By Amy L. Hatch
So unless you’re dead or living in a cave, you’ve seen the Time Magazine cover that shows a pretty blonde mom breastfeeding her three-year-old son, while he stands on a step-stool, under a headline that reads, “Are You Mom Enough?”
The photo/headline one-two punch was meant to rile moms everywhere and boy, did it ever. Most of the critiques were about how the magazine lobbed a grenade into some kind of fantasy summer camp for moms where we all just get along all the time and braid each other’s hair and have pillow fights and make midnight raids on the kitchen — when we’re not busy judging each other.
Bad Time Magazine! Bad! You put link bait into a pool of mommy sharks! And surprise! The mommy sharks took the bait!
The truth is that the cover story wasn’t even really about breastfeeding, except in the most tangential way, which is to say that the subject matter was attachement parenting and how some mothers choose to wear their babies, co-sleep until they go to college, swaddle their bums in organic hemp diapers or whatever the hell it is they do.
I don’t know too much about it (obviously) because I really, truly, honestly and with all of my cold, black heart do not care one single iota how you or anyone else raises their kids.
Most people don’t.
I’m too busy keeping the two children I have alive (which ain’t easy, let me tell you, these two are accident prone) to examine whether or not you have juice in your sippy cup or whether or not you’re breastfeeding.
Which leads me to my second point: I do not care if you breastfeed. I’m looking at you, Beyonce/Alanis/Selma/Alicia/Gwen/Gwyneth.
If you do happen to breastfeed your 3-year-old, I don’t really care about that, either. Unless you stand in the middle of the playground and do it, because then it isn’t about feeding your kid. Then, it’s about making a spectacle of yourself.
Because that is, no matter what anyone says, a spectacle.
Which brings me right back to my friends at Time Magazine. They wanted you to look. They wanted you to write about the Mommy Wars on your blogs and the Huffington Post. Because they wanted the pageviews/ad revenue/publicity/brand awareness.
They wanted to make a spectacle.
Breastfeeding is the holy grail of judgement, the No. 1 symbol of the fetish our current culture makes of parenthood. We wring our hands and we fight and we Google photos of Lucy Lawless dressed in a pencil skirt with her blouse open (oh, no, that is so not sexualized, is it?) breastfeeding her infant.
So it comes as no surprise that a magazine cover image like the one published by Time caused a ruckus. Because no one really knew what to think. I mean, breastfeeding is The Right Thing To Do. So how do we process an image that depicts breastfeeding in a manner that is (quietly but still) considered taboo, no matter what the anthropologists tell us?
We get mad. We write editorials (yes, like this one). We point fingers and we shout and some of us pretend to link arms and walk together as one, but let’s be honest.
We don’t. We don’t really. That just isn’t possible when you are engaged in an act that is as violent, degrading, exhilarating, joyful, intimate and personal as raising a child. We are in the trenches, and we are alone. Our fellow soldiers are waving at us from their own foxholes, but when the time comes to pull the trigger, we’re all by ourselves.
We figure out how to do it the best we can, and we drag ourselves and our kids away from the front lines and into the safety zone and we send them off to fight their own wars.
I don’t care how you do it.
But I will cheer for you when you do.
Amy L. Hatch is a co-founder and editor of chambanamoms.com, and she isn’t short on opinions. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.