It's the time of the year for the return of the Mommy wars in the media, with Time magazine's choice of shock-jocking cover leading the fray. What could be more motherly than a mother with her nursing child, after all ? But no, Time's editors chose the worst shot possible out of those that were so carefully taken at the photo session - the one that clobbers you on the head with 'I'm better, prettier, sexier, more shocking than you" and a headline to match: "Are you Mom enough? ", rather than the one with more realism to it,(second one in the photoshoot set ), matching more closely the realities of the mother-child pair who only very rarely, in current culture, continue nursing into and beyond toddlerhood.
Would Elisabeth Badinter think that the Time cover symbolizes all that is the worst about the image of motherhood that she decries in her book 'The Conflict' '? Isn't it a challenge to her assertion that women ought to maintain economic independence even after motherhood and not be so attached to their children as promoted by 'attachment parenting' advocates?
It was not always so easy to maintain a safe distance from the physicality of the mother-child bond, as Badinter would prefer now, Before the invention of easily digestible formulas, babies who lost mothers or had mothers/wetnurses who did not succeed in breastfeeding, died in infancy. The extremely high neonatal mortality rate isn't a 'good old days' number that we would like to see come back :
"(Powdered milk, jars of baby food, and disposable diapers were created for a reason, says Badinter.) But the less modern women use them, the longer they stay at home, bending over backward for their children, losing a sense of independence—and economic edge—in the process. “We used to talk constantly about ways to reconcile a woman’s maternal responsibilities with her need to retain financial independence,” Badinter tells The Daily Beast by email. “Now we talk exclusively about a mother’s duties and the ‘rights’ of the young child, which increase substantially year after."
Like Ann Romney, whose main claim to fame rests on her definition of the working mother (and yes, all mothers work, it never is paid in money and therefore cannot be quantified by the rules for determining economic worth), Badinter invokes her own credentials as the mother of three, but neglects to mention her own not-so-minor conflict of interest - her company Publicis' links to Nestle, Mead & Johnson and Abbott Laboratories, among the largest infant formula manufacturers in the world.
"Yet, whether Badinter is out of touch as an author likely goes back to whether she’s out of touch as a mother. And while she’s portrayed herself as an ordinary mom—she had three children within three and a half years, all while a full-time student—she also had an au pair to help out. Her family wealth is estimated at $920 million. Her husband, Robert Badinter, is a former French justice minister and a prominent lawyer.
Still, Badinter contends, no mother is perfect, least of all she. “The more time passes, the more I’m convinced that the perfect mother is a myth,” she says. “What woman can boast of having always had the right reactions, made the right decisions? … As for me, I’ll say that it’s for my children to judge.”
Amen to the last line. No mother is perfect. Or rather, every (or most) mothers are perfect to their kids, no matter how they choose to parent, whether 'attached' as Jamie Grumet or 'detached' as Badinter, with all their faults and failings. But perfect or not, there is one thing that all mothers excel at- Being judgmental about other women's mothering abilities.
Apropos of the occasion, here is Ruchira's blast from the past- the intriguing and mysterious 'Unaboober' Gypsy Woman, whose expression reminds me of the 'Judge me if you dare' eyes of Ma Durga .
She sees all, knows all, and protects all.
Happy Mother's Day!