Time Magazine really hit it out of the watercooler ballpark this week. The publication instantly evoked a national conversation about attachment parenting and the social repercussions of slapping a picture of a 4-year-old breastfeeding on the cover of a well-known magazine. Every time I flipped to a news station, the issue was being addressed. I couldn't get away from the topic no matter how hard I tried.
As I overheard mothers at the park, grocery store, and doctor's office discuss the story, I finally started understanding my distaste for the debate. The feverish pitch in which defenders and opponents spoke about the woman was undeniable. Yet at the end of the day, I was more annoyed with Time for being unnecessarily provocative. The picture was obviously part of a photo shoot. There was no visible nursing bra. Mom was posing.
Once again, it appeared that a national publication was merely fanning the flames of "The Mommy Wars." And I'm sick of it.
Women are constantly being compared, broken down, and second-guessed by the media. Those same practices then spill over into the neighborhoods, carpools, and ultimately the homes of mothers everywhere. While the latest Time cover may be an extreme example, I've found that the constant scrutiny and fear of being judged has rendered many women impotent. While I don't agree with most mothers on most things, I've always felt that it was important to follow your gut. Whatever works has always been my parenting philosophy.
Every time I see a kid acting horribly, my natural tendency is to look to the mom for some kind of response. I don't care which technique she chooses, but I expect something - yelling, whispering in the ear, dragging the kid out by an arm. At the bare minimum, I wait for an acknowledgement that the child is in fact hers, and that she is aware that he just threw another kid's school bag into the street.
Yet too often, I watch the mom's eyes glaze over while she inwardly debates the ramifications of her response:
If I yell, then I am creating a "hostile environment" for my developing child.
If I try to figure out what happened and the cause of my child's actions, I might be perceived as too lenient and accommodating.
If I force my child to return the bag and apologize, then I am damaging his long-term ego and belief that his mother is always on his side.
If I blink, then all the other mothers will know I saw what happened and did nothing.
I am so scared.
And now I can't move.
The endless criticism, the "expert" opinions, and the daunting barrage of new parenting theories are mucking up our moms. Instincts are being ignored. Intelligent women are turning to the internet and Dr. Phil for direction instead of employing their own natural gifts and intuition.
It is a terrible waste.
So I'm throwing down the gauntlet. I make mistakes all the time. Other moms roll their eyes at me. My parenting is called into question by just everyone who knows me. It's par for the course. And because I don't care (mostly) what others think, I work hard to do what I believe will help form good kids.
We all judge. It's perfectly normal. But as my good friend pointed out, final judgment is what really counts: your child will either be a functioning member of society or a resident in cell block D at Joliet Penitentiary.
So listen moms.
Do what you think is best. Ignore the stares. Go with your gut.
And let's all end the paralysis of The Mommy Wars.
Marianne is mother of three sons and the wife of a southside Irish fireman. She has learned that sometimes you're just too dumb to know what makes you happy. She blogs regularly at We Band of Mothers (webandofmothers.com) and curses with even greater frequency. Her material is written for the imperfect, the imprudent, and the impatient mothers who know that all this stuff is really very funny if you just give it a minute.
See more of Marianne's stories here.