I admit it. I winced when I saw the Time magazine cover of a defiant-looking young mother nursing her almost 4-year-old son, posed standing on a kiddie chair and appearing uncomfortable as he suckles her left breast.
That poor child, I thought, is being used as a weapon in a manufactured war.
The strategy could not be more obvious: Let’s smack other women in the face with an over-the-top illustration of the attachment-parenting craze and hope they strike back, scream, judge.
A media-made free-for-all is especially delicious when it pits woman against woman, mother against mother, as the magazine clearly intends with its taunting headline: “Are you mom enough?”
Are you mom enough?
Ostensibly, this is an article about the perceived benefits of baby-wearing, extended breastfeeding and co-sleeping. But what we have is a question that plays on insecurities, that dares a woman to say no, that holds this mother up as the queen of some kind of warped sense of courage because her decision to breastfeed to what many people will find a disturbing age and to display her child this way makes her “enough.”
Enough. What a perfect word to describe what most parents seek.
Enough discipline that a child has a sense of right and wrong but not so much that he’s beaten down.
Enough love that a child feels safe and accepted but not so much that he believes he’s the center of the universe.
High enough expectations that she reaches and grows but not so unrealistic that disappointment is debilitating.
Enough freedom that he can learn to be responsible for his own actions but enough structure that he feels secure.
Enough respect for authority that he becomes a good citizen but enough strength of character to know when justice calls for nonconformity.
Enough compassion that she understands mercy and empathy but that stops short of leaving her indulged.
Enough material goods to provide for his needs but not so much that he feels entitled.
Enough assistance that she realizes she can count on you but not enough to keep the helicopter fueled and on standby.
A waste of energy
In our country, we shouldn’t much care whether a woman works or doesn’t work. Let’s be happy some actually have choices.
It’s not our business whether she breastfeeds or bottle-feeds. There are children who are hungry.
It’s not our business whether she carries the baby around in a sling or in a car seat. Some children get no consideration at all.
It’s not our business whether she sleeps with her baby or puts him in his own bed. At least they aren’t sleeping in a car.
Judging other people’s parenting choices serves little purpose other than to shore up our own misgivings about how we’re doing it. The energy we waste on these particular issues is even more shameful when we count how many children get precious little parenting at all.
There’s little doubt that responsible and considerate human beings have emerged from every parenting style and that people we’d like to throttle have as well. Who parented the parents who refuse to take their screaming children out of high-priced restaurants, church services or school plays anyway?
I wish the woman on the Time cover had been more considerate of her child, but let’s not allow ourselves to be drawn into a battle over whether she should be breastfeeding him at his age.
These made-up mommy wars have to stop.
Enough is enough.