Tired But Happy Mom Looks at the Time Cover and Wonders: Are You Mom Enough—Is She?


You’ve seen it. Tired But Happy Mom has seen it. At this point, the only people who haven’t seen it are those who live in countries whose governments censor the Internet and sundry media. Still, for those of you who are too busy actually nursing, the “it” is the recent Time magazine cover featuring a glossy photo of a supermodel mom breastfeeding her three-year-old son, who is standing on a chair to reach his mom’s breast. The cover line is: “Are You Mom Enough?”


What follows is a fairly straight-up article about the real or media-enhanced mommy wars: attachment mothers versus more traditional mothers. The former comprise those moms who have, to one extent or another, adopted Dr. William Sears’s philosophy of parenting, which involves wearing babies in slings, keeping them in bed with their parents, nursing children until they’re ready to stop, and basically, remaining a super involved, stay at home mother if at all humanly possible. Such moms are, apparently, at odds with those mothers who prefer their babies to sleep in cribs, think there is a reasonable cut off age for breastfeeding, and need (or want) to work outside the home.


As a stay at home but simultaneously working mom Tired But Happy Mom relates across the spectrum. She nursed Oldest Daughter until she was visibly and uncomfortably pregnant with Younger Daughter (the former was two and change). Younger Daughter was nursed until she was 19-months-old, when she and Tired But Happy Mom both became so ill they had to go on antibiotics, which somehow made the mothers’ milk taste bad and brought the nursing to an abrupt end. Little Boy simply decided to stop at around his first birthday.


At the same time, she totally sympathized with the moms who endured round after round of clogged milk ducts and, worse, mastitis and had to call it a day to preserve their own health and sanity. She also sympathized with the virtual impossibility of pumping milk, after finding herself attached to a whirring bovine machine during a three-day business trip and Fed-Exing home bottles packed in cold packs. Tired But Happy Mom’s breasts were so swollen and painful by the second day of that trip, she’d have taken any child to her bosom just to relieve the pressure.


Same thing with sleep. She did the family bed thing, but she did not take to task those of her mom friends who had to wake up at six in the morning. Those poor women had to get to work on time and could not, therefore, muck their way through nights of little feet flailing in their faces—or sleeping on the floor because their sprawling babes had pushed them off the bed. After all, Tired But Happy Mom merely has to roll out of bed and flick on the laptop to get to work. She doesn’t even have to shower. And often doesn’t.


Here’s the thing: Why all the fighting, moms? Except for those mothers who have serious problems (drug addictions, for example), most of us are doing the best we can with what we have. Some of us are betrothed to either super helpful partners or those who make an ample enough income to make a single-earner family comfortably possible; some of us are not. Some of us are able to make do on relatively few hours of sleep; some of us genuinely aren’t. Some of would go nuts without work outside the home; some of us wouldn’t. Is there really—seriously—any question about who loves her children more?


She has said it before, but Tired But Happy Mom’s feeling is that all families are ecosystems defined by interlocking roles and rituals. To the degree that these are humming along peaceably, the ecosystem is functioning just fine. It is true that babies and very young children have needs that are immediate and urgent: They must be met. But it is the overall sense of happiness, love, and predictability in the household that counts.


To insist, for example, that a mom who loves her job must stay home all the time for the sake of her children may render said mom depressed and dysfunctional: not a good mom. Can she try to wiggle as much room for time with her kids as possible? Sure. And the overwhelming body of research says that this generation of moms and dads do exactly that. Moreover, divorce, death, illness, and lay-offs happen; indeed, they happen every day. A mother with no regular work experience, no matter how small, risks poverty—which is the greatest predictor of poor outcomes with children. It’s worth thinking about.


Tired But Happy Mom’s hates to see this kind of mean girl fighting at any age: the judgmental stares, the whispering, the overt criticism. Tired But Happy Mom loves the knowing chuckle, the surprise graham cracker snack offered to another mother’s howling toddler, the support. Ladies, for real: We’re all mom enough.


Tired, Happy Mom is also known as Susan Gregory Thomas, author of In Spite of Everything: A Memoir (Random House: July, 2011) and Buy, Buy Baby: How Consumer Culture Manipulates Parents and Harms Young Minds (Houghton Mifflin: May, 2007). Thomas writes for The New York TimesThe Wall Street Journal, Marie ClaireParents, and others. She lives with her family in Philadelphia.




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