Time magazine just published their latest issue, and smack on the cover page is this:
It's provocative on purpose - a mother nursing her three year old son in a county where babies are barely nursed past 6 months, if they are nursed at all. And the title/caption are incredibly offensive to me - that somehow nursing a three year old is "extreme" (around the world, children are usually weaned between 3 and 4 years old - and the weaning is toddler-led) and the insinuation that this kind of parenting choice is in COMPETITION with other parenting choices (are you mom enough? seriously?)
Well, it's offensive to me because I'm an attachment parent. I "wore" Gareth when he was little. I'm still nursing him twice a day (sometimes more if he's sick) and he just turned two. I didn't let him "cry it out" at night and he didn't sleep through the night till he was 21 months old. I co-slept with him until I discovered he preferred to sleep by himself. I know there are other options, I know there are other parenting philosophies and techniques. I just didn't choose them. I read about them, I pondered them seriously, I asked questions, and I didn't choose them. I'm not stupid, I'm not a helicopter parent, I don't have perverse or questionable motives, I just chose otherwise. And I'm mature enough to know and accept that some people disagree with me, make different parenting choices and have diverse opinions that don't gel with mine.
Let's cut the crap - parenting is hard and most of us are just doing the best we can. We do it differently, but most of us are doing our best at a bewilderingly difficult and shockingly hard profession. That's why I reacted so angrily and felt so frustrated about this article - it foments a battle between parents, between mothers, and once again makes women's bodies and choices the center of divisive conversation. Great. Like we need more of that.
I also reacted angrily because I hate it when women/parents/humans are judged for making decisions that are different than normative cultural expectations. I'm doing a lot of that lately.
Wednesday morning, a former parishioner came by to check on me and see how life was going since "All the Evil." Rather than skirt the issue, he just came out and asked me - "so are you getting a divorce?" (Honestly, I don't even think "that's too personal" any more because so much of my life has become a part of public conversation.) And I said, "No." And get this - he winced. That was a first.
Like I had just said "I've decided to get a HUGE FACE TATTOO" or "I'm going to quit my job and join the circus." His immediate reaction was an audible and physical display of "I DISAPPROVE OF YOUR CHOICE AND DO NOT UNDERSTAND WHY YOU ARE MAKING IT." It's not like I'm naive - I know lots of people probably disapprove of my choice to stay married to Cliff or don't understand my reasoning. That's fine - I really don't NEED people to approve of it. What shocked me was the undisguised disappointment in my choice. And that wasn't all....when the conversation had wended its way to conclusion, he said something like "well, I'm surprised about the staying married bit..."
Yeah. I got that earlier.
I know my choice is crazy to some. I would never expect another person to make it, I would never judge a person for choosing otherwise. Marriage is HARD when it is going well, and betrayal on the scale I've experienced is almost impossible to navigate. But I'm choosing it. I choose it EVERYDAY. Over and over again I make the commitment to continue in my marriage with the FULL UNDERSTANDING OF THE CONSEQUENCES. I know there were other choices - I looked into them, I pondered them, I asked honest questions. But I chose differently.
I chose attachment parenting. I chose to stay married to my husband. Those are controversial choices. But they're mine to make.
So quit judging.