The lifecycle of motherhood offers a wonderful gift about a decade in: the longer you are a mom, the easier motherhood gets.
Sure, I’ve heard the adage that little kids equal little problems – like what diapers to buy and whether to wash a pacifier when it falls in the dirt. Bigger kids equal bigger problems, like explaining how you slip on a condom and why it is wrong to cheat on the SATs. But mentally at least, I am an infinitely more placid, wiser mom now that I’m 15 years into this crazy motherhood gig.
Take Time Magazine’s explosive cover article about breastfeeding. The glossy white cover prominently displays a beautiful skinny mom sticking her boob into the mouth of an almost-four-year old boy. The abrasive headline asks “Are You Mom Enough?”
The cover was blatantly, brazenly designed to push as many mommy hot buttons as possible. The subject could not be more titillating (sorry), guilt-inducing, and sure to grab our attention and make us feel badly whether we are breastfeeding or not.
First, of course, the subject matter: Breast-feeding is an intimate, personal, individual decision that the American public and our media have decided to commandeer and judge. You feel badly if you don’t breastfeed, even though not all moms want to breastfeed and not all moms can breastfeed. But you are also in trouble if you do breastfeed, because you spend half your waking moments trying to find the lactation room at work, worrying about leaking through your breast pads, or covering up your nipples on the park bench so the old ladies walking by don’t glare at you and the old men don’t try to sneak a peek.
Second, the timing. This is Time Magazine’s Mother’s Day issue. Happy Mother’s Day, honey! Don’t you feel SO MUCH BETTER about yourself now?
Onto the visuals. The slim mom in skinny jeans. Ouch! My hips haven’t been that slick since before I hit puberty. And of course Cover Mom is blonde, with envy-enducing Marcia Brady stick straight hair. Couldn’t the powers-that-be at Time find a woman with a cute potbelly, love handles and wiry carrot curls from a really bad perm?
The words: the “mom enough” taunt serves as a bullfighter’s red cape, waving wildly in the mom competition arena, just to make sure we all felt an increase in our blood pressure, no matter whether we work or stay at home (or both).
When I was a new mom in 1997, trying to get through my 10-hour workday at Johnson & Johnson with my boobs gently leaking every time I thought I heard a baby cry, this magazine cover would have made me insane. I would have screamed. Ranted. Condemned the male editor who made the choice to inflame the mommy wars and undermine the sisterhood of women. I would have grabbed my kid from his overpriced daycare center, gone home and cried myself to sleep over the unfairness of it all.
But now, fifteen years later, I saw the cover and…laughed out loud. How ridiculous! What a transparent attempt to enrage moms and sell a few extra overpriced newsstand copies. Every trick Time’s editor Rick Stengal attempted on this national stage made me laugh harder and with more pure joy. Because none of these manipulative tricks work anymore.
The mommy wars? Bring it on. I now know the only real mommy war rages inside our heads, because attempting to be society’s “perfect mom” without any societal or government support is utterly, totally impossible. I am my own imperfect mom. I love my kids and they love me. I no longer care about being perfect or making any other woman on earth feel subpar for the kind of mom she chooses to be.
Time’s beautiful blonde skinny young mom? More power to her. I love this woman for everything she believes in and accomplishes as a mom. At only 26, Jamie Lynne Grumet, who lives in Los Angeles, is a lactation consultant, breastfeeding advocate, and mother of two who blogs under the fabulous title “I Am Not the Babysitter.” She has breastfed one child with gusto for longer than I breastfed my three children all together. And bravo to her that she looks so damn good and so darn happy.
But sweetest is the knowledge that those big powerful well-paid editors at such a prestigious national magazine are going all out to get MY attention. All moms’ attention. We have power, moms. The world is listening to us. Finally. Let’s use our voices to make the world a better place for all of us and our children.
That’s the real Mother’s Day present here.