Who needs live theatre when we can be entertained for days on end by the backlash from last week’s cover of Time magazine of a mother breastfeeding her three-year-old son?
‘The whole thing is a ploy to sell magazines,’ was one comment on a post that went around Facebook that had reached 3369 shares by the time I saw it. There were comments that provoked: ‘Taking kids to day care every day to satisfy ‘career needs’, unless it’s the only way to sincerely feed your family, is abusive… Get a grip. Poor kiddos.’ Then there were the peacemakers: ‘I think this is hysterical and I don’t think ‘Mom Enough’ pits moms against moms, it pulls us all in together. Being a mom is crazy hard and moms can wear that badge with pride. It’s the best, most exhausting, most exhilarating, most frustrating, most rewarding job ever.’
Was the Time cover story a clever ploy to sell magazines? Most definitely, and good on the editor, I say, that’s their job – to sell magazines. Did it work? Judging by the hype that ensued all over the world, it sure did. I’m absolutely certain that the editor enjoyed several big, fat pats on the back this week. However, in regards to the front cover of Time, what had me deep in thought wasn’t the breastfeeding issue, it was the headline: ‘Are you Mom enough?’. What exactly does this mean? According to the Oxford Dictionary a mother is ‘a woman in relation to a child or children to whom she has given birth’. If only society’s definition of a mother was that simple. All you have to do is read the different reactions to the cover of Time to realise that people the world over have all sorts of perceptions about what a mother is and what makes a good one.
Deep down we all know the truth – there is no universal ‘wrong’ or ‘right’ way to be a good mother. Surely the best we can do for our little ones is to make choices about the way we parent that each of us, individually, is most comfortable with. Of course I’m not referring to parenting methods that will have child welfare workers knocking on your door, I’m talking about a mother’s personal choices in life, such as working in a paid job or working as a stay-at-home mum, whether or not our children go to day care, whether we smack or don’t smack, whether or not we co-sleep, hug our children when they fall over, etc etc etc…
To pose such a confronting question – ‘Are you Mom enough?’ – creates a sense that there is a standard to aspire to and uphold. This was my only problem with the Time cover story. Being a mum can be hard enough without having to worry about being judged by people’s perceptions of a good mother. And that’s what a headline like this does – it opens Pandora’s Box, pulls down the sides and turns it into a boxing ring. The press responded to the story by saying that all it did was give women another opportunity to tear into each other. I really didn’t want to believe this. I had really hoped that they were wrong, that women would show a united front and prove that we had moved beyond petty judgement calls and instead support each other, no matter how different our choices. In response to the backlash, Facebook page MumSpace boldly asked its followers: ‘Do you think women hate each other?’. My heart sunk as I read through the sea of responses. The majority felt that women didn’t support each others choices and many shared their different tales of feeling inadequate as a mother because of this.
My response to an entertaining week of toing and froing of mothers’ passionate opinions is to shed some light on Time‘s question by adding to it: Are you Mom enough to support those who’ve made different choices to your own?
Image: Taiga’s Vintage Stuff