Okay, so we've all seen the TIME magazine photo by now. I ran across it on Pinterest last night, and, boy, in just 24 hours, it's EVERYWHERE.
"BWA-HA-HA-HA," laugh the executives at TIME. "Just as we planned."
The cover mom, Jamie Lynne Grumet, says that a controversial shot was chosen to "get the dialogue talking" (and, yes, unfortunately, that's the actual quote). Editor-in-chief Rick Stengel agrees with the sentiment, saying, "you want people talking."
But, really, has anyone who's seen the cover been inspired to talk about attachment parenting and extended breastfeeding in an intelligent way? Every comment I've seen has been either angrily against it ("Even a cow knows when to wean their child") or staunchly in favor of it (it's "high time" we make "mainstream America less squeamish").
Let's be honest: a calm and open exchange isn't the point.
What TIME has presented is a young, slim, attractive woman in tight, black, Misson Impossible-appropriate garb looking at the camera with an expression that says, "I dare you to say anything." She has one hand firmly planted on her hip, and the other wrapped around the back of her 3-going-on-10-year-old son, who's decked out in a gray thermal shirt and camo pants. Oh, and he also happens to be attached by the mouth to her left nipple.
No doubt it's an effective photograph -- it hits you in the gut one way or another, as the best of them do. But let's be honest: it isn't meant to start a dialogue. Gut reactions are very seldom eloquent.
Wasn't a gut-punch photo enough? Oh, no. Add the utterly in-your-face headline of "Are You Mom Enough?" and you've successfully galvanized pretty much everyone in the U.S. into two opposing camps.
I confess, I was shocked enough to play straight into TIME's strategy and repin the cover onto Pinterest. Almost immediately, a friend of mine commented that it was "just sick."
My feelings on the cover weren't strong enough to term it sickening. No doubt, I do find breastfeeding past a certain age off-putting to some degree; I'm definitely in the "cut them off before they're 2" camp, because somewhere around a year and a half, when they're running around and talking, it just feels a little creepy to me. But I absolutely respect every parent's right to do what she thinks is best for her child.
It's a moot point for me, anyway, because the thing that I found most objectionable with this cover was the headline: ARE YOU MOM ENOUGH?
It harkens back to that most insulting of male insults: "Aren't you man enough?"
And it makes me want to say what most men would say: "F*** you!"
I mean, really. What does that (male) editor-in-chief know about being a mom, much less about being "mom enough?"
And what does that mean, anyway? What is it to be "mom enough?"
Do you have to be a hot, militaristic, breastfeeding-until-they-leave-for-college mom to be "mom enough?" If I'm a flabby, less-attractive breastfeeding devotee, am I still mom enough? Or if I'm hot but wean my little biter from my breast at eight months, am I mom enough? And what if I didn't breastfeed at all? Does that make me an insufficient failure of a mom?
Exactly what are the criteria? Is there a class I can take?
The fact is, most of us moms take affronts to our motherhood very personally, probably because we're constantly critiquing ourselves, comparing ourselves to other moms, and wondering if we're doing irrepairable damage to our offspring.
If we don't pipe Mozart into our wombs, are we missing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity? If we turn into screaming loonies when Junior plugs the toilet with three of our best silk scarves, is he doomed to a future of psycho-therapy? If little Susie isn't reading at a first grade level when she starts kindergarten, will she forever be behind all of the other over-achievers?
We are our own worst enemies, but morning news shows, self-help books, and hyper-competitive moms (think Violet Beauregarde's mom in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) aren't far behind.
It's Mother's Day weekend. Here's my suggestion for a gift to ourselves: Let's ignore TIME, and cut ourselves some slack. Because here's the honest truth: If your kid knows he's loved, you are mom enough.
If you've ever dried tears shed over a skinned knee or a broken heart, you're mom enough.
If you've paced the floor with a crying infant or waiting for an hours-tardy teen, you're mom enough.
If you've ever shuttled kids to soccer or a movie; helped with homework or volunteered in home room; worried about a babysitter; thrown a birthday party; read a bedtime story; dispensed bandaids with hugs and kisses; worked a double shift to pay the bills; spent a sleepless night with a fevered child; pretended to be fascinated by a bug, a Barbie, or a cartoon character; cried yourself to sleep; or despaired that you just aren't a good mom: You are mom enough.
If you've done the best that you can with what you have and still feel like you're messing it up, just trust me that you aren't. Or maybe you are, but so are the rest of us.
We are moms. We are doing our best. And f*** you, TIME. We are ALL mom enough.