Time Magazine jumped into the Mommy “War” fray this past week with a “provocative” cover story, which featured a good-looking millennial mom breastfeeding her big-for-his-age almost four-year old as the cover photo.
I am sure you’ve seen it by now. She’s garbed in the standard yoga uniform of the SAHM with one boob flashing a bit as her son peeks from behind it, his mouth firmly latched.
The outrage! How dare Time sexualize breastfeeding?! And how icky of them to use a hot looking mom as opposed to the dumpy beings we all know that moms are? And the kid? He’s a kid!! Kids don’t breastfeed! They eat. Lunchables and Happy Meals while drinking fructose infused juices and sodas. And finally, breastfeeding is all well and good for INFANTS (provided a woman CAN nurse … because you know, not all of us can. Failure to latch or lactate enough or you know, we have lives) but not preschoolers who can ask for a cup of milk and maybe even pour their own sippy cups. Pretty sure that sucking Mom’s teat (in front of people) isn’t something Jesus wants fully actualized feminists to do.
‘Cause Jesus loves the working woman.
Did you hear my eyes rolling on that last line?
Look, I breastfed Dee until she was a tad over four years old. Ask her. She’ll tell you that it was awesome and that breast milk is the tastiest stuff ever and she misses it … because she’s lactose intolerant and rice milk just doesn’t cut it for her, and I am mean and won’t let her have much cow’s milk. And no, she won’t be traumatized if someday her peers find this out because we have raised her to value what she knows over the often times misguided misinformation of others.
She slept with me too until Rob came along – because he is the world’s most finicky sleeper*. It’s the slippery slope that is “attachment parenting” for most of us who aren’t Hollywood actresses. Breastfeeding is an on demand thing and in pretty short order it occurs to most of us that letting the baby, toddler or kid simply latch on as needed while we sleep is the best way to not die from exhaustion.
As most people who know Dee can attest, she is neither emotionally impaired nor particularly clingy. She sallies forth into the world at her own pace, dictated more by her personality – which she inherited in more or less equal measures from me and her late father – and that no one would accuse her of being particularly effed up in terms of her ability to separate from Rob and I. She speaks up for herself. She doesn’t take crap from peers. She knows who she is and aside from her insistence that she is going to work at The Pottery Guild when she grows up (she is going to be an engineer because we’ve already decided that we can’t waste money on university without some sort of assurance that she will be employable and not destined to live with us for the rest of our lives), she is practical and – based on my observations of many of her friends – far more self-sufficient.
There is nothing particularly right or wrong about breastfeeding beyound the first 6 weeks or months. Once I got the hang of it, I found it much easier than messing about with formula and bottles. But I wasn’t slavish about it. I didn’t get the hang of pumping, so Dee took formula at daycare. Devilish smart wee one that she was, she figured out quite early that because she could nurse all she liked in the evenings and over-night, she didn’t need to take much formula during the day. More than once, a worried caregiver informed me that Dee had taken only 15 ounces of formula that day. She was too clever by half even as a 4 month old.
And I didn’t personally know anyone whose kid or kids didn’t take up residence in their bed. Honestly, I don’t know that forbidding this sort of thing promotes “independence” any more than letting a baby cry itself to exhaustion teaches them to sleep (which begs the question of how “sleep” – a natural human thing is “taught”). My parents forbade us to sleep in their bed. In fact, I vividly remember having to stand in the hallway outside their door and call to them ’til one of them woke up if I needed them in the night because it was literally taking life in hand to even stand next to their bed.
Most of the sanctity of the marriage bed thing stems, in my opinion, from the quaint notion that sex is why the bed exists in the first place and that a couple somehow loses precious bonding time when children “intrude”. Aside from our days trying to conceive, the late husband and I rarely had sex in bed. And frankly, I am not at all sure how one bonds during one’s sleep. But given the fact that “bonding” for many couples consists of watching Game of Thrones on a flatscreen nearly as big as the bed – I am not really sure where the bed gets its sacred reputation. It’s a bed. Mostly you sleep in it and kids eventually will get tired of being squished and go find beds of their own. I don’t know a single co-sleeping family who is harbouring teens or 20 somethings in their beds.
Here’s what I think about the hysteria over the Time cover pic.
People project. A lot.
North Americas have a puritanical streak wider than the Mississippi and twice as long. The media and the Pink Ribbon brigade has so twisted our notions about the female breast that we can’t see them and not think SEX. Breasts in our culture are about accessorizing, flaunting and power and not necessarily in that order. Men see breasts as enticing toys, and women pander to this view a lot more than is necessary.
Breasts are not just fatty tissue housing milk ducts, They are statements. Sexual objects used by everyone from the purveyors of capitalism to the pimps of the patriarchal religious right. More so than even our vaginas, our breasts are used to pit us against each other in pointless areola gazing.
Are you Mom enough? Time asks us. And by doing so is accused of stoking the next battle, but we willingly engage in one mom up-woman-ship all the time on our blogs, Twit streams and Facebook pages. Seldom have I witnessed Moms gathering (or women in general for that matter) where hierarchies aren’t quickly established with women knowing, without even asking, where they rank. Nothing about being female screams FEMALE as loudly as the endless competition we entered into at some point before junior high and continue to engage in to one degree or another until we drop dead (from breast cancer, if you are inclined to buy into the hysteria).
Time fed the distraction troll with this one. One could excuse it if one were inclined. I’m not. Nor am I inclined to cut much slack to the hysterical and squeamish who jumped into the fray while decrying it.
They are just boobs, doing what boobs are uniquely designed to do. I get that Mom on Time’s cover. Breastfeeders are constantly sent the message that we are freakish and should keep that shit in our homes – with shades drawn and maybe in a closet underneath a thick blanket. I’d have stuck it out there for all to see too had I been given her chance. And personally, I get a vicarious feeling of satisfaction knowing that cover is discomforting the judgemental and the timid conformers in every grocery and Target all over America. Take that, Mommy Clubbers!
Seriously, they are boobs and the kid is nursing. He’ll be fine. Get over it already and stop buying into your own manipulation by a media with a political agenda that is clearly not women friendly.
*I am lucky that I am allowed to share the bed with him because my tossing about has driven him to distraction on more than one occasion. And Dee is even worse than I am.