In this, the week where we honor and celebrate mothers and their contributions, the media is instead putting motherhood under attack. From a series of blogs in the New York Times to the front cover of Time Magazine, child-centered parenting and by association, motherhood, is under fire.
The unfolding stories about motherhood question whether feminism and motherhood are compatible or if mothers are doing "enough" or perhaps taking their parenting styles too far. The media is dividing mothers into camps - feminists vs. mothers, attached parents vs. empowered parents, parents who are "enough" and those who fall short of the mark. Mothers are either/or, up for public evaluation and criticism, or left hung out to dry. Fathers, ironically, do not engender such criticism. Being present is enough to simply qualify a dad as "good enough" - a little help around the home and he is to be celebrated. But for moms motherhood is a minefield.
If you listen to the media, following your instincts in parenting makes you a slave to your children. Ancients practices of breastfeeding, babywearing, and co-sleeping are exhausting and a likely manifestation of mothers trying to make up for their own inadequate childhoods. And all of it strips women of their independence, their power, and their choice. Lines are drawn in the sand. I am a good enough mother because I do this, you are not. I am a feminist and you are just a mother. You are a bad mother because you also have a career.
Motherhood is a universal experience. All mothers are exhausted. All mothers make sacrifices for their children, put some of their own desires on hold, and want to raise happy and healthy children. We all want to keep our children safe and protect them. We will stand by them and nurse them back to health when they sick. We will fight for them, move mountains for them, give every ounce of energy for them no matter what parenting model we follow.
Mothers who can make choices are empowered. Mothers who can choose to work or stay home, to co-sleep or babywear, to embrace their roles as mothers and as professionals, and to make informed, educated choices that work for them and their families are perhaps the most powerful force on the planet. And we are all mothers.
Let's not spend this Mother's Day pointing fingers and judging one another. Let's celebrate the joys and the challenges of motherhood that we all share. Let's honor the hard work, the passion, the dedication, the tolerance and patience, and the great love that all mothers share. Let us celebrate and honor the community of mothers, the universalities of our experience, and the enormous respect we have for one another's tasks. And let us acknowledge the power of our collective voices, our ability to honor one another, and our power to tolerate and respect our differences.
Happy Mother's Day!