If you haven’t seen the latest cover of Time Magazine, you must be living under a rock. The title says it all: “Are You Mom Enough?” And just like that, the ‘Mommy Wars’ are in full effect on every social network. The picture, of course, has proven to be very polarizing, which, by the photographers own admission, was the intent. The reactions have run the gamut from applause to complete indignation and disgust. I’ve even read people equating it to child pornography and saying it borders on sexual abuse.
Well played, Time Magazine. Well played. Inflaming the mommy wars is going to sell a shit ton of magazines.
First of all, since I have read some people assuming otherwise, this IS a mother and her own son. Second, the child is 3 years old, not an adult. Get a grip, people! This is not earth shattering. This is not pornographic. Don’t take the bait, mothers. Don’t turn on each other.
I breastfed all four of my children. Number One was breastfed for a whopping six weeks before I switched to formula, thanks to an uneducated doctor that convinced me that I was not producing enough milk, since she wanted to nurse more frequently than every two-three hours. That dumbass. Number Two was breastfed for just under a year . Number Three breastfed for almost two years, when he self weaned and I plan on nursing Number Four for at least as long, longer if he wants. As mothers, we’re damned if we do and damned if we don’t. You didn’t breastfeed at all, you didn’t breastfeed for long enough or you breastfed for too long. You can’t win! Sadly enough, the harshest critics of mothers, aside from the mother herself, is other mothers.
This cover pisses me off. I am not annoyed for the same reason as a large percentage of the general public, who find this offensive simply because it shows a breastfeeding toddler. I could picture so many of the responders to this picture, clutching their hearts, aghast and fanning themselves before fainting. What I find off putting about this picture is that it is cold. It doesn’t give a hint of the bond between a mother and her child. The photographer has admitted that the shot was set up this way in order to make it seem awkward. He said he wanted it to appear uncommon. There was an alternative shot of the mother sitting on a stool and cradling her son, who appears to be asleep as he nurses. The magazine also shows pictures of several other women nursing their toddlers and even tandem nursing a toddler and baby. Obviously,’Time’ is in the business of selling magazines and making money and nothing does that better than kicking up a little shit storm. Inciting the mommy wars will do just that.
I want to address some of the statements that have been made in response to this cover story.
1) Breast feeding has no benefit after the first (insert arbitrary age, usually 6 months or 1 year): Bullshit. The benefits of breastfeeding don’t suddenly become null and void when the child reaches a certain age. Breast milk is constantly changing to meet the specific needs of your child. If your child is premature, your milk is tailored to suit the needs of your preemie. When your child is 6 months old, two years old or just sick, your milk is customized to meet his/her specific needs. If breastfeeding beyond teething is not your cup of tea, you’ll get no judgement from me.
2) Once they can ask for it, it’s time to quit: Why? My 5-month old “asks” to nurse. He cries or he tugs at my shirt. Sometimes, he pushes himself into nursing position and opens his mouth. When Number Three was nursing, he would walk up to me and climb on my lap, pull on my shirt and ask for “beebee”. Newsflash: being able to communicate and/or walk does not negate the benefits of breast feeding.
3) I wouldn’t want my children seeing this picture!: ZOHMAHGAWD! It’s a boob profile!! You absolutely MUST protect your children from seeing a child nursing. It could damage them for life to see this picture. Funny how no one bats an eyelash over the fact that children are exposed to sexualized images of the breast on a daily basis. Just while standing in the check out line of the grocery store, your child is exposed to images like:
These women are showing as much, if not more, breast than the woman on Time, plus a whole lot more skin but this doesn’t ring anyone’s bells. If you were to attach a child to any of the breasts on the above pics, though, outrage would ensue.
4) They must get something sexual out of it: If you see a nursing child and it reminds you of pornography, you need to seek professional help. Immediately.
5) It’s not natural. Even animals wean their young after a month or two: Actually, animals nurse their young a lot longer than most people think. People often think of kittens and puppies that are often weaned between 6-8 weeks of age. What they don’t seem to realize is that they are forcibly weaned because they are removed from their mother. If permitted, they would continue to nurse for quite a while longer. This article gives an anthropologist’s explanation of the natural age of weaning.
Like I said, if you choose not to breastfeed past one day or 6 months, that is your prerogative. I won’t think you love your child any less. Don’t judge me for extended breastfeeding or insinuate that my choice to do so is rooted in incest. All of you working moms that pump, my hat is off to you! I don’t know how you do it, honestly. If you cloth diaper, I applaud you! I tried it and lasted a whole two weeks because laundry is my nemesis and I couldn’t reconcile that relationship with laundry to make cloth diapering work out.
The bottom line is, why can’t we be supportive of other mothers instead of looking for reasons to tear each other down. If you choose formula, I won’t think less of you. I won’t judge you because of your baby wearing stance. I won’t think you love your child any less based on whether or not you co-sleep. I won’t ever say another mother isn’t “MOM ENOUGH” because she made a different parenting choice. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying I will never judge another mother. Being a parent obviously doesn’t give one Carte Blanche to do whatever they wish to their child. Abusing or neglecting your child is not a valid choice that anyone should respect, obviously. If you make the choice to knowingly and willfully harm a child, physically or psychologically, I will judge the fuck out of you.