Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Mommy Wars: Make Babies, Not War

So, I may be a little late to the party for the latest in what the media has aptly dubbed the "Mommy Wars" (but what's new, I'm late to everything).  The recent Time magazine issue that took focus on attachment parenting was enough of a spark to ignite a new wave of controversy.  The cover was graced by a beautiful mother, bosom exposed, nursing her three year old son.  The issue ran with the headline Are You Mom Enough? on the cover.  That's all it took for the Mommy bloggers, the working Mothers, and the media to take sides, hurl insults, and point fingers.  Really ladies?  Not very ladylike behavior.

I saw a blogger on E! News (which lets you know this story is truly newsworthy) taking aim that the Mom was too pretty.  Oh yeah, and that she wore skinny jeans and "looked like a model."  Well, duh?  When was the last time you picked up any magazine with an ugly cover model?  And should we hate her because she's beautiful?  I was annoyed by the simple cattiness of the whole segment.  It made all women look vapid, jealous and simply put, competitive.

I may not agree with the whole idea of attachment parenting.  Its was not the right choice for me.  I nursed both of my children past one year and I loved every minute of it.  I was not ashamed to nurse in public. And though I certainly did not go out of my way to expose myself, I'm sure there were a couple of people here and there who got an eyeful as they passed by.  Oh well.  I understand that the photo was provocative.  It made people stop and stare.  That's what sells magazines.  I do not think it sexualized breastfeeding simply because the mother happened to be pretty.  This cover would likely have gotten lost in a sea of scantily clad women on the covers of every other magazine that week.  That is of course if it had not had that headline.

My issue is not with the picture, not with the mother or child, not with attachment parenting or extended nursing, and I certainly don't take issue with the attractiveness of the cover model (looking pretty and poised in a picture was a good thing last I checked).  My issue is with the pettiness and judgement from other women that resulted, more from the headline, Are You Mom Enough?, than anything else.  My issue is that women everywhere did exactly what Time had hope we would do: fight.

That being said, Time is in the business of selling magazines.  A shocking cover story?  Um, not the first time.  Maybe its because I grew up with three brothers (and no sisters), but I do not get the whole female jealousy/competition/nastiness thing.  If you ask me the feminist movement has taken a bit of a nosedive in last few decades, unless of course the goal was for women to have the right to judge each other, then we are right on track.  Here's the newsflash that I think we all need: We are all in this together.  We are teammates not enemies.

I think that someone needs to let women know that you can't have it all...but you can have a lot.  You cannot be all things to all people all the time.  Stay-at-home or go to work, nurse or bottle feed, co-sleep or, well lets face it, we all co-sleep, some of actually choose to, the rest of us are just too tired not to!  Sacrifices have to be made, decisions may get altered, and you may change course a time or twenty.  You are human, that is being a mother.  You will be great at some things, others you will struggle with.  That's it.  We will never, ever, ever, no matter how hard we try, be perfect.  I don't know who started this myth that has only been perpetuated by social media tools like Facebook, Pintrest, and Blogger.

Can we all just stop judging each other?  So what if your old friend from high-school posts home baked cookie recipes and kid-friendly craft ideas on Pintrest and the class mom writes public love letters to her "hubby" on Facebook.  Stop thinking that you're not the perfect little family because everyone else's kids look so clean and happy in their Instagram photos.  No one is perfect.  You are mom enough. Now stop judging yourself and every other mom too.  The truth is that you have to do what works for you.  Be the kind of mom that only your family needs and don't try to be anyone else.  If you push yourself and fake it, trying your absolute best to keep up with the Mommies you will resent yourself and your kids and they will resent you when neither of you measure up.

Do you think men really care about any of this?  If the phrase "are you man enough?" incites a surge of testosterone driving men to compete harder, the slogan "are you mom enough?" has caused a surge of estrogen causing women to compete harder -- with each other.  We are not in a pseudo-Mommy Olympics with ever other mother.  Stop acting like it.

Start by being nicer to other women.  Judge them less, compliment them more.  Don't pretend you have it all, just embrace what you do have.  I bet its a lot.  Stop caring so much about what everyone else is doing, you're probably doing just fine.  And be comforted by the knowledge that in the end its a lot of luck.  You do what you think is right, and hope that your kids don't end up on a therapists couch talking about how badly you screwed them up, but know that they probably will.

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