Balancing Act

It takes a village to shame a working mother

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Justin Osborne's wife and newborn child were escorted from the NRA trade show where children are not allowed. (Zbigniew Bzdak/Chicago Tribune)

Kristin Osborne, the mom who brought her 10-day-old to the National Restaurant Association trade show on Saturday, was tossed from McCormick Place straight into the jaws of a hungry, hostile public.

From the chicagotribune.com comment board:

"Why are mothers constantly forcing their babies on society. A newborn at a convention? I think she was looking for a lawsuit. Keep your babies at home! It's simply narcissistic behavior."

"A mother of the year candidate. Probably thought she could use the baby to help her sell. Lock that woman up for child abuse."

"This lady represents all that's wrong with this country."

I would argue the reverse. I would argue her treatment — from the trade show officials to Twitter, where the 31-year-old Osborne is also being pilloried — represents all that's wrong with this country.

I would argue that from the moment their infants are born, moms — parents, really — are given a stew of messages so conflicting and contradictory that "mixed" doesn't even begin to describe it.

Childbirth is a life-altering, frequently life-threatening, incredibly expensive medical procedure. Now get out of the hospital. We need your bed.

Breast is best! Unless we have to see your breast! For anything other than sexual arousal!

Infants thrive with around-the-clock care and should start sleeping through the night around 3 months. Or 9 months. Or 18 months. It depends. Sign here for your five weeks of maternity leave. Enjoy!

Have you ever brought your child to a restaurant (or to a waiting room or on an airplane or any other place where grown-ups gather) only to endure glares and exasperated sighs every time the child so much as fidgets?

Have you ever handed your child an iPhone — to keep him or her from fidgeting — at one of those vaunted places, only to endure the same glares and exasperated sighs, this time bemoaning your lazy, disconnected excuse for parenting?

Have you ever watched funding referendum after referendum after referendum fail, rendering our public schools too broke and crowded to truly educate their charges? And then had to witness the collective hand-wringing about our failure to compete in a global marketplace?

Here's what Osborne represents: a culture that wants and needs strong, healthy kids, but doesn't want to witness — or participate in — the mess of raising them.

Should she be home resting 10 days after giving birth? I have no idea. I have no idea how her delivery went and I have no idea if her home — also the home of her 2-year-old and 4-year-old — is a restful place to be.

Should she be exposing her infant to the germ-ridden public? Again, no idea. Maybe her pediatrician gave her the all-clear. Maybe the baby just received a round of vaccines. Maybe her 2- and 4-year-olds are also germ-ridden. Kids often are.

We don't know what all went into her decision to attend the trade show, which forbids children under 16 from attending, other than what she told Tribune reporter Meredith Rodriguez: "It was a really big deal they invited us to pour at the show. It was a really big deal for our little winery."

Osborne oversees marketing for Four Daughters Vineyard, her family-owned Minnesota winery. The trade show brings together thousands of restaurant suppliers and buyers from around the world. It happens once a year.

I'm trying to imagine how a mom finding a way to feed and nurture her newborn — while simultaneously feeding and nurturing her family business — represents everything that's wrong with this country.

All I'm coming up with is everything that's wrong with us.

hstevens@tribune.com

Twitter @heidistevens13

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