The latest cover of Time has caused a bit of a furore – the sight of a mother breastfeeding her three year old son has created a storm of criticism in the US and over here, which was obviously the purpose of using a provocative picture.
It actually makes me feel a bit sad that a mother feeding her child, which would be seen as completely normal in other parts of the world, is seen as provocative, is used to shock and has pitted mother against mother in the discussion of who parents the best.
I am not going to write a piece about how anyone who criticises extended breastfeeding is wrong – we are all entitled to our opinions – but I do wish we could stop criticising and judging each other and feeling that just because one mother parents one way, that somehow undermines what another mother does if she chooses a different parenting style.
Almost everyday, I work with expectant and new parents and I want them all to feel comfortable and accepting of the choices they make as parents. We all make different choices and it is usually based on love for our child and trying to do the right thing as a parent.
Nobody should have to justify breastfeeding or formula feeding; using cloth or disposable nappies; cosleeping or using a cot; returning to work or being a stay at home mum…the list could go on. We are not better than each other – we are all mums who are a tad tired, emotional, under pressure and determined to do the right thing for our family. In an ideal world, I would love to see us support each other more, however we parent, so we can be open and happy about our choices. We are all going to do things differently and I say hoorah for all those differences because there is no right way.
My choices include: breastfeeding my babies (until one year with Alice and until two years with Lucy); also giving Alice formula; going back to work and putting Alice into nursery when she was 7 months old and becoming a stay at home mum after Lucy was born; co-sleeping with both of my children; using disposable nappies; really struggling as a mum of two young children; making many mistakes; loving my kids and trying my best to make decisions based on what is right for my family.
And my belief is that I am no better or worse than every other loving and caring parent.
Viv Groskop, who wrote a great article in The Guardian this weekend, summed it up for me when she wrote: “We all muddle through parenting as best we can. We all show our love for our children in different ways. We make mistakes, we fail. Enough of this constant pressure, judging, perfection and anxiety.”