I said I wasn’t going to mention it. For the last week, I’ve kept fairly silent on the whole “Hot mama nursing her toddler boy on the cover of Time magazine” debacle discussion. I’m not nursing a toddler. And I’m pretty confidently entrenched in my own style of Attachment Parenting, so I don’t really give a shit what Dr. Sears or another blogger or Mayim Bialik thinks/says/feels about how I parent, thank you very much. So I sat back and watched it all play out. With a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. One that I couldn’t quite name, and honestly, didn’t have the energy to put words to.
Until Tiffany wrote this.
Go ahead. Read it. I’ll save your seat until you come back.
“I hope that you are thirsty for information” she tells her son Mason. Information. Don’t judge others before your thirst for knowledge has been satisfied with information. And suddenly Tiffany made me realize that the article was hurting people. The article was making moms feel bad for doing something natural and loving and nurturing, and it was completely overshadowing any teachable moment about Attachment Parenting. The article wasn’t a “win” for anyone. It was a smack in the face to any mother who thought she was doing it “right”, whether “right” meant nursing her child on demand or measuring powdered formula into a bottle.
Have you discussed the Time article on FaceBook? Have you laughed about it in your playgroup? Has your husband cracked jokes about how he’d like to be the one on that stool?
It isn’t the picture that bothers me, or even the horribly divisive headline of “Are you Mom Enough?”. It’s the backlash. It’s the public discussion of something that should be decided in families. It’s the bloggers and talking heads on the nightly news, who are inviting themselves into every parent’s home and judging how they feed their child.
I don’t give a shit how you feed your baby, or your toddler, or even your ten year old for that matter. As long as you FEED THEM.
Every day, 4 children in the US die from child abuse and neglect. Over 75% of them are under the age of 4. I have sat with mothers whose children have been tortured. I have watched through a two-way mirror as a play therapist used an anatomically correct doll to encourage a three-year old to speak his painful truth. I have worked with six year old boys who had perpetrated against other children.
Let’s talk about THAT. Let’s put our collective breath and internet energy toward shaming the real bad guys. When you shame mothers who are nurturing and nourishing their children, you are saying that breast feeding is something to hide. You are saying that YOUR discomfort over seeing an exposed breast takes priority over the hunger/frustration/neediness of a child. That’s selfish. That’s shameful.
Moms who breastfeed their toddlers are FEEDING THEIR TODDLERS. It is not child abuse. It is not shameful. It is not for you to laugh at or ridicule or lampoon. It is not YOURS to consume.
Do you care that I fed my son macaroni and cheese last night? Of course you don’t. Do you care that I lie down in his bed at night to help him fall asleep? Of course not. Are you ready to open up your curtains and allow the world to pass judgement on how you parent?
I didn’t think so.
So here’s a few rules that I think we could all benefit from:
1. If you’re not a mother, you don’t get to have an opinion about the Time picture. Yep. Scream all you want, but I stand by that. Now I don’t give a shit if you’re a nursing mom or a bottle/formula feeding mom. Lord knows that I’ve done both, and that both can be a royal pain in the ass. The point is, that unless you have been a mother who has been tasked with the incredibly complicated, emotionally and even physically painful process of FEEDING your child in some way, you don’t get to comment on how children are fed by their parents.
2. Before you speak, examine your own discomfort. Why are YOU so uncomfortable with seeing a mom nursing a toddler? What does it make YOU think of? What is YOUR paradigm, and how does it affect YOU if someone parents differently than you do/would? Did you see something sexual in that picture? That was YOUR interpretation. Own it.
3. Before you speak, acknowledge that the media can be an amazing puppeteer. Do you know that you are being played? Turning us against each other sells magazines. It makes us question our gut response, and allows us to think that we are entitled to answers that aren’t ours to own.
4. Go to the uncomfortable place inside of you that found that picture to be sexual. Time did that on purpose. They chose a “hot mom”. Who was nursing a toddler BOY. Instead of having her snuggle him on the couch they put him on a chair so that he looked like a tiny adult. They attempted to make him the mother’s equal. And then they put a camera in his face so that he would give an adult “What are YOU looking at?” stare. And don’t forget the trendy skinny jeans and sexy tank top on mom. The more we shame nursing mothers, the more we ask them to leave a restaurant to nurse, or cover up with a blanket, or sit on the toilet in a public restroom to nurse because you’re offended, the more we make nursing a dirty/titillating/taboo/giggle over a BOOB on the cover of Time kind of thing. Time wanted you to go to your dark place. They wanted you to confuse desire and nurturing. They wanted you to be so ignorant of nursing that you acted like a Jr High tween boy. And it worked. When you were shocked and uncomfortable, you talked about it. You tried to shake off how dirty it made you feel by posting about it on FaceBook and bashing her on Mommy Forums. It was free advertising for Time, at your expense. Nice work guys.
Children are suffering greatly at the hands of their parents, all over the world. The child on the cover of Time is being FED. Tiffany’s sweet Mason is being FED. If you are really that upset about children being FED, then drive over to your local homeless shelter and FEED a child. Bring them a sandwich. Give money to your local elementary school so that they can supplement their free lunch program. Volunteer as a CASA or a Big Brother/Big Sister and be a friend to a child who is experiencing a loneliness unlike anything you’ve ever imagined.
Be the change. Don’t judge. Say thank you. Thank you mamas, for feeding your babies. On stools, on couches, at dinner tables, in rocking chairs. Thank you for nourishing your children, however you know how. I stand by you as you nurse your three year old, with a sippee cup of milk in my hand and a bowl of macaroni and cheese in the other. Rock on nursing mamas, and the rest of you? Well, just shut the hell up and go cook dinner. While you were on FaceBook trashing other moms, your kids were getting hungry.
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