Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Mommy Wars

There's been a buzz in some media circles about the latest issue of Time magazine which features a provocative photo of a young mom "nursing" her almost 4-year-old son on the cover to illustrate an article about attachment parenting. I say "nursing" in quotes because I've never seen a mom nurse a baby or a child in quite that manner - ever. She is standing staring at the camera with her tank top pulled down on one side, while her son stands on a chair to nurse. The mom in the photo stated during a recent Today Show interview that she does not nurse her son like that at home. Really? Big surprise. The photo in and of itself is alarming, and its meant to spark controversy, but the headline "Are you MOM enough?" makes me angry, and from what I've been reading around the blogosphere, I am not alone.

Why? Because once again the media prompts mothers to second-guess their judgement about how to be a good parent. Breastfeeding vs. formula feeding? Co-sleeping vs. babies sleeping in their own cribs? Homemade baby food or food from a jar? Cloth diapers vs. disposable? Stay at home or go back to work? The list of parenting choices goes on, and on, and on . . . but the bottom line is that a mother has the right to make the choices that work for her child and her family, and she should be respected for those choices by other mothers even if they disagree.

Now before I go on, I am not in the attachment parenting camp. I did not wear my babies in a sling or let them sleep in our bed for more than an occasional nap. I did not nurse my children for more than a few weeks. I tried, but was not successful for many reasons, most of all because my supply did not meet their demand. With both of my children, I needed to supplement with formula to be sure they were getting properly nourished to thrive and grow. After several frustrating weeks of trying to feed my son this way, it finally took a good friend to tell me, "If it is not working out, just stop and use formula. It's OK." When I heard those words, it was like a huge weight had been lifted. She was right. It was OK to use formula. I did not have to feel guilty, frustrated or worried that I was not doing the "right" thing for my baby. I needed her support. I needed a fellow mother to say everything would be alright.

More than 10 years later, my kids are alright. They are happy and healthy, and all around good kids. They are not perfect, but neither am I. As my children change and grow, I will continue to seek the support of friends when new parenting challenges arise. That's why the headline on Time's cover bugs me so much. We don't need the media filling our heads with more self doubt and worry about whether or not we are good enough at raising our children. Mothers have so much in common despite different parenting styles or child-rearing choices. We need to build each other up, not tear each other apart. We need to motivate, support, and inspire each other. One mother is not "more" of a mother because she does things differently from another. All mothers who love, nurture, and keep their children safe and healthy are mom enough, don't you think?

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