The Power & Politics of Breasts, Motherhood & Media

So, I went on a quick run, eventually read the cover article, and I needed more time…get it? 

The actual article focused on Dr. Sears, the father of attachment parenting. Oh the irony. The cover shows a White, blonde, attractive woman with her 3-year-old son teetering on a stool to nurse, but the actual story is about a now much older White male and his changing theories and advice on parenting.

Parenting. But somehow parenting gets captured in that image of all images the magazine editors could have come up with? 

Thanks for the reminder that I am in America where breastfeeding becomes some sort of visual gauge of being enough of a mother because there are plenty of places in the rest of the world where infants are dying because women aren’t “mom enough” because there isn’t food enough, prenatal care enough, postnatal care enough. Enough.

I’ll just put it out there. Breastfeeding my children until they were of preschool age never, ever, ever crossed my mind. I never read Dr. Sears or any attachment parenting books. I actually don’t believe I or my husband could ever do enough to ensure our kids feel safe or comforted.

We could never change our parenting enough because for all of the physical presence we gave and could have given them, we would never be enough for the reality of this broken and beautiful world.

I am not mom enough, but I am grateful God is more than enough. So to my Christ-following sisters, let’s stop comparing ourselves to one another and to that imaginary “Enough Mom” and turn our eyes back on the One who chose an unwed teenager who would never be enough to be the mother of our Lord Jesus. We cannot be enough for our kids, but we can nurture their souls and spirits to be open to know that God is always enough.

This is a dangerous post because it’s really on the fly…I knew this magazine cover was hitting the stands, but now it’s sitting on my desk, and there are too many thoughts running through my Asian American Christian woman working mommy brain of mine to keep up with my typing….

Have you seen it? 

I don’t know of any non-White extended breastfeeding moms in the U.S. because here in America we have all sorts of options, including being able to work hard at being able to breastfeed our own children. (Wet nurses are a necessity in other places of the world, btw.)

But the “Are You Mom Enough” language, and the woman’s body language, and the fact that the actual article is about how Dr. Bill Sears is the man who lead the charge in attachment parenting (the article is titled “The man who remade motherhood”) just reminds me that even motherhood can come under the umbrella of men – White men, dominant culture.

And then we are set up to compete against each other – do you breastfeed as long as she does? are you a good enough mother? are you mom enough? can you handle it?

Gahhhhhh!

And then all the internal dissonance – I breastfed all three of my children, and there were many times I freaked out both men and women when I whipped out my blanket to cover my offensive breast to feed my non-offensive child. It’s crazy to see Jamie Lynn stand there with such strength showing less breast than what I saw walking down the red carpet on Oscar night, and to know that there is going to be a lot of crazy talk about this cover.

Wow. Just wow.

I’m going to read the article after I take a short run with my husband, who knew as soon as he got the mail that we would be in for a great conversation. So many thoughts…

What are your initial thoughts? Rants? Raves?

Don’t worry. I’ll be back.

A Mission for Moms Free For the Courageous (and 1 book if you are game)

UPDATE: Thanks to my readers who commented, tweeted and linked this post. Thanks to a handy, dandy random number generator “Between Worlds” has won a copy of  “The Missional Mom” by Helen Lee.

Things I learned in adulthood but didn’t expect to learn:

  • Pimples do not stop just because wrinkles move in.
  • Peer pressure does not disappear just because you leave high school.
  • Becoming who you were meant to be can be just as difficult as an adult as it was as a teenager.
  • You don’t lose yourself when you become a mom, even if there are moments like you might just drown.

That last lesson is an ongoing one (I suppose all of them all if I were to be honest). There are shelves of books to remind us that parenting, and specifically motherhood, is THE most important job a mother could have. It comes with or without Christian-ese about blessing, calling, heart and spirit. We talk about guiding and nurturing the future leaders of the world. We read about the studies of how a mother’s time working outside of the home can be damaging, be linked to childhood obesity, contribute to childhood delinquency and the general moral failure of the world.

So here in America, and even in the American Christian church, it’s easy to believe that being there for our children is a mother’s highest calling.

But is it?

“The calling and mission God has for us remains unchanged once we become wives and mothers.

What I have seen time and time again, in my friends’ lives, in my own life, and the lives of countless others reflected in the Christian and secular media, is that we mothers often forget how motherhood intersects with the bigger picture of our primary calling and mission. Sometimes we replace our primary calling and mission by saying, ‘ Motherhood is my highest calling…'” The Missional Mom, Helen Lee

Our primary calling, whether or not we are mothers, is to be Christ-followers who love others knowing and living in the knowledge we are loved by God and to be His witnesses everywhere we are. Motherhood is just one context in which that primary calling can be lived through.

Which is why reading Helen Lee’s book was a relief. It challenged me, encouraged me and unsettled me in all of the good ways we need to be. Telling myself that my life is good because someone else’s life isn’t as good doesn’t compel or inspire me to reconsider my choices, but reading stories of women – mothers who love their children and want not just the easiest or nicest or best for their children but want was God wants for them – inspired me.

It inspired me to look past the boxes of photos screaming to be organized or framed or scrapbooked, to look past the various piles of artwork, homework and plain old work, to look at my family’s schedule and to ask God for wisdom to make the choices that actually align with the values I hold as a Christ-follower and not as a supermom.

Worldly martydom is easier than the daily dying to yourself that Christ calls us to. It really is easier to pore myself into being the best mother and lose sight of who God intended me to be and become in the context of my many circles of influence. It’s easier for me to be busy making sure my kids are happy than to take the time to direct myself and my family into joy and a spirit-filled life. Kodak moments are easier than a Christ-filled life.

So when you, friendly blog reader, find yourself in a quiet moment when you are wondering where you lost yourself choose the better thing and dare to ask God what might need to change in your life.

I have a copy of The Missional Mom courtesy of (and signed by) Helen to give away to one of you! How do you get a chance to win a copy of the book?

  • Post a link to this blogpost on your FB or blog for a chance;
  • Tweet a link to this post for another chance;
  • Leave a comment on this post. Ideas for comments: Why do you want this book? How has becoming a mother been challenging to you? Have you ever felt like you “lost” yourself after becoming a wife, or a mother (or a husband or father) and what was that like? If you’re not a mother, what are you most afraid of as you consider the possibility of becoming a mother?

The 40s Are Not the New 30s. I’m Looking Forward.

No, this is not a serious case of denial. I’ve had some time to work this thing out.

No regrets. That’s essentially what my Mom wrote to me in my birthday card to me this year. Written to me in Korean (yes, Mom and Dad, I am thankful that you made me do all of those Korean worksheets!), my Mom shared the wisdom of one who has been down this same path. She encouraged me to live life without regret.

Until I was about 20 years old I couldn’t wait until I was “older”. Elementary and junior high teachers asked me and my classmates, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” which lead to daydreams and funny diary entries.

In high school I spent most of my time wishing I was in college.

In college I had a lot of fun. A lot of drama, but a lot of fun. So I guess there were a few years of enjoying the present…with a watchful and sometimes impatient eye to what the future would hold.

My 20s were full of transition. College to career and then another career. Dorms to an apartment with three amazing roommates to an apartment all alone to our first apartment, second apartment and then first home. Singleness to marriage to motherhood to mourning.

My 30s felt a bit like a test run. I tried healthier habits. I tried to figure out a bit more about myself and my baggage and my legacy. I got a decent dose of what it meant to be a dutiful Korean daughter and Korean daughter-in-law and tried to learn a bit more about being a wife and mother. I tasted bitterness and sorrow, and I swallowed a few doses of each.

I made some choices to move forward and pledge allegiance and embrace both my identity and declare citizenship. I came to understand the darker, more anxious moments of my days needed more than an hour of cardio to give me a boost and stabilize things.

But that was literally yesterday. My 30s were wonderful and amazing and painful, but I don’t want to buy into the lie that tells us women that we’ve peaked in the decade prior. My memories may be gilded but my life isn’t.

Sure, today has enough troubles of its own, but I’m ready to look forward to today and each today after that.

Here’s to the 40s! Thank you 30s for preparing me for this next season!