I’m sure by now most of you have already seen this image. While I was annoyed that Time chose a cover picture designed to sensationalize rather than one that looks at the reality of long-term breastfeeding (and as an avid proponent, I have to say, this is not what it looks like), I was more annoyed by the title. “Are You Mom Enough?” I mean, really?!?
Along with many others, I have called for an end to the “mommy wars.” This Time cover is designed to drudge them up again. If you were a good mom, you would buy organic baby food. If you were a good mom, you would nurse till age three. If you were a good mom, you would teach your infant sign language. If you were a good mom, you would potty train your child at three months via elimination communication. And on and on and on.
I’m tired of the guilt game. I’m tired of all of it. Can we acknowledge for once that every mom is different, and that there are many ways to parent, and that that’s okay? Can we stop having this one “golden standard” that every mom is supposed to somehow morph into?
Can we realize that mothers are individuals first, and mothers second?
What works for one mom might not work for another, and that’s okay. What works for one child might not work for another, and that’s okay. What works for one family might not work for another, and that’s okay. In fact, that’s more than okay, that’s normal. That should be expected.
After giving birth to Sally, I became a mom. It’s like your whole identity suddenly morphs when you become a mom, or at least people’s perceptions of your identity do. When I pick Sally up from daycare, I’m “Sally’s mommy.” When I go out with Sally, to the library or the mall, I’m a mother out with my daughter. One thing I love about being a working mom is that when I’m at work I’m me. And it just so happens that I like being me. This article, On Pregnancy and Privacy and Fear, articulates the dynamic I feel perfectly.
But for some reason, it’s not okay to be an individual first. Our culture has a “mommy mold,” a stereotypical cultural ideal of what a mom “should” be. This creates a culture in which the question “are you mom enough?” can be asked. The guilt, the expectations, the mold the “perfect” mother is expected to squeeze into. Melissa wrote a bit about this in The “Shoulds” of Motherhood. She finishes with this:
The idea that to be a good mother you must sacrifice everything about yourself is a myth. You are valuable too. You deserve care too. You have interests and ideas and gifts and talents. You have so much to offer the world and your children, and that doesn’t involve giving up everything that makes you you.
This goes right along with what I said about being an individual first, and a mother second. We need to ditch the mommy mold and realize that motherhood is not “one size fits all.” Because every woman has her own “interests and ideas and gifts and talents,” every woman will be a different mother.
And that’s okay.