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Follow Up to the Are You Mom Enough Time Magazine Cover

The Roundup is late again not because I was doing something enormously exciting this time but because decisions that needed to be made  sucked away all my time and pushed everything back.  Working from home without clear boundaries of work time vs. non-work time sometimes feels like dominoes.  When they’re all lined up, it looks beautiful.  But then something gets thrown off and everything comes tiling down.  So X didn’t get done and because X wasn’t done, Y didn’t get done.  And since Y was still on my to-do list, it meant that I never got to Z.  The Roundup, in case you couldn’t guess is Z.  Actually, purchasing a new container of Vitamin D pills for my mushy bones is Z, so the Roundup is more like Y.

Your comments yesterday on the Time magazine post helped me more than I can put into words.  As much as I struggle to keep my need for external validation in check, this was one of those times when I felt the phone buzzing in my pocket and thought, there are people who get me.  And if there are people who get me, then we are all insane together or it’s more a statement that multiple points-of-view can exist simultaneously without any one negating the others unless we let it.

There were three ways I immediately reacted to the cover, which was a trigger for me yesterday because Josh and I had to make a hard decision for the twins as their parents which was not going to be a popular decision. (Meaning, our decision was different from the choice most people around us were making.  The twins didn’t care one way or the other since they saw both options as equally appealing.)  Which is why I discussed that cover in terms of me, and made it about me me me me me.  I truly have no feelings towards the woman in the photo, I do have strong feelings towards Time which I’ll get to in a moment.  But that post was about seeing someone else, making her the every woman standing in place of all people who choose option one and wondering aloud why I choose option two.  What makes one person comfortable choosing option one while other people only feel comfortable choosing option two, and why does choosing option two make people who choose option one so angry and vice versa?

So I had no interest in discussing breastfeeding (either older child or infant).  I had no interest discussing attachment parenting.  And in that vein, I have no interest in discussing the multitude of hot-button topics out there including circumcision, crying-it-out, c-sections, home birth, baby wearing… choose whatever topics people like to argue about.  I’m always happy to talk about what worked for us, just in case you’re gathering ideas for what might work for you, but I don’t believe in any “style” of parenting.  I don’t look at parenting books as Bibles or parenting movements as religion.  Most because I don’t believe anything that is written in a vacuum, written in someone’s home office, takes into account my children.  And that extends to not believing that I know what is best for another person’s child and feel unable to argue coherently in favour or against any of the above.  I only know what resonates with Josh and myself (since, you know, there are more than just mothers making parenting decisions), and then what worked or didn’t work with the twins.  But just because we didn’t opt to try a parenting technique ourselves doesn’t mean that I believe the one we chose was better.  We chose what seemed like it would work vs. not work, with our lives and our children the only thing weighed against that decision.

Which goes back to what I did want to talk about: why do people feel the need to argue about things such as breastfeeding or not breastfeeding when we all know that one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to life decisions.  That both option one and option two can exist, and we don’t need to get upset with people who choose the other option.

The other thing I didn’t really feel like discussing was the media pushing buttons, but I’m having a difficult time keeping my rage in check.  I am angry when the media foments the public rather than educates them.  The term “enough” is a comparative word, and competition should have no place in parenting.  The two subjects in the photograph were posed so they were turned out from each other and facing the reader, not inviting the viewer into an embrace, but creating a challenging stance.  And that’s just it; I don’t want to be challenged, I don’t want to run in this race, I don’t want to hit back, I don’t want to be smacked.  I want to make decisions for my children and have the only people weigh in on them be the people directly responsible for those children.  I’m willing to entertain the thoughts of people close to us — parents, siblings, close friends.  And that’s about it.

When the media pairs competitive terms with emotional issues, they are pushing buttons.  And I don’t enjoy having my buttons pushed.  Of course I worry if I’m mom enough — I also worry if I’m wife enough and daughter enough and writer enough.  And frankly, especially when I look through that infertility lens, am I woman enough?  But it’s one thing for me to internally question myself; it’s quite another for others to judge me.  It is the difference between me believing I’m not a “good enough” writer and having another person tell me I suck.  Plus, the idea of whether I am mom enough or not enough rests with the beholder and is therefore only that person’s truth.  Some of you think I rock as a mother and some of you think I suck as a mother, and both sides let me know loud and clear in emails.  And neither side is very helpful because the only person whose opinion matters in this is mine.  Do I think I’m doing a good job?  It depends on the day you ask me that question.

We would be horrified if Time magazine came out next week with a cover that said, “Are You Woman Enough?” and had an image of two people having sex, their gaze not on each other but on the reader, and it accompanied an article about the benefits of sex over fertility treatments.  And I don’t see this cover as different from that.  We have emotional attachments to our choices.  We also have our personal stories as well as our personal limitations which don’t always match up with what we want.  But we also need to be balanced: I would be equally horrified if the cover said “Are You Woman Enough?” and had a woman coolly looking into the camera while she injected Follistim into her stomach, even if I can admit that I personally felt powerful giving myself injections.  Still, I would hate for people to receive the message that they’re not powerful if they can’t administer injections in order to do fertility treatments, because that wouldn’t be true at all.  My power isn’t your lack of power.  We are each powerful if we believe we’re powerful.

So, no, I don’t want to discuss the merits of that cover because it was demeaning by pitting mothers against mothers.  It was judgmental without even knowing the reader it was judging.  So that didn’t really interest me either.

Which goes back to the only thing I did want to discuss, and I thank all the people who stuck to that idea in their comment: why do some people choose option one and why do some people choose option two — what makes our comfort zones a certain size.

And that’s why the Roundup is late.  But I’m going to go finish it up now that I have that off my chest.


1 a { 05.11.12 at 1:57 pm }

I think part of the reason the media foments is because we have too much media. Every detail of every story is covered 50 times a day (at least!), along with analysis and opinion of each detail. In order to generate interest, you have to generate controversy.

There was a Frontline piece a couple weeks ago about forensic science which made it sound like no one had ever done any research in any of the fields, that every practitioner was somehow suspect, and that none of the results are reliable. All of that is untrue. Of course, forensic science does have problems occasionally. But why make a show about an isolated incident when you can turn it into A CATASTROPHE OF EPIC PROPORTIONS!!!! Thank you, William Randolph Hearst, I suppose…

2 Lacie { 05.11.12 at 2:34 pm }

Great topic, Mel.

I decided before adopting my son that I would choose an anonymous name for him on my blog because I didn’t want anyone googling him in the future and learning more about him that he would want them to know. It’s up to him what he’d like future friends, classmates, colleagues and acquaintances to know.

I have chosen to share his picture on my blog but not on facebook. On facebook, I have old classmates and friends of friends who have access to my personal family photos. It would be too easy for anyone to just copy and share them anywhere. I explained this to my family by saying, “I’m grateful that my childhood pictures aren’t plastered all over facebook. Occasionally I’ll post one, but I get to choose which one. I want my son to have that same choice.” I just don’t think that everyone takes the time to think of it that way. I think most people just share because they enjoy sharing with their facebook friends. One might argue that this is a different time and that kids will grow up with this being the norm. I get it. I would love to see all of the comments on how cute he is all day long. It’s hard sometimes NOT to share. It’s especially hard NOT to share when you’ve wanted to be a mom for so long. It was just my personal choice and something that I seriously thought about while I was awaiting his arrival.

How is the blog different? I’d like to think that only those in the ALI community and my closest supporters IRL follow. I longed for the day that I could be a mom and share his picture. For me, my blog is a more appropriate platform for sharing. Not that the images couldn’t be copied and shared, but I am just a little more comfortable with the blog.

I sometimes think it would be more fun and easier to just share, like some of my favorite bloggers do. But would it be more fun and easier for me or for my son?

3 gabrielle { 05.11.12 at 2:38 pm }

Thank You!!! I also don’t like the way they put mother against mother. I am not pregnant yet but when the time comes to being at the hospital and the lc comes in I will hzve to say no. I have a hormonal disorder that will not give me the opertunity to breast feed. I don’t likw the debates of whats right and wrong for ever baby either. my favorate is if it’s so hard for you to get pregnant why don’t you adopt.

4 Chickenpig { 05.11.12 at 2:59 pm }

‘Style’ is for clothing, home decor, writing, and art or design. It is not about how to raise a child. Personal style and decor is about ego, it is about how we want to be perceived. So are styles of parenting. When it comes to raising my children, it is about what works for THEM not about how I want to appear to others or how I identify myself. I wore my daughter in a sling..sometimes, but not my boys. I breastfed all my kids, but not exclusively. I wanted to have my twins sleep together next to my bed…it didn’t work for them. If you start out before you even have kids with an ideology about parenting, you are doing everyone a disservice, including yourself.

5 Shana { 05.11.12 at 3:02 pm }

I feel a bit of a feminist rant coming, so apologies ahead of time because I don’t think this is really where you wanted to go with this post, but that cover title was intensely triggering, and there have been so many more in the recent months, I cannot help myslef and my anger.

I am so sick of the media turning to divisive language and images for women. Can you image a time cover titled “Are you Father Enough?” Not likely to happen any time soon. The media seems to be so enmeshed in the patriarchal system in which we are stuck. It is doing its job of keeping women insecure and embroiled in woman against woman cat fights so we, as women of all shapes and sizes and colors and socio-ecominic levels, and abilities, and sexual identities, and maternal status, etc, etc are too distracted, depressed, guilty, and shame-filled to take up the power that we could harness and should and would if we were to join together in support of ALL women.

OK, rant over.

6 Barely Sane { 05.11.12 at 3:03 pm }

I find my personal boundaries – both as a mother and in general – ebb and flow. There are times when I let MG do something that most parents would disagree with (bungee jumping for instance) and other times when I say “NO” to things she eludes that ‘all the other kids’ get to do. Sometimes I change my stance on things because I have a chance to grow or experience first hand an event that allows me to see an issue in a different light.
Blogging for instance – until adoption, I was very open and didn’t much attempt to hide my identity. Now I try to be more guarded although I know it’s already out there. I do post pics of MG on FB but I have it set that if anyone tags them with her name or mine, they are invisible to others (or I think I do) so at least if her image is out there, her name is not.
For as much as I was uncomfy with the image on the cover – for MY own reasons – I didn’t comment in any negative manner when it was on the news last night and MG saw it because I don’t want to influence her or make her feel pushed in any 1 direction or another. I wasn’t able to BF and while I may shrug off comments in public, how I feel in private is not so cavalier.
Ultimately though, my boundaries are not necessarily set in stone and I definitely have room to negotiate the lines of acceptable vs not acceptable on a variety of topics.

7 Cristy { 05.11.12 at 3:34 pm }

I think you’re touching on a much broader issue: validation. As much as people would like to believe that they are 100% comfortable with their choices, too often they need to look externally to verify that they are on the correct path. We’re all guilty of this (I’m the first one to admit it) as it helps us with the decision process.

The media relies on conflicts in order to sell their product. And a very popular way to increase product sales/popularity is to pitch different validation camps against one another.

The reality is, I don’t think the mother on the front cover is really comfortable with her decision. If she was, I believe she wouldn’t have put herself into such a position. Granted, I’m not suggesting that she hide, but her body language suggests she’s ready for a fight. And in all honestly, as long as she is not abusing her child, I feel no need to fight with her.

What I think many people need to analyze is why they feel a need to judge. Too often, I’ve met people who are incredibly unhappy in life who are more than happy to tell others how they should be living theirs. Is someone’s actions really threatening your life or is it revealing something you might like about your’s?

8 KeAnne { 05.11.12 at 4:11 pm }

What I feel bad about is that apparently this woman doesn’t espouse what they are suggesting she does on the cover; she is much more open-minded than the cover portrays her.

9 Lori Lavender Luz { 05.11.12 at 8:47 pm }

I can’t believe the traction this cover has gotten. It appeals to our basest instincts — sex, competition, unworthiness, judgment. Bleh.

I know you made — you ALWAYS make — the best possible decisions for your children. Looky-loos of the baser-motivations be damned

10 Justine { 05.11.12 at 10:42 pm }

Love Lori’s comment. Why are women in particular made to feel so badly about parenting decisions? ANY parenting decisions?

This feels like so much insecurity … the reason option-one choosers get angry with the option-two choosers is most often, it seems to me, because there’s something about their own decision that makes them feel uncomfortable. When they see other people making a different choice, they wonder, why didn’t that person make MY choice? What’s wrong with ME? (The people who can tolerate difference in choices don’t have this insecurity problem … again, you’re right … going back to the issue of internal vs. external validation.)

I have a good friend who is in a homeschool co-op currently being lambasted for her choices to vaccinate and for her choice to potentially leave the homeschool group. She is finding them so judgmental … these same people who have left the system that they found too structured and judgmental!

I think that we all need to figure out what our comfort zones are, and live within them, knowing that others will live their lives around us. And that sometimes others’ different choices may force us to question our own, but that we can end up thinking the same thing we did before, and that’s OK too.

11 Sarah Q { 05.12.12 at 1:05 am }

I hate the mommy wars. I actually hate that term, too.

I have always hated the constant judgement. I think it’s disgusting.

And not just mother on mother but woman on woman. Even infertile on fertile. I hate it. When did it become ok to tear another woman down because she doesn’t have reproductive issues and is excited about adding to her family? Shouldn’t we be glad the child is being born to a loving family?!

When did it become ok to look at another mother who is as exhausted as we are and think we are better?

When did it become ok to judge complete strangers?!

Different does not mean inferior. Differences are good. It’s what makes us human and unique.

I just don’t understand any of it and I refuse to participate. It makes me sick.

Do you love your child? Are you doing what you think is best? Are they loved and cared for? Yes, they are? AWESOME good for you!!

Why aren’t we as women supporting each other instead of tearing each other down?!

12 Jessica { 05.12.12 at 9:27 am }

I found it interesting that yesterday my husband was the one who brought up the magazine cover and asked if I had seen it. I found it interesting that I didn’t have to say much and he was the one that complained about the divisive title and how the whole article in general was poorly done. We had a nice little discussion about why we do not see the point in judging others or even caring how someone else parents their children. We do not like confrontation, we are both whites 🙂

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