Selling Magazines, Not Ideas

Nothing gets parental panties quite as wadded as having their idea of what makes a ‘good parent’ challenged in public.  For some folks, that’s exactly what the whole “attachment parenting” movement is doing and the latest edition of TIME magazine is trying its best to turn what could be an interesting, progressive parenting conversation into a heated and entirely unnecessary debate.

The cover of the magazine features mommy-blogger Jamie Lynne Grumet breast feeding her three and a half year old on a step-stool.  (I can only hope the step-stool is for dramatic effect and not some new thing expecting parents are going to have to register for at Babies R’ Us).  The caption, as you can see, reads “Are You Mom Enough?”   This is a great idea, if you’re trying to defibrillate a dying piece of print media since it plays on every mother’s fear that she is not, in fact, “mom enough” no matter what she does.

Yes, some people will be offended by the semi-bare breast on the cover but for the overwhelming majority of rational adults, it’s a nonissue. The whole breast feeding in public thing hardly qualifies as a debate and you can see a lot more skin on the average E! red carpet special.  The whole thing feels staged for the express purpose of riling people up. Putting your beliefs on the line is admirable (in this case, putting your money where your son’s mouth is) but using your child to provoke a public discussion of your personal agenda is another matter entirely.  It’s fine for me to have strong feelings about circumcision, but heading to a photo studio to pose with a scalpel and a handful of my son’s junk tends to say as much about me as my parenting beliefs.

Worst of all, all the showmanship surrounding the cover and article (and the inevitable push-back it will generate) make it harder to have a real conversation about the pros and cons of attachment parenting.

On my show, I had the opportunity to interview the actress Mayim Bialik (Blossom, Big Bang Theory) about her book Beyond the Sling.  Mayim and her husband have wholeheartedly embraced attachment parenting with their two sons – breastfeeding well into the toddler years, co-sleeping in a big family bed and ‘wearing’ their children throughout infancy.  Having read through her book twice, I led off the interview as honestly as possible, telling Mayim that I couldn’t decide if this was the most enlightened, progressive approach to parenting in a generation, or a big steaming pile of new age hooey.   She laughed (thankfully) and we had an interesting, intelligent discussion in which I was able to express my doubts and she was able to describe her experience and her reasoning.

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She didn’t push her ideas as ‘right’ or ‘superior’ and I did my best not to dismiss or judge.  Nothing about our conversation made me want to run home and move my kids into my bedroom, but nothing about it made me think that people like Mayim belonged on meds or in a commune. She’s a smart, thoughtful woman making what she believes to be the best parenting choices for her children.  We should all hope to be described that way.

The fact is, there’s no such things as a ‘right way’ to raise kids – so all quiet, rational discussions have the potential to make us better at it (sometimes by reinforcing our own beliefs, sometimes by opening our eyes to new possibilities.)  There’s a lot to attachment parenting that doesn’t work for me and, I don’t think, would work for my kids.  But that’s not at all the point.  Surely none of us are so confident in our parenting skills that we can afford to close ourselves off to new ideas and tools.

When the feigned outrage about the TIME cover and the amused eye-rolling about raising a diaper-free child (invest in slip-covers) dies down, I hope there’s still room for a friendly, honest debate. Perhaps everyone can get down off their soap box (and Ms. Grumet can her son down off that chair) and do what many of us encourage our children to do.  Listen more than you talk and think before you speak.

 

 


7 Comments


  1. Amen, brotha! This cover of Time was published strictly to elicit shocked responses for a dying form of media. Thanks for writing this!

  2. lol the cover had nothing to do with Dr. Bill Sears – who the entire article was about! but way to go with the cover – that kid will never have a normal life as he’ll always be made fun of… and that image will live on in the hearts and minds of bloggers for years to come… like that kid who acted as the kid that stuck his tongue to the pole in christmas story…

  3. Liked your interview, though I would have enjoyed you asking about specific quotes from the book that made you feel the book to be new-age hoohah. I would have enjoyed her responses.

    As for a large family bed…we still have times where our youngest (6) wants to join us. As long as it wasn’t going to be a ‘fun’ night, we don’t have an issue with this.

    Overall, good interview…as for the pic of the Time magazine. It seemed to be created strictly for the shock value and nothing more.

  4. Tom, when I say “family bed” I mean nightly, every night as a matter of course.

    It’s not at all uncommon for one of our two kids to sleep with us, a sick kid, a scared kid, just an off-night. But our bed is OUR bed, and sleeping in it with the kids is the exception, not the rule.

  5. My son is 9 years old, an only chld, and still sleeps in our bed many nights – whether he starts in his own or falls asleep, reading, in ours. I initially was, theoretically at least, against ‘co-sleeping’… especially in the years when he was a tiny baby, more for safety issues than some type of ultimative parenting style. I know look at it as a fleeting pleasure to be treasured, as I know for sure he will not want to sleep in our bed in ten years (at least I HOPE not)…

    That being said, as a mother who breastfed, I think by the time your child can coherently ASK for the breast… might be time for solid food, oreos and a glass of milk, no??
    unfortunately, some of this so-called ‘attachment parenting’ seems a direct lead-in to so-called ‘helicopter parenting’, at least in my book… Salacious or not, the image does make me uncomfortable… to each his own, but at what point do you begin the inevitable ‘letting go’? Hopefully, as I HOPE my son does not want to co-sleep 10 years from now, at 19, I hope her son is not asking to be breast-fed… by his mother, or anyone else for that matter.

  6. My son doesn’t sleep in our bed ever. He doesn’t want to, but he does want us to sleep with him in his bed. It is a full sized bed so one adult and one small boy is plenty comfortable as long as he doesn’t turn sideways (which actually happens pretty often). Anywho… I am with A-MG. I have one boy and we won’t be having more so I can indulge him without the concern of setting standards that would be required for a multi-child household. I love sleeping with him, and I treasure the time, especially since I work a 50 hour week and my time with him is limited. I know that sooner than I would like he will want his own space, and I will no longer be invited to cuddle with him at night. I don’t want to look back and regret taking the opportunity to get as many cuddles as I could when he is wee.

    Now the breast-feeding thing is another story. I was relieved when at 9 months my son essentially weened himself. He was not interested in breast feeding anymore and seemed to be willing to give it a go for a few minutes at feeding time, but it no longer held his interest. So I let it go and he went full time bottle. But that is my kid. I really don’t care if a mom wants to breast feed her 4 year old, because it is her kid. In terms of the magazine cover I don’t think I care about that either. I can see it for what it is, and I just refused to get riled. Now if that lady was promoting racism in her child, then I would probably get plenty riled.

  7. Nice post which The whole breast feeding in public thing hardly qualifies as a debate and you can see a lot more skin on the average E red carpet special. The whole thing feels staged for the express purpose of riling people up. Putting your beliefs on the line is admirable but using your child to provoke a public discussion of your personal agenda is another matter entirely. Thanks a lot for posting .

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