Wednesday, May 16, 2012

I Am Over You

I feel grateful that Time magazine waited until last week to print the cover featuring Jamie Lynne Grumet breastfeeding her four year old son, with title of the enclosed article, “Are You Mom Enough?” looming along side. I’m not interested in becoming a subscriber and wasn’t able to read the article, but it caused such a Schei├če Sturm online that there were plenty of free written words to be found on the matter. This free commentary and the cover itself are what I'm concerned with in this post. To summarize what I've gathered from the interwebs, the article itself is purportedly a fairly level-headed discussion of Dr. Sears and his Attachment Parenting model in the U.S. today, though some have commented that the cover photo implies how this parenting model has bred extremist super moms, extending themselves well beyond what Sears himself recommends for a loving bond between mother and child. 

Months ago, you might have found me going to bat for Attachment Parenting as elements of what Dr. Sears suggests have worked for my family, but on this Mother’s Day, nearly nine months into my career as a mom, my initial reaction to this cover was saddened apathy: I am over you, Attachment Parenting. More specifically, I am over any model of parenting that prescribes a ‘model.’ I just want to parent in my own way. I don’t want to feel guilty about not doing it ‘right’ by another’s standards. I want to trust in love and the deep caring that my husband and I have for our baby. I want to trust my common sense and my thirty-nine years of experience as a human on the planet. I want to even put faith in my flaws, that they’ll teach me along the way as I learn from my mistakes. My renouncement may sound like sour grapes for not having all of my Attachment Parenting fantasies come true—Lennon hated being worn in a sling and we had to start supplementing my breast milk with formula after two months, to name a couple of broken dreams—but my sullenness stems mostly from the article’s title which asks me to measure my enough-ness against a specific mothering ideal, putting myself and many others on the defensive.

Even the writers whose pieces criticized the article, qualified their criticism with examples of their own parenting prowess or used their personal Attachment Parenting successes as support for their argument. Sabrina Parsons, a contributor to Forbes, wrote that she’s bothered by the article’s implication that you need to be a stay at home mother to practice Attachment Parenting—though Dr. Sears himself says the opposite—and explains how she, as a high-powered CEO, breastfed all three of her boys beyond eighteen months, co-slept, and often conducted business in the office with her babies in a sling, strapped to her body. Bonnie Fuller, in her column for, commented on the extremeness of mothers like Jamie Lynne Grumet—stating that while she herself was a breastfeeding mom of four who “happily” carried her breast pump to work, Ms. Grumet took things too far. As far as Attachment Parenting is concerned, I’ve done far less than Ms. Fuller, Ms. Parsons, or Ms. Grumet and I’ve probably done much more than some other mothers, but to me, the specifics they relate in their articles and those of my own experience are meaningless and I think can be damaging when presented as paradigms for comparison. You see, I think what Ms. Fuller, Ms. Parsons, and Ms. Grumet did for their children is wonderful, but I don’t think it’s any more wonderful than what I do for my child or what you do for your child. Why? Because this is what I believe to be true about mothers like you and I: What we do is so very enough because we’re doing the best we can.

For the past few weeks a family has been subletting the apartment across the hall. They have a son who looks to be around seven years old. I’ve only ever seen them in passing—the father helped me with Lennon’s stroller one day—but I can tell that their sweet boy is not well. This is made clear to me, however ignorant and misinformed my assessment may be, by how he moves—with much help from his mother—how he speaks, and how he interacts with others. I notice that they leave daily as a family and I’ve wondered if they go to see a doctor—a specialist that practices only in Berlin, maybe. Perhaps they’re subletting the apartment so their son can get specialized therapy that could truly help him. Tonight, as I was writing, I heard the family come in from their outing, their sweet baby boy screaming in agony as they walked through the hall. My heart shattered as I wept along with him.

Shame on you, Time.

Photo source found here.

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