diabetic or to see any of the equipment.
If people are so sensitive that any thought of any sort of bodily function offends them they may want to consider working at home. If someone wants to make a HR complaint, I think that says quite a bit about them. Perhaps you could make one in return for harassment.
My thoughts? Some of the crap people wear at work is infinitely more offensive than a breast pump. And don’t get me started on the way some people shower in cologne and perfume or constantly apply horribly scented lotions? But hey. That’s just me. What do you think? Should Breast Pump Parts Be Hidden in the Workplace? Should a pumping mom be discreet about the entire process? Or should she do whatever she needs to do to be comfortable while pumping at work?