So by now you’ve no doubt been exposed to the most recent cover of Time magazine, which features a mother breastfeeding her preschooler as he stands on a chair before her, with the tagline “ARE YOU MOM ENOUGH?” A whole lotta people are freaking out about the sight of this woman breastfeeding a child who is capable of marching up on his own two feet and demanding a boobysnack. Having first been exposed to extreme breastfeeding when I was about nine (and a child of about six marched up to his mother right in front of me, yanked up her shirt, and self-served; same mother served peas they had “fertilized themselves” at dinner that evening, and I have hated peas ever since), I’m probably a bit more nonplussed than the average Safeway shopper over that particular image. I do feel sorry for the child, who will no doubt be known as The Boobysucker for the rest of his natural life, although his mother obviously puts a lot of thought into her parenting so I am sure she has a plan to address that. What really gets my goat is the tagline.
“ARE YOU MOM ENOUGH?” Well, hell yes, I am! And no, I am no longer nursing my toddler, nor do I co-sleep, or pre-chew my kids’ food, or whatever else is discussed in this article that’s ostensibly about Attachment Parenting. (I have not read the article. I am too irate over the headline to take any interest in it.) I am mom enough because I love my kids with every fiber of my being, and put every bit of energy I have in every single day into my role as Mama. And every other mama who cares enough to be reading a blog called This Little Mama and actively thinking about motherhood is MOM ENOUGH.
One of the crappy things we as women do to each other is project our insecurities onto each other, constantly evaluating our selves – our looks, our personalities, our choices – in comparison to others. I don’t think men do this as much. Either they are too self-satisfied to care, or they have a healthier relationship to competition than we women do. I live with four men and couldn’t possibly tell you how their brains work, but they are different. Women, on the other hand, are relentlessly judgmental – primarily of ourselves.
Breastfeeding is a sadly classic example. It’s one of those things that can come super-easily to some, and be the undoing of others. I know, because I struggled to nurse my oldest child but then practically couldn’t detach my other two from the milk factory. And you know who was super not-helpful? The “lactation consultants”. I did have one who was lovely with my second child and appeared to actually have practical hands-on experience with nursing herself. However, with #1 I was visited by a bunch of pompous dingbats who all seemed to think I was just doing it wrong and didn’t care enough to get it right, or had something wrong with me. One gal, who was all of about 23, assessed the problem as “inverted nipples”. Clearly she had never actually seen an inverted nipple because I have, and it wasn’t attached to my body.
The long and the short of it is that my son and I struggled together for four long and frustrating months. I really wanted to do this. I wanted him to have the healthiest possible start, I wanted the bonding, I wouldn’t have minded the weight loss… but four months of depression and tears later, I finally caved. Shortly thereafter is when I realized that all the time and energy I had put into trying to “make it work” had been time and energy diverted from what should have been my sole focus: loving this child. Right motivation, wrong application. What ended up being the “right” solution for me didn’t put an end to the feelings of judgment and inadequacy, but at least I got to stop fighting for it and move on with motherhood. I have since successfully nursed two other children, and my bond with and love for them is the same as with my oldest. I think the only person who got cheated was me. My oldest turns eight tomorrow and I am still bitter that I got sucked into this whole breastfeeding vortex.
So now here comes Time magazine with not only the attention-getting image of the year, but the attention-getting tagline. The message: can you compete? Now we don’t just have extreme-breastfeeding, but COMPETITIVE breastfeeding. Coming soon to the 2012 London Olympics! You know what? Time magazine can kiss my ass. If they wanted to investigate the benefits and realities of “Attachment Parenting”, fine, but instead they’ve decided to tee up a fireball and drive it at the moms on the park bench. “Are You Mom Enough?” isn’t a provocative statement; it’s explicitly setting women up against each other, which is the worst kind of misogny. I’ll find something else to read, thanks.