It seems like everyone has seen the controversial cover of TIME that featured a mother breastfeeding her 3-year-old son. This image, meant to spark debate and conversation about attachment parenting methods, has gone beyond that and incited several arguments among mothers everywhere. While some of the arguments have remained thoughtful, respectful, and focused on the idea that there is no “right way” to raise a child, there have of course been several less-than-kind remarks about women who do not engage in attachment parenting. A few particular gems:
“It’s sad that you’ll never truly bond with your baby since you decided not to breastfeed.”
“I just know that my way is the correct way, because my child will actually know he’s safe and loved.”
“It’s just selfish not to do AP. Women need to remember it isn’t all about them anymore once they have a baby.”
These may sound a bit harsh. That’s because they are a bit harsh. Of course, there are just as many women on the other side of the fence who are attacking women who engage in attachment parenting, but there seems to be a big difference between the types of arguments. The AP parents often take on the holier-than-thou approach, and the non-AP parents immediately go on the defensive. The AP parents claim that their way is the only truly loving, safe, healthy way to raise a child. The non-AP parents accuse the others of raising children that will inevitably have issues with everything from independence to sexual health to bullying.
For crying out loud, have we not established this about a million times already? NO ONE IS RIGHT. Just like no one is wrong. Sure, I’m not sure I could ever breastfeed a child old enough to chew a steak, but women do that all around the globe and their kids turn out fine. My stance is this: unless you are actively abusing, neglecting, or simply don’t love your child, you are doing just fine as a parent. There are as many ways to raise a child as there are children on this planet, and to claim that there is one “best way” is simply untrue. What works for one family may not work for another. What works for one child within a family may not work for another child within the same family! The bottom line is that you have to do what works best for your child, for you, and for your family as a whole. And you shouldn’t be made to feel inferior because of your choices.
Parenthood is a very public thing. We see others with their children and judge them. The mother ignoring a screaming baby in the grocery store is demonized and assumed to be a selfish woman, but sometimes there’s just nothing you can do, and you gotta get those groceries. The woman with five perfectly-behaved and well-groomed children is assumed to be a flawless mother, but for all we know, her house is run like a boot camp. There’s no way to hide parenthood, and there’s no way to escape judgment for it. And there’s definitely no way you can escape feeling just a little superior when you see a mother doing something you swear you’ll never do. It’s a shame, but it’s true. I’m guilty of it. I don’t know a single parent who isn’t.
Even so, I don’t think it’s fair to even imply that someone may not be “mom enough” because of their parenting style. While it is an effective way to sell magazines and get attention, it is, quite simply, a hurtful way to go about it. It automatically makes the AP look like superior jerkasses and the non-AP look like they just aren’t trying hard enough. No one wins, and parenthood is so hard on everyone that the last thing any of us need is to feel like a loser.
So for anyone who is wondering, yes, you are ”mom enough”.
Do you get up in the middle of the night to comfort your crying baby? You’re mom enough.
Do you cry when you just can’t make him feel better? You’re mom enough.
Do you feed him when he’s hungry? You’re mom enough.
Do you grin like an idiot when he smiles at you? You’re mom enough.
Do you give him warm baths and laugh when he splashes? You’re mom enough.
Do you sacrifice in order to provide for him? You’re mom enough.
Do you do everything you can to make sure he’s clean, warm, dry, fed, and happy? You’re mom enough.
Do you love him? You’re mom enough.
Damn it, you’re mom enough. Whether you breastfeed or bottle-feed, you’re soothing your baby’s hunger, so you’re mom enough. Whether you co-sleep or crib-sleep, you give your baby a soft, warm bed, so you’re mom enough. Whether you babywear or not, you cradle your baby when he needs you the most, so you’re mom enough. Whether you use cloth diapers or disposables, you take care of one of your child’s most basic needs, so you’re mom enough.
Please, let’s stop fighting against each other and instead fight for each other. We’re all parents. We’re all struggling. We’re all doing what we think (and hope) is right for our children, because we all love our children and want them to grow into their full potential. We’re all taking different paths, but we’re all trying to get to the same place.