When Breast Isn’t Best
By now you have seen the—gasp—cover of Time magazine and read all the blog posts and watched all the talk shows. And so have I. But, I confess, it has taken me awhile to figure out what I really wanted to write (in 500 words or less) about all of this attachment/extreme parenting crap. As I sit here, I realize that I have experienced a wide range of emotions on the subject over the past couple of weeks—musings that are best dissected into three concise Acts.
I receive five texts from you, my adoring readers (who are mostly family and friends), asking if I have seen the Time magazine cover with the blond bombshell fearlessly breastfeeding her way-too-old-for-most people’s-taste preschooler. I haven’t. Work is insanely busy and, for some reason, my magazine gets delayed in the mail.
When it finally arrives, I stare at the cover for a long time. Too long.
I am pretty much instantly pissed off by the “come and get me” visage of mommy Jamie Lynne Grumet as she stands all pouty and sexy-like, hand on hip, as if she has just grabbed her powerless lover by the hair and forced his mouth to her pulsating breast. And the camouflage pants on the 3-year-old in combination with the not-so-subtle headline, “Are You Mom Enough?” I guess we’re supposed to take away that her little boy is most definitely “man enough” to suckle even whilst he can spell his own name.
Here’s a small piece of advice for 26-year-old, stay-at-home-mom Ms. Grumet who lives in an L.A. mansion: you are not going to desexualize breastfeeding by posing on the cover of Time like that.
Oh, and by the way, that photo is going to follow your son into junior high and high school and beyond. A++ on the attachment parenting thing—he will never escape you now.
The medium. I have had a long love affair with Time magazine. I remember the copies fanned out on my grandmother’s coffee table as a kid. It later became the subject of my final project in a college course on magazine journalism—a love affair that was consummated when the managing editor actually took my call and hosted me in her oh-so-awesome Manhattan editorial office for a morning of day-in-the-life.
I wanted to be her so badly.
And yet, as I stared at the cover of this manipulatively controversial issue, I could only think, “Shame on you, Time magazine.”
I know you are desperate to find a profitable revenue model in these digital times as your print base fades and your iPad app flounders. I know you are barely relevant as a news weekly in a world where an earthquake is reported on Facebook approximately two seconds after it hits and your week-old reporting is tired as soon as it graces the newsstand.
But, shame on you nonetheless.
You devoted a whopping 36 words out of a lengthy Dr. Sears–fest feature story to the woman on the cover baring it all and exposing her child to the masses—just to sell magazines. You created hype, and blogosphere chatter, and you did it expertly.
And, for a week, you were on the radar of the American public once more. In the meantime, you insulted a major demographic—the well-educated, child-rearing, disposable income-spending female who breastfeeds in the privacy of her own home. For this cover, you suck.
I am over my usual 500-word-count limit and I still have a lot more stuff to say. But I’m tired now that it is Act III. I would feel best if I deconstructed—paragraph by paragraph—the words that form this article. How it demeans women—and most importantly, fathers. How moderation, instinct, and respect for the individual personalities of our children are way more important in parenting than some guidebook. How Spock and Sears are clueless “experts” who will never know what it is to feel a baby kick within their own bodies—the ultimate form of so-called attachment parenting. How slings and co-sleepers are mostly big business.
Instead, I will simply throw my two cents into the already saturated fray.
I think we do a major disservice to our children when we can’t let go of them. I think we are not good role models when we sacrifice our own identities to care for them. I think kids would be better, more empowered adults if they knew how to cope with failure and negotiate the world on behalf of themselves.
I know that someday I will die. When I do, I hope my children will miss me—but not to the point that they can’t go on living a full life without me. I hope they feel deeply loved and nurtured, but not because I breastfed them—for 6 months or 12 months or 3 years—but because I kept loving them affectionately for their entire lives.
With no breast attached.