Basically, it ain’t easy being a woman in today's America, for different reasons than in the past, and it sure as heck isn't easy being a mother either, with this kind of scrutiny.
Most likely, the only way you missed Time magazine's most recent cover story is because you are living under a rock in the most remote corner of the world.
Still, chances are you would have glimpsed it anyhow, since media has a far reach these days, and the photo on the cover itself is, to say the least, different.
When I first saw it, I questioned my glasses' prescription and was ready to make another doctor's appointment. But, no, I saw it correctly. So did you. It's a photo of a beautiful, young, blond woman nursing her son. Her 3-and-a-half year old son. This is the part which made me question my glasses' prescription. One doesn't see these things every day. Or, at all. Pretty titillating cover, no pun intended (or maybe intended), I thought as my eyes adjusted while I read the article, “Are You Mom Enough?”
The article's focus is on attachment parenting, a philosophy popularized by Dr. William Sears and his wife, Martha. Their book, “The Baby Book” (1992), is a Bible of sorts for those who practice attachment parenting. Sounds kind of funny, doesn't it, the idea of attachment parenting, because aren't you supposed to be attached to your children? However, Sears advocates what many consider “extreme parenting.” The Time cover didn't help the Sears appear any less extreme, especially for those who judged the book – or the parenting philosophy – by its cover.
Sears and his wife advocate nursing and co-sleeping with your infant, along with keeping your infant physically close in a sling during daytime. In many ways, the Sears' philosophies are a natural extension of those presented by Dr. Spock in his parenting classic, “Dr. Spock’s Baby and Child Care.” Dr. Spock said, in the first line of the book, “Relax. You know more than you think you do.” The Sears offer similar advice on their website, www.askdrsears.com:
Attachment parenting is a style of caring for your infant that brings out the best in the baby and the best in the parents. Attachment parenting implies first opening your mind and heart to the individual needs of your baby, and eventually you will develop the wisdom on how to make on-the-spot decisions on what works best for both you and your baby.
A close attachment after birth and beyond allows the natural, biological attachment-promoting behaviors of the infant and the intuitive, biological, caregiving qualities of the mother to come together. Both members of this biological pair get off to the right start at a time when the infant is most needy and the mother is most ready to nurture. Bonding is a series of steps in your lifelong growing together with your child.
Page 2 of 3 - Now, come on. That doesn't sound so weird, does it?
For many, Sears' quote is just common parenting sense. Unfortunately, for those who weren't raised by the most nurturing parents, his philosophies might come as a surprise-maybe even a much-needed awakening – so they choose to parent in a different way than what they knew as children. And, since we all could benefit from common-sense parenting advice, I feel disgusted by the magazine cover. Not because a mother was nursing a 3-plus-year-old child, but because in the pursuit of sales numbers and profit, Time sensationalized and presented the Sears' parenting philosophy by using an “extreme” example. Time essentially shocked Americans who might have benefited from learning about attachment parenting. And, while I am sure their sales sky-rocketed this week, I haven't met a single person yet who had anything intelligent to say about the article.
Here's a conversation I had a few days ago:
Him: “Wow, did you see the Time magazine cover? That hot woman was nursing her son and he was so old he could do it by standing up and reaching her boobs.”
Me: “Did you read the article?”
Him: “Why would I read about such weird stuff?”
Me: “You didn't even open the magazine to see what it was about, did you?”
Him: “I don't even read Time magazine. I was just talking about the cover.”
See my point?
The Time article's writer, Kate Pickert, said the Sears developed their philosophies, in part, as a reaction to their difficult childhoods and a deep-seated need for their children to have a different experience. Pickert argues attachment parenting is embedded in our culture because its main tenets of nurturing and closeness between parent and child (certainly a pendulum swing from what our parents most likely experienced as they were growing up) are obviously beneficial, especially to infants and young children. But, she also claims Sears' ideas are impractical for working mothers, and, since most mothers do work, only stay-at-home moms benefit from attachment parenting. Pickert, and others, also suggest these types of philosophies are anti-feminist since they apply only to women who are “forced” to stay home with their children. Or (gasp) even worse, chose to do so instead of forging a professional life.
I cry foul. A mother could easily take Sears' ideas and adapt them to their child and family regardless of their professional status. But note I said “mother” and the article's title said, “mom.” Where are the men in this discussion? Last time I checked, it takes a man and a woman to create a baby but it seems only one of the two (working or not) are raising the children, and accountable for how the children turn out. Also, I wonder why mothers' parenting choices are frequently attacked in America, often by men, but even more often by other women. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I thought the victory of the feminist movement was it provided women with choices--which might include staying home and practicing whatever parenting philosophy you deem fit. It seems instead, to identify as feminist, one must be a professional working woman or you are looked down on by other women if you chose differently.
Page 3 of 3 - Basically, it ain’t easy being a woman in today's America, for different reasons than in the past, and it sure as heck isn't easy being a mother either, with this kind of scrutiny.
I read Sears' “The Baby Book” constantly when my daughter was a colicky infant and concluded they were on to something. I had read every other parenting book on the market and theirs was the only one that made sense to me. I nursed or pumped, day and night, even when working. I held my daughter physically close to me, as much as possible. I slept with her at night, even though I swore before she was born children don't belong in their parents' bed. I listened to what the Sears had to say, and while I didn't nurse until my child was a toddler, or anything considered very “extreme,” I needed their advice. It was like gold to me. It worked and made for a much happier, close relationship with my daughter.
Yes, Time, since you asked: I am mom enough. Not because I practiced “extreme parenting,” but because any mom who tries to do what is best for both themselves and their child, is “mom enough.”
Thanks for asking.