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Mom Enough

June 13, 2012

It’s sort of old news, but I am still having feelings about the Time Magazine headline, “Are You Mom Enough?”

I can’t begin to express my frustration with this article.  And yet it provokes mixed feelings as well.  On the one hand, I am delighted to see extended breastfeeding (which is the norm around the world and is perfectly natural, despite the unnatural photograph on the cover) is getting attention in the mainstream media.  There is plenty of research to show that extended breastfeeding has health benefits for mothers and children and to argue that there is something wrong with it is incredibly silly.

Yet, I know people do argue with it.  And I am even okay with that.  I am okay with people venting their discomfort about breastfeeding because they come by it naturally in our society that doesn’t support or encourage much that is natural and healthy.

But I find the headline just so frustrating.  I have friends who were not able to breastfeed, despite valiant efforts (and my standards for valiant efforts with breastfeeding are very high because I have also jumped some enormous hurdles to breastfeed my babies).  And these friends are very, very much mom enough.  In fact, they are precisely the moms that their children need.  They love their children unconditionally and with abandon.  They work hard to make sure that their children have safety, security, health, and love.  They make their own best judgments about how to raise their children and they go forward to do so.  Breastfeeding does not define a mother, nor does doing something that is socially awkward make one a bigger or better mom.

Recently I read a similarly frustrating blog post from Dr. Christine Carter, happiness expert at Berkley’s Greater Good Science Center.  I love Christine Carter.  I have taken her happiness classes online and highly recommend them.  She’s gentle and supportive and a very solid scientist.

This post has a lot of good information, all of which I learned about in her online course, which I highly recommend.  It’s useful, practical stuff that you can implement and improve your own happiness and the happiness of your family.

And while this post is full of good information, I absolutely hate it because it is so full of unnecessary judgment.  The headline asks the magic mirror “who’s the best mom” and I think we all know that the whole magic mirror comparison didn’t turn out so well in Snow White.  The idea of a “best mom” of them all makes me a little crazy, sort of like that crazy wicked witch.

The post from Christine Carter goes on to explain that to be a good mother, we have to do certain things.  Like be “happy” and be “in a happy romantic relationship.”  Now, I get why these things are encouraged.  No doubt, when a mother is happy and in a happy romantic relationship, she’s going to be more resourced and more capable of connecting with her child and doing the great service of mothering.  But are we really not “good” mothers if we don’t have this ideal life?  Sheesh.  I can think of really good mothers who are single parents.  I know for a fact that not all good mothers are always happy.  There are low points for everyone.  It’s the fortitude to persevere and work toward that happiness goal that really marks a great mother.

We could all do with a little less of the judgment and a little more confidence that we are the parents our children need.  Wouldn’t it be blissfully freeing to trust that we know our kids best and that we are exactly the kind of parent we need to be?

Of course, I still take parent education courses and read books and try to be an even better mom, which can really push my angst buttons, helping me to both hyper-focus on my shortcomings and put me on a path to improvement.  So, maybe I don’t believe I am the parent I should be.  Or maybe I have been convinced by mass media that I am not good enough.

But maybe what we need most is a little grace and tolerance for our own shortcomings.  Isn’t that the kind of value we would like to share with our children?

One Comment leave one →
  1. bellissimom permalink
    June 13, 2012 8:37 pm

    Very well said. I hated that article & photo as well. There needs to be a more healthy dialogue about breast feeding and that was not it.

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