The provocative cover of Time Magazine depicting a mother breastfeeding her three-year-old son is supposed to get your attention. My first reaction to seeing the photo was “Yes!” because I’m a big big fan of breastfeeding. Then the more I looked at the photo, the more I realized it wasn’t just about breastfeeding. The mom’s bold stance, with her hand on her hip, is threatening to the reader rather than nurturing toward her son. The expression on her face, as well as the direction of her gaze away from her child, indicates she could be doing absolutely anything else in that moment. Her son is awkwardly posed on a chair as opposed to being breastfed in a more typical, cozy environment. Rather than being just about breastfeeding, the photo appears to be a challenge. As a young, blonde, slim woman, this mother typifies the “model” of Western society; the cover photo then challenges motherhood and, in using such a model, challenges us to do it her way or else risk being The Mom Who Isn’t Enough.
This brings us to the title, “Are You Mom Enough?” It invokes images of a Mark Burnett-style reality show of moms competing against moms. The format could challenge mothers to breastfeed in extreme situations (e.g., in a 4×4 on a bumpy road), to wear their babies for hours on end (The Baby Bjorns versus The Slings), to endure sleep deprivation, to go without showers and to constantly wear saggy yoga pants, to survive on a diet of puréed green beans and some Cheerios all while holding down a full-time job and enjoying every minute of it. The tag line for the show could be ‘The mothers who out-mother each other’. The tag line for the Times cover indicates the related article is about attachment parenting and specifically the work of Dr. Bill Sears. It seems Dr. Sears’ theory and work on attachment parenting is ‘driving some mothers to extremes’ although probably not in a way that Mark Burnett would get excited about.
These are the tenets of attachment parenting (which you can read more about here and here):
1. Preparation for Pregnancy, Birth and Parenting
2. Feed with Love and Respect
3. Respond with Sensitivity
4. Use Nurturing Touch
5. Ensure Safe Sleep, Physically and Emotionally
6. Provide Consistent Loving Care
7. Practice Positive Discipline
8. Strive for Balance in Personal and Family Life
Nothing mentioned above is particularly alarming and the principles of attachment parenting would seem to conjure images of a safe, loving environment in which a child is responded to in a way that is beneficial to the child. Critics of the attachment parenting approach argue this method is particularly demanding for parents. But the absolute beauty of parenting is taking the bits and pieces of advice (even from your mother-in-law if you choose) and various approaches (including attachment parenting if you choose) that work for us as parents, that benefit our child/ren and fit our family. The cover of Time would suggest otherwise but as mothers we know that we are not required to commit to any one parenting approach; nor are we required to follow a parenting guru in order to meet the standard of Mom Enough. We do what works for us (as long as this doesn’t mean we’re leaving our child on a dirty mattress with a bottle of sugar water all day long.) Day in, day out, we are doing IT.
Undoubtedly as parents, we often feel pressure to do IT better (I’m still talking about parenting by the way). In the last month, after moving house, I turned into some kind of yelling ogre mom, the kind I swore I wasn’t going to be. I yelled at my kids for spilling things, running in the grocery store and even yelling at each other. Go figure. Essentially, I was getting mad at them for being kids. I walked into a room where my girls were and the older one automatically covered her ears. I scared them, I know I did. It was a major turning point in our parent-kid relationship and I hated it, I cried about it and I felt guilty about it. The bits and pieces of advice I found to help bring me closer to IT and some sort of calm were two things:
1) This often referred to blog entry by Glennon Melton of Momastery fame in which she talks about seizing Kairos time (but mostly I just liked reading about the weird things her kids do in stores and knowing my kids are not much different) while NOT seizing the day and,
2) This interview with Toni Morrison where she touches on parenting and the three simple things kids actually need. To paraphrase, kids need their mom to be competent (read: not perfect), to have a sense of humour and to be the adult. Yelling at my girls meant I was being less than what I would expect of a competent parent, no one was having any fun and it felt more like I was having the tantrum rather than them.
I am trying – I’m enjoying those kairos moments inside of chronos time, sharing more laughs with my girls and yelling a lot less.
Parenting, and specifically mothering, is hard. My own theory is that mothering isn’t meant to be easy. Even Dr. Sears never said it was. But when did it become a competition to out-mother each other?
Happy Mother’s Day. Truly.