Saturday, May 12, 2012

Am I Mom Enough?

You've seen it by now.  The Time magazine cover that has every one's bra straps in a pinch.  We all have our own opinions.  Our judgements.  Our snide remarks about the mother, the child and the boob that's hanging out.  

Quite honestly, I don't care about the cover.  Well - that's not true.  I don't care about the picture.  Because, guess what?  Not me.  Not my kid.  And not my boob.  (I'm secretly jealous of her perky 26 year old boob and the size of her skinny jeans and the flatness of her tummy. I am hoping that it's all photo shopped and that she's as saggy and flabby as me.)   

It's the caption I care about.

Are You Mom Enough?

This photo went viral just a few days before Mother's Day.  At a time when we should be celebrating the joy of motherhood and appreciating all the hardworking, caring, nurturing mothers - we're being pitted against one another.

Everyone is talking about the picture and breastfeeding.  Very little is being said about the actual article.  The mom on the cover is only a blurb in the six page feature. The article focuses on Dr. Bill Sears, his wife, Martha (authors of The Baby Book) and the philosophy of attachment parenting.
What's attachment parenting? Well, it involves the following: breast feeding, co-sleeping, walking around with your baby in a sling and the belief that no infant should be left to cry because every little whimper is a cry for help.  
"Attachment parenting says that the more time babies spend in their mothers' arms, the better the chances they will turn out to well-adjusted children."   (Kate Pickert, Time)

Breast feeding wasn't for me

Seconds after I gave birth to The Boy, the nurse asked if I wanted to breast feed.  I was open to it. But it was difficult - physically and emotionally.  The Boy wouldn't latch on.  The nurses came in and worked with me,  but once I went home - I was on my own.  I was a new mom, uncertain of what I was doing.  At 2 am - The Boy was crying hysterically.  And I couldn't do it.  I sat there, rocking in the glider, The Boy in my arms trying to breast feed.  I was crying - feeling like the biggest mother failure - because he wasn't latching on.  The Boy's face was red from frustration and hunger.  Finally I yelled out to The Husband to get the bottle.  I am sure there are women who will say I didn't try hard enough.  I know - I tried. 

Two weeks later, I became engorged.  And it was painful.  If you've never been engorged. (Slip two big rocks in your bra and try to lay down on your stomach.)  I had to go out and buy a pump.  I sat on my sofa for two hours pumping milk out like I was a cow.  You know what I got?  Three measly ounces of milk.  After that - The Boy got formula.  Momma closed up the milk shop. 

Welcome to reality

As a mother, I understand the philosophy behind attachment parenting and why some mothers would choose to follow it.  But it's not the reality for everyone. Most of the moms I know - work.  Not by choice.  By necessity.  I work.  Not only because I really need to work and make money, I also want to.  But that's for another blog post.  (I'll be sharing that with Carla in the next few weeks.)  

Attachment parenting especially isn't a reality for urban working class families or for the single mom.  And as a mom who works full time outside of the home and as a college student - I know I'm not alone.  Many of my classmates are also working (outside of the home) moms.  Again, not by choice.  By necessity.  We sacrifice our time in order to make our child's life easier.             
...the arguments for and against attachment parenting mirror questions about family and work that still divide America five decades after the advent of modern feminism, when nearly half the U.S. workforce is made up of women.   (Kate Pickert, Time Magazine
Based on the article, Dr. Sears has a skewed sense of reality.  Dr. Sears "encourages mothers to start home businesses" rather than rejoining the workforce.  Dr. Sears also suggests "mothers quit their jobs and borrow money to make up the difference." Dr. and Mrs. Sears "subsidized their sons' wives so they could stay home with the Sears grandchildren."

For the secretary, the receptionist or blue collar worker - how will this work?  What home business can they start?  (You really can't start a business without money.) Who are they borrowing money from?  Not every family/mother has these options.  Or maybe - they don't want them.

And not every mother has the privilege of a flexible work arrangement.  Where I work, many executives have the option to work from home.  After The Boy was diagnosed, I asked if working from home could be an option.  I was told that my job - as a secretary - could not be performed from home.  And while some flexibility was allowed to accommodate our family needs - I work my full 35 to 40 hours. Not to mention commute time - about 10 hours a week.  

For the single mom - what about medical insurance?  Who will supplement her income - if the father decides he wants to skip town or be a dead beat?  Should welfare be an option so that she can stay home with her baby and follow the attachment parenting approach?  If that started happening, I know people would be up in arms about that.  

These are not the days of Archie Bunker - where a single income blue collar worker can purchase a house in Queens (New York), support his family and send his child to college.

Different. Not Less.

Temple Grandin's mother, Eustacia Cutler, described her daughter as different, not less.  The same term can be applied to mothers.  I work outside of the home, I didn't breastfeed but I co-sleep - though not by choice, its the only way I'll get some sleep.  I am different.  Not less.

And just because a mother stays home and adopts the attachment parenting philosophy - that makes her different.  Not more.  

Here's a novel idea!

Do what works for you and your family.  GASP!  I know, I know - sounds a little radical.    But if you don't want to take my word for it.  Listen to these guys:  
"Trust [your] instincts...'You know more than you think you do.'" ~ Dr. Spock.
"Do the best you can with the resources you have." ~ Dr. Sears
These would have been great sentiments for Mother's Day.  Though I suppose, it's not the sentiment that will sell magazines.

If breast feeding a three year old, works for Jamie Lynn Grumet (the mother on Time Magazine) - good for her.  And if you know breast feeding a three year old isn't going to work for you.  Don't do it.  

As a special needs mom, I talk a lot about acceptance.  But I can't be selective about my acceptance - especially when it comes to parenting styles.  That would make me a hypocrite.  So as long as a child isn't put in any physical danger - who the hell am I to judge?

Am I Mom Enough?

Not a day goes by where I think to myself - am I doing enough for my child?  And I know many moms - whether they stay at home with their kids or work outside of the home ask themselves the same question.  In a recent Huffington Post article, Erin Smith writes: 
There are all types of mothers out there; working mothers, stay at home mothers, mothers that work part time -- all sorts of arrangements. With all their differences, I'd venture to say that at least one common thread exists among them: they all have some level of guilt.
Chances are if you are feeling some kind guilt, if you are questioning "Am I Mom enough?" - the answer is probably YES.  You are mom enough.  

And as mothers - don't we teach our children to do their best.  If they do their very best, then that's all that matters.  

The same should apply to us.

(I'm running out to enjoy my Mother's Day weekend - if there are any typos - forgive me, I'll revise later.)

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AutismWonderland - written by Lisa Quinones-Fontanez - is a personal blog chronicling a NYC family's journey with autism, while also sharing local resources for children/families with special needs.