In honor of Mother's Day and my own Mother's 65th birthday today, I'm writing this post to offer my take on this "Mom Enough" cover of TIME magazine. I'm no stranger to these "mommy wars," but, in this case, I'm actually not taking on the attachment parenting versus not, breastfeeding versus not, working versus not mommy wars. Rather, I'm challenging the war that is being raged all over the blogosphere against this mom, Jamie Grumet.
I'll be direct. I support Jamie's decision to appear on this cover, with this story, 150%. I am tired of the critiques of Jamie: she's too young (26) to understand the ramifications of her actions. She's exploiting her child, who -- OMG! -- might be embarrassed by this cover someday. She's trying to get rich and famous. The list goes on. It's all bullshit. Jamie Grumet knew exactly what she was doing, as she's repeated in subsequent interviews. We women, especially, need to stop undermining her choice. That's right: I see this as another CHOICE issue. To a friend, almost every woman I know who's vocal about choice, when it comes to abortion rights, has questioned this woman's choice to appear on a magazine cover breastfeeding a toddler. I'm sad about that. Choice is choice is choice. You don't have to like the magazine cover or support attachment parenting -- but for so many women to suggest that she's exploiting her child? Well... ouch. That feels like a level of judgmentalism that crosses the line. I've been Jamie Grumet, and I know how it feels.
On election day in 2008, I butted heads with a relative over my decision to take my kids to a No on 8 demonstration. (Proposition 8 passed, and it took away the rights of gays to marry; we were demonstrating against that with same-sex, married friends and their kids.) My relative offered a lot of reasons why s/he thought that taking my kids to this demonstration was wrong. In addition to it being against that person's religious teachings, s/he also suggested that people might photograph them with these signs, or that they might be on the news -- and what if their participation in this protest followed them? What if they were presumed to be gay later in life because of it? How could they make a choice about participating in a protest at ages 3 and 8?
I made the choice for them to attend the demonstration, just like Jamie Grumet made the choice for her child to appear with her breast in his mouth on the cover of a magazine. I made the choice because I want my children to grow up in a world where "all people are created equal" actually means something. I demonstrated with them because our friends' family looks just like our family, with two loving parents and two great kids. That they should be denied access to their spouse's healthcare, or to the other privileges extended to married couples under the law, is unconscionable to me. And if my kids, a dozen years from now, are confronted with images from that protest -- if someone teases my son in high school for being pro-gay, for example -- I will have taught them how to handle that. I already have. I wear my beliefs on my sleeve when it comes to social issues, and I am raising my kids to stand up for their beliefs, too -- even if and when they differ from mine. My kids didn't even know that same-sex couples couldn't marry before Prop 8 came up; they never found it odd that their friend had two moms. They didn't know any different, because we didn't teach them that it was different (or, God forbid, aberrant, as one elderly lady tried to tell my daughter). It's funny: when you teach kids that certain ways of life are socially normal, or acceptable, they tend to believe it.
And that's why I don't think Jamie Grumet is doing any lasting "damage," here. I think it's likely that when her son has kids, he, too, will be a breastfeeding advocate -- like my grandfather was for me. I think that if he's in high school (though he's home-schooled -- so who knows?!), and someone tries to make a joke about him sucking at his mom's teat, he'll reply: she believed in attachment parenting and raised me as she saw fit. It's not for everyone, but it worked for me. Or, perhaps he'll say: "Wasn't your mom mom-enough to do the same?" Just kidding. In part because of this blog post that Jamie wrote for BlogHer, my bet is that this family won't be judgmental about others' choices. It's unlikely they'll be extended the same courtesy, but I also bet that this boy is going to have the confidence to take it -- for he has a mom who's confident enough to pull off this cover. Our children learn from our actions; all the better if they're sure-footed ones.
I would know. I was raised by one of those women. I carried things to school in former-protest bags from the ACLU (like "Jobs Not Jails" ones), and, in boarding school, I watched on TV as my mom was arrested for environmental activism (linking arms and praying with Martin Sheen, by the way). I'd be lying if I didn't share that, for a moment, it crossed my mind that people might judge me or my family for my mom's actions -- that her arrest might be embarrassing, or raise uncomfortable questions among my friends. And it did. Some friends' families took me to task, disagreeing with my mother's stance. And because I learned well from her how to hold my ground, I was able to say "to each her own," respecting others' right to choose to think differently, even if I didn't agree.
The older I've grown, the more I respect women like Jamie Grumet and yes, especially, my mom, for living their life out loud, sure-footed, confident, and unwavering in their support of an issue -- all the while demonstrating how to do so without being judgmental. We owe women like this the same respect. It's time for a change in how we interact: time to engage in dialogue about concerns without feeling like a polarized stance is necessary. It's time to be willing to listen, and perhaps, even, to change our mind about people like Jamie. Maybe she has it right, even at age 26 -- the same age when my mom became a mom to me, and the same age when I became a mom to my daughter. Maybe "mom enough" just means "confident" -- something of which a whole lot of moms I know could use a boost.
To Jamie Grumet, and to my mom on her birthday, I offer a heartfelt thank you, for the confidence to stand up for your beliefs. Not everyone does, and I sure am glad I was raised by one who was Mom Enough.