Dear TIME Magazine: I Am ‘Mom Enough,’ Thank You Very Much

You’re familiar with French feminist psychologist Corinne Maier, who said, “I really regret it. I really regret having children,” right? Well, she just might have popularized this whole anti-child notion that the recent bevy of unfulfilled women — not the childless or childless by choice, mind you — are devalued citizens because of what modern motherhood (in essence the burdensome task of raising children) “does” to the corporation of womanhood. Because let’s face it, boldly proclaiming that you actually prefer putting your child’s needs before your own means that you, young lady, are no supporter of women [*wags finger*]!  In fact, it is likely that you suffer from self-loathing, low self-esteem and you dislike women. Which of course means that you have little concern for your “plight” because your allegiance is to the little human beings with whom you have an inherent symbiotic relationship, and not The Sisterhood, you disloyal heretic!

But if we’re being logical — instead of judgmental, ahem — why is it inconceivable that a woman can be fulfilled by being “just” a mom? If a woman feels fulfilled by wearing her child, feeding on demand, making homemade lentil soup, and spending her days in non-stop contact with her offspring, while “ignoring nature in order to run behind her children and ply them with organic snacks” — really? — why do we presume that something is radically wrong with the woman? Why don’t we question the economic system that creates the hostile environment that perpetrates the notion that women’s work and/or choices should be the target for endless, mindless chatter? Why do we not turn the tables and reject the media-created Mommy Wars narrative whose specific purpose is to undermine, undervalue and scoff at women’s choices?

Indeed, it is fairly obvious to me that an AP mom does in fact meet some of her own needs by virtue of her making the decision to be an AP parent in the first place. In other words, this mom is satisfying her need to ensure that she is meeting the needs of her child. And if a woman personally feels satisfied, gratified and justified by this level of attachment to her child, why can’t we just leave it up to her good judgment? I personally have had many acquaintances ask, “How can you stand to be around you children all day?” and I’ve often wondered, well, why did you have children in the first place if you couldn’t? It’s an inexcusably snarky retort, of course, but I mention this to illustrate the level of judgment we place on women’s choices that are unlike ours; particularly those choices which seem uncharacteristically alien to those of us who made different choices.

If you’re not an AP mom but employ other moms to care for your children while you yourself work, what then? Certainly there are mitigating circumstances under which many of us employ nannies and childcare workers, many of whom are mothers themselves, but when we shame the working mother who is unable to raise her own children, why don’t we blame the model and not the mother? At the same time, why do we undervalue the voices, opinions, and narratives of the nannies and childcare workers who look after our children? When was the last time you heard her story?

You can reach this post's author, Bolaji Williams, on twitter.
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    • Renee J

      It’s interesting that I interpreted, “Are You Mom Enough” to mean are you enough of a mother to do attachment parenting. And I, not an attachment mother, thought it was a slight towards myself and other moms. But, it seems you took it as a slight against attachment parenting.

      • xobolaji

        what’s interesting about this is that the title is ambiguous enough and broad-sweeping enough that all mothers would be flayed in one fell swoop. mission accomplished time magazine! let us all be vigilante about taking the bait in this media-constructed war.

    • Jane

      The cover says attachment parenting is “driving mothers to extremes”, so it seems that the “mom enough?” comment is sarcastic, i.e., a slight at attachment parents. In other words, the bar is being set ever higher for being a good mom.

      • xobolaji

        i’m not quite sure what their intention was, but it has certainly invoked a variety of opinions and discussions on the issue which i think is great. perhaps the media will take a cue and ask moms what they really think instead of creating a divisive shitstorm where there is none.

        i think the definition of a “good mom” is whatever that individual mother thinks it is. i think we have to set the benchmarks for ourselves, and forget what outside forces are telling us.

    • meah

      I find it upsetting that the author suggests that all “feminists” are anti-AP.

      According to Merriam Webster a “feminist” is a person who subscribes to the “theory of political, economic and social equality of the sexes”. I assume that most mothers (and fathers) in our communities and in this day in age subscribe to this “theory”. I also hazard a guess that most AP mothers also subscribe to this “theory”– that women must be given equal rights and choices to their male counterparts.

      I am a woman who strongly believes in and supports feminism. I am also a mom, who co-slept, continues to breastfeed her 18 month old, and wore my baby day in and day out. I am also a working mother– not because I have to for economic reasons, but because I need to, to feel whole and fulfilled.

      So you see, not everything is so black and white. Human beings, and families, are complex and nuanced creatures. How we parent is linked to many many factors that have very little to do with whether or not we are feminists. Don’t make this a feminist vs. AP mother battle. It is not. We are all in this together.

      • xobolaji

        @meah i’m sorry but you have entirely misread the intent of this piece. it is not to pit anyone one particular group of women against another. i’ve declared quite boldly that respecting choice *is* feminist, so i’m unclear as to where you think i am inciting another mommy war. on the contrary!

        it is my firm belief that parenting is not an either or situation and i’m a staunch advocate for whatever works for everyone.

        thanks for your comment.

      • meah

        @xobolaji I am glad that your intent was to suggest that we should be less judgmental and do what works for us. I’m afraid that tone did not come through in your article for me.

        Quotes like: “They” are the thousands of moms and feminists, and so-called feminist moms, who stand and passive aggressively judge and jury the myriad ways in which other moms are potentially harming themselves, ….” and your suggestion that working moms are “unable to raise their own children”, suggest otherwise.

        That said, I applaud your intent. And I agree with The Mommy Psychologist, above, that there are much more important children’s issues to worry about.

      • Avodah

        I felt like the article failed to recognize important distinctions between different kinds of feminism (especially French).

        It isn’t clear to me that the author of this article read much by the people she mentioned.

    • The Mommy Psychologist

      Do you think it’s possible that we could spend just as much time and energy warring about the real problems that negatively affect children? What about the kids who are sold for drugs or living on the streets? What about all of the children that go to bed hungry and starving every night or scared of the abuse they know will be coming after they fall asleep? Can we just take a moment and focus on some of the real parenting problems that exist and are worthy of our attention? I have a perspective shift here:
      http://www.themommypsychologist.com/2012/05/08/what-are-the-real-parenting-problems/

      • xobolaji

        thanks for your comment, and oh, i agree! but the difference is is that the media isn’t interested in children per se because they can’t as yet vote, and they can’t as yet work, so for the time being they will be seen as parent’s chattle until such time as they can become *productive* members of society.

        our problem is not that parents don’t want to focus our attention to these important matters, it’s that the media landscape wants us to consume these fabricated problems instead.

        thanks for the link!

    • Avodah

      Have ever actually studied French feminism? Elisabeth Badinter is a well-respected philosopher and public intellectual.

      Her point is not to demonize mothers or different parenting styles. Rather, she tries to point out how social pressures can negatively affect women.

      • xobolaji

        i’m weary of “public intellectuals” who profess to liberate me from my choices without having first walked a mile in my shoes.

      • Avodah

        Have you ever studied French feminism? They aren’t trying to liberate anyone. It is very different than American feminism. Badinter’s book is about the challenges that modernity poses for mothers. She isn’t trying to mud-sling or hurt anybody. She is merely pointing out the social pressure facing mothers in modernity.

        Did you mean wary instead of weary?

        Also, Elisabeth Badinter has worked very hard to reach where she is today. I think your comments regarding her book were very ignorant. I really suggest you explore the topic more before railing against it.

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    • JN

      I agree with everything said by meah. It may not have been your intention, but you seem to lump feminists into one category. There is not, nor has there ever been, one singular belief system among feminists on women’s issues. In my experience, it is women who do not define themselves as feminists who are most judgemental towards other mothers, and rather it is feminist moms that criticize the mommy wars and speak out against being judgmental.  Feminists such as Gloria Steinem, who has no children, have explicitly said that raising children deserves to be upheld as incredibly rewarding and fulfilling. Steinem grew up during a time when all women, including mothers, were not given equal rights. She said if child rearing is believed to be important and worthy, then more men would want to do it too, and no one would ever say “I’m just a parent.” And if we lived in a world that valued parenting, we would have a world where children have health insurance, moms or dads could take time off without being judged, there would be more flexible job options, etc. Most feminists dont look at this cover thinking how AP parenting is bad for women, they think how ridiculous it is that the media constantly pits women against each other. Im willing to bet that Steinem herself is horrified how TIME is flaming the mommy war fire. And as for the experts you disagree with, they are not talking about women who choose and love AP parenting. They are talking about women who are being told, (by the media and other moms) that they aren’t good enough in their mothering if they dont choose a particular parenting style. They are simply stating that women face enormous pressure to be perfect and that if we arent perfect we are gonna screw up our children. They are talking about the scrutiny and pressure mothers face. They are saying that if a woman chooses to not AP, she should not be told she’s a bad mother. I personally believe every family decides what works best for them: how to parent, if one parent will stay home, etc. I get pissed off when there is strong pressure from society that tells women they HAVE to do “this or that” or else they are bad mothers, wives, daughters, etc. On a side note, why cant the media ever focus on fatherhood? It seems out of touch with modern culture to have an article soley about moms when we live in a time when more women are breadwinners and more men stay at home. Im rather interested in hearing about how men view their roles as fathers, and from men who stay at home.

    • Amanda

      Fantastic article! It definitely made me laugh, but also made me think. It’s great to see your balanced attitude (and snarky sense of humor) in the midst of all this mommy war crap. I’m a first-time mom who is enjoying attachment parenting and I absolutely agree that AP is about what works for you and your child, not about following a strict set of ideals for the sake of being “natural.”

      Loved reading this! Thank you.

      • xobolaji

        @Amanda thank you for reading! i’m glad to hear that you were able to take away something of value because god knows, all moms are ever trying to do is their very best, and even then we sometimes fail at that.

        also, you hit the nail on the head: there is absolutely nothing “natural” about following a strict set of ideals. the natural part “should” be rather effortless and instinctual, and if isn’t then both parent and child need to reexamine the approach. above all, parents need to trust their gut while taking cues from their child. [i wrote about the fact that "my child is my parenting guru on this site a few weeks ago].

        i just think it’s high time we tell the media to shut up about our parenting.

      • Andrea

        So if it DOESN’T feel natural to me to have my kid attached to my boob 24 hrs a day then I have to re-examine my approach to mothering? Because I am doing it wrong?

        I gotta admit that I could not get past your rant style of writing to understand what you were trying to say, but your comment made it clear.

        And for the record, I don’t give a flip what everyone does, to each their own. But I take exception to the fact that I am not “mom enough” if I don’t follow the methods of Dr Sears. Who by the way, made his millions on the back of poor 3rd world country women who have NO CHOICE but to sleep with their babies (there are no extra bedrooms in the hut), carry their babies (water is 5 miles away and it’s not like they have strollers being sold at the market) and breastfeed till the kid is 5 (there is NO baby food and formula at the open air market 5 miles away by dirt road either).

        Do whatever the hell you want, just don’t make me feel like a crappy mother just because your method doesn’t feel “natural” to me.

    • Lana Reedy

      Disgusting ! I’m sure she was paid very well to do that cover shot !
      This is making for future rapists and perverts – It is not natural to keep your child attached to you by breast feeding. It is a time for a child to form their
      own independence and learn basics as a toddler, much less a 4yr old and up!
      Does she plan to go to preschool with him and “flop it out” so the class can
      watch? What about those teeth chomping down on her? Would serve her
      right if he chomped it off ! I will NEVER buy Time Magazine again.

      • Julie

        If she wants to breastfeed until the kid is TEN- that’s her choice. It’s not your place to judge. If it’s not right for you, that’s fine. But let other mothers make the choices that work for them and their kids. You don’t get to make that decision for another moms child.

      • TheMightySquirrel

        Julie – I’m sorry, but, to a certain extent, it IS society’s job to judge what is right and wrong: that’s why we don’t kill each other because we feel like it, generally pay for goods received, clean our teeth and (should) say please and thank you. To receive the benfits of living in a society, it is necessary to observe social mouers – ‘give and take’, if you like.

        At the moment, it is not considered socially acceptable to breast feed a pre-pubescent, mostly because that is the age at which we expect children to begin developing their own social awareness and independence and start to move away from complete parental dependency, with a view to becoming functioning adults.

        Of course, society’s views can and do change, but I’m fairly certain that *very* extended BFing will never become the norm, mostly for the reasons mentioned above.

    • Kate

      I have to chime in on the Bonnie Rochon comment. I interpret her words to mean not that breastfeeding, or even public breastfeeding, is gross; rather, that the subway is gross. I certainly don’t like to eat on public transportation.

      • xobolaji

        i hear you. either way, a judgment has been made. i had a FB friend tell me recently that 20 years ago she breastfed her baby in a mall bathroom stall! at that time they didn’t have family rooms. i think that moms do the best they can with the resources they have at their disposal. [no pun intended].

      • Miriam

        If you’d feed your baby a bottle there, then it’s OK to breastfeed in the same place.

    • xobolaji

      @andrea, no. i didn’t say that at ALL. you’ve misinterpreted and misunderstood my point, which is your perogative. by goal is not to convince you to accept my POV at all. it’s completely up to you.

      what i DID say, was that choice is feminist. and that we have the option to do what works for us. if you don’t want to be an AP parent, don’t. if you do, do it.

      i can’t stress enough that this media narrative is what is confusing and conflating the idea of motherhood into a sellable, unachievable package. the majority of us cannot keep up with the “shoulds” and “should nots.”

      also this was not a rant by any stretch of the imagination. sorry you feel that way.

      • Andrea

        Ok, so your issue is that other people are making you feel like you are not feminist enough because you choose a “traditional” female role? By the media I take it?

        I guess I can get behind that. TIME magazine was going for shock value and of course they got it. Not only by the picture (which was disgusting enough), but by printing “Are you mom enough?” on the cover. Yeah that made the rest of us non-super mom feel really good.

      • Jessica

        This is absolutely my viewpoint on feminism: that we should be fighting for the availability of choice, and the lack of judgement for either straying from or adhering to traditionally female roles. Although my husband and I have made the decision for me to quit my (admittedly horrible) job and made decisions about our parenting style (that conversation is ongoing), I understand that those very personal choices don’t work for every family, and other women/men/children have different needs and different goals. My frustration with the current form of feminism is that some people are trying to dictate what women “should” do. Isn’t freedom from judgement and gender roles what we all wanted in the first place?? We shouldn’t be forcing women into new roles, but striving for choice without judgment, and for chrissakes – let’s stop inflicting judgement on each other and inhibiting what we’re all striving for.

    • Ann

      I completely agree and understand your article. Mothering is inherently fraut with guilt and here we are with a Times article that just uses that emotion to sell controversy. I am EVERY mother because I am the product of every mother down from the generations in some way or fashion….I am going forward not judging fellow mothers but finding ways to protect, enrich and improve children’s lives particularly my own. I am a feminist – a mother who stays at home for many valid reasons, some you might not expect. One day I will work outside the home and my children will be grown and I am sure I will find that the world is still trying to undermine women’s power and strength because that is how power and the corruption it produces works best.

      • xobolaji

        @Ann brava! and thank you. your words were perfect.

    • Mari

      Why do we have to mock and ridicule other mother’s choices to make ourselves feel like superior mothers? It isn’t a zero sum argument and no one gets a trophy on their headstone for “scientifically proven world’s best mother.”

      I’ve been ridiculed for traveling too much for work and I’ve been made fun of for making my son’s baby food from scratch with organic produce.

      We shouldn’t have to lay ourselves on a sacrificial table of motherhood to be good mothers nor should we sacrifice our child’s needs to meet our own or the world’s. Every mother makes choices, some they regret and some they would recommend to others. Let’s all practice saying positive things when someone says something making fun of another mother’s choices – like “good for her” “that’s her choice” “if it works for her family” – and walk away or simply keep our opinions to ourselves.

      What works for one family may or may not work for another and that doesn’t make her a better mother. It simply means there are a lot of choices out there for women/mothers and everyone is entitled to their own path.

      • xobolaji

        @mari well said!

    • Miriam

      I am so tired of people who think we all need to make the same choices. SO VERY TIRED. I raised my kids, they turned into responsible, happy adults. My best friend raised her kids a completely different say, and THEY turned into responsible, happy adults. Another friend raised hers differently from either of us, and THEY are responsible, happy adults.

      We did what worked for ourselves and our children, and in the end what really mattered was that we loved them and listened to them. It didn’t matter that some went to public schools, some were homeschooled, some went to private schools, some were breastfed, some formula fed, some breastfed till age 5.

      So everyone who wants to be judgemental, just shut the hell up and raise your own kids your own way. If you’re not happy it’s your own damn fault.

    • JMS

      So it’s fine for you to judge Corinne Maier and working moms (fuck “mitigating circumstances,” there are moms who prefer to be working moms and dads who prefer to be primary caregivers!) but people who judge you and other AP moms are bad?

      This Mommy Wars shit is a classic divide and conquer strategy. You seem to get that to some extent, and yet you’re right there at the barricades throwing stones at Maier and other moms who are honest about their ambivalence, at moms who work by choice, and it seems at anyone who suggests AP is not for everyone.

      • xobolaji

        @JMS sorry, but you’re putting words in my mouth. i haven’t “judged” corinne maier, i’ve pointed out what she has contributed to the media-fabricated, mommy wars discussion. her sentiments are also strongly anti-child. there is no question about that. i understand women’s ambivalence, i too am often ambivalent about my choices. we’re all in this together.

      • Heather

        I don’t think she is putting words in your mouth. The statement “the working mother who is unable to raise her own children” is full of judgement and really rubbed me the wrong way. Putting your child in daycare does not mean that you aren’t raising them yourself. I’m expecting and in a year, I’m choosing to go back to work. This was always my plan, in part because I really believe in daycare as a positive experience for a kid, especially in developing relationships outside of the family unit, and because I like my career. At most my kid will be in daycare 4 days a week for 7 hours a day. Then he or she will be with me or my husband. Sure, the daycare will play a part in shaping my kids, but my husband and I will be raising them.

        Attachment parenting is a great philosophy and it really works for some families, but please don’t think that having other caregivers means you’re “not raising your own child.” Comments like that are designed to make women who work feel like crap.

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    • Jess

      Finally. FINALLY! An intelligent, well-written, researched response to the shit-storm.

      Thank you, thank you, thank you for restoring some of my need to like this website and what it is trying to accomplish. I’ve been so disappointed in some of the articles published here lately, that I haven’t bothered to even glance at the writing going on over here. Well done, Woman.

      Also, I totally agree.

    • TheMightySquirrel

      Just out of interest, what would the content have been if the title had been ‘Are You Dad Enough’? Do children still have two parents these days?

    • xobolaji

      @heather i can’t argue the semantics of what it means to “raise a child” so i won’t. i think that if you firmly believe that you are doing what’s best for you and your family, then it doesn’t matter what i or anyone else thinks. if nothing else, we moms have to be secure in our decisions, but it doesn’t mean that everybody who makes different lifestyle choices than us means to judge us.

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