What comes to mind when you think attachment parenting?
Perhaps you envision a young, lithe, white woman, standing in bold contrapposto, staring unapologetically into the camera, her nearly four-year-old perched on a chair, hanging somewhat awkwardly from her one perfectly exposed breast, also staring - though less boldly, and more confusedly - into the same camera?
It isn't what would come to my mind, nor, likely most parents who practice attachment parenting.
But, with that very image, accompanied by a purposefully provocational headline and subtext, Time Magazine would like to convey the message that this pose/interaction (whether breastfeeding, breastfeeding an "older child", breastfeeding without cover, or perhaps, simply, a woman staring unabashedly at the viewer) is extreme (which, extreme, it's not. Perhaps, in 1863, when Edouard Manet first shocked the world by painting a bare-breasted woman staring unrepentantly at the viewer, "extreme" might be a suitable description, but in 2012, when sexualized breasts are the advertising norm, no),
that it represents attachment parenting (which, considering how deliberately unengaged the two are in this photograph, it doesn't), and/or, that breastfeeding is the epitome of being "mom enough" (which, a child fed and clothed - all that's represented without dispute in this image - may be indicative of mom enough, but, I'd argue being a mom - a PARENT - takes far more than open mouth, insert milk; and the last time I checked, parenting wasn't a contest - at least not to anyone other than the media). In other words (through all my parenthesis) Time failed miserably with this cover.
In truth, the only thing Time managed to do with this photograph, was to present a lovely woman with her cherubic child in an awkwardly stylized pose; slap an outlandish headline on the front which practically screams for people to get up in arms about - take your pick: attachment parenting, nudity, breastfeeding, mommy wars - and sell lots of copies of an otherwise less-than-unbiased and far-less-than thorough news magazine gossip rag.
Certainly Time wasn't going for normalizing breastfeeding - which, could have served mothers and children everywhere. I say certainly, as, if that HAD been their intent, they would have chosen the alternate photograph for the cover - same mother and child, in a far more natural, comforting pose. With THAT photograph, they could have showed how breastfeeding is as much about nurturing as it is about nutrition, and that gentle, loving touch between mother and child doesn't have to end simply because a child is able to walk, talk, and get themselves dressed. They COULD have chosen an image that didn't reinforce the confounding and insidious public belief that breastfeeding beyond infancy, or exposing breasts for breastfeeding at all, is somehow sexual. They could have taken the road less travelled. Instead, they followed the path of least resistance: sex and shock value sells.
Look, Time wasn't attempting to bring any real understanding of attachment parenting. If THAT had been their intent, certainly such martyr-esque language as was used to describe one featured attached parent would've been left behind in editing. Case in point:
"[Joanne & her partner] ended much of their social life when they became parents. There are no date nights. Joanne doesn't get away for afternoons to have lunch with her girlfriends. In fact, the only time Joanne has ever left either of her children in anyone else's care was when she was in labor with her second child.... the child-rearing philosophy Joanne subscribes to, It's called attachment parenting ... a style that's more about parental devotion and sacrifice than about raising self-sufficient kids. ... Attachment-parenting dogma also says that every baby's whimper is a plea for help and that no infant should ever be left to cry."
In fact, the accompanying article (The Man Who Remade Motherhood) was positively fraught with blatently obvious stereotypes, judgments, and purposeful overstatements:
"…for months, Beauregard sat on the couch in her Denver-area living room, nursing her infant from sunup to sundown"
(ALL that BREASTFEEDING - can you even IMAGINE? Oh, the OPPRESSION!) - and -
"So is attachment parenting a misogynist plot to take women out of the workplace and put them back in the home full time?"
(yes, yes, responding with empathy and gentleness to your infant is a "misogynist plot". But wait, where does it say only women may attachment parent, or that women must not work, or must breastfeed in order to attachment parent? That's right, nowhere. One wonders, after reading this article, if the author did any research but for the most cursory Google search on "Attachment Parenting" before writing.)
I can't help but believe Time's sole intent was pure derision and scorn of an already beleaguered and misunderstood method of parenting.
I praise Jamie Lynne Grumet, Dionna Ford, Jessica Cary, and Melinda Larson for taking such a brave step towards bringing greater understanding and acceptance to attachment parenting and extended breastfeeding. In all, it's terribly sad that Time missed a grand opportunity to present to its wide audience a nurturing, loving, gentle way of relating to children. By miring breastfeeding and attachment parenting in phony controversy and manufactured scandal, they really dropped the ball.