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Holly Swanson: Mommy Wars? Not Really

by on May 15, 2012 6:30 AM

This week’s Time magazine cover was probably created for one purpose — to start controversy.

I hesitated to even write about it myself because I don't want to give the issue more attention, but I have a few thoughts about it that I’d like to, well, get off my chest.

If you didn’t see it in the checkout aisle, Time’s cover features a young mom breastfeeding her almost four-year-old as he stands on a step stool. The photo was accompanied by the words “Are you Mom enough?”

Time’s Twitter account posted a link to the article and called it “the story everyone’s talking about.” And they’re right … a lot of people are talking about it.

The magazine’s editors and parenting experts have been appearing on morning news shows and online outlets to debate attachment parenting, the focus of the magazine’s cover story.

Because of the child’s age and size, the pundits are arguing with one another about whether breastfeeding a preschooler is an example of good parenting or if it’s just weird.

But you know who didn't spend a lot of time talking about the cover?


Most of us are too busy checking math homework, burning dinner, and picking up Lego pieces to really care what's on the cover of a magazine, much less one that is hoping to piss us off.

The editors of Time magazine make it sound like moms across America are knocking themselves out to live up to the ideals put forth by Dr. William Sears in The Baby Book, which is considered by many to be the Bible of attachment parenting.

On-demand breastfeeding, co-sleeping, and baby wearing are among the main tenets of attachment parenting and some moms, Time says, feel guilty and inadequate if they don’t devote around-the-clock care to their children.

There will always be some people who take their principles, parenting or otherwise, to extremes, but I honestly don’t know any mother who beats herself up over not meeting someone else's expectations of parenting. For many moms, attachment parenting isn't even a choice.

Countless women who work outside the home do not have the option of breastfeeding every few hours or wearing their babies in a sling throughout the day. Attachment parenting tends to be a choice for the privileged and is a decision that many families simply don’t get to make.

The thing is, no mom follows all the guidelines of any parenting style. We are all just making it up as we go along. Because I wear my baby in a sling while I feed her a bottle of formula doesn’t make me a better or worse parent than anyone else.

Am I practicing non-attachment parenting? Is a mom who takes her child to daycare an unattached parent? Unfortunately, we tend to get too fired up about labels.

A lot of “experts” have said that Time magazine was pitting mothers against mothers and was adding fuel to the “Mommy wars.” But such a thing, of course, doesn’t exist. I don't really care if you breastfeed your child until he’s three or if you send your toddler to daycare for eight hours a day.

Likewise, I haven’t felt judgment for bottle feeding my children or staying home to take care of them. Mothers are actually really supportive of one another, no matter what parenting approach we take as long as everyone is healthy and, relatively, happy.

The best parenting advice I ever got was, naturally, from my own mom. If I worried that one of my children wasn’t keeping up with developmental milestones or was eating too little or too much, Mom pointed out that my kids hadn’t read the parenting books and didn’t know what they should be doing.

Instead, children develop at their own pace and in their own way, just like moms. Good parents do what’s best for their children and their own situation, not what a magazine or an expert wants us to do.

Recent columns:

Holly Swanson is a State College-based freelance writer. She is on Twitter @statecollegemom and can be reached via email at [email protected]
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