After the shock, awe, and outrage expressed last week over Time magazine's most
recent cover, a photo of a mother breastfeeding her three year old son, I've found
myself pondering the media's ability to sensationalize even the most basic of situations.
In theory, the cover sounds perfectly innocent to me: a mother nursing her son,
proudly nurturing him in the way she best sees fit. But then I saw the photo, read the
title of the article, "Are You Mom Enough?", and quickly became disappointed in the
nature in which the message behind this article was presented.
The article, "Are You Mom Enough", is actually about Dr. Sears and the ins and outs
of Attachment Parenting, a philosophy my husband and I hold very near and dear to
our hearts. Except most people wouldn't know that because they are too busy
being shocked by the photo on the cover of the magazine and outraged over the arrogance
in the title. Let me start by saying that photographs of women breastfeeding their
children do NOT offend me, I have many photos of myself nursing my own children
and treasure them, considering them to be the most beautiful moments captured on
film. This particular photo, in my personal opinion, was staged to create a massive
reaction. This photo does not truly depict breastfeeding: it depicts a magazine
attempting to sell a record number of copies. Do I believe that this mother stands with
her hands on her hips, staring defiantly at those around her, while her son stands on
a kitchen chair to nurse on a daily basis? No, I do not. I believe that this woman and her
son share a very loving and nurturing relationship, enjoying the amazing bond that
exists with breastfeeding. I believe that this mother considers herself truly blessed to
be able to nurse her son for as long as she has, choosing the path of attachment
parenting because she believes it is the best way to raise him. But, because of the nature
of this photo, the general population will most likely miss out on that.
Breastfeeding is intimate, beautiful, and empowering. It has been, for me, one of the
most amazing experiences of my motherhood journey. But for as right and well as it
has been for my journey, it doesn't make me any more "enough" than the next mother.
The title of this article, "Are You Mom Enough?", did nothing for women across
America except reignite the already played out "Mommy Wars". It played into
insecurities, brought up perceived failures, and pitted women against each other. Am I
the one who feels completely exhausted by this ever present dialogue whereby
our parenting decisions are dissected and analyzed?
When you place a provocative photo on the cover of your magazine and use a title
that makes people feel defensive, the true meaning behind the story is lost. Yes, it got
us talking, the news has spread like wildfire, but has it all been for the right reasons? Did
the words of Dr. Sears get across to mainstream America? Did anyone really get to
know the incredible woman depicted in the photo? Judging from the responses posted
on various blogs, forums, and Facebook pages: No. And there lies the problem with
the media machine in our country: personal stories and valuable information getting lost
in the desire to push stories further in order to make more money.
My bottom line: how you raise your children is your own personal business. If you put
your children first, give them all of the love they need to thrive, and take care of them in
the best way you see fit: you are most certainly "mom enough". Attachment parenting is
an amazing philosophy that has brought peace and love to the lives of everyone in our
little family. I breastfeed, our children sleep with us, and I wear my baby every chance
I get. I truly believe that because of all this closeness, because I am able to know, listen
to, and follow my daughters' cues, they are happy and healthy children. However, I
also know that these methods are not for everyone. Because I spend 6-7 hours a day
away from my children because I work outside the home, being close to them is important
to me. I miss them and they miss me and being close and connected when we are all
home together is vital to all of us. You see, we all have different circumstances and
these circumstances lead us to the decisions we eventually make.
One of my favorite quotes:
“You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the
only way, it does not exist.” Friedrich Nietzsche
I've heard and read some pretty strong reactions to the Time magazine cover, some calling
it "gross", "obscene", and "disgusting". My opinion: it was a good concept gone wrong.
Had they photographed this woman breastfeeding her son in a more natural state, most
of those words would probably have never been used. Had they used a different title,
there probably wouldn't be a whole new slew of debates online about breast vs.
formula, working moms vs. SAHM, cloth vs. disposable. Then again, maybe there would
be. Because this seems to be a neverending story, a perfect example of how women
never feel good enough, how the guilt that is the most basic ingredient of motherhood is
ever present. I suppose we will always find the need to defend ourselves and our
choices, proving to others and ourselves that we are in fact doing our best.
As well we should.