Why the Time Magazine Cover “Are You Mom Enough?” Should Inspire You

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mom enoughTwo weeks ago, Time Magazine sent shockwaves through the internet with their cover of a mom breastfeeding her child. But, this isn’t any ordinary photo. This mom is breastfeeding her almost 4 year old son. And, it’s not the typical photo with child laying tenderly in his mother’s lap. In this photo the boy is standing on a small chair and mom’s pose is one of utmost confidence. Time‘s headline “Are You Mom Enough?” seems to have also stirred moms into a frenzy saying that it’s divisive and asking questions like “What about the Dads?”

While there are inevitably some people appalled at the image and headline, it inspires me. And, I argue, it should inspire you, too.

In a past article, I shared with you that my mom left us when I was 12 and how it was both the best and worst day of my life. In so many things in life, it is not WHAT happens to you, but how you REACT to it.

When I first saw the Time cover, I didn’t think too much about it. I said “Wow! Bold!” It IS a bold photo. One that took guts to pose for and confidence to give permission to print. Then, I closed the picture. Soon I saw it was becoming a frenzy. I’ve read various articles now. One about not being mom enough and not being sucked into the hype. Another one saying all moms should be offended. And, yet another one saying that the cover is outrageous, but the article is anything but extreme. And, Dr. Bill Sears weighed in, too, reminding everyone that Attachment Parenting is not “extreme,” working parents can do it, and he’s hopeful the cover prompted more people to read about Attachment Parenting.

When I think about the Time cover, I have to ask myself “What does one mom on the cover of a magazine have to do with my mothering?” It doesn’t. What is “mom enough” to one person is not to another. I don’t define my mothering as how long I breastfed my kids or whether I did at all. I don’t define my mothering with my bravery (or lack of) having my kid breastfeeding on a cover of a magazine. Sure, I breastfed in public, but I tried to avoid it as much as possible and did it with a cover on. I wasn’t ashamed. I just wasn’t going to be all “out there” with my private moment(s) with my son. Not that anything’s wrong with it (ala Seinfeld).

Listen, I can probably think of 10 things I might do “better” than you when it comes to parenting just like there will be 10 things you do “better.” And, then the next day happens and the thing I did great yesterday, I might suck at today. Good parenting is not any ONE thing you do or don’t do, but everything together and, honestly, there is never going to be some measure of whether it’s “enough” because it is NEVER enough. There will ALWAYS be things you wish you did more of or better. I wish I was more patient that one day. I wish I had stayed up late doing the laundry the other night, so I could take the kids to the zoo today. There are a billion things we might change after the fact. We try to parent perfectly, but there is no perfect parent.

Time’s job is to sell magazines and get you to pick that thing up. In a supermarket with a thousand magazines, why should you pick up theirs? They needed something to get you to open that magazine and read the article and they did just that. I applaud the mom who was on the cover for a) getting breastfeeding out there (whether or not you are pro-breastfeeding, doesn’t it feel good to have a woman’s breast on the cover and not be sexual??), b) being confident enough to do it with a 4 year old (we all want to be confident women, don’t we?), and c) inspire other moms to be confident in their beliefs, too, even if they are different than hers, mine, or yours. It is only “shocking” because our culture does not support extended breastfeeding, but in other cultures, this would not have had the same shock value, if any at all.

You are mom enough. We all are. Because no other mother matters to your baby but you. So, when Time asks you if you’re mom enough, you say DAMN RIGHT! My baby tells me every day in his look, his smile, and with his hugs and kisses. :)

So, what about you? How did you respond to Time’s cover?

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10 Responses to Why the Time Magazine Cover “Are You Mom Enough?” Should Inspire You

  1. Aruni says:

    So true. Being a mother or father these days isn’t easy. We should support each other and see also our similarities and not just highlight our differences in style. The most important thing is that we love our kids and we try to do what’s best for them so they feel loved & secure. None of us is perfect and our mothers did the best they could given the awareness they had about self and others when we were growing up.

    Hopefully, we can improve on that awareness of self and others and make more informed decisions regarding our actions and how they impact our kids and those around us. It’s not easy to hold two opposing ideas in our heads, but just because we think what we are doing is right does not necessarily mean what the other person is doing is wrong. :-)

  2. Janet says:

    Good article. I happy to read something that is positive and supportive to ALL moms and parenting in general.

  3. Kristine says:

    I’m one that took offense to the title of the article. “Mom enough? Mom enough for WHAT, exactly?” I thought. I’m a Type-A, driven, individual – but while I’ve always been opinionated, I’ve also tried to be compassionate to others. Getting married and living with another human being who has shown me unconditional love has increased that compassion. And having a baby 4 months ago? Boy, has that ever challenged my need to “get things done!” So, when I see “Are you mom enough?” it definitely touches on my driven nature, the idea that I need to do something better, or do something more, to provide the best for my son. However, the best thing for my son is for his father and I to be present, to take care of his needs, and to just have fun. Being “mom enough” means letting go of all the things I might think I ought to do, and know that it will all turn out in the end…thanks for the reminder, Nicole!

  4. Lil says:

    You’re right, Time was just trying to sell magazines by trying to stir up indignation in moms who don’t breastfeed their kids into college. Breastfeeding is what nature intended, and it was never meant to be cut off arbitrarily at 6 months or even 12 months. Our society has decided that breasts are a sexual thing and now can’t separate that function from their true function, to the detriment of babies everywhere. The mere fact that it is called ‘extended’ breastfeeding instead of just breastfeeding shows you the attitude if the culture.

    I understand that you’re not trying to be controversial and upset people, you’re just trying to help with sleep but I’d like to add that I don’t think you needed to post a sort of ‘apology’ to the folks who sent you the message about formula-feeding moms getting possibly offended by your last article. It was obviously an article about people who DO breastfeed. Anytime anyone mentions breastfeeding it is not mandatory that “but formula feeding is OK too, and it’s every mom’s choice” also be in the article. Moms who formula-feed, for whatever reason, be it choice or necessity, need to own it and stop taking their guilt out on people who breastfeed, or talk or write about breastfeeding in any capacity. The formula-feeding moms made a decision or had it made for them and so formula feeding is the best they can do for their babies. I don’t know why breastfeeding would be offensive at that point, unless they are feeling guilty. I also used formula to some extent and at that point in time it was what I had to do so I did it and moved on. It never occurred to me to get upset at people who only breastfed. Maybe I just don’t have that insecurity.
    I have no idea what you will do with this long-winded reply but I just thought I’d throw in my two cents. I enjoy your articles thoroughly and I understand what you are trying to do with them. Some other folks apparently don’t get that this site discusses sleep issues in a wide variety of situations, including for moms who breastfeed.

  5. Jessica says:

    With all of the drama around the Time Magazine cover and article, I really appreciate your thoughtful response. It is a great reminder to focus on what matters as a parent…being the best parent we can be each moment of each day…whatever that may look like for each of us. Thank you.

  6. Christina says:

    Beautifully written post, Nicole. I especially liked the reminder of how parenting is not ONE thing you do or don’t do, but all of those things combined. That’s been a struggle for me as I try to do everything “perfectly” every single day.

    The TIME cover elicited a different response from me, however. I am still breastfeeding my son at 17 months old and plan to continue for a while so I am obviously pro-breastfeeding. However, the only discussion this cover seemed to stir up among my friends is how weird it was to be breastfeeding a kid that old. Instead of helping the cause, people just made remarks like, “That kid needs to get off the boob,” or “When they’re old enough to reach out and grab it, it’s time to stop breastfeeding.” Silly, yes, but those people honestly believe what they are saying and feel like extended breastfeeding is just bizarre and will create a mama’s boy or a spoiled child. My mother-in-law told me that in the 70s, there was no support whatsoever for moms who wanted to breastfeed and you were left with trying to do it and if you hit a roadblock, you switched to formula. She indicated that there was a prevalent attitude that if you were a mom who wanted to breastfeed you were a greenie or a hippie. I feel like this magazine cover just set breastfeeding moms back a bit and that makes me very sad.

    While I certainly applaud this mother for still breastfeeding and defend her right and choice to do so, I do feel like she should examine why she thought it was okay to put her child on the cover of a magazine while he shared an incredibly intimate moment with her (with an obvious command to look directly into the camera). Won’t this child be starting school soon? Will he ever be known for who he is or will he just be the kid on the cover who was breastfeeding? He had no say in this and I think it has the potential for very far-reaching consequences in his life.

  7. Wendy says:

    I’m certainly probreastfeeding, I fed my son until he was fifteen months old and only weaned because I was pregnant with my second and the morning sickness was shocking. That said, I found the picture confronting. Not because the child was four, I’ve seen many toddlers breastfeeding, but because the picture was provocative.

    Clearly the picture did not show a natural breastfeeding moment. I can’t imagine any mother standing like that while breastfeeding, her back would kill her! The picture was meant to be controversial, which I think is a shame. Breastfeeding is a natural thing, the global average for the age children are weaned is 5 years old and while it is every mothers right to choose how she feeds her child, I don’t think that breastfeeding should be sensationalised like it was by Time.

  8. @Aruni That is so true! And, what’s “right” for one child isn’t even right for another child in the same family, I find! :)

    @Janet Thank you!! :)

    @Kristine You are so welcome! I am Type-A, too, so I know what you mean. I actually came across an interesting blog about this very thing of “letting go” and not over-burdening yourself with getting EVERYthing done. Here’s the link: http://www.handsfreemama.com/about-hands-free/ You might like it!

    @Lil Thank you for your comment! I hear what you’re saying about the formula feeding moms who may feel guilty. It is my mission to make this a judgement free place, so I just like to clarify these things, since some people are only just now reading the site and some have “known” me for years. Where there is one, there are others and I make it my mission to help all moms feel confident in their decisions or with their reality, even if it was out of their hands. I think of it more as a clarification than an apology. :)

    @Jessica You’re so welcome and thank you!!

    @Christina I know what you mean, but discussion is a good thing, regardless. I think what this image did was get people talking about it. For those who say things like “If he’s old enough to take it out, it’s time to put it away.” or what-not will not necessarily change their minds about that anytime soon. This image is more for people like you or me who are breastfeeding and may actually consider breastfeeding longer. I stopped at a year. I didn’t really expect anything different. Perhaps in 10 years the “norm” will be 3 years or whatever. Also, for anything to change, there has to be discomfort followed by acceptance. “Women voting? That’s preposterous!” “Black people going to school with Whites? That will never work.” “Gay people getting married? Blasphemy!” “Breastfeeding until 4? Crazy!” and then one day we won’t remember what it was like before this time. :) I thought about the little boy, too, but I doubt he has any inclination this is a “big thing” and unless a High School bully decides to copy the picture and paste it all over his school, I doubt it will ever be a source of embarrassment. And, if it is, hopefully he will have the confidence to get past it.

    @Wendy Dr. Sears implied the mom did not know this would be the cover, but of course still posed for it. I can see both sides of the story. Had the photo not been “in your face” it would not have gotten as much attention. Attention sells magazines, but also gets people talking about an important topic. Perhaps if it was less in your face, people who would have thought it strange would not think so, now, but as I said above, this seems like it would sway the breastfeeding moms more than the naysayers. But, without knowing the article even existed, if the photo was less in your face, you’d reach fewer people, in general. I looked at it as the mom being confident in her breastfeeding and not afraid to show it. The photo, to me, was more of a statement than a tender moment with her child. I highly doubt that’s how she breastfeeds on a daily basis. :D

  9. I am a child psychotherapist. One problem with the discussions about the Time cover is that Attachment Theory is not being distinguished from Attachment Parenting. Attachment Theory was developed by John Bowlby in the 50’s and researched by Mary Ainsworth. Bowlby was interested in distinguishing healthy from unhealthy forms of attachment between parent and child. Whether he would think the Sears’ Attachment Parenting was healthy or unhealthy is an open question.
    In any event, there is a distinction between keeping children close because they are happy that way and desire it and keeping them close because we feel pain at their maturation and increased desires for independence and choice. Bowlby evaluated parent-child attachment on a case by case basis, and so should we. One size does not fit all.
    Of course one reason children have trouble sleeping is that they have bad dreams. One of the least productive responses, but one that parents are often told to make is to tell children that dreams are not “real” and to show them there is nothing under the bed or in the closet. But telling children that their bad dreams aren’t “really” scarey just keeps children running into their parents’ bedroom night after night. Helping children to realize that “dreams are stories we tell ourselves for a reason” and helping them understand that the reason lies with “unfinished business” from the day before will empower children to make sense of their own dreams and put themselves back to bed without having to awaken their parents. I have written a children’s picture book for ages 3 and up, Mommy, Daddy, I Had a Bad Dream! (www.mommydaddyihadabaddream.com) to help children and parents respond constructively to children’s bad dreams. Joey, a bouncy kangaroo has a series of bad dreams which his parents lovingly help him to understand until, by the last one, he is able to understand why he had it and to go back to bed feeling comforted and in charge.

  10. @Dr. Pieper Thank you for your comment and information about how to properly respond to nightmares in our children! I can’t agree more that one size does not and can not fit all and each child may need different parenting, even different children in the same family.