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Entries in jamie lynne grumet (2)

Monday
May142012

Let's Stop Caring if We're Mom Enough

I’ve been reluctant to comment on the now infamous (and perhaps incendiary to some) Time cover featuring mom and LA-based blogger Jamie Lynne Grumet alongside the bold fighting words, “Are you mom enough?” because that’s exactly what the media giant wanted in the first place. 

Here’s the thing. We know the print publication industry is suffering. We know that sensational titles a la the Wall Street Journal sell and lead to a lot of attention, driving eyeballs to their site, prompting people to buy the contested issue, and making them money.

Here’s the other thing. I think it’s irresponsible journalism—even though it might be an accepted industry or business tactic—and I don’t want to give energy or power to it. I don’t want to fuel the fires of the mommy wars like the magazine surely banked on. And I certainly don’t want to improve its bottom line.

In fairness to Jamie Lynne Grumet, maybe she had no idea the context in which the photograph would be used. I mean, the accompanying article is really about the life work of Dr. William Sears and his theory of attachment parenting. It is NOT about the superiority of one form of parenting versus another. In fact, Jamie herself says “There seems to be a war going on between conventional parenting and attachment parenting, and that’s what I want to avoid. I want everyone to be encouraging. We’re not on opposing teams. We all need to be encouraging to each other, and I don’t think we’re doing a very good job at that.”

On the other hand, maybe I’m naïve or assume the best about people, and she smugly knew exactly what she was doing by agreeing to pose for provocative photos. If that’s the case (although I kinda doubt it), shame on her and shame on Time.  But beyond that, the cover represents just one person’s supposed opinion as presented by the media machine that demonizes motherhood, plays on parenting fears, and sends negative messaging that we’re always lacking regardless of the choices we make in an effort to make money.

You know what I say?

Let’s stop caring.

If we stop caring and reacting against these media falsehoods, maybe we will disempower such messages, rob them of life, and end the mommy wars altogether. It's then, perhaps, that we can begin to have meaningful, nuanced, and supportive discussions. 

Please know that no matter what choices you make—independent or co-sleeping, formula or breastfeeding, organic or jarred food, cloth or disposable diapers, working or stay-at-home—we are all mom enough, every day, every night, every minute, every perfect and imperfect moment, for the rest of time.

~ The Other Sarah

Monday
May142012

Are you mom enough? Depends on the day. 

By this point, I'm assuming you've all seen it.  Jamie Lynne Grumet , blogger and mother of two, stands and gazes into the camera as her three-year-old son also standing, but on a stool, nurses. The bold headline reads: "Are you mom enough?"

Hilarity ensues! Did I say hilarity? I meant hysteria.

Almost immediately people began asking me what I thought of the cover. Friends said it made them uncomfortable. Other friends said it wasn't the photo that made them angry but the headline. Everyone had an opinion of the cover and everyone wanted to share it.

The Battle of the Boob, the newest front in the never-ending Mommy Wars, has taken center stage.

Let's talk about the photograph itself. Jamie is a beautiful woman and her beauty is the first thing I noticed. (Okay, the FIRST thing I noticed was her boob followed quickly by her beauty.) In fact, my initial thought was that the editors had used a model and I started looking for signs of a prosthetic breast. When I realized, she was a real mom feeding her actual son I no longer felt such a strong reaction to the image.

Extended breastfeeding does not bother me. While I can't personally imagine nursing Griffin at this point, I have no aversion to someone else breastfeeding their toddler. Now, when we start talking elementary school, that's another story, but I still don't think it makes you a bad mother...just a very different one.

Some have criticized the image for being sexualized, but I don't really agree with that. Like I said, I initially reacted to Jamie's beauty. She is tall, thin, blonde, and very pretty. In other words, she fits a more traditionally sexual vision of womanhood as opposed to a more mothering one. However, beyond the fact that her breast looks more like a breast you'd see in Victoria Secret catalog as opposed to a La Leche League meeting, there is nothing overtly sexual about the photo. That child looks like he's eating and nothing else.

If it makes people uncomfortable to think of a breast being both sexually appealing AND a food source for children, then fine. Let's have that discussion. The biologies of our bodies are complex and finding a psychologically healthy way of coexisting within those two roles (as opposed to compartmentalizing them) is a noble goal for all of us.

Many of my friends said they were very uncomfortable with the fact that both Jamie and her son were looking into the camera. Ah, the power of the gaze! I knew that art history minor would come in handy one day! Traditionally (and particularly in art), women have been the objects of the male gaze. Becoming an object for someone's else enjoyment means you lose a large amount of your own autonomy. Some have argued that when the female subject returns the gaze she takes back some of that power.

Plus, I can't speak to Jamie's personal motivation but by looking confidently into the camera she seems to be defying those (both men and women) who say breastfeeding is shameful or embarrassing. Think about it. We avoid people's eyes when we feel we have something to hide. What exactly does she have to hide?

The real problem I think most mothers have with the cover is not the image itself, but the message sent when the image is combined with the headline. Are you mom enough? The seeming implication being that if you don't breastfeed your toddler you're not a good enough mother.

Now, if you read the accompanying article on Dr. Sears and attachment parenting, I think the headline takes on an altogether different meaning. Kate Pickert offers a pretty strong critique that the parenting philosophies of the Sears family put mothers in the difficult position of feeling like a failure if they can't adopt every tenant of attachment parenting. After reading the article, I felt like the headline was more a statement on attachment parenting than a judgment on mothers. Mainly, the philosophy pushes the idea that dedicated mothers are "mom enough" to put their children first and ignore the difficulties of extended breastfeeding, co-sleeping, babywearing, and the lot.

The problem is most people aren't going to read the article (especially since it's locked to everyone but subscribers...interesting choice Time!) and therefore the cover could be seen as irresponsible at best and flagrant controversy bait at worse. Anyone with a brain knows putting the words "mom" and "enough" too close together is a recipe for disaster because every mother—every parent—worries they aren't doing enough for their kids. Not spending enough time with them. Not making enough money. Not giving them enough boundaries. 

Enough is a powerful word because it is the delicate line between need and want. In parenting, how do you know you're giving your children everything they need but not spoiling them by fulfilling every want?

You don't.

And it's hard to face that truth every day. So when a magazine flaunts that complexity for profit, it is infuriating. Deep down we all know the decision to breastfeed isn't what does or doesn't make you mom enough. If only it were that simple.  If only we got performance reviews or promotions. If only co-sleeping and breastfeeding and babywearing were some magic formula that produced healthy, happy adults. 

Instead, we roll the dice and love our children anyway knowing sometimes we won't be enough...but sometimes we will. And at the end of the day, we hope the times we are enough outweigh the times we aren't. 

~ Sarah Stewart Holland