Did you see the new cover of TIME Magazine?
Attachment Parenting (AP) is once again front-page news and in total turn-off style, TIME has taken the neverending Mommy Wars to a new level with its competitive-laced title, “Are You Mom Enough?” Now granted, I don’t have a TIME subscription so I haven’t yet read the article, but the photo itself is not good for Attachment Parenting. It’s actually pretty exploitative of the parenting style.
The photo of Mommy Blogger Jamie Lynn Grumet breastfeeding her almost four-year-old son Aram is meant to stir up controversy – and the internet is ablaze. TIME knew what it was doing and this photo is just one of a handful of photos of mothers breastfeeding that appear within the cover piece. Parenting is not a contest, and this caption does a disservice for followers of AP everywhere. So do the comments in response to this photo that have cropped up all over the internet.
Attachment Parenting is not a cult of crazy-a$$ Mamas who think that anyone who doesn’t baby-wear, breastfeed until natural weaning occurs, co-sleep or cater to every child’s whim should be stoned in the public square. Rather, it is a parenting style that follows the Eight Principles of Parenting. Attachment parenting has been on the rise over the past two decades, since the publication of The Baby Book by Dr. Bill Sears and his wife Martha in 1992. But to a new Mother, this photo might scream, “Holy crap – he looks like a teenager who would rather be playing video games and she looks defiant, smug and totally pleased with herself. I didn’t choose to/can’t/stopped breastfeeding. Forget if I’m not Mom enough, this Attachment Parenting stuff is freaking weird!” Is it me or is the photo completely contrived and smug?
A comment that I felt was completely on point re: the photo….
“This picture bespeaks “attitude” not education. I am shocked that TIME Magazine is oblivious to the communication this picture engenders. Nasty, coarse, rude comes to mind in seeing this mother standing up and her child on a chair. This could be the poster of how far our society has sunk into the total lack of purity. A mother feeding her child is a beautiful picture. This is bordering on porn and contrived to get attention.”
I didn’t practice AP, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it. I had a couple of friends who breastfed their kids until they were 3-4 and yes, we all talked about it because it was different to us but we never said it was disgusting – it just wasn’t our choice. I think that beneath all of that gossip is the nagging feeling that every Mother has – am I doing it right? And the cover photo caption here just adds fuel to the fire. You’re either going to think it’s beautiful, creepy, natural, weird or all of the above. No matter what your opinion, everyone is just trying to do their best for their family. I just feel like this picture takes us all back a few steps. Why do we constantly have to look at images and read articles that make us question our own judgment? Mothers, can’t we stop the incessant bullying and leave each other alone?
I read countless responses daily to parenting articles that simply make people feel like lesser human beings -
“It’s impossible to believe you simply couldn’t produce milk. Everyone produces milk. You just weren’t committed to doing what was best for your child. Formula is poison – don’t you want your child to have a good start in life?”
“You are sick in the head and should be arrested for child abuse if you practice this creepy method of parenting.”
“Extended breastfeeding is gross. When the kid is old enough to ask for a boob, that should be the end of it!”
“What’s with all of the crunchy, granola, co-sleeping, baby-wearing people out there? Don’t you realize you’re going to create clingy, dependent young adults who can’t do anything for themselves? Cut the apron strings already.”
“Watching someone breastfeed a 3 year old totally creeps me out. It’s completely unnatural looking. They are totally capable of handling a fork. This is more for the Mother than the child. These parents refuse to let their kids grow out of babyhood.”
Did you know that children who were a product of AP can be clingy OR independent? That breastfed children can end up healthier OR sicker than their formula-fed peers? That children can adhere to boundaries and discipline no matter what the parenting style? That co-sleeping can create a beautiful bond but that you can bond just as well if you choose to sleep separately?If you put down another person’s parenting because they are different, you must be afraid that you are doing something wrong. Otherwise, why would it be so important to spend so much time commenting and bashing their choices? If we want to create children who preach tolerance and acceptance, it has to come from us. And we’re doing a really crappy job of being role models and teammates for motherhood. Parenting is about making decisions out of love for our own children, not others. There is no right or wrong unless abuse, neglect and/or endangerment enters the picture.
Yes, yes, yes. The three main tenets of AP - breastfeeding, sleeping with your offspring, and carrying your offspring on your body – have been part of mammalian behavioral patterns for 65 million years. Most mothers around the world have always practiced attachment parenting. It isn’t some extreme or new-fangled movement.
But different seems to make people feel uncomfortable.
To the people who spend countless hours thinking about how to make everyone conform to their life practices, I ask you this…
What are you trying to prove? And to whom?
Go spend time with your kids.
Whether they were fed breastmilk or cow’s milk, they will remember feeling loved. Attended to. Respected. Played with.
Whether you fell asleep beside them or tucked them into their crib, they will remember you were there. Listening. Asking them questions. Teaching them about the world.
They will remember your smiles, tickles and hugs. They will remember your smell. They will remember YOU. And you – no matter what your parenting decisions – is all they want at the end of the day.
So stop worrying that formula will turn your child into a serial killer. Or that you’re not “Mom Enough” in the eyes of strangers you don’t know on the internet.
If you make decisions based on love, you’re Mom enough for your kid, and that’s all that matters.
Note: I wrote this at 2am and re-read it this morning. Not my best work, but I was emotionally charged after seeing the photo and poring through hundreds of responses meant to insult, bash and bully parents for their choices. So it remains as is. Sorry for the rambling.