Thursday, May 24, 2012

I Am "Mom Enough" and So Are You

The recent article by Time Magazine did precisely what it intended to do--get a reaction.  I must say, I am surprised at the amount of discussion and attention the cover photo has received and even more surprised by the individuals making these comments.
I fully expected the twist from the media mongol when it comes to "Attachment Parenting."  If something is not portrayed as controversial or scandalous, no one takes note and as a result, magazine purchases and subscriptions plummet. In fact, I have to congratulate Time on their illustration choice.  If anyone were to ask me how to display a mom feeding a toddler in a way that would provoke shock and controversy, I don't know if I could have come up with an idea as effective as Time.  The tall child, clothed in camouflage and combat boots (adding to the effect of aging the toddler), on a stool with a super model mom who has the demeanor that she could take on the world...  The illustration was about as extreme as it could be at portraying Attachment Parenting.  

Time had no objections to the stir it created.  The cover, labeled by many as "provocative," drew in large crowds.  The subscription sales doubled, Twitter trending boasted over 50,000 mentions and the Time Facebook Page received 43,000 likes.  I have several concerns about the article and subsequent backlash that the model/mother and Attachment Parenting received.  First, the view of this parenting choice was skewed.  It depicted parenting as “extreme.” For individuals who have not had an opportunity to be exposed to or practice the principles of attachment, they may have been led to believe this dyad is posing as the Poster Child for the organization.

I practiced Attachment Parenting with all of my children.  The principles of AP basically include 1) Be Prepared for Birth and Parenting 2) Feed with Love and Respect 3) Respond with Sensitivity 4) Use Nurturing Touch 5) Ensure Physically and Emotionally Safe Sleep 6) Provide Loving Care 7) Use Positive Discipline 8) Strive for Balance.

I cannot imagine anyone being offended by this list of parenting techniques. The skills are also very subjective…what is meant by “Respond with Sensitivity?” The answer may be different for different moms. Of course, the last step “Strive for Balance” can help to adjust all other aspects of these suggestions.  I absolutely loved Dr. Bill Sears’ (who coined the phrase “Attachment Parenting”) response on the Today Show.  He assured the reporter and audience that, “The list of principles were tools not rules.”

If experts in our field could have looked past the photograph and into the teaching opportunity, we could have educated the world and created better parenting resources for new moms, but the photograph debate waged on.  We attacked the mom, reporter, article, and each other. It was like  the media in general from Time to talk shows, (along with some frenzied individuals) picked up stones and began to throw them at the Attachment Parenting and breastfeeding crowd, and in return we gathered those rocks, glanced at the mob, but chose to throw the rocks at each other!

Lactation Consultants and Attachment Parenting advocates had a problem with the rendition of breastfeeding that was portrayed.  I have been asked by so many to share my opinion and it leaves some perplexed.  I don’t mind that the child was older, that he was on a chair, that the mom was not in a nurturing position, that the cover read “are you mom enough.”  I guess I don’t get offended very easily.  I have seen moms feed in this position, or very similar ones—it does happen.  I have also seen moms lying on a couch as her toddler stands and nurses.  I don’t have a list of “appropriate and acceptable” positions that I will endorse.  If it works for you and your child, congratulations, enjoy the bonding experience.  I also had no problem with the article title (besides the obvious goal to pit moms against each other).  My inclination was to answer the magazine matter-of-factually, “Yes, I am mom enough” and so is every single mom I have met.  Moms may parent differently, feed differently, have different priorities or even show love in unique ways, but she is definitely “mom enough.” What do children need?  Acceptance, love, compassion, safety, nurturing—all qualities that moms can and affectionately do give. Do we have to be super moms in order to be successful? Can I offer a resounding “no!” From the teenager with twins, to the corporate CEO, to the stay-at-home mom, I have never found a woman who does not strive to give her child what he needs. I embrace this ambition that moms have of  learning and growing and I support the moms that I have the honor to serve. 

So my conclusion on the matter:  An article and cover like the one that surfaced may not occur for a very long time and we should all take advantage of the conversations that are presented as a result.  This opportunity is still upon us.  We can use this time to educate, encourage, and explain so many aspects of infant feeding and parenting.  Let’s get beyond the photo and into the dialogue because it is still true, “You can’t tell a book by its cover.”

I also understand people may feel provoked to argue and revisit their platform about all the damage that was done via this cover, but I think our energy can be used more effectively.