15 May 2012

Article Review - TIME Magazine and Parental Guilt

Courtesy of Time.com

I've never blogged about a newspaper/magazine article before, but the cover of last week’s TIME magazine sparked such a discussion, that I was not only intrigued, I couldn’t wait to read the article.  The only problem is, now that I've read the article, I REALLY don't know what to think. I was offended by the cover for oh-so-many reasons, and now that I've read the article, I'm even MORE offended by the cover and a little confused.
For the record, I do not have children.  So if the fact that I am going to comment on what I know about breastfeeding and raising children without any first-hand experience (other than helping to raise my nieces, nephews, etc.) will offend you, thanks for stopping by, but you should probably stop reading now.
Let’s start with the cover, since it’s the what got me going.  My brain tells me that the cover is meant to be shocking.  TIME has done this in the past (here’s the cover that creeped me out so much I tore it off the magazine), and because the article is technically about extreme parenting, the cover should be extreme right?  The only problem is that in this case, the cover feeds into some misconceptions about breastfeeding.  Last week Facebook, Twitter and my RSS feed were absolutely buzzing over the cover – even before people read the article.  Comments ranged from breastfeeding a 3-year-old borders on child abuse and she’s too sexy to be a breast-feeding mom to that kid is totally going to show off this picture when he’s high school and his buddies are going to be jealous.  I’d say 90 percent of the comments were, in my humble opinion, asinine and uninformed.  Regardless of the shocking nature of the cover, I have to say I think TIME took it too far, only because I think this cover will now be fuel for the idea that breastfeeding is “weird”, even though all obstetricians out there would say that breastfeeding is beneficial.  And I doubt that most moms breastfeed their children using a stepstool.  Just sayin.
However, what REALLY bothered me about the cover was the caption: “Are you Mom enough?” It suggests that mothers who aren’t willing to go to extremes – like breastfeeding to the age of 3 or older – for their children are terrible mothers.  And that, even though I’m not a mom, offends me right straight down to my core.  I know some women who were able to breastfeed their children for over a year, and I commend them for that.  I also know women who wanted to breastfeed for longer than they were able and were absolutely tormented by their inability.  We’re talking 2am bawling phone calls about being inadequate mothers simply because they couldn’t produce enough milk.  I also know mothers who physically can’t breastfeed – take, for example, my dear friend Adi, who just adopted a sweet little girl.  Is Adi to believe she’s not “mom enough” because after years of trying to get pregnant, she now has a beautiful daughter she can’t breastfeed? 
Sorry TIME, but I think the cover takes it a little too far to the extreme.  I truly believe the article would have been well read and copies would have sold even if the cover hadn’t been so provocative.

Now for the actual article itself.  For one, it's really not about breastfeeding at all.  It's about Dr. Bill Sears and attachment parenting.  Yes, breastfeeding is an important tenant of the attachment parenting movement, but it’s not the only tenant, AND it’s barely mentioned in the article! The article actually focuses more on sacrificing for one’s children and the author seems to take more issue with the idea of co-sleeping.  In fact, it’s pretty clear that the author thinks Dr. Bill is crazy and attachment parenting is extreme, even though Dr. Bill even says himself that parents should do the best they can with what they have.
From what I know about attachment parenting, I think the ideas are great, but just like anything associated with parenting, it can lead to massive amounts of parental guilt.  I think that’s what bothers me the most about this article and the cover.  I have seen moms racked with guilt over things like letting their kids watch TV or have chocolate after dinner. TIME attempts to address this with a little inset about “detachment fathering”, but unfortunately, this little snippet angered me just as much as everything else.  The author, Nathan Thornburg, is basically telling dad’s that it’s OK not to feel guilty if you don’t do as much as your child’s mother because attachment parenting really is all about ‘attachment mothering’.  I agree with the idea that parents need to work to “distance themselves from the expectations set by everyone from Sears to your peers in mommy-and-me-yoga”, but I don’t agree with the idea that it’s ok to slack off as a parent because “children can – and often do – get by without a father in their lives at all”. That’s a steaming load of crap if I do say so myself.
In the end, I think TIME intended to bring light to a new trend in our society, but all they’ve successfully done is add to the unbelievable guilt that parents face each and every day.  Usually, I can stomach what TIME puts out there – mostly because I’m aware of the slant they put on things.  However, this slant is too much for me. I think of all the amazing moms that I know out there and my heart breaks for them - reading a magazine shouldn't add to guilt feelings!  So TIME, in my humble opinion, you really missed the mark on this one.

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