I will not bash a fellow mother today.

Yesterday.

Sigh.

Yesterday, I had a crappy day at work. But that’s not why yesterday made me tired.

Yesterday was the day Time Magazine released their Attachment Parenting article. You know, the one with The Cover.

The cover depicted a quite lovely young woman nursing a quite mature-looking toddler, under the headline, “Are you mom enough?” You can see it here.

At first glance, the cover just pissed me off. I found it to be so obviously shocktastic, which, of course, sells magazines and creates a buzz (cha-ching!) But for those of us who fight the good fight every day in the face of people telling us how “disgusting” or “inappropriate” we are, it’s a buzz we don’t need.

So I spent my afternoon thinking about it.

And then I got pissed off again when I watched snippets of The View and heard Elisabeth Hasselback and Barbara Walters and even Whoopi spewing off ignorance, judgement and absolute fiction about how breastfeeding “should” be done.

And then I thought about it some more.

And then I spent a few hours browsing comments online. Not the best idea when I was trying to get un-pissed off.

But then a funny thing happened. I looked at the cover again, and the old Literature major in me started to stir. I started to analyze and delve deeper. And I realized that the headline was not about breastfeeding at all. In fact, the photo wasn’t really even about breastfeeding. The article was about Attachment Parenting, and the divide it creates. The self-examination it creates, and how that can cause us to set unattainable standards for ourselves and question whether we are good enough, “Mom” enough, and whether others are, too. How this style of parenting seems so unnatural to some, and so natural to others…and then the unnatural feeling of the posed photo started to make sense to me.

AP parents know that at any given moment they could be severely criticized for either breastfeeding, cosleeping, baby wearing, whatever…and that after a while, your defenses are up almost all the time (a funny by-product of a gentle, natural parenting method…) The “Go ahead. Challenge me.” attitude that I often feel myself putting out can be seen in the mother’s defiant stance in the photo, and in the look on her face.

I related to that mother. She could be me. (…although I for sure don’t look that hot in skinny jeans.)

Which brings me to another thing I had to re-examine my initial feelings about – the sexual nature of the photo. At first, I wasn’t sure. Now, I am. I don’t think they sexualized the mother. I think they chose a real mother, and challenged the public’s eye – sure, she is pretty sexy, but if you can’t separate that from the fact that she is nursing, that’s YOUR problem…not hers.

So, in the end, I saw the photo not as a misreprentation of extended (I prefer “full-term”) breastfeeding, but as a provocative sort of performance art, where these 2 subjects embodied all the facets of a huge social issue.

And I felt better, having worked that out for myself.

I do actually believe that Time Magazine is thinking the same way, but they also know that the general public will not analyze the text of the photo, but instead react predictably and run to the streets yelling “Pedophile! Disgusting! She should be ASHAMED!” …and they did. They took the bait, and mothers are bashing each other all over the media shitstorm that’s happening right now. I just wish people could see how clearly they were being baited, and stop being so damned predictable in their quickness to judge others based on nothing but their own hang-ups.

Learn, people. Love and LEARN.

I guess in the end I’m glad the lid has been lifted a little on the discourse that needs to happen. People need to see that photo (and that includes all the little boys in the grocery store, for all those commenters who feel they have to shield their children for some weird reason) and the highpoint of my day was when I was nursing my own 30-month-old son last night and he said, looking at the image on my laptop, “Look Mommy! That kid eat moot!”

This is what full-term nursing look like in our home.

It’s not something he sees often, so for that, I thank you Time Magazine. I have mixed feelings about your motives, and I definitely have strong feelings about what I think people should do for their kids, but I will not bash my fellow mothers today. I simply wish them all a very happy Mother’s Day full of peace, acceptance, and lots of moot, if they so choose.

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Comments

  1. I totally agree with your premise of this post. People should not jump to conclusions and think their way is the only right way. I think magazines KNOW what they’re doing by making a socially provocative cover photo, regardless of what the article is really about. I think it’s a shame that people just lash out without gathering facts and respecting others’ opinions.

    I can’t say as I personally agree with “full term nursing” at all, but I certainly don’t think it’s my place to tell you or any other mother when the right time to stop breastfeeding is. For the most part, it’s a very personal choice and is rooted in how you were brought up and your family vision. What I can say is while I don’t agree with it, I accept that we’re all different and will not proclaim public scrutiny and stand on my soapbox.

    This type of thing goes beyond just when to stop breastfeeding, but also other parenting decisions: cuddle or cry it out; sleeping in the bed with parents; what’s overprotective, etc.

  2. Andrea Edwards says:

    My perspective; I don’t cosleep in the bed, we have a freestanding cosleeper that attaches to the bed and my daughter moved to a crib when we were ready. Why? Because it’s what my husband and I feel comfortable with. I’ve never breastfed but that was because we have had our first daughter (and fixing to have our second!) through adoption and I was unable to get my body to produce milk even with pumping and suppliments. If I had breastfed I think I would wean somewhere near a year. Why? Because it’s what my husband and I would feel comfortable with. Babywearing? Not with our first but probably will with our second, though not for long periods. Again, it’s what we feel comfortable with. We began cloth diapering this year with our oldest and will with our second as well. Now having said all that background on myself I have had friends who have breastfed longer than I personally would have and never said a thing to them about it with the exception of one friend who was breastfeeding her at the time, 3 year old daughter and asked me my thoughts on it because her MIL was making a fuss about it (she still breastfeeds her daughter who is now 5, and her son who is 1) and I told her “I don’t think I’d want to breastfeed that long but I can understand why you do and your MIL needs to back off. You are a good mom and that’s because you do what you feel is best for you and your family.”

    The same holds true for everything I think. There are many people who make comments on both sides that are very judgmental and they need to remember we all do stuff differently, and have to do what works for us and our family. I have heard people say breastfeeding in public is just “sick” and I can’t understand that at all, it’s a mother feeding her child and in no way sick. I have heard people on the flip side flat out say that people who don’t breastfeed are horrible parents. Um, no. Some can’t breastfeed and others don’t feel comfortable with it. It’s their choice and they are still good mothers. I have a friend who argues that circumcision is cruel and needs to be stopped. My husband disagrees completely and I see both sides to it but the point is there is no ONE right way. It has to be based on well researched and informed parents making their best judgement call for themselves and kids and as long as it’s not abuse (I’m talking real abuse here not spankings and hand swats) then people need to step back and think to themselves “Not what I would do but if it works for them, cool.”

  3. I can relate all too well to the ‘Go ahead and challenge me.’ attitude. As a homeschooling mom, I am put in that position anytime I take my boys out in public on a school day. In the beginning, if someone asked, I would try to share my feelings on why homeschooling was the best choice for us. Now I just work to be civil and move on.
    ‘Helpful’ critics are everywhere. :-)

  4. I really am disappointed that Time decided to make the cover and article so controversial. This is not a war. We all breastfed for different amounts of times. Some of us formula fed. That doesn’t mean any of us are “extreme” parents. Obviously it’s all about stirring people up and Time making money off it. And it has stirred people up, I feel attacked just for breastfeeding my daughter until 3 years of age. I feel PULLED into the Mommy Wars, and I want to retaliate and defend myself, but we should all just try to see it for what it is like you have.

  5. I hate mommy wars.

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