I Am Mom Enough. And So Are You.

WRITTEN BY REBEKKA

An artist’s rendering of the Time Magazine photo.

 

Everyone has seen The Photo. Well, there is an article that goes with it, and the article is about Attachment Parenting. AP is a parenting philosophy I believe in and personally subscribe to. And I credit the undeniable awesomeness of my two children mostly to it. Also some pretty great genes, but I digress. My appreciation of AP aside, I admit seeing this cover photo made me feel a twinge of a cringe.

Attachment Parenting is sometimes called desert-island parenting because it advocates throwing out the trendy parenting book of the moment and other blanket child-rearing advice and instead being tuned-in to your particular child’s needs and instinctively providing for them, as if you were parenting on a desert island.
Some of the many tenets include child-led weaning and extended breastfeeding (the term for nursing after 12 months) both of which I categorically support. Let’s not forget that the American Academy of Pediatrics – the established and traditional medical organization, not some crunchy mom’s group in Portland – recommends breastfeeding until 12 months old, and continuing into the second year as long as it is mutually desirable (meaning desirable by mom, because it is physically impossible to make a child breastfeed who doesn’t want to). The AAP knows it is healthy. I know it is healthy. And I know that if breastfeeding was desirable at 1 year and 364 days, it is not going to just stop a day later. Weaning should be a slow and gentle process. It could very reasonably extend into the 3rd year or beyond.

So, why the cringe?

Lisa Belkin wrote a decidedly non-sensational response on Huff Post Parents titled “No. I’m Not Mom Enough” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lisa-belkin/no-i-am-not-mom-enough_b_1507550.html. In it she says “The breastfeeding conversation is not titillating. The TIME cover is.” And that is 100% correct. Why this photo is off-putting is that it removes the key concept behind extended breastfeeding, which is that at the time you are breastfeeding a 3-year-old, they are not standing tall on a chair, looking defiantly out into the world. In that moment, they are a baby. Or at least more of a baby. As children grow and develop, they do not do so linearly – checking off each milestone and then charging onward full speed. They move a few steps forward, one step back. They have a verbal explosion and become a talkative two-year-old-going-on-twelve, but in an instant can have a meltdown and not be able to form one word of English to communicate what they are feeling or needing.
This photo makes me a little angry, because it’s not representative and it holds extended breastfeeders out to be freaks, and more than that, it plays off the ridiculous line of thinking that boobs = sex, and sex + kids = disgusting. Breasts are for feeding our offspring. Sorry all you men – and some women – out there who thought they were playthings for foreplay. They can be, but that is not their design. I think the Time editors purposefully made this photo as controversial as possible. It’s like they hand-selected the tallest and most importantly male breastfeeding 3-year-old they could find, with the shortest mom, they dressed mom kinda sexy and the kid like a teenager, and posed them in a manner that highlights the child’s self-sufficiency. So of course it looks unnatural. It is. And things that look unnatural make us cringe.

The interwebs can blow up all they want about the sexual nature of breastfeeding a child, a boy child, as he approaches kindergarten age. It’s ridiculous. I have heard of one single mother in all my life who choose to formula feed her newborn because he was a boy, implying she believed it to be sexual. For a newborn. Lunacy. I put her in the camp with all the idiotic and apparently perverted middle aged men out there blowing up the blogosphere. They’ve (obviously) never breastfed. Because if you do, you realize immediately how not sexual it is. No mom of boys says to herself, This breastfeeding relationship is working wonderfully for both of us, but I’m going to forcibly wean him now that he’s <insert your threshold age here> because it’s getting sexual.

I have a 2-and-a-half year old with the stature and vocabulary of a 4 year old. The last three nights she has had difficult bedtimes, wailing for mommy, needing me to be there with her until she falls asleep. An eczema rash has broken out behind her knees, a sign that her little body or her little mind or both are under stress. Maybe she is fighting off an impending spring cold, maybe she hasn’t found her social standing with the big kids in the preschool room she just aged-up into at daycare a few weeks back. Last night she woke up a little after 4:00am and crawled in next to me, snuggled close, closer, eventually she climbed up and buried her head in the crook of my neck, literally lying on top of me, whimpering. She doesn’t breastfeed anymore. I nudged her to wean just before her 2nd birthday. I don’t think she was quite ready, and I tried to keep it up as long as I could, but I was also nursing my 2-month-old son and just couldn’t manage both even though the older one was only nursing maybe once a day to go to sleep or upon waking up. I had planned to nurse both children (not at the same time, though some moms do) but when it came down to it, I was too exhausted, too physically and mentally spent and something had to give. I stand by my choice, but in my heart I know it was a little too soon for her comfort. Last night was a perfect example of a 2-and-a-half year old who could have nursed, probably should have. And it wouldn’t have been sexual, and it wouldn’t have held her back developmentally. It would have helped her feel safe, secure, and supported at a time when for whatever reason she felt like a tiny helpless baby.

I haven’t obtained the Time article yet, but because I’ve seen my child, 6 or 8 months younger than the child in the cover photo become a baby in an instant, I can probably say I support that mom’s choice 100%.  And I can also say to the equally controversial tagline that I *am* Mom Enough. Not because I breastfed until age two. Because I watch for and listen intently to all my child’s needs and do my absolute best to meet them day in and day out, moment by moment, balancing other important factors like my other child’s needs, my marriage, my health, my sanity, but generally putting my children’s needs first while they are so small. Good moms do that. Most moms are good moms. Doing our best to meet our child’s needs never changes, the only thing that changes is that the child eventually needs less. Eventually no child needs breastfeeding any longer. But only the child and his mother will know when that time is. It’s really no one else’s business.

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~ by maxaverage on May 12, 2012.

One Response to “I Am Mom Enough. And So Are You.”

  1. Good write-up.

    Personally I’m upset with most forms of main stream media and reporting these days because it’s more relevant than ever that what they’re doing is to increase cash flow (“odd” Time cover catches attention and makes people buy/talk about).

    I caught myself over analyzing the picture (not for the sexual content) and realizing that the mom was pretty tiny and that the boy, if really 3 didn’t appear to be a just turned 3 boy. I’ve got a pretty tall just turned 3 year old and think he may have been dwarfed by this kid. The oddest thing about the photo was the “self-sufficiency” part of him standing on a chair.

    I’ll be honest I had no clue the details behind the story or philosophies till reading that article and yours. I’m in the camp that there is no such thing as a perfect parent, most of us just try to do our best even if that’s reaching for perfection, and therefore to each there own.

    Like

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