I didn’t want to weigh in on the Time Magazine “Are you Mom enough?” cover. But, alas, I am.
I have heard enough other people talk about it (and talk and talk and talk…) and I am sorry, but I think they are all missing the point.
Some have said “Why pit moms against each other?” with which I definitely agree. The fact that we let TIME use shock value to exploit any mom and her choices to sell their magazine is indicative of a publishing business run wild and a lack of empowerment of mothers to use our mighty grip on the consumer dollar as we should.
However, I have heard disparaging remarks about stay-at-home mothering, attachment parenting, breastfeeding and…. feminism. What I haven’t heard is the important connection.
In the 1970’s, there were several kibbutzim, or communal farms, in Israel. The policy on the kibbutz was for the children to live in the “children’s house”. While they visited with their own parents, all of the children lived together in one home, an expression of the kibbutz movement’s communist ideal.
Twenty years later, those children of the kibbutz who remained, working the land and continuing the dream, abolished the children’s houses. It wasn’t a decision made en masse through a unified decision, or as a united body. It was a decision made by the mass majority of kibbutzim (kibbutzes) on their own. These children who lived the policy knew that they didn’t want their children to feel like they did. They knew how much they missed living with their parents, so they reverted back to a more traditional, less communist policy on this one issue.
The writer of the article, Kate Pickert, gave an interview afterward in which she stressed that the reason so many women today seem to choose attachment parenting is because of issues that they have from their own childhood. At least in the video interview (available here she made it sound critical, as if parents who wear their children and breastfeed past 6 months are all “damaged goods” foisting their issues onto their children.
I would argue that the precise opposite is true. Like the children of the kibbutz in Israel, women (and their husbands) across America know what the feminism of the 70’s took from them, and they want to give it back – to their own children.
The decision on the part of a growing number of parents to prioritize bonding time with their children, to be attentive and loving, natural and deliberate may be, in fact, filling a hole in the parents. But the hole is there because the generation that raised them overemphasized freedom from the punative shackles of nursing and child rearing. The 70’s told mothers and fathers that they could divorce when ‘it just wasn’t working’, and the kids would be better off. Who is shocked that those children, now adults, are holding their babies tight? The magazines all told women that they could “have it all” “just like men” and their children would be fine.
They weren’t fine. They want better for their kids. As much as TIME may want to make Dr. Sears into an innovator and a god-like leader of some strange breed of followers, the truth is that Dr. Sears only elucidates child-rearing practices that have existed in hundreds of cultures on every continent for thousands of years. They lasted because they work.
For a true feminism to thrive, it must be honest and self-aware enough to learn from its own mistakes. There must be a way to elevate the importance of all things female in the world, empower women and give us options…. And still prioritize the healthy needs of every developing child.