“Are you mom enough?”
This was the cover headline on TIME magazine’s Mother’s Day edition. It was accompanied by a picture of a toddler standing on a chair, breastfeeding from his model-perfect mother.
Shameless ploy to sell magazines? Of course it was. But we buy it anyway.
Let’s face it; the “mommy wars” sell. From magazines to books to talk shows and television programs, we just can’t get enough of judging and often times, bashing other mothers’ choices on parenting.
The TIME article was subtitled, “Why attachment parenting drives some mothers to extremes.” But the article had nothing extremist in it. Instead, it described some mothers’ choices to breastfeed her child(ren) into toddlerhood or to make the decision to quit her job and stay home to take care of her children or to respond to a baby’s cries instead of letting him/her cry it out. Wow, how extreme.
In reality the article barely touched on individual mother’s choices so much as it described Dr. Bill Sears’ evolving philosophy on parenting and his lucrative business promoting that philosophy. That’s a win-win for Dr. Sears and a win-win for TIME magazine but a huge loss for women.
Describing attachment parenting as extreme or shaking our heads at women who choose high-powered careers in addition to motherhood is an effective way to pit woman against woman.
I’ve been on both sides of the working vs. at-home debate, and I can say that neither is optimal or superior to the other. Both come with different sets of challenges, and women would be wise to spend their time uniting around causes that make these challenges easier for women instead of arguing over whether they exist or which one is more difficult.
Do men argue over these issues? No. In fact no one blinks an eye if a man “chooses” to continue working after his child is born. And if a man chooses to be an at-home dad, most women will applaud him and some may even secretly wish her spouse would do the same thing.
When it comes to child-rearing, again, men spend little to no time arguing with their male counterparts about whether or not breastfeeding is best or whether or not responding to his six-month-old’s night-time cries means he’s spoiling his child.
Men tend to weigh the options, decide what they think is best, then do it… end of story. Women tend to weigh their options, decide what’s best, check it over with several other women and a host of publications on the issue, then do it, worry about it, and second-guess it. And perhaps that’s our problem – we second-guess ourselves and other mothers far too often.
Women tend to believe they bear the solely responsibility for their child(ren)’s outcome. We forget that much of a child’s personality is decided before he/she enters this world. We forget that life’s circumstances may hand us problems we weren’t prepared to deal with. We forget that we are human. We will make mistakes. We can only do the best we can with what we know at this moment in time.
Doctors and authors and other “experts” have made a mint off of our guilt and worries. And while it’s fine to consult an “expert” or ask advice from another, we need to be more supportive of the choices all women make. Whether it’s the choice to become a mother or the choice to stay at home or the choice to medicate a depressed child, we should rally around each other and the knowledge that mothers, more than doctors or authors, know their child best.
When we feed into the idea that others know better, we relegate our authority. We must refuse to buy-in to the blame game and judgment game and refuse to give up our choices. Instead, we must fight for them, unite behind them and advance the power that is motherhood.