Sunday, May 20, 2012
Are You Mom Enough? Part I
When Time magazine unveiled the attention-getting cover of their upcoming edition, private and public forums exploded with opinions, questions, and condemnations. If you somehow missed it, the cover shows a woman with one breast flipped out the top of her tank top and a 3-year old boy standing on a chair and attached to the breast nursing. The title reads, "Are You Mom Enough?" (Time Magazine, May 21, 2012) I hope Time's cover designers get paid the big bucks; they definitely know how to draw attention to their magazine.
So, what's the big deal? A lot. Emotions are tied with opinions. Self-worth is entangled with parenting choices. Peer pressure continues into adulthood. Although the overall article discusses attachment parenting as a whole, the public arguments focus on two issues. One is breastfeeding. The other lies in the title itself. Today let's discuss the implications of the cover rather than the article itself. Why? Because before the magazine was actually available to the public for reading, the cover question impacted women's self-worth and touched families across the country.
Interestingly, the photographers relied on traditional photos and artwork of mothers nursing their babies as inspiration. I do not know about the inside shots, but the cover is anything but traditional. Rather than a lovey, dovey portrait of a smiling matriarch, Time chose a more militant look, even to the point of dressing the little boy in fatigue pants. The mom seems to have a look that says, "I dare you." No doubt, the photographer coached that look. It may or may not reflect the thoughts of the woman on the cover; but the intent of Time is clear—causing emotions to explode at the sight of the cover. The question now is, "What does it say to you?"
Do you feel challenged to be a better mom? Do you feel encouraged to stand for your parenting choices? Do you feel bullied into accepting someone else's parenting choices? Do you feel intimidated or threatened?
I feel bullied. Do I blame the moms in the article? At this point, no. Yet, the person who decided on the title wanted to push my buttons and succeeded. How about your buttons? Even so, the issue in this blog is not deciding on the view or intent of the article writer but deciding what you do when others intentionally try to bully you.
Insecurity at some level as a parent is a given. Sometimes that insecurity manifests itself as a know-it-all bully. Think about kids who are bullies. Some of them feel insecure and out of place in their world. As a result, they make life miserable for everyone else. That tendency can overflow into adulthood. Yet, the self-righteous attitude that often accompanies social adult bullies make the victims doubt themselves. Basically, insecurity may be an element in both the social bully and the one who gets bullied.
If you are feeling pressure to change your parenting style but do not feel you should, ask yourself some questions.
Who do you admire as a parent? Remember, no one's perfect, but who seems to be getting it right most of the time? Who has a way of parenting that makes you smile or makes you feel that she is right on target?
Who has kids that behave in a way that you would like your kids to behave? Again, kids are definitely not perfect and don't usually try to impress another adult with their behavior, so remember to give them a little grace and forgiveness. Yet, whose kids are pleasant to be around and seem to have a good influence on your children?
Who do you trust? Who has the patience to listen to you and give you honest feedback? "Honest" does not mean they tell you what you want to hear, nor does it mean they use "honesty" as an excuse to criticize you to pieces.
Who has experiences that will help them relate to your concerns and questions? This does not mean that they have experienced your situation exactly but can still relate to your concerns.
Who seems to really know you and your goals for your family?
Look at your list. These are the people to whom you will listen. Sure, you can read articles and blogs. You can have discussions with other moms at play groups, co-ops, or even in the nursery at church. However, all those opinions and styles do not determine you. YOU may choose to follow the suggestions from any of those sources, but it is YOUR choice. If you hear a new method of dealing with your children and think, "That is exactly what I have been looking for," give it a try. If you like it, great. If you try it and it's not a good fit, drop it. You owe no one an explanation—except it is good to keep the lines of communication open with your husband. J Feel free to discuss what worked for you and what didn't with others in these little groups if you want to discuss it, but remember you are sharing your experiences, not looking for their approval. Yet, remember the people you listed in response to the above questions about whom you trust.
Now when you talk to those people, listen to what they have to say. They know you. They know your strengths and weaknesses. They know your family dynamics. They have a better idea where your heart is and how you have evolved as a mother. (Yes, you evolve as a mother. Didn't you know God gave you children so He could work on your imperfections?)
Lastly, they will be there to support you and encourage you on those days that it doesn't go just right without saying, "I told you so;" or "You should have done 'such and such' just like I said." Carefully consider the corrections and admonitions of these trusted few. If they have concerns about some choices you want to make (or have made), take it seriously. Remember, you chose them as mentors for their wisdom and insight. Maybe you do not want to hear what they are telling you, but maybe you should. If after careful and prayerful consideration you think you should stay on your chosen course, then do so, and thank your trusted friends for their honest input.
Getting feedback from women who have passed your test of reliability can give you the courage to resist the social bullies. You may resist by quietly smiling while you patiently wait for the other person to stop rattling on. However, in some situations, you might need to resist by taking a vocal stand in opposition to another woman's blatant comments, especially if another woman in your circle is starting to doubt her own self-worth as mother because of the overt opinions of interfering oppressor.
As I mentioned before, some people become pushy when they feel insecure about their choices. Second guessing ourselves and seeing everyone else as perfect can definitely create self-doubts (maybe even depression) and make us vulnerable to social bullies.
You do not have to let some stranger—or even a long time friend—intimidate you into changing your parenting style. You can choose whose advice you trust and whose demands you keep from touching your family. Then the next time someone says, "Are you mom enough?" you can confidently declare, "Yes, I am!"