(UPDATE: See the best Twitter responses to the controversial cover)
Check out this week’s TIME magazine cover (gasp!). Before we delve into its meaning, let’s just acknowledge that the photo is beyond powerful. It sparks a whole range of emotions, most of them along the “Ew, gross!” variety. It’s a brilliant move in terms of sales – people will be talking about this cover for a long time – but when it comes to the so-called Mommy Wars, well, let’s just say it’s left many moms fuming.
I will be honest and say that I have yet to read the story, which I am very anxious to do (as of now, it’s only available online to subscribers). But the debate so far is about the cover itself and all that it implies. There’s the actual photo, of course, but there’s also the provocative coverline, “ARE YOU MOM ENOUGH? Why attachment parenting drives some mothers to extremes—and how Dr. Bill Sears became their guru.” Yikes! (The boy on the cover is 3 years old, by the way, though he appears much older.)
If this doesn’t just scream “Mommy Wars,” then I don’t know what does. Attachment Parenting, a term coined by Dr. Sears himself, is based on eight principles. You can find them here, along with all of the fine details, but to sum it up, most APs subscribe to what Dr. Sears calls the “7 Bs” (birth bonding, breastfeeding, baby wearing, bedding close to baby, belief in the language value of your baby’s cry, beware of baby trainers, and balance). Of course, many moms out there in the real world pick and choose what works for them (for example, they’ll breastfeed their newborn but will Ferberize them at the same time). There are moms who identify as AP, there are those who mock it altogether, and then there are those who fall somewhere in between (i.e., moms who believe in the principles but who only practice some).
I personally fall into the latter category. And, like most moms I know, I didn’t actively decide when my firstborn arrived, “I will be X type of mom.” Instead, I just did what worked for me (imagine that!). And, truth be told, as long as a baby is healthy and happy, it makes no difference to me what parenting style anyone else chooses. I have friends who nursed their babies ’til age 2, and I have friends who never even attempted to breastfeed because it wasn’t for them. This type of “divide,” if we should even be calling it that, applies to almost all areas of childrearing within my own group. And, frankly, I like it that way (it’s indicative of real life, if you ask me).
But back to this TIME cover. It certainly got my attention, but it also angers me because it portrays AP moms as being totally extreme. And in most cases, that couldn’t be further from the truth. All families should be doing what works for them personally, which to me is what feminism is all about (choice, that is). This cover photo is doing nothing but sensationalize what continues to be a very hot topic, and it does so just in time for Mother’s Day (clearly not an accident). From a business perspective, well done, TIME magazine. From a mother’s perspective, not so much…