Even if you were one of the tireless Galvinize volunteers, you could not have missed seeing the Time magazine cover and article last week. The cover showed a 26 year old mom breastfeeding her almost 4 year old son. There was an article that accompanied the cover that addressed the term attachment parenting and it’s champion Dr. Bill Sears. True to form, the media ignited a controversy both with that cover and the article. Win, win for them!
Listening to people talk and reading people’s reactions online, there were lots of aspects of the cover that bothered people. The fact that the mom was nursing an older child, that the sex of the child she was nursing was a boy, that the whole thing was in the public eye was ‘weird’ and ‘disturbing’, were just a few issues raised. It didn’t bother me that the mom was nursing her older child. In fact, if that fits in with their family I think that’s great for them. I nursed all 3 of my kids, some for more time than others, but I was never interested in nursing them as they got older. I am no one to judge anyone for their choices, and that mom is making a decision led by her son to continue nursing and I’m glad for them.
To me, the cover was less about breastfeeding an older child and more about choices. That mom made a choice for her son to be seen on a international magazine with her breast in his mouth. It’s possible that the photographer and editor of that magazine asked the boy if he was ok with being in the picture. It’s possible that he said he was ok with it. It’s also possible that ten years from now when he is fifteen years old he will be embarrassed to have that photo of him be so public and controversial. His mom is making the decision to put that image out to the public without taking into account how he might feel later. That is what I have a problem with. She took away his choice in such a controversial way.
As for the article, I don’t think I subscribe to just one way of parenting. I think there are extremes to any philosophy. Solely breastfeeding your child, co-sleeping and ‘wearing’ your child are all part and parcel of attachment parenting. I did a good amount of breastfeeding all my children, but in a pinch I am not opposed to formula. I was formula fed and clearly I am perfectly developed. I am a bit of a sleep nut but it’s possible that the children at one time or another, have ended up sleeping in our bed. As for ‘wearing’ the children, I enjoyed my Baby Bjorn…not every minute, but it certainly helped with emptying the dishwasher! The thing is, I am a parent. Not an attachment parent, not a helicopter parent, just a parent trying to do the best I can by my kids. I don’t subscribe to any one parenting style but if someone does, then I know that they are doing the best they can as well.
This week’s cover of Time magazine… where to begin…
I’ll start with I did not buy the magazine or read the article. I am not a regular reader of Time. I did not care for the message the cover
portrayed or the negative backlash it created around women who choose to practice attachment parenting and extended breastfeeding - based on that I was not moved to read the content of the article.
I LOVED Dr. Sears’ parenting books. I am a supporter of attachment parenting and extended breastfeeding. I think the family bed is a great thing. I have nursed a child who was walking and talking. I bottle fed another. Like anything else you take from it what works for you and leave the rest. And like many things going on in our world today – if you don’t like it don’t do it. I think most of us would prefer it if you would all stay out of our parenting/bedrooms/kitchens/marriages anyway thankyouverymuch. ((wink))
Another reason I did not like the recent cover of Time is it was very artificial to me. It was like looking at the cover of a beauty magazine at the image of a woman that is not at all like the “average” woman (whoever she is anyway). If you look at the other images from the shoot there were many photos that were more realistic to me, like the mothers holding a child while nursing them. I don’t know anyone who ever fed a child,from a bottle or breast, with the child standing up on a chair facing them – the photo just looks weird to me. Let me also just put out there what many Moms of toddlers are also thinking right now – who looks *that* good anyway after nursing for three straight years?! Anyone?! Beuller… Bueller…
But seriously, I think that image was meant to shock and sell magazines rather than represent a beautiful way some people choose to parent. I know many women who have nursed their older children, nursed while pregnant, nursed two children and none of them felt the need to flaunt it, none of their children posed with their mouth over their mother’s nipple while looking at a camera. That is the part that was so artificial to me. The Moms I know nursed their children for food or for comfort because it felt right for them and their child, they did not do it for attention.
Oh, Time Magazine, poorly played! The cover of its May 21, 2012 issue has ignited a big ol’ firestorm of outrage. It depicts a young, fit mother, looking resolutely into the camera as her nearly-four-year old son stands on a chair to help himself to some liquid gold from his mother’s breast. He, too, looks directly at the camera as he drinks.
Of the many comments I read about the cover alone, I liked this slightly paraphrased exchange:
Commenter A: I thought Time went out of business. I didn’t know they were still around.
Commenter B: I think that’s the point. Think this may be a wee grab for attention?
I admit to being sucked into the drama of it all. The numbers of people who were offended by the image on the cover seemed fairly evenly divided among breastfeeding advocates and those who think breastfeeding is “icky.” Yes, I’m oversimplifying the situation into two camps for purposes of convenience and not-so-subtle partiality.
The comments from the “breastfeeding-advocate” camp focused on the feeling that the woman on the cover was grandstanding for attention, but wasn’t doing any favors for the perceived image of those who choose to practice extended breastfeeding, who are not exactly in the mainstream in the first place.
The comments from the “breastfeeding-is-icky” camp found the image offensive because of the older age of the child combined with him sucking on his mother’s breast. It wasn’t seen as feeding/drinking, but rather as inappropriate sexual contact. One commenter opined that the mother should be jailed for molestation.
I didn’t find one comment that applauded the picture/message itself, but I understand that the largeness of the child seemed to be the main sticking point for people.
Another problem was the obnoxious title, which challenged, “Are You Mom Enough?” Huh? “Mom enough” to parade my child and boobs on the cover of a national magazine? Um, no. (See this article that makes an interesting point about how a cover like this seeks to fuel the flames of the so-called “Mommy Wars.”)
Personally, I subscribe to all the researched facts that breastfeeding is better for babies than formula, nutrition-wise (…presuming the mother refrains from drugs or other toxic substances while lactating!). The real reason why I enthusiastically embrace breastfeeding, however, is because I’m cheap and lazy. That’s right: I’m a breastfeeding opportunist. The food’s free, always available at the right temperature, and there’s no prep or clean up to perform. Win!
I do believe in exercising a measure of discretion when breastfeeding in public, and have a lovely sling that artfully conceals the situation so that my baby may eat without sending anyone into an apoplexy of post-modern, topsy-turvy-puritanical embarrassment or outrage. Though I will certainly go all Momma Bear on anyone who tries to tell me I can’t feed my baby when, where and how I please, I think that breastfeeding should include consideration for others who might be less comfortable with the natural workings of the human body.
By its nature, breastfeeding is an intimate act between a mom and her baby and should be afforded some privacy. I believe this is the crux of the problem with the Time cover. Extended breastfeeding is not a moral issue. It’s not about raising awareness. It’s a personal choice to be made by families themselves and does not need to be trotted out for national approval
Are you Mom enough? No. No you are not. No one is. It is an impossible job to do all by yourself. And yet we try, and try, and usually feel like we are failing at some part, if not all of it. Hey — happy Mothers’ Day! Ugh. Being a mom is hard and the last thing moms need is another reason to second-guess themselves. Thanks, Time.
When I was pregnant and when my babies were still babies, I read a lot of parenting books, but truthfully, I was never really hung up on what “the book” said to do. (My favorites were actually the Girlfriend’s Guide to Pregnancy/Babies, etc … kind of the anti- Dr. Sears.) I loved The Baby Book and to me, it seemed like a natural, intuitive way of parenting. However it isn’t for everyone, and although I did a lot of what Dr. Sears recommended, I never said that we were “doing Attachment Parenting.” We were just taking care of our babies in the way that worked best for us.
I never really felt like I didn’t know what to do with my babies or how to take care of them, it all seemed pretty intuitive to me. I never had to “check the book” when my babies did something new. I really just went with my gut. I had unmedicated, natural births with two of my three kids. Breastfeeding came very easily to me. My babies slept in my bed a lot of the time because everyone got more sleep when they did. I didn’t wear my babies all the time, but I did carry them around in a Bjorn a lot when they were really small. I nursed all my kids for more than a year, and my son for almost two years. I didn’t have a “parenting philosophy,” I was just doing what felt right.
What I find upsetting about criticisms of this style of parenting is the idea that it is somehow new, or that it represents a kind of fringe movement. Women all over the world give birth without medical intervention, nurse their babies for years, sleep with them and carry them around until they can walk on their own. There is nothing new about it.
We as modern American women try to fit birthing, bonding, and nursing into our schedules instead of surrendering to what our bodies and our babies need. Our society practically demands it. To me, the idea of induced births, scheduled bottle feedings, “crying it out,” and sleep training seemed cold and regimented and unnatural. I was also in a position to choose the kind of parent I wanted to be.
I had a sixteen-week maternity leave and a day-care across the street from my workplace. I could go over there and breastfeed whenever I wanted to. When my second child was born, I quit my job and was home with my kids full time. A side note — I quit my job mostly because it would cost almost my entire salary to have my kids in full time day care. I had a cushy, white collar, reasonably well-paying office job, and I couldn’t afford day care — how are women supposed to do this? Anyway, if I had to go back to work a few weeks after the birth of my babies, I would have been pretty distressed and probably made different choices.
What we all have to remember — and the media has to stop telling us — is that motherhood is not a competition. There are no right and wrong choices as long as babies are loved, fed, and safe.
Tasha Schlake Festel
Mommy-guilt sucks. So do the philosophers, so-called parenting gurus and media outlets that foster it.
No mom – no human – could ever live up to the parenting ideal presented today, whatever that is. We have Tiger Moms, Helicopters Moms, Attachment Moms and more. Each with their pros and cons. And each with countless tomes written about them, all of which are fabulous kindling if you ask me.
I do not read parenting books. Ever. I own some, but have never once finished a single one of them. I go with my gut and talk to my husband, my parents, my sister and my friends. When Time Magazine profiled the legendary pediatrician and author, Dr. William Sears in its Mother’s Day issue last week, I decided to read the article and see what this guy is putting out there and why he’s so great. I have never read Dr. Sears’ book, and after reading about him, I’m glad I never wasted my time. His philosophy as presented by the article is definitely not for me.
The way Time explains it, Dr. Sears’ “Attachment Parenting” philosophy, if strictly followed, will in my opinion, cause new mothers – vulnerable, hormonal and insecure, as we all were when we first became moms – to either sacrifice themselves completely to the needs of their children, feel extreme guilt for not doing so, or even worse, be overcome by feelings of failure and inadequacy when they find that they are sacrificing themselves and not loving every second of it.
Reading of the idyllic conditions created by the altruistic, self-sacrificing attachment parenting approach to motherhood would cause any mom to feel a few pangs of guilt for not subscribing to it. I remember when my daughter was first born, I used to wake up in the morning and say, “Today will be a day with no tears! I will be completely in touch with my baby. I will anticipate her every need. She will want for nothing.” Every day, I failed. Every day, I felt like cr@p. Every day, I wondered why I wasn’t good at this whole motherhood thing.
Eventually, I came to the conclusion that I was insane and my expectations of myself were absurd. Of course my baby would cry! That was the only way she had to tell me what she wanted. And if I didn’t let her express her needs and wants to me in the only way in which she was capable, I was crippling her ability to communicate with me. I gave up the challenge of making it through the day tear-free. After I did that, she cried a little more, but I cried a whole lot less. I was happier so she was happier. As the saying goes, “If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” So true, so true indeed.
As for the “attachment” part of the Sears philosophy, that makes me laugh out loud. My daughter made it clear from the time she could hold up her head and look around, that I was merely a mode of transportation. Any cuddling that occurred as I carried her from one place to another was purely incidental and barely tolerated. My neighbors used to laugh and call it the “Festel hug” as I held her on my hip while she sat bolt upright, arms back, clearly communicating that being that close to me was a necessary evil. If I’d somehow forced her into a sling, I can’t even imagine the tantrums that would have ensued!
I nursed my daughter – and later my son – to 18 months of age. This is longer than most of the moms I know, but not nearly as long as attachment parenting seems to advocate. We did it for as long as it worked for us. I was never out to prove anything or achieve a goal. My kids were happy. I was happy.
I fully support a woman’s right to choose in all aspects of her life. This includes parenting. Every mom needs to do what works for her, her children, the father of her children, and her lifestyle. If that’s attachment parenting, then bully for you! You’re a tiger mom? Let the world hear you roar. Cry-it-out, for crying out loud? Run with it.
But don’t forget that you can always DIY, make-your-own philosophy from the parenting sundae bar. Choose a little from here and a little from there. Decide what works for you, and change it as you need to. Trust your gut. Deep down you know what you and your children need, no matter what the books, gurus and media tell us.
Motherhood is the great equalizer. It can take the most confident, secure and sane woman and turn her into a self-doubting, weak, crazy person. Or it can take the most apprehensive, questioning, mouse of a woman and turn her into a superhero ready to tackle any situation with grace and good humor. And it can do both of those things to all of us, depending on the day – or moment. Be kind, do what works, enjoy the ride.
As for the controversial cover of Time, I loved it for its shock value. I respect a good media hook and all of its sensationalism. It’s what sells, like it or not. And I must say I am kicking myself for not nursing longer after seeing that mom. They say nursing helps you take off the baby weight. Apparently you just have to do it for twice as long as I did to look like that!