Are You Mom Enough Time Magazine Cover
I had a really difficult time writing a title for this post because I don’t really want to talk about attachment parenting or older child breastfeeding. I think it’s a big world, and people should find what works for them. And having not been able to breastfeed, I don’t know enough about nutrition and older child breastfeeding to form any judgment. (And that is a hint that I also don’t want to hear since I will never have a use for this information.)
I do judge Time for having their cover quote be “Are You Mom Enough.” Why don’t they just have their cover quote be more direct, something like: “hey, people, please bully each other so we can sell magazines!” You may have noticed that I don’t like to waste time. I’m a big fan of people just saying what they want to say. So… consider that for next time, Time magazine.
I am not going to embed the cover because I feel squeamish featuring an image that may fall under the terms of fair use but in which a minor is featured. Yet in order to understand what I’m about to ask about, you’ll need to go over and see it. It is a mother breastfeeding her almost four-year-old son.
We’ve had to make some hard decisions this year to keep the twins out of some activities and opportunities because participation was contingent on allowing them to be photographed and signing a wide release form. The ideology that guides how Josh and I write or feature the twins remains the same despite the medium*. I don’t post their photograph online — not on Facebook, not on my blog — and ask that friends and family not post pictures of them either. We never sign photo release forms or give control of our child’s image to another person. I do this not because I believe that if I post the Wolvog’s picture that it will end up on a child porn site nor do I believe that if I post the ChickieNob’s picture, she’ll end up on a billboard in Prague selling fruit juice.
I don’t use the twins’ image because I don’t know how they’ll feel about their image being used, and they’re not at an age where I can ask and receive a thoughtful answer. They may be totally fine with it, or they may be upset to read what someone writes about their image. And without knowing, I don’t feel comfortable proceeding. It’s the same ideology I bring to writing about them: I don’t write about anything I wouldn’t say in front of their friends in this moment. Therefore, you will never hear about medical issues or milestones not met or anything they may not want the world to know. You will hear about how they process the idea of evolution or the ChickieNob’s love of the Beastie Boys because that is what they are talking about with their friends right now. Low stakes stuff; that’s what you’re going to find in regards to parenting since I don’t always feel like it’s my story to tell.
And I want to pause to shout this so you’ll hear it: I not only do not judge parents who have a different comfort zone, but I have a great deal of respect because you have created those bridges of understanding between people by placing your story out there. I love it when our friends post pictures of their kids on Facebook — I enjoy being connected in that manner. I have benefited greatly because people write about personal matters on their blog, which not only gives me information but often times makes me feel less alone.
I am truly only writing this post because I have noticed — especially this year — that I have a very different comfort zone from most people around me.
A few years ago, I was featured in a New York Times article. I never wrote about it here because… well… there was a reason why I only used my first name for the article. After we had done the interview and such, the author of the article told me that they were sending a photographer to my house to take a picture of myself with the twins. Uh… no. I emailed with the photographer explaining that while I was fine being photographed in a public spot because I knew the repercussions of putting myself out there, I couldn’t make that decision for the twins, not knowing how they’d feel in the future about having been featured. I don’t think the photographer could fathom my stance on this because she kept emailing me about needing the twins in the photo, and I finally had to say that I was very comfortable not being part of the article at all, but not comfortable putting the twins in there. The story ultimately was run with the image of a different person interviewed for the same article.
And I totally respect that woman for acting within her comfort zone; I just always wonder why my comfort zone is so different from other people.
When I saw the Time magazine cover, I didn’t give a lot of thought to older child breastfeeding nor the fact that Time is continuously trying to foment women into fighting each other, much like a bunch of fraternity guys chanting “cat fight, cat fight, cat fight” at two women struggling to understand each other and keep their emotions in check.
What struck me as I looked at the cover was how this mother knew that her child wouldn’t be bothered ten years down the road for being featured on the cover of a national magazine with her breast in his mouth. Because I don’t know my children in that way; I can’t predict how they’ll feel. I can only guess, and that guess is based on pretty much no concrete evidence. In fact, most of that guess is based on my own discomfort: for instance, I would never be on a reality show. Other people say they would be thrilled to be on one. I guess that I judge myself then; wonder why I’m not up for being on a reality show. Where other people see a thrill, I see something nerve-wracking. So I use my own comfort zone to make decisions for the twins. Because I have to make decisions, and what else can I base it on?
I am fiercely protective of the twins, and it’s the only way I know how to parent where I can put my head on the pillow at night and know I did my best. That I stayed in my comfort zone. That I didn’t allow anyone else to pressure me to do something that makes me uncomfortable. I also know that some people think my comfort zone limits are ridiculous, but I can’t really live my life making other people happy while making myself anxious. I parent like this because it’s easier; though I don’t know if it’s really better (though who can really define the term “better.”).
All I know is that I often wonder why my comfort zone is here and other people’s comfort zones are there, and what that says about me. Sometimes I second-guess myself when I’m the only person making a decision, even if it feels like the best decision in my heart. Especially when our decision causes the twins to miss out on something because we won’t sign the release form or allow them to be photographed.**
* This is what works for me, and everyone needs to work within their comfort zone. I seriously can’t say this enough.
** This magazine cover triggered something for me only because the topic was already in the forefront of my mind. My apologies to the mother on the cover if she feels singled out. I actually thought her Q & A in the magazine was intelligent and thoughtfully-constructed in order to invite conversation rather than shut down conversation.