Spell check doesn’t know how to spell ‘mammaries.’ True story.

Two Time Magazine employees are having a conversation at the water cooler.  In their doubled-up paper cups is wine, straight from the cardboard box in the fridge down the hall.

Time Maggy:  So, I have this great cover story on attachment parenting that people find controversial.  What should we put on the cover?

Time Zany:  How about a nice white woman lovingly holding an attractive, blue-eyed baby.  That sounds lovely, don’t you think?

Maggy:  Not nearly shocking enough.  I want this cover to say, “I’m a smug, trendy, extreme parent.  I parent better than all y’all and I am all up in your face about it.”

Zany: Hmm… how about sexy, pouty chimps doing that social grooming thing.  We could put them in bikinis.  I guess we’d have to wax their legs, though.

Maggy:  No way America is ready for that amount of leg hair, so true.  But seriously, we need to think of something over the top.

Zany:  Well, breastfeeding is over the top.  I mean, I lose my lunch every time some crazy mom decides to use her mammaries  the way they were intended.

Maggy:  You mean displaying them prominently in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition?

Zany:  Bizactly.  And at Time we have to compete with that shit.

Maggy:  I’ve got it!  We’ll compete by showing one of the most natural, loving acts known to mammals in an unsmiling, hands-on-hips, no-nonsense kinda controversial way.

Zany:  And to make our audience even more uncomfortable, which means they’ll just have to buy the issue, we’ll replace the baby with a full-grown man.  On a stool.

Maggy:  Stay right there.  I’ll get the stool.

One of my mom friends suggested I write my reactions and opinions to this Time cover story making waves in the media.  She said that she’s interested in hearing the point of view of non-moms (or momily-challenged, if you prefer), and I thought that was an interesting idea.

First of all, I think they did a great job of taking a controversial photo that we all agree was meant to get attention and sell magazines.  Bravo.

What I find ironic about the photo is that it’s supposedly supposed to portray attachment parenting, and yet, I see emotionless faces.  Sure, they are literally attached at the boob, but they aren’t even looking at each other.  The kid is awkwardly standing (and I don’t know about you, but I don’t know ANY moms who prefer to breastfeed while both parties are standing up) and the mom looks more focused on challenging other moms out there and less focused on her kid…which I thought was the whole point of attachment parenting.

Shame on you, Time Magazine for the not-so-subtle mom blaming going on here.

Before talking about the parenting method itself –  full disclosure – I am not a mom.  I do have my own mom.  I also have some training in a certain variety of attachment parenting meant to be used with kids who have witnessed or been the direct victims of sexual and/or domestic abuse.  I have taught parenting classes to moms using these techniques.  This is not the same attachment parenting that is described in the Time article, but of course my training and experience is going to flavor my opinions.

I am a big fan of not going to extremes.  Being an attachment mom purist does not sound like fun to me.  I can’t imagine quitting my job to spend 24/7 raising kids, having them sleep next to me every night, having them in a sling every second.  For one thing, (according to the Time article) this method seems way too sexist in that it seems to assume that only mom can provide the great, nurturing parenting.  Dads are encouraged to help out by doing the dishes so mom can focus more fully on breastfeeding.  While that may work for some people, I don’t see that working for me.  I envision my future co-parenting life to be as balanced as possible, given work schedules and biology.  And that’s another issue – what happens if a kid is being raised by two dads?

Do I imagine using a sling with my kids?  Yup, sometimes.  Do I want and plan to be able to breastfeed?  Yes.  Do I consider the possibility of co-sleeping?  Perhaps.  Do I also imagine date nights away from the kids?  You bet.  Do I envision handing the kids to dad so I can go on a drunken bender?  Oui, oui.

To be fair, I really don’t know what it will be like or how I will feel once I have kids.  But I do know myself and I know my values.  And for me, it’s all about balance and flexibility.  I don’t like any rigid set of rules I’d have to follow.  I don’t like the mom blaming that results from not following said rules.  I say do what works for your family, and you let me do what works for mine.

And now for a rant on the problems our culture has with breastfeeding that were so beautifully triggered by the above Time cover photo.  First of all, it drives me insane when people sexualize the act of breastfeeding.  I don’t care what you say, Freud!  It is not obscene and it is not a sexual act.  It is nurturing, it is bonding, it is a woman using a part of her body the only way it was naturally intended to be used – to feed her frickin baby.

Somewhere along the line, our culture sexualized the breast and that got all entangled with breastfeeding.  Somehow, we’re more comfortable seeing breasts doing nothing but being hung out, pushed up, and squeezed together all over the place than we are seeing a breast feeding a kid.

What bothers me the most is when people who are uncomfortable being around breastfeeding moms try to make their discomfort the breastfeeding mom’s problem by saying that mom needs to cover up or go away or whatever.  It is my view that this is not the mom’s problem.  If you’re uncomfortable, I urge you to take a moment to wonder why and to find another way to manage your feelings other than mom blaming.

As for me and future parenting styles, all I can hope for is that my kids stay off the crack on weekdays.

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8 responses

  1. Bravo, Melissa. Thanks for humoring me and writing this post!

    I have a very, very close friend who lives and breathes Attachment Parenting (it seems really tiring and demanding to me). And I have other friends who swear by what is now referred to as the “French Method” or some such (and when around these families my heartstrings are pulled tight when I sense yearning from their children and see the parents avoid coddling the emotions of such a young person). I’d say they are extremes but way out yonder, past FM lies the Children Raised by Nannies and Not Their Loving Parents method. I think I use them all as a parenting buffet to pick and choose a variety of methods, giving my situation in life and also Eddie’s personality and needs.

    Dave and I were just talking about how and why we didn’t “do” AP with Eddie. For me, I wasn’t mentally ready to jump that far away from my old prenatal life. I’d just had someone INSIDE me for 9 months and I wasn’t emotionally capable of then having him ON me constantly, for an unspecified length of time. If nothing else, I wanted to sleep in my own bed, on my own terms. As a child who slept in my parents’ bed until I was in kindergarten and remembers their struggle to break my habit, I made a clear choice to avoid a repeat of that. Of course, my brother and I were also allowed on the breast for comfort through preschool and I was solidly okay with Eddie doing that, too, if he wanted. Fortunately or unfortunately, he weaned himself much earlier. I’d say fortunately, except I really missed that bonding time for about a year afterward–it’s amazing how that change made me feel like he didn’t need me! Anyway, Dave and I realize that the demands of managing an infant AND a preschooler when we someday have a second child will likely land us in the AP zone a bit more than we were with the first (it’ll be easier to do age appropriate activities with Eddie if I can just strap the younger one to me). Either way, I’m sure we’ll all emerge happy and healthy from this childrearing season of our lives, no matter where our babies sleep or how long they suck the boob.

    Wow, that was comment vomit…but fortunately for you, it wasn’t comment snot. =)

    • Thanks for sharing your experience, Julie! I’m really curious to see where my parenting style ends up once I’m really put to the test.

      Thank goodness it wasn’t snot, cuz then I would have gagged and we’d have vomit to deal with anyway.

  2. Loved this. I read parenting books during the first 8-weeks of my son’s life, and all it did was make me more crazy than the hormones. You do what works for you and f*** anyone who says that you should do it a certain way or else.

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