This Mother’s Day, TIME Magazine bestowed upon moms nationwide the gifts of guilt, insecurity, and righteous indignation with its calculated pre-release of the now-infamous Are You Mom Enough? cover.
What does that mean, anyway, to be “mom enough?” Is it a quantifiable objective? Is it even wholly attainable?
Personally, I find that the way I view myself as a mother in any given moment tends to be a direct extension of the way I view myself as a person at the time. Which means that the question of whether or not I’m “mom enough” is constantly in flux. At least in my own mind.
It was only a few weeks ago that various feelings of inadequacy over everything from my job to blogging translated to my feeling inadequate as a mom as well – particularly as my stress levels led me to become increasingly impatient and short-tempered with my daughter. But following a little bit of soul-searching and a lot of attitude adjustment, I’m feeling happier all-around these days.
So, this week I’m serving up a few bite-sized nuggets of life, each of which left me feeling happy in some small way. And I’m pairing them with a glass of equally sweet Moscato – with which I toast to feeling “mom enough.”
• It’s like the makers of Terra Chips read my mind. For years, I’ve picked through their exotic vegetable medley for the sweet potato chips, all the while bemoaning why they can’t for the love of Pete just make a bag of all sweet potato chips, damn it! And lo and behold, now they do! I may or may not have done a happy dance in the organic aisle of the supermarket when I made this discovery. Only the surveillance cameras know for sure.
• There is a price to be paid for several consecutive weekends of shirking mundane chores in favor of having fun with friends and family – namely, a dirty house and mountain of clean, unfolded laundry that’s on the verge of eating me alive. I’m looking forward to finally conquering the beast this weekend - if only because I’m entirely too anal retentive to be digging through a laundry basket of rumpled clothes each morning looking for something to wear.
• Wednesday evening, my child silently tapped me on the leg while I stood in the kitchen cooking dinner. Surprised, I turned and knelt before her, whereupon she proceeded to hand me a silk flower she’d found in a drawer. She then planted a sweet kiss on my nose before returning to the family room to continue playing independently. And then I felt bad for calling her a tiny dictator.
• On that same evening, watching my daughter complacently entertain herself as I cooked dinner and sipped a cup of hot tea following a productive day at work, in a moment of complete nirvana, I felt a sense of that which so often eludes me these days: Balance.
On second thought? Screw the laundry. I’m “mom enough,” rumpled clothes and all.
As a mother who suffered from postpartum depression that was more or less a direct result of the question Are You Mom Enough? I do have some rather strong opinions on TIME’s little publicity stunt, as well as the growing societal trend of turning the otherwise primordial act of parenting into a trendy cause to be championed. And if I get the urge to expend time and energy on a post that will likely be lost on those who should most read it, then perhaps I’ll share them.
In the meantime, several bloggers have already done a good job of summarizing my feelings:
• Putting aside for the moment the iconic cover photo attached to the piece (pun intended), I found Are You Mom Enough Not to Take the Bait? by Ellen at Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms to be the best response to TIME’s sensational headline (and I do not mean ‘sensational’ as a compliment). Unfortunately, however, the answer to that question seems to be ‘no’. Media’s perpetuation of the “mommy wars” – 1; Moms everywhere just doing their best to raise contributing members of society – 0. Well played, TIME. Well played.
Now about that photo…
• I really have no idea if blogger Jamie Lynn Grumet willingly and deliberately agreed to the defiant, in-your-face pose as a means of grabbing her 15 minutes of fame, or if she was simply and thoroughly manipulated by the media in a naive effort to champion a cause near and dear to her heart. All I know is that the photo itself has the very real potential to haunt her small son into his teenage years. Because teenagers lack the maturity to understand its context. And because the Internets are forever. Therefore, Grumet’s decision to pose for it, regardless of her motivation for doing so, lends undue credence to critics who believe mom bloggers are a bunch of self-centered narcissists who violate their kids’ trust and basic right to privacy. And so, despite the massive amount of press the photo alone has generated – as well as the fact that it features “one of our own” – I simply can’t see this particular case study in brand partnership as a “win” for the mom blogging community. In her post, Are Mommy Bloggers a Bunch of Boobs?, Ciaran of Momfluential Media explores this topic more in depth – and asks the haunting question, “How far will mom bloggers go for attention?”
• In terms of getting to the root of all the outrage over the TIME feature – namely, the perpetuation of the so-called “mommy wars” – Am I Mom Enough? A Motherhood Wish List by Kara Baskin of The 24-Hour Workday at Boston.com pretty much summarizes my feelings surrounding this bloody pulp of a dead horse in a no-holds-barred, delightfully snarky, yet eloquently-written piece that actually made me cheer out loud several times. I love how she refers to the inexplicable trend of publicly campaigning for one’s parenting style as “insecurity porn” for new moms. I love her unapologetically non-PC declaration that the person her child ultimately becomes will have nothing to do with the way he’s fed or sleep-trained or “god-knows-what-elsed.” I love how she bluntly states, “My son is not an appendage to be dangled from breasts on the cover of a magazine, his success is not my ego’s accessory, and I am not Super Mom.” And I especially love this line: “I hope I raise a child who knows that he’s loved and special but that he’s not the center of the universe and never, ever will be.”
• And finally, though unrelated to the TIME cover controversy, The Measure of a Mom by Babble blogger Mary Lauren Weimer of the lovely, understated, and always well-written blog My 3 Little Birds, serves as a lovely, understated, and well-written reminder that motherhood is anything but an exact science.
In the end, I think TIME – and all other perpetrators of this contrived “mompetition” – should take a cue from my two-year-old, who tells me simply, “I do my best job.” Because as moms, that’s all any of us are trying to do.
And as it turns out, when I do my best job, she does hers. Which makes us both happy.
And that’s “mom enough” for me.
What are your thoughts on the TIME cover controversy? (If you wrote your own post on the subject, feel free to link to it in the comments.)