Are you mommy enough?
Excuse me, what? Today it is no longer enough to carry a child for 9.5 months, and deal with the ensuing stretch marks and breasts that will never be naturally perky again. It is not enough to avoid sushi, lunch meat, anything with nitrates or that does not boast the word organic. All of those classes, books and child preparation that you did? Not enough.
The sleepless nights, breastfeeding while gritting through the pain of tender nipples or mastitis, being tied to a breast pump and feeling a lot like a milk cow. Losing your hair, all of a sudden learning that you have sweat glands. Giving up impromptu nights out with your friends, movies, fitting into your skinny jeans. Not eating all day partially because you are too busy and to shed those last pounds but not seeing the scale budge at all.
Now we are told that none of these choices and sacrifices that go hand-in-hand with motherhood matter unless you decide to breastfeed your child until the age of three years plus, co-sleep with your child, and maintain contstant skin to skin contact with your child?! That is what the cover of Time Magazine implies with the provocative image of a beautiful, modelesque-looking woman nursing a child who is standing on a stepstool to reach her breast at the age of almost four. And to state what everyone is thinking, this child looks much older than almost four years old.
Even more alarming is the headline from the magazine which boldly asks, "Are You Mom Enough?" As a mom to a 10.5 month old very active little man, the thought that I could be anything but an amazing mom to him because I do not subscribe to the tenants of attachment parenting bothered me to no end. Not only did I completely change my career so that I could stay at home with my little one every day while still managing to have a career that I found rewarding, but we uprooted our family and moved over 2,000 miles away before my son turned three months old so that we could live five minutes from my parents. If those two things alone do not make me mom enough, well really, what will?
According to some moms today (as practiced by many attachment parenting advocates who follow the writings of Dr. Sears), in order to raise a well-rounded happy and secure child, you must breastfeed your child well past the age of one (even if the child has moved on from diapers and can use a fork and a knife), co-sleep and wear your child close to your body at all times. Excuse me, but making lifestyle and parenting decisions does not alone make any woman mom enough.
Moms already have so much pressure on them. Starting from the day we announce that we are expecting, we are told what we should eat and what we should not (avoid soy! Don’t eat processed foods!), that we should quit our jobs in order to have a well-adjusted child or that we are giving up or somehow less if we do not return back to our desk three months or sooner after we give birth.
We are told to put more clothes on our baby, that they are too young to take out of the house (one of the door-staff at my building at Aqua in Chicago told me that in Ethiopia, women don’t leave the house for at least six week after they have a baby. She told me to rest and relax and put my feet up. Like that would ever happen!).
The new "in" way to torture mothers is found in parents taking natural birthing to the extreme, and shunning women who use any form of intervention during their labor and delivery. I lunched with an expectant mom who is nine months pregnant last week, and she told me that a friend's husband approached her and proceeded to lecture her that childbirth pain is all mental, and that she needs to commit to going drug-free or she is weak and starting her child off on the wrong foot. Are you serious buddy?! These are personal decisions that are made by a woman and her doctor, and no mother deserves to be judged or made to feel bad for choosing to take a drug or following a doctor's advice to have a c-section.
I am all in favor of natural birthing it if works for that mom at that time, but even Abby Epstein needed an intervention at the end of the Business of Being Born. The point of the movie is that women have choices, and we should explore them and determine what is best for us at the time instead of being pressed through a medical system where we have little choices. However, the extreme trend of natural or bust exerts the same harmful pressure on women as does a system obsessed sith pitocin and epidurals. I have heard more than one story of a woman choosing to get an epidural and then beating herself up for hours afterwards and having an anxiety-ridden delivery just because she made this decision.
Birth should be all about meeting a baby, a new gift, and the safest way to welcome this new life to the world. Motherhood should be focused on the same thing, raising a child to be confident, independent, healthy and strong, building new connections, learning and growth. But in the process, we do everything but support this for same experience for moms and moms-to-be.
I recently read about a woman who said she threw on a thong the day after she gave birth in her diatribe about how you can still be sexy after baby. Oh really? Well she never mentioned how horrible that felt because really, that is just not possible unless perhaps you had a c-section.
We are made to feel bad because we don’t have the latest stroller, we swaddle our children too long, we introduce some formula or store-bought food. I am so sick of being told what I am expected to do or not do based on some other person’s notion of what a “good mom” should be.
Why all of this judgment? While modern society loves to make fun of women for gaining weight or not wearing make-up when they leave the house, this is mostly focused on women who are 1) famous, 2) dress in a provocative fashion or 3) are overweight. We are all judged, however most of the time is comes in a more silent way that is relatively easy to ignore if you are a confident individual.
No longer is the judgment silent when you become a mom. It becomes like a billboard in front of your face, constantly blaring at you. Why are you carrying your baby around and not using an Ergo? Are you nursing? How long did you nurse? You co-sleep with your baby?! Why is your baby crawling around on a floor in a public place? Why this and why that? Oh really you feed your kid rice cereal; I only ground my own quinoa from my own garden that is composted weekly.
Being a mom is hard. It is the most difficult job that most of us will ever do. The demands are omnipresent, and the rewards are not immediate. The days and nights are long, and some days we are sometimes lucky if we get to eat or take a shower.
In celebration of mother’s day, let’s all give ourselves a break and say, not only are we mommy enough, we are an incredible mommy! However we choose to do mother, and whichever paths we choose to forge in our journey of mommyhood, we know what is best for ourselves, our children and families. The confidence in knowing that we are mommy enough is more than a special treat, but a break that we should all give ourselves.
There will always be some new book and some new doctor telling us about the way we should be doing things and why this method is so much better than what we are doing or what we believe in. I say, good for them, I am glad they found something that speaks to them. But I am going to be the mommy that I want to be, thank you. We are all mommy enough. Period.