Motherhood is not a Competition.

Via Kate Bartolotta
on May 10, 2012
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via Time Lightbox

Breastfeeding is a wonderful thing.

I’m a huge advocate for breastfeeding, and for natural and attachment parenting in general.

I agree with most of the moms in the Time article. Breastfeeding is something I’m passionate about and I’m glad I was able to feed my children that way. Breast milk is the perfect food for children under age one, and the World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding your child until age two or until mutually satisfying for both mother and child.

Extended Breastfeeding (or EBF if you are into the whole mommy bulletin board scene), helps with brain development, prevents obesity, boosts the immune system and the benefits continue to increase the longer a child breastfeeds. Scientists are finding new ways that children benefit from breastfeeding all the time.

For women, it reduces the risk of breast and ovarian cancer, and often helps women with postpartum weight loss (until those last five pounds that stay as long as you’re nursing…but that’s a totally different blog).

A few things you should know:

The choice to breastfeed is a personal one; it doesn’t make you a good mom if you do it, or a bad one if you don’t.

Breastfeeding does not make you more or less of a woman.

Breastfeeding is not remotely sexual, weird or anything negative.

Breastfeeding might change your breasts, but sometimes for the better.

Breastfeeding in public is your right in 45 states.

(Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise).

Supplemental formula feeding does not make you a bad mom (it just might make it harder to keep breastfeeding).

The age at which you stop nursing your child—by his choice or by your own—is not what makes or breaks your value as a parent.

I nursed my daughter until she was 22 months old and I was eight months pregnant with her brother. I nursed my son until he was 21 months old. I needed to be done. It took me another year to not feel guilty that I didn’t give them the same amount. It also took most of that year to get over the guilt of not participating in “Child Led Weaning,” or for the uninformed, letting them decide when it was time to stop.

Even writing this, I get that little knot in my stomach of, “Oh, but I could have done more. I should have done more” and at the same time I know some people will read this and think it’s weird that I breastfed so long.

As mothers, we will always want to give our children more. It’s how they survive. There is a primal drive in us to nourish our children—physically and emotionally.

But what works for one family isn’t what works for all families. What one child needs is not what all children need.

Pretty basic, no?

Then why the hell are we in constant competition with each other?

If you breastfeed too long you are a weirdo, too short and you’re selfish. Damned if you work, damned if you stay home. If you wear your baby you’re a hippie, if you use a stroller…well…I’m pretty sure your child is going to end up with attachment issues. Don’t even get me started on where your children sleep, or whether they fall asleep alone—no matter what you choose to do, someone is bound to think it’s awful and you are scarring your kids for life.

Enough!

photo: Time lightbox

What makes a good mother can’t fit in a Time magazine article.

Good moms nourish their children, and also take care of themselves.

Good moms know that sometimes it’s too hot to have anything but watermelon for dinner.

Good moms let their kids pick out their own clothes even when they end up in an ensemble of Batman pajamas, a tie-dye shirt and rain boots (true story) and they still cringe inwardly and hope no one judges them.

Good moms sometimes yell (but keep trying not to and aren’t afraid to apologize).

Good moms breastfeed for one month, or one year, or four years—or not at all.

 

Good moms sometimes hover too much, or not enough, and they keep trying to get it right.

Good moms aren’t Tiger Moms or Helicopter Moms or any other media invented phenomenon.

Good moms are all of us who care enough about our kids to think about this stuff;

to get the knots in our stomach when we see a news story about a kidnapped child;

to make shadow puppets, play I Spy, make up stories and invent colors;

to dance with their kids to The Ramones in the kitchen and sing into spatula microphones;

to say “no” when we have to, and “yes” as much as we can;

to say “screw you” to the people who want to put “motherhood” into a box and say there’s one right way to do it.

Because there isn’t. Because if you are a mom, and you care enough to read this, to think about it—you’re already “mom enough.”

Happy Mother’s Day—every day.

Like elephant family on Facebook.

 


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About Kate Bartolotta

Kate Bartolotta is a wellness cheerleader, yogini storyteller, and self-care maven. She also writes for Huffington Post, Yoga International, Mantra Yoga+ Health, a beauty full mind, The Good Men Project, The Green Divas, The Body Project, Project Eve, Thought Catalog and Soulseeds. Kate's books are now available on Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.com. She is passionate about helping people fall in love with their lives. You can connect with Kate on Facebook and Instagram.

Comments

72 Responses to “Motherhood is not a Competition.”

  1. ashleybess says:

    I'm sick of the labels! I think I do most of the "attachment parenting" things but I refuse to use that label. Breastfeeding isn't a badge of honor, it's just the normal, natural way to feed babies. But the "breastfeeding is a personal choice" line chafes me a bit too. True, no one can force you to do it. But the baby should have some say in the matter… and EVERY baby wants to breastfeed. I believe it's a choice that has profound implications for the rest of our child's life in terms of intimacy and nourishment (literal and otherwise). A formula fed baby learns to ignore the signals of his body as his natural sucking impulse leads him to eat way past the point of satiety. When we reach adulthood and (hopefully) become fully conscious of such a pattern we can work to correct it, but it's HARD work (it was for me, anyway). Better to just start out the right way! Of course, a breastfed person can still have food issues, but I think they're much less likely to have such issues than a formula fed person.

  2. ashleybess says:

    Peace Pilgrim said it best: "Judging others will avail you nothing and injure you spiritually. Only if you can inspire others to judge themselves will anything worthwhile have been accomplished."

  3. Amazing article. Thanks.

    Bob

  4. faye says:

    so kate, 2 posts before yours on FB was from a friend who wrote this: "My neighbor, Emily, ran a 31 hour 100 mile race and breastfeed her baby at the pit stops. That makes my natural birth seem like an afternoon spent frolicking in a meadow." i am sharing this b/c i think it is effing awesome to hear a women doing this. now, do i think i could do this? it shld be noted that i don't run nor have a baby, but that doesn't matter. i, as a human, as a part of this glorious human race and world shall be happy and pleased and inspired by the feats of such people and not compare myself! i shall rejoice in their wondrous actions as well as mine. we are all on our owns paths and this comparison thing we all do is pointless! we are not cookie-cutter cut-outs but beautiful, gorgeous individuals, all doing the best we can with what we got.

  5. @Suri_k8 says:

    Am I the only one who thinks that there is something wrong with moms that breast feed a child that can tie his own shoes ? That magazine cover is disgusting and that poor boy is going to be bullied at school for life….very unfortunate how parents fall for all these ridiculous fads .

    ….reminds me of that freaky scene from game of thrones…nasty.

  6. @Suri_k8 says:

    Two questions:
    if this is about the benefits of the milk , is it necessary to feed directly from the breast a 4-5 year old? Sippy cups , pumps anyone?
    And , If a mother breast feeds a 6 or 8 year old …when does breast feeding becomes sexual abuse?

    Breastfeeding at 8 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fxv6R9fUO74

  7. roxiromero says:

    Thank you for this article….
    I am expecting my first child and am planning to breastfeed, but it is crazy how everyone keeps on telling you "you HAVE to breastfeed" as if it was a decision that was not meant for you to take, but for everyone else around you….

  8. TIZ says:

    thank you for that.

    i had a good mom. if you get the chance, i’d love it if you could read…

    http://www.elephantjournal.com/2012/05/happy-dead

    like the title of the story, there was more to her than meets the eye.

    thank you.

  9. […] honor of my mom-hood—and moms everywhere—I searched the internet for the best mom-related quotes that I […]

  10. MARCY TILD says:

    If motherhood is not a competition, then why do you reply to that article, with this pic? Looks like a competition to see which side is better to me…. Good luck with that.

  11. A wonderful article, Kate! I have not read the TIME article, but what a provocative cover! Is there really a competition going on these days between mothers, to see who is more of a mother? Are women judging each other by how long they breastfeed, etc? If this is so, (and I hope it's not widespread), to me this is a testament to how insecure women must feel today, as they step into motherhood. Your article takes the focus OFF the "ideal standards" everyone is preposterously trying too live up to, and puts them back on the beautiful and VERY UNIQUE individual relationships between mothers and their children, where it should be. Mothering is not something you buy a "how to" manual for! You live it minute to minute in spontaneous outpours of intelligence, intuition and love that come from your heart, as you colorfully present in your piece. As a mother of two teenage boys, I couldn't agree more. (And I won't even mention how long I breathed each one, because, ultimately, I did much more than just breathed them!) Thank you! And Happy Mother's Day to you! :))

  12. yogasamurai says:

    The other thing about this that seems a little strange – or narrow – is the over-emphasis on the breast-feeding?

    As I understand it, affective parenting involves at least two other elements – the extended sleeping in the parental bed, and the "body-wearing" of the child. The idea is that you keep the child connected to you at all times basically.

    Arguing over breast-feeding is one thing. It's the most natural thing in the world, and doing more of it ,longer seems perfectly natural, too. Though this picture is a PR disaster, and so is this woman, I think.

    The other aspects of Affective Parenting? Not so sure. A number of people have suggested that sudden infant death syndrome increases in likelihood if the young child sleeps with the parents, but there are other behavioral and psychological issues involved.

    By the way, where are the fathers and the husbands in all this discussion? Do the women involved even care? People keep saying that in other cultures, all these practices are common and healthy. Sure, and there are extended families in these cultures within which this loving care is bestowed.

    I have to say, that if the child becomes a de facto spouse substitute for an isolated single parent in this setting, possibly serving the unmet emotional needs of the mother for an extended period, there can be very serious trouble ahead indeed.

  13. yogasamurai says:

    Great op-ed on the Time magazine controversy by a Doctor at, of all places, FOX News. The network, which is often unwatchable, just went up a couple of notches in my estimation.

    Maybe instead of deleting my own recent post arguing along the same lines, you will let this one run? After all, censoring published views is a bit more extreme. Not that anything will really stop you guys, I guess.

    Here goes! http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2012/05/11/time-ma

    TIME MAGAZINE COVER — FORGET THE BREAST – WHAT ABOUT THE BOY?

    By Dr. Keith Abrow

    Jamie Lynn Grumet, the 26-year-old mother featured on the cover of Time magazine breastfeeding her 3-year-old son, has done more this week than become the poster woman for “attachment parenting,” the sometimes laudable movement that advises parents to be physically and emotionally available and responsive to their children. She has shown the limits of such a concept, and the ways in which it can be twisted into a bizarre, contemptible caricature of itself.

    Grumet is a model, and models have to have at least healthy dose of narcissism (television journalists like me, too, by the way). But I fear Grumet has more than what’s healthy.

    Because she thought nothing of becoming far more famous than she ever was or ever would have been by getting naked on the cover of Time using her son as a prop—letting him, in fact, look right into the camera and be completely recognizable while sucking her nipple. He may never be better-known for anything than for being a breastfeeding 3-year-old on the cover of a national magazine.

    Ever.

    When he enters school later in his young life he may be ridiculed for it. And these realities hint at a woman who could (and I have not evaluated her) have very poor boundaries and be willing or likely not only to nurture a child, but to absorb him, deny him his personhood and render him no more than her appendage.

    In short, it is not at all clear who is the “parent” in the Time magazine photograph. Is Grumet responding to real and healthy needs emanating from her son’s psyche, or is he responding to her potentially outsized needs to be the center of attention and the object of desire (if only for warmth). Who, we can legitimately ask, is feeding whom?

    See, Grumet loves being photographed. And she apparently loves having her son breastfeed. And she loves attention. And she’s happy enough to get naked in front of other people (which there may be nothing wrong with—for her). But that may or may not be the case for her 3-year-old boy, which seems not to have mattered to her—at all. And if his will was bent to hers in order to have him suck his mother’s nipple in front of a photographer and makeup artist and art director and all of America, then it stands to reason that his will may be being bent to hers in all sorts of ways—including protracted breastfeeding.

    The truth is that what Time magazine may have unwittingly captured and been party to was a grotesque form of psychological abuse—the parading into public of an intimate moment (intimate for mother and child) at the sole direction of that child’s mother, who didn’t stop to think that her child may not be able at the age of three to know what he thinks about the whole thing, much less to stop it, if he wanted to.

    Grumet has stained the attachment parenting movement by documenting how easily it can go wrong, when used as an excuse for poor boundaries and manipulation.

    In a way, while looking at the Time magazine cover, we are all Grumet’s son and may know something of his possible plight: finding her a compelling and dramatic presence, seduced by her combination of sex appeal and motherhood—unable, in fact, to detach from her.

    Talk about a prescription for psychological disaster.

    This is self-centeredness at its worst, sold as good parenting. And this is an act of media violence against a child, committed by adult journalists who also commandeered his will (as did his mother), for sensation and profit. Rarely do we get such evidence of how wrong parenting can go, how poorly journalists can behave and how slow we can be to recognize ugliness when it is disguised as something beautiful.

    Dr. Keith Ablow is a psychiatrist and member of the Fox News Medical A-Team. Dr. Ablow can be reached at [email protected].

  14. Rennie Foster says:

    and sometimes, good moms happen to be dads. :)

  15. EstherLiberman says:

    Just saw this, Kate. What a wonderful article. Amen, I say. Also: why is it so hard for each of us to realize that we are not experts on children or child-rearing, but each an expert on our own child/ren? In other words, why don't we trust our instincts with our own and butt out of other people's choices? What works for me and my kids may not work for anyone else. It seems obvious, and yet…

  16. Ahimsahome says:

    Oh please. As a mother of 4 children and a dedicated breast feeder to each till they were about 2 years old (a little over for two of them) let me tell you something. First the recomended age to breastfeed to by the World Health Association is 2 years and beyond. Would America be a better place if all of our babies were breast fed? Highly likely. The studies back up the major list of reasons why this might be a good thing i.e. higher IQ, healthy childhood/adult body weight, secure attachment, etc. About 74% of babies are breastfed at some point in their babyhood in America. Not as bad as I thought. My children are healthy, happy, secure young adults. I did have to wean 2 of them and the others self weaned. I was just done and when I felt myself resenting it, that was the time I knew it was time to stop. I was 15 when my stepmother had my little sister. She nursed her till she was 6 yeas old. I did think it was a little odd at the time, but today she is an amazing person. She graduated on a full scholarship from Barnard and has traveled the world since she was a young child. At 27 she has visited and served through peace making work in nearly every country in the world. Her mother raised her deeply attached and like my own experience with my children, it helped form her into an extremely secure, brave and stable adult. I personally think that nursing till over a "certain" age is something that takes effort to wrap one's mind around. I think a study on children that have nursed till 4 and over would be intriguing. I have no idea what it would show. There is obviously no nutritional needs at that point if the family is able to secure a healthy diet. I have always thought of extended nursing as "etheric nutrition". One thing that I do know is that in a certain way it is silly to argue when to wean your child as they will forever be nursing on your consciousness.PEACE xo P.S. I'm personally more concerned with parents feeding their children SOY! yuck!

  17. 2kidsinmybed says:

    Lovely article, Kate, and so well said. As mothers we need to start supporting each others' choices, not rendering judgement.

  18. Tonda Strohmeyer says:

    A covey of oldsters are writing on the similar place owing to this one, but unconditional is completed in a special passage here. aliment corporal up.

  19. […] She carted me and my two siblings around from swimming, to tutoring, to ballet, and back again without even a hint of resentment, never asking for anything in return, never expecting any sympathy or thanks. So when my sister and I […]

  20. […] I am a mother who is doing her best at the most challenging job on the market. My children are loved, honored, appreciated and well cared for, but I make mistakes constantly. There is nothing that could have prepared me, cautioned me or equipped me with the tools to make it through parenthood without daily bruising to my ego, my heart and my body. […]

  21. […] some amazing mums and babies that I chat, cry and celebrate with. We’ve tried to avoid the sense of competition that I’ve heard can insiduously infiltrate mothers’ groups, taking what should be an environment of compassion to one of one-upmanship and […]

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  25. guest says:

    Agree with most of the article, but let's make a difference between the women that want to breastfeed but cannot for major reasons and those that are too "modern" and busy with their careers to breastfeed and just have a baby to tie the hubby down or for the "happy" family picture.
    Back in the day, breastfeeding was the ONLY way to feed babies, formulas were conceived by greedy opportunist companies wishing to both destroy the natural mom-baby bond and make money off it in the process.
    If we lived like our ancestors moms would have no choice but to take time off to take care of the baby and breastfeed it as long as it needs it.
    Our DE-civilization is far from Nature and its natural roots.
    And let's not talk about the amount of waste and plastic (oil-based) that bottle feeding and disposable diapers create.
    Yes, it's nice to want to be a mother but shouldn't the people that produce offspring care more for the very planet they will leave to their offspring?
    And that care includes being closer to what Nature has prepared our bodies to do.
    It is frustrating that there are too many people having children without really doing anything to contribute to a better planet by being more conscious about the environment and what we as a generation or species are leaving as heritage to future generations.

  26. Kariha says:

    You actually expressed that wonderfully!

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