I wasn’t planning on writing about this.
But it’s especially odd when something somewhat old-hat in one area of my life suddenly bursts into the mainstream and takes over the conversation in another area.
I’m not in the mommy world, I’m merely close to it. My son is two and half and I’ve been watching and helping my wife find her own way of being a mom. It’s a fascinating thing to watch. No matter how much she does, she always feels like she’s not doing enough. My job is to talk her down and make sure that she’s not going too crazy.
The same thing goes with all of her friends.* Every mom feels insecure. While it’s not a competition to determine quién es más mamá, moms fall into the same trap with themselves that they do when it comes to comparing kids—they only compare the best things that each mom does and try to measure up to a completely unrealistic composite of those bests.** Then they feel guilty at having failed at something even though the child is perfectly fine.
*Except I don’t try and talk her friends down.
**Dads do the exact opposite. Instead of looking at the best things each dad does and feeling guilty that we aren’t that awesome, we look at the worst thing each dad does and feel good about ourselves for not being thaaaat bad.
There’s also tons of advice out there* so moms are constantly being told what to do. And what not to do. And, most often, why what they’re doing is wrong. As a result, there’s a lot of defensiveness** when it comes to dealing with advice.
*Professional, cultural, and social advice.
Which brings us to the Time cover. The only criticism I have of it is that there’s no way the article, whatever it is, can match the brilliance of the cover.
Time chose to own this. It’s completely considered and, so far, they haven’t backpedaled with any “we’re sorry if anyone was offended” pseudo-apologies. As a result, it’s been completely refreshing to see people talking about a photo content “controversy.” And while many people have dismissed the image as being merely cheap provocation for selling magazines*, there is more going on.
*It’s a fantastic image for this too since it has a little bit of everything—most importantly the unexpected hook.
Every mother* has also already gone over this territory—to the point where I’m pretty sure the general reaction was a tired “not this again”** sigh. The Time cover isn’t a decree about how mothers should be—the general reaction has shown that we, culturally, know how unreasonable this is. It shows how the existence of this extreme results in pressure on every mother out there.
*Well, first-world mother. The whole worrying about parenting methods and whether or not to work or stay home etc. etc. is something that only people privileged enough to be given a choice in the matter get to deal with and guilt over.
**Hence my snarky comment about how attachment parenting discussions are the ruin porn of mommy blogs
The content of the photo is such that it’s very clearly a challenge. There’s a bit of “don’t tell me how to be a mom” mixed with “be as much of a mom as you want to be.” Both points are completely valid. Time did not run with a “You are not mom enough” accusation. It ran with a question, the answer to which should be, and usually is, “fuck, yes!”