Oh there is going to be a LOT on the blogosphere about this one!
The latest edition of the American TIME magazine features on the cover a model-esque young women, posed in jeans and a vest top, staring intently into the camera, with her pre-school child standing on a chair, leaning into her and breastfeeding. In small print we’re told the boy is three but he looks older and the cover carries the headline – ARE YOU MOM ENOUGH?
I’ve already seen a few American blogs commenting on this, one was concerned that the photo was deliberately staged to make extended breastfeeding look freakish, with particular criticism aimed at the “attachment parenting” movement which (amongst others) advocates it. Another blog worried that the cover piled yet more pressure on the majority of mothers who don’t breastfeed for years and certainly don’t look like stick thin, perfectly groomed models, whatever they’re doing with their boobs. I guess it all depends what side you’re on, and what you feel a bit defensive about.
But here’s my point – why do we need to take sides? Why should we defend our position?
The vast majority of Mums know that breast is best for young babies. Of the Mums I know, all attempted to breast feed with varying degrees of success and longevity – are those Mums still breastfeeding their three year olds more “Mom”, more woman, than those who only managed a few weeks? Heck no, breastfeeding is really really bloomin hard and I know very few Mums who gave up without weeks of utter anguish and guilt.
But equally I don’t subscribe to the idea that extended breastfeeding is somehow freakish. It is absolutely the norm in a great many cultures, the reliable availability of clean water and safe food (and contraception) in wealthy countries means that there are fewer practical reasons to breast feed long past weaning, but to suggest it’s somehow unnatural is ludicrous.
Ultimately in this issue, like so many others in parenting, every family has to do what is best for them as a whole and for each individual child. When we start to divide ourselves into competing tribes be they attachment parents, tiger Moms, Gina Ford followers etc etc and then claim that our way is the only safe and loving way to raise children, we just make the job harder for all Mums, and it’s bloomin well hard enough already. Let’s all PLEASE do what is right for our own kids and try to accept that our way, might just, possibly, not be the universal correct answer for everyone else too.
Do you love your kids? Do you do the best you possibly can for them? Yes? Well then you are Mom enough, just as you are.