First it was Tiger Mothers. Then it was French Mothers. Mayim Bialik replied to Badinter. Maria Blois replied to someone. And on and on. I’m guilty, too. I’ve jumped into the conversation, annoyed, enraged, overjoyed. But now, I’m ready to jump off the bandwagon. It’s tiring. It’s old. It’s time for something new…maybe a Mother’s Day resolution?
Today, I’ve overheard negative tweets and read criticizing blog posts about this Time Magazine cover. Let’s start with one simple fact: the media needs sensationalism. Controversy. They need you to read something, do a double take, and read it again. They thrive on ruffling feathers. The headline was pretty dumb on a number of levels. Let’s not even go there. I’m sure plenty of other bloggers will cover that ground.
Onto the cover. That’s Jamie Lynn. She’s gorgeous. Her son is cute. I’m sure she doesn’t nurse him like that often, but let’s revisit the media’s need for catchiness. Time had several other gorgeous mamas posing with their toddlers and babies, and could have chosen any of them. But I’m sure someone would have said something to say about each of the other finalists, too.
When we criticize, judge, or dismiss another mother, we’re letting them win. The media. Corporations. A stealthy attitude that permeates our society that women are less-than. Let’s face it: this Mommy War isn’t between two clearly identified groups of mamas, it’s a war against all women. No one wins when we’re pitted against each other. So let’s not detract from that very real issue and get our shorts in a knot because the cover didn’t represent “us.” (Who’s us anyway? Jamie is a real mama, and an awesome one at that.) Let’s look at this as an opportunity to debunk some AP myths, or perhaps get press for natural, gentle parenting.
And let me start with this myth, in response to the article on Dr. Sears. “Attachment Parenting” was not fathered by anyone. Dr. Sears has come a long way in helping to normalize and popularize it. We are incredibly grateful for his work. However, “Attachment Parenting” is a label given to time-honored, traditional practices that have helped ensure the survival of our species. It’s not simply a product of one doctor’s theories.
Regardless of how people believe it came about, Attachment Parenting gets a bad rap. Don’t moms have become martyrs in order to meet their baby’s needs? The short answer is no. However, a shift in expectations will make your first year infinitely easier, Attachment Parenting isn’t about “shoulds.” It’s about connecting with and loving your baby. There are some practices that foster those connections, and some of those practices, though intuitive, aren’t mainstream. Therein lies the problem, and a harvest-ready field for media looking to stay alive with stories.
Media coverage helps bring attention to these very biologically normal practices, but proponents of things like cloth diapers, co-sleeping, and carriers (none of which are necessary for Attachment Parenting, BTW!), tend to tow a hard line. We’re on the defense. Culture has made those of us who practice this type of mothering feel less-than, so we come out with guns blazing! Can you blame us? Guess who loves to capitalize on this…the media. So a vicious cycle begins. Press coverage, mothers’ responses are cast in a poor light, making them look a little crazy, more press coverage of “crazy AP mothers,” and on and on.
But how does that bode for the cause of spreading the word about baby-friendly practices? We can likely all agree it’s a good thing to make sure moms have access to information, especially around things like breastfeeding, which can really affect a baby’s health, and cosleeping and babywearing, which can have devastating effects if not done safely. Sadly, these back-and-forths of high-level of celebrities, authors, and journalists aren’t helping the issue. They’re shifting the focus from education and dialogue to blame and shame.
So ladies, will you join me? I’m waving the white flag of surrender. Even though we didn’t start them, let’s end the Mommy Wars.
Instead, let’s work together to have conversations. To educate. To question. To laugh. To practice.
To fail. And to try again.
Let’s be a village, instead of a warzone.
Megan McGrory Massaro is a mother, freelance writer, dreamer, and author. She wrote The Other Baby Book: A Natural Approach to Baby’s First Year to empower women to make the best choices for their families.