Doubtless by now most of you have seen the controversial TIME magazine cover, featuring a woman breastfeeding her almost 4 year old boy, screaming the headline “Are You Mom Enough?” It seems to be all over the news and social media right now.
Oh man. I don’t even know where to start with this. This cover angers me in so many ways.
Firstly, it pretty much sums up a lot of what I have experienced in the modern world of parenting – so much division and judgement, so many people examining every parenting choice you make to figure out if you are “mum enough”. Rather than joining us together as a sisterhood, as a human family, becoming a mother these days is to put yourself under the microscope of ARE YOU GOOD ENOUGH… and 9 times out of 10 you’ll feel the answer is a resounding “No” – even if you’re doing everything “right”.
As if women didn’t judge each other enough! As if people in general didn’t judge mothers enough! As if mothers didn’t subject themselves to enough guilt and judgement every single day! And then we get this – a popular magazine screaming all over the newstands the idea that some women are “more mum” than others.
That brings me to the second issue I have with it – breastfeeding is already a highly contentious topic in mother-land. You have the “breast is best and anything less is child abuse” nazis and you have the “breastfeeding is yuck” ignorants – and inbetween you have a whole swathe of women just trying to do the best by their babies the best way they know how. This cover is deeply offensive to a whole hoard of loving mothers who are unable to or choose not to breastfeed. I am personally offended by this cover. I no longer breastfeed my baby. I feed her formula with as much love as she can handle. Does that mean I am not “mum enough” for my baby?
But one of the worst things about this cover is that TIME magazine have gotten their wires seriously crossed and completely confused two separate issues. The article is apparently actually about attachment parenting (the cover has made me feel so judged already that I have no intention of actually reading the article). However, because of their sensationalist choice of cover photo and words, all of the attention, controversy and conversation has become focused on extended breastfeeding past infancy. Which is a COMPLETELY separate issue.
Did you know that Attachment Parenting is a philosophy that embraces all parents who want to raise their children with love and compassion, regardless of whether they breastfeed or not? Attachment Parenting International states that “The essence of Attachment Parenting is about forming and nurturing strong connections between parents and their children”. If you read the API’s eight principles of attachment parenting (found here), they include feeding with love, responding to your children with love and sensitivity, encouraging nuturing touch, and striving for life balance.
Attachment parenting is an INCLUSIVE philosophy. Sadly, there are people, having seen the pain life can bring, that think they shouldn’t encourage their children to become too attached to them. That they should teach them to “do it on their own” early, so as to ready them for the harsh realities of life. The truth is, the more you foster a strong, attached bond with your child in early life, the more secure and confident they will become as people, and the better able to cope with life’s disappointments and setbacks in the future.
Think about this: imagine you are learning to walk a tightrope. In one scenario, imagine your instructor is sometimes there to catch you when you fall… but sometimes isn’t. On the other hand, imagine your instructor is there every single time you fall, without fail – you absolutely trust that they will be there to catch you. Imagine the rope is raised higher and higher as you learn. Which instructor do you think would make you feel safe and confident about stepping out onto that rope? The one who lets you fall sometimes so that you know what it’s like? Or the one who has always been there beside you, no matter what?
This isn’t just lovey dovey hippy talk – scientific studies have shown that children who have a strong bond with their parents become more confident, independent young people. They are not afraid to be independent because they know if something goes really wrong, there will always be someone to fall back on. As opposed to a child who has had “independence” forced upon them, who will only become more clingy, searching for their parents’ love.
All in all, then, attachment parenting is about loving and nuturing your child with respect and compassion and using gentle parenting techniques. How infinitely sad that TIME magazine has taken what could have been a great opportunity to educate people on this beautiful parenting philosophy, and turned it into a huge judgement statement that suggests that some mothers are “more mum” than others, turned it into a heated breastfeeding debate, turned it into YOU ARE NOT GOOD ENOUGH.
The whole point of attachment parenting to me is that YOU ARE GOOD ENOUGH! You are good enough to love your child and all they really need is your love.
This morning on breastfast television they were discussing this cover and going on about breastfeeding being “the best start in life” and one of the women said “The thing that gives children the best start in life is love.”
That is what is really comes down to. Love. Teaching your child that it is ok to love, it is ok to feel strongly attached to another human being. Because yes, attachment is risky to the heart – if you lose that person somehow, the pain will be immense. But if we didn’t allow ourselves to love, to be attached to people we care about – then what would life be?! We have to run the risk of great pain in order to experience great love and joy.
There are many “ideals” of attachment parenting – co-sleeping, babywearing, breastfeeding. But at the end of the day, you parent with love in the way that works for you. My baby sleeps in her own room – but the slightest hint of a cry and I am there to rock and love her. For short trips I take my baby in the carrier close to my chest – but for long trips I take her in the pram (with regular chats and kisses). I feed my baby from a bottle – but whenever I feed her, I hold her in my arms and kiss her forehead.
I do not need to follow a list of “approved practices” in order to be “mum enough”. I parent my baby with all the love in my heart and teach her that I will ALWAYS be there for her and have her back.
I am all the mum my baby needs.