Viv Groskop: Are you Mom enough to stop judging other women's parenting choices?

 

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Time magazine has created a storm with its US cover of a 26-year-old mother breastfeeding her three-year-old son. The provocative coverline? "Are You Mom Enough?" It's an introduction to a whole extravaganza on "attachment parenting" which includes breastfeeding children for as long as possible, banning dummies and letting children share your bed until they beg for their own.

Oh, how I long for the day when no one bats an eyelid at a photo of a three-year-old breastfeeding! Not because I'm a militant lactivist who believes in lifelong nipple attachment. Which is how anyone who breastfeeds a baby past the age of six months is always represented. But because I couldn't care less about how other people raise their children. Well, I could care less. I'm fascinated. But I'm not interested in judging them.

And judge them we apparently must. There are always two conflicting tones to this stuff: "Look at all these crazy things women are doing to their children and to their own lives! Their poor children!" Undercut with anxiety: "Oh, no! I'm not doing what she's doing. Does that make me bad?"

If Time's cover pushed breastfeeding into the mainstream in America, that would be welcome. "Hooter Hiders" (breastfeeding burkas that allow you to feed in public without scandalising anyone) started in the US – I counted four in my local Starbucks last week. But I suspect this cover is orchestrated to suggest both a threat and a judgement on mothers. Do you match up to this woman's standard? Are you making enough sacrifices? Maybe you're making too many? But it's a fake pose. The little boy is standing on a chair, mouth on boob. I haven't fed many (any) three-year-olds, but I know women who have and this is not a breastfeeding position they would ever adopt. The picture is designed to emphasise the freakery of the activity not its normality. It's meant to make other mothers think, "What's she getting right that I'm getting wrong?" Or, "Ha ha. She's mad. I'm right."

Real life is not like this. We all muddle through parenting as best we can. We all show our love for our children in different ways. We make mistakes, we fail. Enough of this silly constant pressure, judging, perfection and anxiety. We're all mom and dad enough. You don't need to be able to breastfeed a child standing on a chair or, indeed, on anything else to prove that.

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