Being mom enough

The recent flap about the Time magazine cover, which knowingly or unknowlingly pits breastfeeding working mothers against bottle-feeding working mothers and stay-at-home mothers of both ilks, is appropriately commented on by Lisa Belkin in the Huffingrton Post:

I am not Mom Enough

In the half-decade since the rise of feminism we have seen the movement become divided into those who wear the banner proudly and live it each day, those who fear the word but walk the walk, those who talk a good game but don’t live it, and those who don’t give a damn — and probably many other subgroups among them. Ms. Belkin is wise to say, like Hillary Clinton, that parenting takes a village. This becomes even more apparent when one is a single parent and has to rely on others to help out when one has after-work meetings or weekend placement tests to proctor.

I have had to learn that self-reliance and love for my child is not enough: I need my community. I needed to learn to ask for help, something I had rarely done prior to my separation from my daughter’s father. And I learned not to judge others for the choices they make: everyone’s needs and priorities are different, and difference and choice are hallmarks of a free society.

I also learned from a wise friend who preceded me into parenting that whoever is doing it is doing it right, with a few exceptions (neglect, cruetly, etc.). There is not one right way to parent: there are as many ways as there are parents, and children adapt and grow to be adults within nearly all models. To call attachment parenting “odd” is Euro-centric: some cultures hold their infants for the entire first year of their lives, others breastfeed for extended times, and some sleep with their whole families in one bed.

Time magazine’s choice to put a gorgeous, blond, ultra-fit mother on the cover (breastfeeding pre-schooler aside) feeds into the unrealistic notion of SuperWoman, which is my big complaint about the cover. I don’t have a problem with those who choose attachment parenting, just as I have no problem with those who bottle feed. I did a hybrid of both styles of parenting: my mothering choices don’t fit into a box, cannot be labeled, and are responsible for a happy, healthy, creative, and wise 10 year old (if I do say so myself). But I do not hold myself up to the standard that women should be lithe, beautiful and self-sacrificing, and critical of those who are not. As Ms. Belkin says, I will not rise to the bait.

I ask the media to stop the divisive headlines about parenting: raising children is not a contest. It is not politics. It is not a war to win or lose. We do not need to be fighting with each other across the aisles. We should not be criticizing others’ choices unless they are damaging to the children in question. Let’s talk about the real issues: family-friendly policies, progressive educational policies that truly leave no child behind (testing be damned!), childcare and aftercare for school-age children so that parents can work and afford to support their families, universal healthcare and access to contraception for low-income women, the right to choose. Let’s represent the full spectrum of mothers, of all shapes and colors, not just the ones that the media find attractive enough to sell magazines.

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