This Mother’s Day, Time magazine published an unflattering cover story about attachment parenting. The shock-rock cover certainly made a splash.
Anyone not sufficiently disturbed by the Times cover is free to meet Veronica, SFW but probably NFTFON:
Turns out, the attachment types weren’t pleased with the story. Katie Allison Ganju (via Instapundit) even called for a passive resistance “I Am Not Mom Enough” movement to end
mommy wars unpleasant magazine covers once and for all. Is it passive-aggressive of her?
From what I can tell (this non-attachment parent is in a time funk and didn’t read the feature) Time lashes out on the overindulged, overinvolved, overbearing approach to parenting so many moms embraced in the last 20 years. Ganju has been a vocal proponent of it. Here she is, for instance, singing praises to a hippie midwife. She is a widely-published authority on breastfeeding who had recently admitted to being unable to breastfeed her last child. Together with attachment guru Dr. Sears she wrote a book on “instinctive” parenting. But if her trademark style of parenting is, as she says, instinctive, why do we need a to buy a manual on it?
In The Baby Book Dr. Sears proposed a rigid set of guidelines that moms must follow. The set of rules he outlined is very specific and highly demanding — extended breastfeeding, baby-wearing, sharing a bed with children and so on. If any one of his commandments alone does not seem like a big deal, they do add up. Mothers working outside of the home in particular might find the regime undoable. More to the point, Sears’s directions are focused on minutia. If putting a 10-pound baby in carrier and walking around in 90 degree heat all day long is a mother’s idea of fun or makes sense logistics-wise — then, by all means, go for it. However, it’s not medically necessary, and it’s not required for what psychologists call attachment. So putting the child down to give oneself a break won’t do any harm.
If I were to try to point out to an attached mother that, for instance, bonding immediately after birth, while certainly nice, has not been shown to have any long term consequences, they often get defensive. In their eyes, stating that fact makes me judgmental; why don’t I leave them and their families alone. Hard core lactivist types recommend shutting down everyone, including grandmothers, deemed insufficiently committed to breastfeeding.
I belong to the noted early childhood development specialist Tim Gunn’s school of parenting. My motto is “Make it work!” There are wrong approaches, to be sure, but there is more than a single correct way of raising kids. All of them are different and each will defy the experts at least once. Even then, economist Bryan Kaplan raised doubts about the extent to which parenting methods matter at all. Separated at birth studies are pretty uncanny in proving that so much of how the children turn out depends on genes.
We women talk about our experiences and readily dispatch advice. We are proud when our kids do well, and are let down by other mothers’ bragging. There is nothing unusual or evil about it. The foot soldiers of attachment get pretty evangelical about Sears. They hang on to his every word to the point of utter silliness, like they would have you think that strollers are the Devil. They make sure the rest of us are aware of their superior motherhood. Which elevates their commitment to the status of mommy wars (to be sure, the whole concept is larger). This is not media invention. Mommy wars are real, and evangelical proponents of attachment are the aggressor.
Ganju is one of the generals of the movement. If she has any problem with the substance of the feature or the cover of Time magazine, she didn’t go on record with it. She did write a short note to the point that the “shameful” graphic does not reflect the reality of breastfeeding mothers. True. I breastfed my babies, but I don’t recognize my kind of parenting in this picture. I don’t find the photo offensive or misleading, however, because it correctly reflects on the reality of attachment mothers.
When Ganju got her thoughts together, she said this:
With its much-discussed, inflammatory “Are You Mom Enough” cover this week, TIME became just the latest big media brand/publisher to laugh all the way to the bank as we moms dance and jab and argue endlessly on camera, just as they set us up to do. Only instead of this series being labeled “mommyfights,” we get a title for our own media-manipulated, ever-escalating grudge match that’s far grander and more violent sounding: we get “the mommywars.”
Let’s turn May 13, 2012 into the day when individually and collectively, we all say enough. The day when we end these godforsaken, destructive, exploitative and made-up “mommywars” once and for all by sitting down wherever we are and simply refusing to engage any further.
In other words, she’s concerned that somebody might make a buck debating the phenomena. As you might have guessed, I don’t have a problem with capitalism. I do, however, have a bit of a problem with hypocrisy. Ganju made a name for herself as proponent of sensationalist and out of medical mainstream parenting practices. She made a buck on it, too. And now that a prominent publication came up with a gross-out cover and pointed out the folly of her chosen parenting ideology, she’s digging up her inner pacifist. This is pretty rich.
Katie Allison Ganju certainly has a way with words. I don’t doubt that when it comes to issues that matter, she’s a great mom. But the advice she dispatches is frequently wrong, her faithful are a self-righteous bunch, and me and people who think like me should by no means feel shy to point it out.