Friday, May 11, 2012

Who is really fighting in the Mommy Wars?

As predicted, the nation is abuzz this morning because of an article Time Magazine selected as it's cover story this week.  Even more so because of the emotionally charged image it chose for the cover.
Image courtesy of Time
There's one reason, and one reason alone that they chose this picture to put on the cover.  To stir controversy, to force a reaction, to sell magazines.  That's what they are here for, after all.  They want to make money, not friends.

I'm somewhat amused by those who have fallen for the simplistic notion that the issue of breastfeeding is what this series of articles is actually about.  The hyped cover just feeds into that idea.

It's not, though the issue of extended nursing is one that I have firm beliefs on myself.  One of my children was still happily nursing at about the same age as the little boy on the cover, and her mother was perfectly fine with it too.  How I chose to feed my children is really no one else's business.  It worked for me and my family, and I honestly don't care what anyone thinks.

The reason Time chose this picture was to reignite the never-ending breastfeeding debate.  For as long as commercially prepared formulas have been available, there has been this fight.  Women who choose to nurse, women who choose to bottle feed, women who don't actually have that choice to make for themselves but are dictated to by their medical conditions or those of their children...all women want to believe that they are doing the right thing for their child.  And yet, society tells them that regardless of which path they choose, assuming it is even a choice, they might be wrong.

They are wrong.

Feed your baby formula, and you're setting them up for obesity and exposing them to potential life threatening recalls.  Feed your baby breast milk and you're teaching them to be codependent and weak.  I could go on for days about the things people say about this issue, but I won't.  This article isn't really about extended nursing any more than it's about any single other aspect of motherhood.

It's more about the notion that every single choice a mother makes about raising her children, about how she lives her life, and about who she presents herself to the world as is rightfully subject to criticism.

It's not, or at least it shouldn't be.

Our society these days is one that demands a certain version of perfection from women, then belittles them in every way for falling short.  Our society demands that women, all women, get pregnant only after getting married.  That they eat only organic everything for the duration of their pregnancies.  That they have beautiful effortless labors.  That nursing comes easily and naturally, but ceases firmly at the one year cut-off, if not before. That they immediately adjust to life with a newborn.  That they instantly find the ability to balance their child and everything else in their lives.  That they can simultaneously always be present for their children 24/7, but have a fulfilling career life as well.  That they can keep a clean house and cook balanced meals every day.  That they can throw elaborate perfect birthday parties for their perfect children without ever upsetting anyone.   That never ever gets frustrated with their children.

Can't do all that?

Why not?

We're supposed to, after all.

No one can.  And even if they could, why is that version of motherhood the only one that we hold up as the ideal?

Why does society expect this of us, why do we expect it of ourselves?  Why are these expectations here, but little in place to actually facilitate them?

It's a bit like any unfunded mandate issued by the government.  We are supposed to do all of these things, we are supposed to excel at all aspects all the time, but no one is going to help us do it.  You're on your own, Mommy.  Good luck with that.

Why isn't the cover asking if men are DAD ENOUGH?

I'm not surprised that this magazine chose to stir the pot more, given the generally anti-women rhetoric in the political world these days.  Men have been ganging up on us for months now, and apparently the powers that be feel that women need to start turning on each other even more than they already do, judging one another.

Why aren't we encouraging each other instead?  Why aren't we promoting tolerance and diversity, why aren't we seeing that there is more than one way to properly raise a child?  Why are women still paid less than men for the same jobs?  Why aren't we working harder to help women find that work/family balance?  Why aren't we demanding flexible workplaces and longer maternity leaves?

It's easier to believe that you are doing it right if you find fault in what others do.

We need to stop pointing fingers and judging.

We need to teach our children by example.

We need to lift each other up instead of knocking each other down.

We need to care more about doing our best and less about what others think about what we are doing.

Mothers are going to make mistakes.  All the time.  I've made my fair share.  No one is perfect.  No book or parenting guide or magazine should ever presume to tell you what works for your family, and we need to stop believing that they should be able to.

We need to allow ourselves to understand that we will make mistakes.  That our choices won't always be the right ones in our eyes, and that it really shouldn't matter what anyone else sees.

We need to reclaim our power as women and mothers, and stop giving into the manufactured debates that turn us on each other.

It breaks my heart as a doula especially to see the way things are these days.  I've been witness over and over to the strength and beauty of a new mother.  Of the power of motherhood.  Of the joy and love in the eyes of a new mother.  If only every mother could stay that way, could believe in herself that way, could have the support of society that way.

Let's keep her that way, strong and beautiful.

Let us all keep her that way.


  1. Beautiful. I nursed my older two until, even with the help of galactagogues (is that the plural?), my milk supply ran out. Then we switched them to formula. This time around, my milk supply is so plentiful that I'm considering investing in a deep freeze for the extra (plus, who wouldn't want a deep freeze? I could cook extra!). I can't identify anything that made things different this time around, but I'm grateful. That being said, I don't get why there is such a huge uproar about breast v. bottle. If my milk supply stays golden (fingers crossed), I plan to nurse until he self-weans. But I have no criticism for people who choose different paths for their little ones, especially since I've been forced to do the same. Happy mamas (and daddies) equal happy babies, and that's what matters most.

  2. Excellent. Too often the MS profits from dividing women and exploiting their insecurities. Great to see a pushback!

  3. AMEN. I hate Time for this. Even my dense husband knew it was a ploy to sell magazines. Well sometimes these publicity stunts backfire, and make people HATE YOU TIME MAGAZINE!

  4. This cover really was obnoxious. Not because of the photo but because of the reasons you said -- they only did it to cause controversy and make money.


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