We're All Mom Enough
A week ago, my friend and business partner Dionna of Code Name: Mama called me up excitedly and said TIME Magazine was looking for attachment parenting families who wanted to participate in a photo shoot in New York City. I ended up being passed over as a candidate, but she was chosen as one of the models for tandem breastfeeding a baby and an older nursling (the glowing #3 in the slideshow). To the right is a candid her husband snapped during the shoot.
Dionna had misgivings about the direction TIME would take -- appropriate misgivings, as it turned out. As a model and interview subject, you have very little control over what slant the editorial content takes.
Dionna had hoped to have attachment parenting, and extended breastfeeding in particular ("extended" meaning breastfeeding beyond infancy), normalized and presented in a positive light. She also hoped to bring attention to her own passion of bringing together parents interested in attachment parenting, no matter where they fall on the spectrum.
The TIME article, starting with the cover with its condescending "Are You Mom Enough?" and its provocative choice of an awkward extended breastfeeding pose, sought to fuel "The Mommy Wars." I'm so sick of those stupid wars that I even loathe the phrase. I'm tired that the media want to fan the flames, and keep tossing sticks on the fire. They're trying to get us to hate each other and feel divided.
That's the exact opposite mission Dionna and I have. In fact, we founded a site called Natural Parents Network for the express purpose of bringing parents together rather than driving them apart.
We, as advocates of the attachment parenting community, welcome all parents who are interested in parenting in a responsive, connected way. Parents, let it be known, and not just mothers. TIME would have you think that all this attachment parenting was being done by and for moms. I assure you, my partner is just as involved in attachment parenting as I am, despite his lack of lactation. He's napping with the baby as I write this.
We welcome parents who breastfeed and who formula feed, who exclusively pump, who do a mix, who stop breastfeeding at six weeks and who stop at six years. We have no age requirements in mind when it comes to "enough" breastfeeding. There are health recommendations (WHO recommends at least two years, and the AAP at least one, if possible), but there are no "good mom" minimums.
We welcome parents who are not white. I know, to see the TIME modeling assortment, you'd think all attachment parents are thin, white women. Shockingly, this is not the case. I was being sarcastic with that "shockingly." Here's one that I'm using in all earnestness: Shockingly, TIME Magazine couldn't (or didn't bother trying to) find one non-white, non-thin, non-hetero attachment parenting family. Who knows if this is due to ingrained bigotry or because they intentionally wanted to push us even further apart into various parenting "camps."
Here's the thing: If you think extended breastfeeding, or tandem nursing, is weird, you're not alone. Most of us did at one point or another, too. Most of us started out merely wanting to breastfeed until our baby wanted to stop, or until we as the nursing parents needed or wanted to, or until it wasn't working for our family. We wanted weaning to be a gentle and gradual process. You don't start out breastfeeding a four-year-old -- you start out with a newborn, who just keeps growing. By the time a four-year-old is breastfeeding, the frequency is way down, and you both know it's phasing out. Trust me, it's not "all about the mother" -- it's about the relationship. And there's no way you can force a child to breastfeed, so it's definitely the kid's choice. I'm actually moving my four-year-old gradually toward weaning, but I want the end of our nursing relationship to be as peaceful as the past four years have been.
My general take on The Mommy Wars, the beautiful AP families who modeled for the magazine, the unfortunate slant of the TIME article, and the horrific comments some people have made on various sites is this: We're all parenting the best we know how. We're doing what works for us and our families. We don't need to set up barriers that don't exist between parents who are all doing what we can to raise healthy, happy children.
If you don't understand something, like extended breastfeeding, do a little research on why people might practice it, and what the benefits are. If it's still not for you, fine -- let it go.
I won't say you're not mom enough for not practicing extended breastfeeding if you'll agree that I'm not any less a mom for choosing it. Forget the braggadocio or condemnation inherent in the sensationalistic phrase "extreme parenting." Barring any truly neglectful situations, we're all parents enough for our children.
www.HoboMama.com | A natural parenting blog