As soon as I heard about it, I had to check it out. I’m a hands on kind of gal, so though I’d heard the picture was unsettling, I had to see it for myself. While I’ll admit the TIME cover of a three-year-old boy nursing was visually startling, it wasn’t the photo that I found offensive.
What set me off was the headline: “Are You Mom Enough?” As if moms need more fuel for maternal self-doubt, TIME serves up a beautiful woman and her equally beautiful child, obviously thriving on his mother’s milk, and asks us all if we measure up. But what’s truly most disgusting about the cover is that the article it illustrates isn’t even really about how old is too old to breastfeed.
No, the article is about an old idea—attachment parenting—that for some reason TIME decided was newsworthy. I know attachment parenting is an old idea because it was new when we were first raising our first child. That was nearly 17 years ago but the fundamentals of attachment parenting are the same today. In a nutshell, Dr. Sears advocated breastfeeding, co-sleeping, baby-wearing and responding to baby’s cries. He still does.
Breastfeeding and baby-wearing are pretty much accepted best practice among mothers today. In fact, they were pretty commonplace among the new moms I knew when I was a new mom. Not so common were responding promptly to baby’s cries and co-sleeping, or the family bed, as we called it. Yup, we did it. My husband and I co-slept with our son. And when he cried, we picked him up.
Co-sleeping is still controversial, but most of what Dr. Sears advocates isn’t. I can’t figure out why TIME did a profile of the good doctor but my husband works in public relations and I’m betting Dr. Sears’ publicist is doing the happy dance these days.
Nice stories about nice doctors don’t sell magazines, though. Controversy sells magazines and with this cover, TIME hit the mother lode, tapping straight into many mothers’ deepest insecurity—that she isn’t doing the best she can for her child.
Pitting mothering method against mothering method is probably as old as motherhood itself, but it seems to have gained momentum lately. First we had Ann Romney taking it on the chin for being home with her kids, then Hilary Rosen taking it because her children were adopted. Now, we’re all being asked if we’re “Mom Enough,” as if there were some mothering archetype that we’d best emulate or risk harming our children.
Frankly, I’m pretty tired of the “who’s the best mom” debate. It’s old, it’s boring and it’s a distraction that keeps us from debating things like healthcare, education and jobs—things that impact all children. Some days, I think I’m a really good mom. Others? Not so much. Like most moms I know, though, I’m doing the best I can and hoping that my best is good enough.