Tuesday, May 15, 2012

On Being Enough

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.


Jess Helm said...

Very well said, Liv! I 100% agree.

Deanna Fike said...

i didn't see this cover until late last night. my big issue with the cover is for the little boy. obviously as a grown woman, that lady can do whatever she wants. but what about him? that photo is going to be unearthed when he is in middle school, and he will  be ridiculed to no end. 

Sweetgreentangerine said...

Oh my goodness girl.  AMEN. AMEN. AMEN!   I was actually just writing this similar blog topic a few weeks back and it just never got published, but seriously, I couldn't have said it better!!  The "mommy wars".  It's awful!  Thanks for writing this...it needed to be said.  

Caitlin A. said...

Well said! I didn't think the image was gross, but I think it was extremely self-serving for the woman and for the magazine.  That boy is only 3, what happens when he gets older?  This photo will follow him around for life (especially since his name is attached).  Attachment parenting--and really all parenting when you get down to it--is all about catering to the needs of your child, but it seems that this woman was more interested in a quick buck (I saw her on the Today Show also) than what could happen to her son because of this photo later.

Also, I could not be anymore f*cking (sorry!) sick of everyone pitting mothers against one another.  Extended breastfeeding? SURE. Formula feeding? KNOCK YOURSELF OUT. If your kid is happy and healthy, that's all that matters.  I hate the "educating" in the form of shaming and the inflammatory rhetoric.

Olivia said...

Thank you ma'am!!!

Olivia said...

I feel the same way.  It may not be PC in today's modern parenting world to think ahead of the child's feelings, but I'm pretty sure this is going to have an impact on this little boy somewhere down the road.  I am all for breastfeeding, in public or private, but I am also for protecting a child's dignity.  The modesty of this 3 year old boy was not considered in this photo.  

Olivia said...

Thank you!!!!!  I would love to read what you wrote, also!!!

Olivia said...

Amen!!  Before I got into blogging, I knew nothing of the mommy wars.  The women whom I spend my time with: family, friends, co-workers, none of us feel this overwhelming need to discuss and defend our parenting choices to whomever is willing to listen.  We just raise our kids in whichever way we see fit.  I don't understand these women and there insatiable need to let us all know that their way is the best way.  Who gives a shit if you cloth diaper your child and spit food into their mouths and wipe their asses with your own bare hands!!!  Good for you!!!  Are you that insecure that you constantly need praise and recognition?  You are no different from the rest of us, no matter what you might think!
P.S. The above rant is EXACTLY why I love GOMI:)  It's chalk full of that smartass goodness.

Vanessa said...

As someone who writes headlines, I have to say I didn't realize TIME magazine became a tabloid. Because that's what this is: sensationalist, in an effort to sell more copies. I for one did not buy it, and I do not buy into the so-called Mommy Wars, either.

Lucy The Valiant said...

Preach it! The name of the article is what made me angry more than anything. It seems like such a deliberate play on mommy guilt, just to sell more copies.

Olivia said...

Totally.  Some journalist trying to be clever yet coming across very smug.

Olivia said...


♥ missi said...

I don't know why people are so concerned with what other people do with their lives. If doesn't involve me, it is none of my business. As a mom, I feel that every mother is making the decision they think is best for their child that love more than anything. It is not my business to judge. Being a mom is hard enough, I don't need some stranger criticizing my hard thought decisions. I agree that the message behind the article was lost. I do feel bad for that child as he grows. The mom should have thought about his privacy.