Are YOU “Mom Enough?”

No, really. Are you? Time magazine would really like to know.

Image via Time Magazine

Although I’m sure their concern is absolutely genuine.

Or not. I couldn’t force myself to read the actual article to find out. The cover itself was enough to put me off. Was it the picture of a young mother nursing her three year old son? Nope, hardly batted an eye. (Okay, that’s not quite true, but more on that later).

I was more put off by their absolutely inflammatory headline. “Are you MOM ENOUGH?” So glad they made sure those last two words were all caps, bolded, and in red…lest anybody miss them. You all know my thoughts on “mommy wars” and how I feel that they’re mostly manufactured pieces of crap that prey on already present mother’s guilt and insecurity. Time, apparently deciding that they didn’t want to be outdone by the New York Times, created this cover not to ignite an actual discussion of the challenges facing mothers, but rather to continue to promote in-fighting and judgment among mothers.

And really…what’s ENOUGH? Who created this mythological yard stick with which to measure a mother’s capabilities? (Do I even need to get into how messed up it is that we will never ever see a magazine cover that screams “Are You DAD ENOUGH?“). All I can imagine is some new mother picking up a copy of this magazine in a waiting room somewhere and flipping through it, all the while wondering if she’s good enough. All those little worries and fears she’s had floating through her head as she takes on this new role in her life are now amplified as she reads through wondering if she’s somehow messing up her child by not nursing him at all or nursing him too long.

There is NO winner in this sick game that magazines, newspapers and websites are playing here. Covers and articles like these are not simply reporting the facts, they’re further pushing the divide between mothers, and I’m over it. I was over it a while ago, but this just pushed me over the edge. The fact that magazines feel that covers with headlines like this are acceptable only shows how ingrained the notion of “mommy wars” is in our society and that it’s going to take a hell of a lot of work until we’re at a place where people realize – they don’t really exist. Well, they wouldn’t exist if corporations and news outlets stopped preying on already existing guilt and feelings of inadequacy. They also wouldn’t exist if we had better policies and support networks in place to help parents, but that’s a whole other issue.

This is not about Attachment Parenting versus mainstream parenting and which is “better” for your kid, or which makes you a “better” mother. This is about promoting more panic-inducing faux debate and pitting women against women – all in the name of sales and contrived controversy.

And while I’m mentioning contrived controversy – let’s talk about that picture. I have absolutely nothing against extended nursing. In fact, I nursed EZ until he was 3. However, I DO have a problem with a magazine that makes a calculated decision to use an absolutely staged photograph to represent a bigger ideal. I don’t think Time chose that photo in hopes of showing an accurate depiction of AP, or even extended nursing – that wasn’t their goal. Their goal is to sell covers & get people talking. Mission accomplished.

EZ nursing at the park at 22 months.

What’s upsetting is that they had a number of wonderful other photos to choose from that showed extended nursing. Yet none were as controversial as the one that ended up on the cover.

Listen, I get it – nursing a toddler can be tricky business, and you do need to sometimes rely on acrobatics to get things done, but for the most part? Extended nursing looks just like…nursing.

With Mother’s Day right around the corner, it pains me that cover stories like this one takes away from the real issues facing mothers (I know, I feel like a broken record too). Yes, we’re all aware that there are different styles of parenting. Yes, we’re all aware that within parenting in general there are certainly parents that go to the “extreme” and are “holier-than-thou.” But for the majority of parents? They’re less concerned with whether you practice co-sleeping than if they have adequate health insurance for themselves and their children. They’re more worried about whether they can get enough maternity or paternity leave to stay home with their child than whether you’re using cloth diapers. They’re more worried more about whether they can take enough paid sick leave from work than if you nurse your child until 6 months, 1 year, or even 3.

So, instead of worrying whether you’re “MOM ENOUGH” – let’s start putting the focus and pressure where it belongs: on legislation, on policy, and on community support systems that can better help all of us be the parents we want to be…which truly, should be enough.

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41 thoughts on “Are YOU “Mom Enough?”

  1. Oh I have to read that article — just to see if it’s going to be as terrible as the by-line.

    I didn’t know I was an AP parent until I picked up Sears’ Baby Book and realised that I was already doing much of what he suggests. You know, on my own. Because I wanted to and because it felt right. And while I may feel comfortable identifying with some (ok.. most) of AP, I wouldn’t call Sears my guru. I even disagree with some of his articles. And I absolutely don’t feel like I’ve ever been “driven to an extreme.”

    You’re right, absolutely divisive marketing.

    • I think calling any parenting “expert” a guru is dangerous. There is so much unique about each parent/child relationship that to say any blanket philosophy works 100% of the time for everyone is both misleading and dangerous.

  2. Time…created this cover not to ignite an actual discussion of the challenges facing mothers, but rather to continue to promote in-fighting and judgment among mothers.

    I’m guessing they created this cover to promote sales as their content is irrelevant and their subscription base has eroded. Imagine sitting around the editorial meeting and everybody saying, “What should we write about? What’s everybody talking about?” “Hey, I know, let’s do the Mommy-War thing! I heard other news organizations are picking up on this.” “Yeah! Great idea! But lets make sure our cover is over-the-top sensationalized so we really boost sales!” “Yeah! And the more people who get pissed off, the more people will buy the magazine! Our advertisers will love it!!”

    Anyway, that’s what I’m guessing.

    • oh, completely. In my haste to get my thoughts out I didn’t word that in the best way. I definitely don’t mean to imply that they did this actively thinking “aw yeah! let’s keep mothers fighting,” but at the same time, they had to have knowledge that this would further flame those fires, you know? I agree whole heartedly that they used this cover to boost sales, consequences and side effects be damned.

  3. Hey, what about the class issues inherent n a lot of AP stuff? All of the ladies interviewed ar SAHM. It’s great they have the financial capacity to stay at home. A lot of women can’t. What about being an AP single parent in a one-income home? Imposssible. It seems like a lot of AP moms perpetrate the “Mommy Wars” by passing judgement on women who choose to parent in other ways. You know that happens. What would happen if the sanctimommies in Western Mass found themselves in the midst of a formula fed baby who is allowed to cry it out, eat food that is not organic and gets pushed in a stroller? Dirty looks would abound…

    • The majority of people that I know (in western MA) that are AP are not wealthy and scrap by to make ends meet to have one parent at home (and not always the mom). You can also be a working mom and AP (look at Mayim Bialik – prime example currently out there).

      I also think there are MANY ways a single parent can practice AP if they so choose (breastfeeding, co-sleeping, baby wearing, etc… have little to do w/income level or partner status, although having insurance/support would certainly make breastfeeding easier, especially if you have to work/pump). Eating organic is not a part of AP.

      All that aside, I fail to see how any of that is relevant to this discussion? Are their moms out there that judge? hell yeah. I’m not denying that. What I am saying is that we have enough internal judgement and peer judgement that we don’t need corporations and the media vying for more sales pushing it in our faces and spreading the divide even more.

      • You are telling me a woman who works at say, Wal-Mart, actually gets time for pumping? What if a parent needs a solid 8 hours to function at their job? How will cosleeping work for him/her? Who wears the baby when the mom (or single dad) is at her (his) job at all day? Mayaim Bialik is a prime example? MB is a very, very, very privilived woman. She is a wealthy celebrity. Her existance is pretty much the opposite of a working class woman (or man) trying to scrape by in the world.

      • No, that’s not what I’m saying. I specifically said that “although having insurance/support would certainly make breastfeeding easier, especially if you have to work/pump” <–which to me means having policy in place that provides for breaks for women to pump if they so choose. It also means working toward better paid sick leave and longer maternity/paternity leave so that mothers and fathers can take longer time (again, if they so choose) to be with their newborns. Also, AP isn't a YOU MUST DO IT ALL OR YOU'RE NOT AP type of philosophy. Are there people that think that way? Sure. But that doesn't make it the rule.

        As for cosleeping – I can only speak for myself, but I certainly felt that I got much more sleep during the night while cosleeping than had I been waking up 2-4 times a night to go tend to a hungry baby (while some people may implement CIO one their baby is older, there is still a portion of a newborn's life where they NEED to eat in the middle of the night). Again, cosleeping isn't for everyone, totally fine.

        As for Mayim, I can't speak for her, but you don't know her situation, and you're making a bunch of assumptions. I just brought her up as a recent public example of a working mother who APs. I can certainly tell you about a handful of local working mothers who are not privileged celebs, but it's not like you'd know them, so what's the point?

        I'm still confused as to how my post about the idea of corporations/news media cashing in on "mommy wars" has anything to do with the tenants of AP. Do *I* practice AP? I do. Am I forcing others to? No. Do *I* prefer this method of parenting to others? Yes, b/c it works for *us.* Nowhere have I said that everyone needs to do AP.

  4. I am all for provocative, attention-getting headlines for mothers, but a message of universal empowerment of motherhood would be more interesting than “mom enough”. I’m bothered by this photo because our culture is so sexually perverse that it may cause breast-feeding mothers to be on the defensive. As you say — it’s such a diversion.

    I just discovered your blog and I love it! My blog focuses is on similar matters but mostly the economics/financial structure that mothers depend on. I think that is the source of unfairness and struggle. Mothers feel bad policy first. Would be nice if Time covered that core problem.

  5. I don’t know, maybe this is a chicken-or-egg question. I’ve certainly been judged plenty by other moms, as though what I do as a parent is a threat to them personally. I wasn’t AP enough for some groups, because I didn’t do things by the book. I didn’t fit in with homeschool families because we have one in public school and one at home (I “sold out,” apparently). I don’t fit in with Christian groups because I’m liberal, but I don’t fit in with non-religious groups because I still call myself Christian. I’ve lost track of the number of times someone has called me “lazy” for staying home and accused me of failing to contribute to the family. Now that our younger child is starting school in the fall, I’ve been asked what I’m going to “do with myself” (and believe me, I’d like to tell them what they can “do with themselves”). I only ever found one group that was virtually non-judgmental, and it disbanded due to pressure from the national organization with which it was affiliated.

    I don’t think this is a media thing, I think it’s group-think. The last group I was in (and subsequently left) came complete with every negative high school stereotype. It was horrible. It troubles me that any media outlet would feed into this mentality as well as the myth that it’s all about motherhood, not parenthood. The attention-grabbing headline would have been great if it had been followed up by an article honoring all PARENTS and knocking down the walls built up between moms over parenting style.

    • ” It troubles me that any media outlet would feed into this mentality as well as the myth that it’s all about motherhood, not parenthood. The attention-grabbing headline would have been great if it had been followed up by an article honoring all PARENTS and knocking down the walls built up between moms over parenting style.” <–yes to all of that.

      and for sure there is parent judgment – i think a lot of it stems from insecurity and defensiveness. But when the media preys on that for profit? totally messed up imo.

  6. Where are the stats showing that this is superior parenting? If you want to get judgmental, I would never have put my toddler on the cover of a national magazine, doing something that private. He didn’t have any choice in the matter. That photo will now follow him through life. EW.

    • 1. breastfeeding is as private as you eating a sandwich is. It’s somebody eating food. When I was nursing I nursed whenever my child was hungry, and wherever we were. Like I noted above (and linked to), there were many other choices for photos of extended nursing – the magazine chose the photo, the mother did not. Yes, it’s her choice to have participated in the photo shoot, but apart from it being on a cover touting “are you mom enough” i see nothing wrong with that photo.

      2. Who said (at least in this blog post, or any that *I* have made) that AP is superior parenting? And again…if that’s what you’re getting out of the cover, then that’s exactly what Time is hoping for – to further push this divide among women with sensationalized headlines.

  7. This article upset me enough to blog about it this afternoon (http://wosushi.wordpress.com/2012/05/10/motherhood-its-not-a-competition/#comment-7296). I usually don’t blog much in the way of “mommy” stuff. Not because I don’t love talking about it, or reading other blogs that discuss parenting, but because I don’t feel like opening the controversy floodgates.

    I completely agree with your comment in the comments that some of the judgment stems from insecurity and defensiveness. Moms assuming they are being judged and judging back (on both sides).

    Bad form, TIME.

  8. I liked so much your point about all the other images they could have chosen from. Great article! I am still nursing my 20 month old and this cover shot doesn’t help in the way of lessening the misunderstandings about extended nursing. I would like to read the article and see what they have to say about Dr Sears. I’ve read many of his books (along with others) and think he makes some great suggestions.

  9. That cover was so contrived. That’s not what nursing a pre-schooler looks like. This is just another example of the media creating controversy instead of reporting on it.

  10. This photo represents all that’s wrong with the corporate media – exploiting a child for your viewing pleasure. By the age of three and up, kids are no longer breastfeeding for sustenance, but for comfort. This is an intimate link between mother and child and if it occurs in public as opposed to before bed it is probably very brief and not too noticeable. Look at the eyes of this child. He looks uncomfortable. It looks like someone forced him to do this and expose that initimate bond. I’m not sure why someone would put their child in this position.

  11. Every parent has his or her own beleifs on what is right or wrong for their children. I did read the article but I feel no one has the rite to judge. Parenting is hard enough.

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  13. It’s sad to realize that if this was the cover to National Geographic and it was some gorgeous and statuesque Maasai tribeswoman breastfeeding her three-year old, no one would even have noticed.

    These are just some of my thoughts on this one
    naturemummy.blogspot.ca

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  16. I’m curious if you’ve read the article by now. On Friday I wrote a post on attachment parenting to clear my head in preparation for reading the article, but then I realized that I need a subscription or to buy the magazine to read it, which I don’t want to do because I don’t want to feed the beast that gave us the headline. So I guess I’ll have to read it at the library. Does our branch even have a copy? Herm.

    • I haven’t read it yet. I’ve heard a bunch of people talk about it, and will get around to it if I see it in a store or at the library, but I’m not rushing out to buy it. I just can’t justify giving my money to Time over this.

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  19. Great post. Clearly there’s nothing wrong with wanting to be a good mother and there’s nothing abnormal about worrying about that from time to time. BUT I just can’t help feeling that constructing these kind of faux cultural clashes between women are merely another means of limiting and controlling them. As you rightly point out, when would we EVER see a feature about men picking each other apart over their paternal skills or for that matter, see society and the media gleefully fuelling the imagined conflict between men on this issue?

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