Mother’s day weekend in New York. A mother’s day dinner last night sans baby (so mommy actually got to eat the delectable creations of a certain Chef Wylie Dufresne). The graduation from NYU of my little baby brother who has earned that PhD fair and square. A pair of cousins to animatedly run around Bryant Park with their little baby cousin L. Am I fortunate or what to be living this lovely thing we call life along side my little one?
But on this Mother’s Day I am struck by the recent Time Magazine cover featuring a woman breastfeeding her toddler. “Provocative,” “insulting,” “titillating” has this cover been named, and to be frank I am not sure what to actually make of it. Clearly it was mean to get attention but it is funny to see the concept of attachment parenting so clearly glued to Time Magazine’s disbelief in motherhood as an individualized process. Instead, a mom and dad’s choices in parenting are controversial, provocative, anything but natural. They are not just people trying to raise a child in a busy modern world, they are mavericks who are trying to make a political statement. Excuse me, but in feeding my little son – who I would only be too happy if he decided to wean – I am not making a political statement. I am providing nutrition and comfort. Why is it considered a glorified form of PDA? And because women trying to breastfeed in public has become such a divisive issue among us culturally, pictures like this one arrive just in time for Mother’s Day, with a subject line haughtily declaring, “Are you Mom Enough?”
“No, I am not mom enough,” replied Lisa Belkin of the Huffington Post. Not to breastfeed or to be attached to her children, but to take the bait. Further compelling responses have come decrying the mother’s allowing her son to participate in the photo session – was it his choice to be in the photo? How will he feel about having been in this picture in the future? Again – it’s not that breastfeeding in itself should be viewed as an embarrassment, but turning it into a spectacle does seem objectionable to me.
Do moms really need to be a part of this divisiveness on Mother’s Day, when we are trying to be the village to bear and raise the children that will be the future of this world? And what about motherless children?
There have been so many reactions to this statement, “Are you Mom Enough?” Sorry, Time, but don’t turn motherhood into a political or sexual statement. Lots of us are eking along, trying to turn our child into responsible adults and not delinquents, and we are just plain trying. I consider myself fortunate to be able to breastfeed my son as long as I have (15 months now!) but not all of my fellow mothers have been so lucky and have had various limitations on their success. I wonder if Dr. Sears is a fan of the cover. I will add that I have not yet read the article in question (though I want to – I will borrow it from my mom once we get home from our current travels), but I can see how much discussion it has already provoked. But I doubt that the majority of it is about breastfeeding exposed in public and hope that more of it has some substance. But by taking an article that is supposedly about attachment parenting and its controversies and inserting into it defiant photos that purport to “support” extended breastfeeding, one really pigeonholes women and their choices. You don’t celebrate women’s choices, you objectify them. I am not a member of a political movement. I am a mother.