Let’s end the mommy wars this mother’s day. This past week a Time Magazine cover (at right) showing a 3-year old standing on chair so he can nurse ignited a fire storm.
Wow. It is certainly an arresting if not shocking image and triggered the breastfeeding vs. bottle feeding debate once again as well as the never ending argument about whether moms who work outside the home are harming their children. It goes on and on.
The mother pictured on the cover is a follower of Dr. Bill Sears who preaches attachment parenting. In a nutshell, attachment parenting believes the following:
- Breast feed even when babies become toddlers
- Have babies sleep with you, called co-sleeping
- Use a sling to keep babies “attached” to you, called baby-wearing
- And finally no baby should be left to cry, because a cry is a call for help.
Looking back on my early parenting years (and admittedly it’s two to three decades removed), I practiced an earratic, hybrid form of attachment parenting.
Babies (or more often toddlers) ended up in bed with us because I was too tired to take them back to their room.
I did have a Snugli baby carrier but I stopped using it when I smacked the baby’s head on the fridge by accident as I was preparing dinner. (I’m sure the new baby slings are much improved. Or maybe the new moms are better at navigating than I was.)
And of course, I believed in the absolute benefits of breast feeding. But I had some friends who couldn’t breast feed. That didn’t mean they did irreparable harm to their children.
I did spend as many hours as I could cuddling my babies, holding them close as I read to them, sang to them or just sit silently, basking in motherhood. And sometimes I looked at them as they lay sleeping and smiled because they were a miraculous gift. We were attached, perhaps not all the time physically but certainly emotionally.
One of the biggest concerns I have for young mothers today is their feeling that everything is in their control. That they have to be the “perfect mom” who does everything for her child. This is a disservice to both mother and child. I know I made mistakes. I think my kids survived them fairly well and maybe some of my mistakes actually helped them be more independent.
Anna Quindlen, the Pulitzer pricing winning journalist and bestselling author, summed it up best in an April interview on public radio’s Fresh Air: “The problem with the ‘uber-momism’ is that you convince yourself that you can never make mistakes. Second, if you do, it will be tragic and traumatic. And third, that you have control over the entire situation, which is what’s led to this ‘helicopter parenting’ we talk about all the time. I was the best mother when I stood back, provided appropriate oversight, but basically got out of their way so they could be themselves. “
On Mother’s Day 2012 I’d like to see us dispel the notion that there’s one right way to raise kids. I’d like to put to rest the myth that mothers are totally in control of their children’s lives. All that does is to lead to anxiety and stress—neither of which is particularly good for child or mother. And finally I would like to declare a truce in the Mommy wars. Please join me in telling young women to trust their instincts, use common sense, and perhaps every once in awhile ask Grandma what she thinks.
Happy Mother’s Day!