There’s one thing you should never attach yourself to…

Yes, I’ve seen the cover and the controversy it’s stirred up. My inbox is very full. No, I haven’t read the articles. I’m not sure I’m going to. That might seem like a cop out. Maybe it is. But I’ve just returned from a few days in paradise, and re-entry requires energy and time.

Plus, I’m pretty sure – despite the mixed messages that mainstream media continues to perpetuate – that attached doesn’t mean being attached to Internet debates over the topic or even being so attached to your personal parenting ideology that your kids are hovering in the trembling wake of your heated words and angry emails that you’re firing off more rapidly than the nervous system’s synaptic communications.

The cover (and maybe the articles are more fair, but I doubt it) does just what I recently argued against and sensationalizes extended breastfeeding and is, as a friend of mine described, “a brilliant piece of trash journalism.”

Sure, the cover bothers me. So does the title: “Are you mom enough?” As a Facebook friend pointed out, can we invite women to enter the mommy wars anymore than with a loaded question like that?

What likewise bothers me is that Time magazine approached me under the guise of respecting my own parenting choices as well as those of any fellow moms I know, especially since they’d told me they had read material I’d written on the subject.

If I cast aside my pride, it bothers me, too, that I was too stupid to see any of this coming. (My dad and husband were much more cautious about the whole thing.)

When I write about attachment parenting or extended breastfeeding, I write with charity. I am quick to say I’d rather not parent by the book or by the expert and simply follow my gut and try to parent as my God would have me do. I am wary of parenting labels. I am wary, too, of even attempting to mine out any useful gems in any type of magazine that purposefully sells something in such a provocative package.

I am not being pushed to extremes to nurse a 3-year-old because I feel guilty or pressured or scared or worried that if I wean before my child is ready, I am opening her up to a lifetime of pain. Nor am I trying to guarantee myself a winning ticket in the parenting lottery. I stand by own mom and dad’s wise parenting advice and refuse to take credit for the good knowing then that I’d have to take credit for the bad. Oh, yes, my child is a genius who started reading Tolstoy at age 4 and yes, she picks her nose and eats her boogers for an afternoon snack – neither of which have absolutely anything to do with me or my husband and my highly superior gene pool. (I’m jesting here. My kids don’t read Tolstoy, but I have a caught a little one or two with her finger up her nose.)

Honestly, as I’ve said before, it really just boils down to laziness. Weaning takes time and patience when it’s not child-led. I’m not ready to use up any of limited supplies of those precious resources just yet.

Have I ever fallen into the trap of thinking that if I didn’t form a secure emotional bond with my children or do everything “right” I would ruin them for life? Yes, in fact, I have several times stumbled into that treacherous and anxiety-producing trap (and still sometimes do).

During my eating disorder recovery, a therapist once told me that if I wasn’t obsessive-compulsive about food or my weight, I’d find something else to be that way about. There have been times, I admit, when I’ve gotten all OCD on my parenting. I’m trying to channel my OCD tendencies into something more productive – say, eliminating our wooden floors of crumbs and hairballs.

I actually wrote a whole column about my struggles with letting go in the parenting (not the house cleanliness) department and called my new form of parenting detachment parenting and, of course, some AP folks took the word “detached” the wrong way and saw it as an argument against the attached theory of psychology or that I think we don’t matter at all as parents. I’m not going to get into the whole nature v. nurture debate right now, but, nope, that’s not what I meant.

(Do you ever feel like you’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t? Yeah. Me, too.)

No, I don’t believe I might as well as throw my children to the wolves (although they would have no problem nursing my pups out in the public of the forest) and let them fend for themselves. Nor do I believe I have no power at all to help shape their souls. I have a great responsibility as their mother. It’s my duty every day to give all in the hope that I can love them into loving and being good people.

When I wrote that column, I opened my heart up and talked about a difficult part of my childhood and how I was crazed, obsessive even, early on in my mothering career about not making even one misstep. Do I still struggle with mom guilt? You bet. Most moms do. We love our families. We want to do things right. Guilt is one of our most worn accessories.

Do I find the cover of Time insulting, sensational, ridiculous, ignorant, and a complete misrepresentation of attachment parenting? Uh-huh. Not that some parents don’t embrace attachment parenting – or any parenting ideology for that matter – to make up for a hurtful past, parental guilt, or simply to feel like they have more control over their children’s destinies.

I was really seething when the messages about the issue started flooding my inbox and Facebook wall, but then I realized that I was being a different kind of attached parent and was getting too far attached to the absurd opinions of others. One thing I’ve learned, especially since launching into an online writing life where I talk about my choices and my parenting, my joys and my struggles, is that there’s one thing you should never attach yourself to and that’s the opinions of others.

No, I do not want to raise “detached” children, but I do want to raise children who recognize the fruit of detachment. When we are too attached, to people, their behavior, or things like ridiculous magazine covers, we become anxious, angry, defensive, or hurt, and contentment is elusive.

Want to be (mostly) happy and at peace with your parenting? Then attach yourself, instead, to your husband or a trusted friend if you’re a single mama. Attach yourself to the thoughts of a solid, faithful spiritual director.

Above all, attach yourself to God. Forget the parenting ideologies. Parent out of love and let God be your guide for the kind of love you wish to bring to the heart of your home.

Attach yourself to hope for the future rather than everything you did wrong yesterday. To move forward, forgive. (I slipped up big time last week, and I’m having to really, really work on forgiving myself, but I know it’s absolutely necessary for the sake of my family and for me.)

When you’re angry at media for being unscrupulous, for supplying the mommy wars with some powerful ammo, and making an issue out of something that shouldn’t be an issue at all, take a deep breath, write a post, vent to your husband, write a letter to the editor or the person who originally contacted you, and then let it go.

Let it go….

While you’re at it, thank your wonderful, wise dad for being right yet again. He was the one who told you there was a reason that the photo shoot wasn’t going to work out. He’s never had much respect for Time’s journalistic integrity. (I tend to give everyone the benefit of the doubt.) Yes, Dad, they would have made me look like a freak. They would have tried to make an innocent nursing session look provocative. They would have tried to objectify me, my body, my children, my maternity, to sell a magazine.

Praise God that the friends you suggested to fill in for you were also unable to make it happen.

Attach yourself again, quite literally, to that handsome husband of yours who is so grounded in truth and looks past the rubbish and lets very little get under his skin, and give him a big hug. Thank him for taking you and your baby to the beach to celebrate 10 blissful years together. Thank him for offering to cancel the trip, but be very, very grateful you looked him straight in the eye and told him that being quasi-alone with him was just as much of a once-in-a-lifetime-experience (at this point of your life, anyway) as flying to the Big Apple for a photo shoot for a national glossy.

Nurse your baby. Nurse your 3-year-old who you were kind of thinking might forget about nursing while you were MIA but didn’t. Forget that stupid cover and the articles within its slippery pages that pit moms against each other and make cultural scripts confine (or confuse) certain moms.

Don’t let anyone or any parenting ideology push you to extremes, but do, my beautiful, fellow mamas, let Love itself take you out of your comfort zone. (We are all extreme parents because parenting demands extreme love.)

As Christian mamas, we need not be attached to incendiary magazine covers, misguided opinions, or our own ideologies or guilt. Let us instead try to attach ourselves and our children to Christ.

When everyone starts arguing back and forth about the perfect parenting style (there is no perfect parent unless you God or maybe the Mother of God), let’s remember this, too: Those sweet wounded, willful, wonderful children who sometimes drive you crazy and at other times drive you to love to extreme will grow up and become whom they were created to be in spite of you. You can do everything “right” (whatever the experts are saying is “right” at the moment), or you may feel like you’ve botched up things big time but one day, you’ll take a step back and see that like a young sapling, your child has a bend all of her own. Even in the most fertile soil things do not always grow as they should. And green shoots of life magically appear even in the most rocky and arid land. Dear mamas, don’t be afraid to get dirty, to dig deep into your own heart and into those of your children’s, but don’t be afraid to let go either. Though, as I have, I’m sure you’ll sometimes find that the holding on is – despite what the covers of magazines that victimize, objectify, disenfranchise, and stigmatize moms might have you to believe – is far easier to do.


Enter the Conversation...

22 Responses to “There’s one thing you should never attach yourself to…”
  1. Colleen says:

    I think Mother Theresa said it best when she said “Live and Let Live”. I’ve said this before in the comments on your wonderful blog…but why can’t we all just try our best for our children, and let others do the same? Why does priding ourselves in the way we do it or scorning the ways other choose to parent make us feel better? It shouldn’t. As long as the kids are happy, healthy, and being fulfilled spiritually/emotionally, then use whatever way works. I am so glad your Dad had a sixth sense about this opportunity for you, and so glad that you were still an obedient daughter! He parented you perfectly and you are parenting your babies perfectly. God is good!!

  2. Sarah says:

    Brilliant, Kate, and right from the heart. Your writing is such a blessing.

  3. Kate says:

    The bits of the actual articles I can read online seem more balanced and very interesting…but there is no question at all that the photographer and the editors responsible for that cover were looking to sell magazines by inciting more Mommy Wars and controversy!

  4. I think you got all my luck for the week, and I’m glad you did (I burnt my hand pretty badly two days ago but can mostly use it like normal again, and stepped on something rusty in the yard today, so I’m planning to get a tetanus shot tomorrow). Pretty irritating that Time magazine is taking something beautiful and natural and sensationalizing it and making it seem freakish. Grrr….

  5. Marcia says:

    Yep. Dear Kate. There WAS something afoot when I talked to that editor. He was looking for only moms who would be willing to nurse during a photo shoot and specifically moms who were pregnant or nursing a child over 3. :) Your dad is a goodie.

  6. When I saw that cover yesterday, my first thought was, “Thank goodness Kate couldn’t do it!” That cover is so sensationalist – I have no respect for journalism. Are you Mom enough? Pul-eeese!

    • Kate Wicker says:

      You know what’s really bothered me as I’ve studied the photo more closely? The little boy’s camo pants and the mom’s resigned expression. It’s like the photo editor is trying to convey that our kids can make us their #*+@& and have what they want whenever they want it. This is a big misconception of AP that it is synonymous with hyper-helicopter parenting. I’m sure there are moms who are overly permissive who breastfeed older children. There are some parents who may make certain parenting choices out of guilt. But to use that kind of photo just to stir up controversy and to mock mothers and their children is despicable. And the “Are you mom enough?” Sheesh. Talk about drawing the battle lines among moms.

      I have to agree with you. I don’t have much respect for journalism these days. My husband and I were talking about the cover and then some of our own personal experiences with journalists and agree you really can’t trust anything you read or see. My husband has been misquoted as a medical professional. It was something minor, but it was completely erroneous and what if the fact the reporter got completely wrong had been directly related to health advice?

      Ethics seems to have gone out the window, which is particularly dangerous in the scope of media since they have so much power and influence.

      • Kate Wicker says:

        Oh, and I just want to be clear that I’m not opposed to children wearing camouflaged clothing. My little man has some nice camo gear, in fact. However, I think this may have been done on purpose. But maybe I’m reading in to things. There’s so much you could read into that visual garbage. I’ve been terribly disappointed hearing people say that mom should be arrested for child abuse or people calling it child pornography. I know that’s what Time wanted. Likewise, I NEVER would have agreed to posing for that kind of photograph. Conceptual illustration of AP is what they told me they were going for. Liars.

        But, still, this does nothing to help women who breastfeed children of any age, really, because once again it’s about the breasts being sex objects more than instruments to feed a child.

        Then there’s the whole igniting the mommy war thing. That’s what has angered me more than anything because moms are once again fighting against each other instead of fighting Time magazine and greater society for mocking and taunting mothers.

        Thanks to everyone for their support! God bless.

        • Kate Wicker says:

          Also, I have to share a very insightful observation over at Faith & Family LIVE’s post on the controversy. It’s from anon. Here it is in full:

          “This pic accentuates this woman’s boobs (even if they are not size “D” or anything like that, they’re still highlighted by the pose and clothing); the woman is wearing tight clothes and standing in a defiant pose that does not suggest softness, cuddling, or warmth. My point is that I think this pic was *carefully* designed to pose attachment parenting moms in an unattached way. And attachment parenting without the attachment is… well… what is it? Let’s see, it could be weird… it could be gross… it could be any number of things because the barometer of love between mother and child which guides the mom in her choices and style is broken without attachment. So, would or could it then dip in to some gross sexualized situation? Why not! Basically, this pic turns attachment parenting on its head and debases it. This pic is the antithesis of attachment parenting. Like porn is the antithesis of what sex is meant to be. And I think that’s why this pic feels a little porn-like, even though we all know its just a nursing mom.”

          Anon makes an excellent point, don’t you think?

          • Oh wow…Anon makes a FABULOUS point!!! WOW!!!

          • I completely agree. Breastfeeding is one of those things that I had very little experience seeing until I myself was a nursing mom. Then I saw it everywhere. Never, never, have I seen a great looking mom wearing tight clothes, hands on hips, pulling her top down so her preschooler could get a drink. There is nothing soft, loving or motherly here. It is a pose of defiance that dares the world to tell her she can’t live her life any way she durn well pleases. Perhaps there are extended breastfeeding mother like this, but they would be in the minority. For most, breastfeeding is a quiet, comforting time for both mother and child…or a time where the mother says, “Again? I just fed your sister…I need to do the dishes…” followed by a sigh (I’ve seen that one most often!). I generally wean by age 2, because I wanted to, not because my children wanted to. And by the time they were 15-18 months old, I discouraged nursing in public just because of this sort of thing. I have friends who NEVER nurse in public, always bringing bottles of pumped milk around, even to my house where I told her she was crazy to pump to nurse an infant, especially at my pro-breastfeeding home. But she just wasn’t comfortable nursing in front of others because of stigmas fueled by this sort of news coverage.

      • Kate Wicker says:

        When I first saw the image, I immediately recognized it as shock journalism, but there was something else unsettling about it. I just couldn’t put my finger on it right away. Yes, her breast was showing. Yes, the whole propped up boy looking directly at us made me think that Time wanted to misrepresent AP as turning moms into slaves who are at the whim of their children’s every whim. But there was something more. I’ve seen photos of children nursing in other countries where there’s a lot more exposed, and they evoke beauty and peace. But this photo does nothing of the sort. I realize in these conversations that my problem with the photo isn’t what it does show but what it doesn’t. There’s no sense of maternal love.

        Michelle, my experience with breastfeeding is very similar to yours. I’ve always valued it because it forces me to slow down. My hummingbird self needs that.

        I hate it that women feel shame because of media stunts like this. That’s what really ticks me off.

        What this cover with its loaded words and sensational photo did was disenfranchise moms. There is one group of moms (those who nurse and especially those who nurse children older than what’s considered the norm) feeling like freaks. They also probably either feel like they have to hide the fact that they are still nursing or feel like they have to get all militant about defending their choices and may even feel as if they need to defend that misguided photo (like me maybe they aren’t even sure why the photo makes them uneasy). Then there is another group of moms who don’t nurse and/or practice AP, and they’re angry at the implication that they are not mom enough. Nobody wins. Shame on Time magazine for making any mom feel shameful or unworthy and right before Mother’s Day, too.

  7. Cassie says:

    This blog post was beautiful. You have a wonderful perspective. Just parent the way God is calling you to parent. If everyone had that attitude this place would be a lot nicer. People are so mean. I can’t believe I read some of those comments over there on time magazine. It didn’t really change anything for me, I’m still happily(you know sometimes, I’m like you I’m just too lazy to wean) tandem nursing. But it just made me think of how rude people are. I would have rather assumed that everyone loved it lol. Aw well.

  8. Preethi says:

    I found your post through a link from Grace at Camp Patton and just wanted to say HOORAY! to you! Perfectly said. Yes, yes, and yes.

  9. Jessica says:

    I read about how you were contacted and had to decline. So glad God was guiding your decision. I think no matter what you would have said, the image on the cover would be the thing that was remembered.

  10. kimberlee says:

    I read your quick takes post last week and I remember thinking how there must be a very good reason you weren’t supposed to go. It is rare when we get to see so very clearly how God takes care of us in everything, even when we feel so very disappointed. Those are treasured moments and memorable lessons in trust, indeed. He is so good, all the time.

  11. I’m so glad you chose your Hubby over TIME’s shoot. What a hard decision – and don’t be mad at yourself for giving them the benefit of the doubt? How exciting and complimentary of them to want you? It happens to all of us. I’m just glad God intervened!

    I am angry over this for you, and for society. I vented, I’ll write a letter, then…I’ll let go.

    Great post about this. Much love!!! and HUGS! Stay on the high ground!

  12. Abby says:

    Thank you for this, Kate. That Time photo had me pretty angry and down… I am still happily nursing my almost three year old, with no near end in sight (though, I’ll admit, all too often with the resigned “right now? really?” kind of sigh). While I know deep down I’m following her cues and meeting her needs, it is tough in a society where 99% of my friends stopped by a year, if not by six months… I get way too many of the “if they’re old enough to ask for it, they’re too old” comments, both from extended family, and from friends. I’ve got a great “nursing beyond a year” support group, and most of the time I feel confident that we’re doing the right thing by our little girl… but it hurts to have such a personal and sensitive topic brought into the national focus in this way, just the same. I nursed until 5 1/2, myself, and am (or at least consider myself to be!) a happy, well adjusted, independent adult (with a great relationship with both my parents), so I should know that “later than average nursing” doesn’t mean lifelong dependence or a twisted parent-child relationship. Still, I find that the pervasive feeling of “am I doing right by my child,” or what I’d term “Mommy-doubt” is a strong emotion, and doesn’t always follow reason.

    Anyway, while I’m so glad that you were unavailable for the photo shoot, I almost wish you had been. I don’t want to judge the cover mom, but I do wish she’d had more sense as to how she would and wouldn’t pose, and I have a feeling you’d have put your foot down :) Just feels like this, instead of normalizing nursing into toddlerhood, makes us moms who are just trying to go with our gut and let our children mature at their own pace look like freaks all over again.

    So thank you for your very balanced thoughts on the matter!


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