Breastfeeding made the cover of Time magazine:
I haven’t even read the article yet, but I’m not sure how I feel about this photo – it disturbs me. (I dig her “What the f. are you lookin’ at?” pose, but …what’s with the chair?)
I’m all for BF’ing. As a parent I fall into the “attachment parenting” category – I BF’d both children, and nursed my first for much longer than some moms (I think Fi was in her late twos when we finally stopped – but Ella weaned herself at 6 mos.). I wore my babies in slings, went to La Leche League meetings, we co-slept (still do, sometimes, and my kids are 7 and 10! eeks), I read all the Dr. Sears books and disagree vehemently with “Cry It Out” sleep training, and so on. But these are just my opinions. There are a million other ways to parent, and I was under the impression that I was open-minded to other people’s parenting. But I was wrong about how open-minded I thought I was.
I’m all for the current trend toward crunchy-parenting and am a huge proponent of breastfeeding. I have strong opinions about formula, too, but I generally keep them to myself because I don’t want to offend moms who choose to bottle feed, or who have to bottle feed. I’ve got friends who bottle fed their babies and – lo and behold – their babies turned out just fine. But I didn’t realize how much I quietly judged these moms until I had a conversation with a friend in which she told me that she didn’t breastfeed her babies (gasp!). She hadn’t ever told me this because figured I would judge her – like most moms seem to do nowadays. Bottle-feeding moms are forced to go underground, to not talk about it – because they feel judged.
My friend was telling me that the reason she didn’t breastfeed was that she knew from the start she didn’t want anything to do with it, no matter what anyone said to her. As she was telling me this, I started becoming aware that although I was parroting things to her that were supportive – “That’s fine – it’s your choice,” “You are the mom so you know what works for you,” “Don’t judge yourself!” etc. – I WAS ACTUALLY JUDGING THE SHIT OUT OF HER.
This really, really bothered me!
Here’s what I was really thinking:
- Formula is crappy sugar-water pushed on you by Big Industry!
- Formula fed babies are addicted to sugar! (*Note: I have no idea where I got this idea and it is not fact-based.)
- What about baby’s immune system – didn’t you care about that?
- You totally missed out on the bonding! So did your baby!
- How could anyone NOT breastfeed? It’s the most natural thing in the world!
- And so on…ad nauseum.
BIASED MUCH? How’s that for “good enough parenting,” my tag line? How could I be so judgmental about one of my closest friends, whose parenting I admire? So – I stopped the conversation. I confessed. I said, “Oh my God. I’m one of them! I’m one of the moms who is judging the shit out of you for not breastfeeding and you should hear all the shit that’s really going through my head!”
I proceeded to list the awful things I was thinking about her, and we laughed and afterward she absolved me for being so shitty and judgmental. Of course,we are still BFF’s, but now I’m grappling with the uncomfortable feeling of how rigid I am in my beliefs about other people’s parenting, and whether I’m aware of it or not – how very, very judgmental I am.
I had a real estate agent who was taking me around to see some houses when Ella was a baby. We had to stop the car a lot so I could nurse Ella, and it was during one of these nursing pit-stops that she told me that she never nursed her children because she didn’t want her breasts to sag. You know what I was thinking? I was thinking I didn’t like her anymore. I was thinking, how could a woman be so selfish that she denies her babies breastmilk just so her boobs don’t sag? Don’t you think they’ll sag anyway when she’s 90?
See how judgmental we moms are?
So this photo on the cover of Time disturbs me on all kinds of levels. First of all, it stirs up the media’s idea of the “Mommy Wars.” It disturbs me because that boy looks like he’s 7 but in reality he’s just 3. A tall 3 – they used this to shock. Why couldn’t they show the mother sitting down and cuddling her son and breastfeeding him discreetly in a blanket like most moms would? It isn’t like she’s going to whip out her boob standing in line at Whole Foods like that and nurse a giant.
The title also bothers me, “Are you mom enough?” because it sums up today’s unconsciously hostile parenting climate. We have somehow reverted to the days before women’s lib in the parenting department – not only are you required to be a perfect mother, you should also be a crunchy, green, natural birthing, cloth-diapering, breastfeeding, organic-baby-food-pureeing, Lulemon-yoga-pants-wearing, co-sleeping Earth mother who breastfeeds her older child and her triplets while standing in a highly public area, like the Metro or the DMV. And if you aren’t, you’re just not good enough or hip enough. You aren’t trying hard enough. Well – screw that.
My mom came from an entirely different era. She gave birth to me in a hospital surrounded by male doctors when she was, as she put it, “knocked out cold” – at her own request. She didn’t want anything at all to do with giving birth. Also, she didn’t breastfeed me – she hired au pairs to stuff bottles of formula in my face, and yes, I resent it. To this day I have a ridiculous attachment to sugar which I wrongly or rightly ascribe to being fed formula.
In her day although you certainly had to define yourself by how clean your kitchen floor was (as you do today!), you also had to be a professional, educated do-it-all mom who distanced herself from the crunchy aspects of motherhood so you hired au pairs to bottle feed while you got on with your liberated life. You compared salaries and job titles with your newly liberated mom-friends. But now the tides have turned. We have turned against ourselves yet again and fallen into the currently popular trend in mothering: we judge ourselves and each other according to who is the crunchiest, greenest, breastfeedingest Earth mother. On our quest to be “the best moms” of today – whether we know it or not, we are participating in just another oppressive trend of judging moms who go against the herd and do it their way, moms who might not want to breastfeed – mercilessly. We’re secretly asking, Are you mom enough?
And in comparing ourselves to others, the answer is probably always going to be No.
That’s fucked up.
Just my two cents.
What do you think about this photo? Does it disturb you? Or should we celebrate it? Or both? Do you ever feel judged by other parents, or judge other people’s parenting?
Read The Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms’ take on what they think was happening behind-the-scenes at TIME’s planning session for this piece.
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