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May112012

ARE YOU MOM ENOUGH? My Reaction to the TIME Cover



Today was an interesting day.

All day yesterday, I was swamped with work. I had a major deadline today and every time I thought I was close to being finished, additional ideas would pop into my head and I felt compelled to pursue them. Ideas, and the rabbit holes that come with them, had me up until midnight working last night.

This morning, I had to finish up that report and send it off and then I had a commitment to my son to spend some time with him working in our garden.

I was teetering on the tightrope known as work-life balance and barely hanging on, when TIME magazine dropped a bomb.

Their magazine cover features blogger and mother Jamie Lynne Grumet breastfeeding her three year old son, along with the headline:
ARE YOU MOM ENOUGH?

Why attachment parenting drives some mothers to extremes - and how Dr. Bill Sears became their guru.

My head hit the desk. Not because of the picture, but because of the headline.

Mom enough?

Driving mothers to extremes?

Dr. Sears as my guru?

Could it get any worse than that? I'd better go read some Elisabeth Badinter to calm myself down, I thought. But no, I had deadlines and commitments, so I plugged away and eventually fell into bed at around midnight. This morning, I woke up to a request to be on live television on one of Canada's major networks at 11:00am. As the day went on, I got more requests for radio shows, for guest blog posts, for quotes for magazines and newspapers, and even an invitation to be on a reality television show about "alternative parenting practices".

I said no.

I said no over and over again, both because I had other commitments and because I'm sick of making what I think is a valuable contribution and then having an "extreme parenting" label slapped onto it (the only one who got a quote from me was Andrea Gordon from the Toronto Star because she caught me when I had 5 minutes to spare as I downloaded a file). I doubt Jamie Lynne Grumet knew she was going to be positioned as the poster child for a parenting movement that is "driving mothers to extremes" or that she'd be held up as "mom enough", while the rest of the world is obviously not.

In any case, beyond this rant here, I did agree to share my thoughts on the issue over at Care2, where I get to write what I want and choose my own headlines. Novel concept, eh? If you would like to read it, here is a link:

Are you MOM ENOUGH? Yes, you probably are.


What are your thoughts?
« My Thoughtful and Funny Son | Main | Motherhood AND Feminism: The NY Times Discussion and its Aftermath »

Reader Comments (26)

I read the article and what I assumed to be an article about breastfeeding, was actually about Dr. Sears. I didn't feel like it even talked that much about attachment parenting.

Either way, I'm definitely Mom Enough, even if my 9 month old stops breastfeeding next week, and so is every other mom.

May 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLindsey

Thanks for writing this one in spite of the time pressures! What a catch 22, how does extended breast feeding get normalized without people willing to pose, and when they do pose, it turns into an "extreme" brou ha ha.... And when people like you write about "enlightened" parenting, it gets twisted into mommy wars, arrrrgh.... Frustrating, thanks for continuing on!

Nicole :)

May 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNicole

Of course I am mom enough, and not because I breastfed, and not because I sleep with my four year old still, and not because I run to my child if they so much as whimper. But because I try to do the best job I can, as a mom. And I know many, many, many moms who are also mom enough, in fact, they're more than mom enough. Each parent parents differently. As long as we are loving our children as much as we can, and as long as we are really listening to our children, and helping them, guiding them? We should be happy.

May 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLoukia

I hated that headline at first, until I realized that I had bought into Time's plan. It wasn't an article about breastfeeding, and it wasn't even really a photo about breastfeeding. It's about AP as a social movement, and once I realized that, it made a lot more sense to me. When I really looked at it, I saw a question that I often ask myself as part of the AP community - Am I mom enough? Am I good enough? *They* weren't saying it to me, they were pointing out how much we say it to ourselves. I notice many of us feeling pressure to meet incredibly high standards - often self-imposed - and I think Time was spot on by challenging us. As for the photo, it looked awkward and oddly posed, causing a sense of discomfort which, in my opinion, was representative of how this natural form of parenting seems SO unnatural to some. And the stance and facial expression of the mother? She's saying "Go ahead. Say it. I'm ready" And THAT is something I feel almost every time I mention how I parent out in public. Now do I think Time knew that the general public would see the headline and photo and automatically assume it was all about breastfeeding? Sure. They want to sell magazines, we're a predictable society and it seems everyone bought in on the more obvious take on it. But, for those who examine the cover as a text that embodies all the facets of an incredibly complex social issue, it's a pretty deep statement. They put something in our faces that we all need to think about, both those who bash AP and those who subscribe to it to the extreme. I just wish more people would look beyond the boob on the page so we could make some progress.

Guilty as charged - I was one of the page refreshers. ;)

As a Time subscriber, and friend of Dionna (so I had a bit of heads-up that Time was going to be releasing as issue about attachment parenting & breastfeeding), I was both unsurprised and disappointed at the direction the magazine decided to take this. Here are my thoughts... http://www.kellynaturally.com/post/Derision-and-Scorn-How-Time-Dropped-the-Ball-on-Attachment-Parenting.aspx

And now I'm off to read your Care2 article.

As usual I think you are spot-on, here and on Care2. Thanks in particular for clarifying what AP actually IS (i.e. not a competition between women to breastfeed the longest and martyr themselves for their children). I'm so tired of the misrepresentation of AP in the media lately, of how it's cool to make fun of this crazy "new trend". And I don't really even call myself AP because I am not fond of labelling my parenting. We try to do what works and feels right at the time, and continue to learn and evolve as parents. We are not perfect, and neither are our kids. But in truth we do lean that way--and would even if I hadn't nursed our children beyond someone else's idea of an acceptable age, even if they'd slept in their own beds earlier than they did. If we'd had different children with different needs.
What I really don't get is the idea that this is now a popular way to parent. Really? Where are these legions of "extreme" parents? Why do I get funny looks and even comments for how long I breastfed (longer than pretty much anyone else I know), why does every IRL conversation I'm in or overhear about infant sleep inevitably turn to letting babies cry? Why do other parents I meet always assume I discipline like they do? It could be just me and the circles I travel in, but most of the "APish" parents I know, I know virtually (and thank goodness because I've needed them!) I certainly don't feel like I'm in the popular parenting group in my daily life :P And that's fine by me, if a bit isolating, because I'm not parenting to prove I'm "mom enough" to anyone but my kids.

May 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAndrea

http://www.salon.com/2012/05/10/why_times_cover_shocks/singleton/ I really liked this take on it.

There are a LOT of offensive things about this article beyond the picture, but I do find the picture offensive because the photos look like sexualized fashion-magazine images. By presenting the pictures the way they did, TIME inflamed the tired debate about breasts and sexuality instead of offering a discussion point about a woman's right to choose what happens to her own body and how she chooses to feed and nurture her children. I suppose it sells magazines.

I also had a real problem with the article's accusatory tone. MOST offensive, however, is the "quiz" on the TIME website http://ideas.time.com/2012/05/10/quiz-whats-your-parenting-style/ There are only two parenting choices we should judge as a society: abuse and neglect. The remainder are up to the individual parent and the rest of us, especially the media, should BUTT OUT.

May 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMichele Hays

Excelente article. It makes a lot of sense. I always hate "both" parts of the discurse. I'd never practice cosleep, nor did I breatfeed a preschool and I use the sling moderatly but both -my husband and I- value atachment and concentrate into a nurting parenthood. I always felt "boths" sides are somehow fascist, not in their practices, but in the fundamentalism that deny the other the right to think diferently and respect others about how to live and raise their children.

May 12, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterandreaentalca

It's upsetting to me that TIME magazine put such a controversial picture on their cover that makes people judge attachment parenting based on the picture alone without people actually reading the article. I can imagine the people interviewed for the magazine thought this would be positive media attention to something they believe so strongly in, then this image is slapped on the cover and ruins everything. I personally have no problem with the cover- I see nothing wrong with nursing a three year old, but the majority of American society does, at least the ones that are speaking up the loudest do. I do have a problem with TIME magazine making attachment parents look like freaks. I have heard people say nursing a child that age has something sexual about it, I have heard people say it is child abuse. All the focus is on the cover image and that is upsetting to me. One step forward and two steps back!! Agh!

I did extended nursing with my kids 2 1/2 and 3yrs (my son and I were even on the cover of the local newspaper nursing when he was 1yr!). There are some people in my husband's family who do not agree with my parenting style (but comment on how awesome my kids are- of course I had nothing to do with that, right?!!!). I have a birthday party to go to today and I guess thanks to this controversial picture I will have to be prepared to defend myself today...yikes!

May 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNicol

I neither bash or subscribe to AP. But I hope this helps people understand better the reasons why some choose to parent they way they do. Thank you for helping me to understand also.

May 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKristin S

"Are you mom enough?" and written by a man? That's red alert for men slamming women and trying to reinforce that we are always never good enough. Well, I am mom enough to not read that piece of crap article.

May 12, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterc findlay

Apparently, no one was reading Time which is exactly why the editors published it. It was like dumping gasoline all over a simmering fire and then throwing a match on it. We all know what you get. A hell of an explosion. And we all proved we were lemmings. Meanwhile, all of the marketing executives and editors are high fiving each other backstage.

Here's what I hate: this picture in Time has got people yelling about how being mothers and following "attachment parenting" (to whatever degree) somehow makes us *less* feminist. We're being dragged back into the home and out of the workplace by the demands of a child and that means we're losing ground in our fight for equal rights.

HUH? *That* one really threw me. The implication was that somehow, the demands of being a mother (and last time I checked, we are mammals) is somehow a limitation on my expression of myself in the world and that it's better if I return to work as soon as possible and my baby is bottle-fed so that the man can take equal responsibility, etc., etc. This opinion came from a mother who was espousing her ideas on a public broadcasting radio show - but she clearly doesn't get it either. Perhaps how I parent - a form of parenting that does depend on breastfeeding my child - *is* an expression of who I am in the world. It *is* valuable. In fact, if it's not - well then, we've REALLY bought into the hegemony of the male life arc as the "ideal" and the "normal".

What concerns me is that we still somehow think that the way to success is to be free of our kids so we can do what men do (which is work consistently, without the nasty interruptions of pregnancy and breastfeeding). I'll be much happier when people realize that those of us who had children and raised them in a way that normalizes breastfeeding and the benefits of developing a strong bond with your child - a more natural way of parenting - are still strong, capable adults and that just because the mother is the one to do this (not for any other reason than the biological fact of our milk-making capabilities), we have not somehow given up our right to be feminists and believe that women deserve the respect and status accorded to men.

We are equally valuable as a man - but we are NOT the same as a man.

Real respect for women will be a society that honours the arc of a woman's life, including times to "nest" and withdraw from the greater society (to some extent), in order to bond with and raise children to be healthy adults for the next generation - and when that happens without "penalty" and without loss of status or pay, and when SOCIETY bends so that the right thing can happen for children and women AND men, so that this ebb and flow of need as we bring new lives into the world is acknowledged and supported for all.

May 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMonique

Well said. Absolutely agree.

May 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAndrea

Written by a man? I believe Kate Pickert is a woman.

May 12, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Hi Annie, I had the same reaction and mentioned the same thing in my post: http://dagmarbleasdale.com/2012/05/controversial-time-magazine-cover-of-breastfeeding-mom/

Mom enough? So because I've breastfed a kid beyond 5 years old I'm mom enough and every other mom who didn't/doesn't isn't? The headline doesn't even make sense.

People need to remember that the cover photo and the headlines are chosen to sell magazines, not to educate people about attachment parenting or extended breastfeeding. Controversy sells more magazines. I don't know any mom who would breastfeed a three-year-old with her breast exposed like that in public. I wouldn't have a problem with it, it's a breast, so what, but it's obviously just staged for the cover picture.

I hope moms won't let this Time cover be the cause for criticizing each other. We all have different circumstances and parent differently. I do hope that more moms realize that extended breastfeeding is normal and learn more about attachment parenting, which has been a wonderful, gentle way to raise my son for me.

Bravo, Annie. Time just wanted to sell some of their mags, as it is a dying biz. And it was offensive to me as I thought it was in poor taste to criticize moms instead of helping moms/families around Mothers Day.

Beautifully said. Thank you.

May 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAnna

[...] of my favourite (and local!) bloggers, Annie Urban, covers her thoughts on both the Time cover as well as Ms. Badinter’s book. I suggest you read both — excellent work defending and [...]

In my view there appears to be a lot of misinterpretation of the cover. I think that TIME was taking a critical look at AP and the headline question was sarcasm. We can't be 100% sure of TIME's aim, of course...but the cover and article combo I don't think did anything to help mainstream Americans understand AP. http://www.gretchenpowers.com/glog/2012/05/when-images-mean-vastly-different-things-to-different-people-time-magazine/

May 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGretchen Powers

Wonderful article! I had the same reaction as you and I can't believe the headline. I still can't. I wrote what I hope was a “gentle” response to the controversy here: http://embracingbeauty.com/2012/05/13/are-you-mom-enough-mommy-wars-controversy/

I was talking to yet another mom today about the Time cover (yet again!), and what I realized is: it really *isn't* a picture of "breastfeeding". I mean - I nursed a daughter to about 32 months, and I can guarantee you that I never had her on a step stool while I stood in a vaguely sexual pose, dressed in a one piece leotard with my hair carefully coiffed... ROFLOL

Here's where you would find me when I breastfed: on the couch or a chair or a bed, and my daughter would be curled into as much of my lap as possible and I would have my arms around her... An intimate, lovely thing where it wasn't just nutrition, it was nurture. What's on the cover of Time is not "breastfeeding": it's posing, and posing deliberately to get people all fired up. For sure, that has been accomplished.

May 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMonique

Clearly, someone at Time magazine did their job well, because everyone is talking about the cover. I bought this edition just because of the controversy on the parenting blogs I read.
I found the article itself to be just a biography on Doctor Sears. An interesting read, actually. I was prepared to read a shocking article, I had the popcorn all prepared, and now I'm totally disappointed. Oh well, at least I have the popcorn.

May 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLaure

The cover was clearly crafted to be provocative and controversial in order to sell magazines and create hype - something I resent in and of itself. There's undoubtedly some weird titillation about the picture too, reflecting our society's warped view of breast feeding as sexual.

Also frustrating and unfair that the media continue to blame women for any and all problems they see with child-rearing and/or children's behaviour. This is a phenomenon that we as women need to be constantly vigilant about and educate against, ensuring that we not buy into mainstream mother-blaming, but rather support and respect the efforts of other mothers.

Men need to be supportive on every level in order for mothers to feel more supported and able to provide the kind of care and make the kind of sacrifices they feel capable of, free from resentment, exhaustion, and burn-out. Men need to put their emotional needs behind those of the family, something boys and men are not generally taught or expected to do.

In our family, attachment parenting is a family affair. My husband would literally spoon feed me while I was nursing our children if I needed to eat at the same time. I remember the first time he did it, it made me laugh but I was truly grateful in the moment and on a higher level because I knew we were working together to be able to take care of the baby and our family.

May 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDonna Jean MacKinnon

I suppose I shouldn't be surprised by how much misunderstanding there is of attachment parenting, but the comments on the articles about the article are so far off base. The thing that people seem to be missing, is that AP is about responding to your child's (and not just your infant's) cues. I'm sure that some babies don't need to be worn all the time to be happy. There's no rule in AP that you must wear your baby at all times, even if he or she doesn't want to be held. Babywearing (and BFing and Co-sleeping) are tools to help meet your child's needs. There seems to be a huge portion of the internet-article-commenting public out there that believe my parenting choices involve forced breastfeeding, no solid food, non-stop babywearing and a lifetime of bed-sharing. My husband and I work very demanding full-time jobs outside of the home, and I feel that we are very successful APers. Our kids are far from perfect (was that ever really the goal?) but we meet their needs, and their caregivers in our absence are very responsive as well. It's hard work, but I resent the "martyr parenting" characterization and the implication that there are rules about how to be an attachment parent.

May 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNatalie B.

Thank you! Just because I am lucky enough to be in a field that pays well enough that I could afford to go back to work after having kids doesn't mean that choosing to not do so is wrong. It is hideously ironic that so many people who fought/fight for women to have choices and not be forced to be housewives object to women choosing to make raising children their priority. (Not that everyone does, but there are still women who make that argument).

May 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterChristine

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