For their May 21 cover story about Dr. Bill Sears and attachment parenting (AP), TIME Magazine took many photographs of four mothers and their children: Jamie Lynne Grumet of Los Angeles, Dionna Ford of Kansas City, Jessica Cary of Brooklyn, and Melinda Larson of Long Island. A photo of Jamie and her son was picked for the cover photo, and all of the moms were interviewed for an online article (though little of the material was actually used). The moms who were photographed asked KellyMom for a chance to bust some of the misconceptions about the TIME article. Since any of these moms could have ended up as the cover model, we’re thrilled to include all of them in our Q&A session.
The magazine article, the headline “Are You Mom Enough,” and the publicity surrounding the image of Jamie nursing her 3 year old son have sparked an international conversation about both breastfeeding and attachment parenting, with lots of negative press. I was disappointed to see so many people in the press and elsewhere defining AP as something quite different than how most of us see it. After incorrectly defining it, they go on to criticize a straw man version of attachment parenting that doesn’t even exist. For instance, I don’t know any attachment parent who feels you “must co-sleep and wear your baby in a sling from morn till night and breast-feed for years and never, ever let your baby cry.”
We asked readers of the KellyMom Facebook page what questions they would like to ask these moms. Following are their questions (many are amalgamations of several questions) and the responses from Jessica, Jamie, Melinda, and Dionna.
First of all, Jamie, what misconceptions about the TIME cover picture featuring you and your son would you like to correct?
Why did I (we) pick that shot for the cover? People assume I had creative control over the cover, which I did not. TIME chose the photo and the headline.
Was I paid? Not a penny.
Why did I let them pose me like that? I didn’t. I have no problem being in a standing position, but the image they captured does not represent the vision and direction of the shoot (which was to convey confidence and contentment). A lot of people don’t realize that many photographs are taken while moving around between positions. The picture TIME chose for the cover was one of these outtakes.
During the shoot we grabbed a stool and got the shot that is seen in Lightbox (the one that represents better what happened in that room). My son had fallen asleep nursing at my breast in that shot. (The shoot was short but it was his nap time when we got there). The shot is lovely and it was actually this or a very similar photo that was going to be the cover image. The shot TIME eventually chose was confirmed as the cover photo shortly before release.
I think the more nurturing shot still would have provoked the same uneducated and ignorant comments we have been hearing. However, a better tagline with a better picture (one that didn’t reinforce breastfeeding myths) might have been more embraced by the AP community.
1. How did TIME find and choose you?
An employee of the photographer TIME hired is a nursing mom who attends a local breastfeeding support group run by one of my friends. This mom reached out to the group, looking for a breastfeeding mom/child (3-5 years old) for a TIME magazine article on “evolving parenthood.” My friend forwarded that email to a small group of moms with older nurslings and I was on that list. I sent in a few pictures the next morning. Six hours later (Friday afternoon) I heard from an Associate Photo Editor at TIME who said they were interested in us participating in the shoot that was going to happen on Sunday. We were in!
TIME contacted me by email with their phone number asking if I would be interested in participating in a photo shoot for a story they were doing on attachment parenting. I then found out the story was going to be about Dr. Bill Sears. It sounded like a celebratory story because it was the 20th anniversary of his first book release. The author from TIME spoke about being immersed in the topic, and appeared to have a lot of respect for Dr. Sears.
It really was a serendipitous type of a thing. A friend of a friend knew about the photo shoot in NY and thought that they would be interested in our family. I received a call from the photo editor on Friday and was at a photo shoot on Sunday.
Time contacted me via email. TIME’s photo editor (Neil Harris) had emailed various bloggers in the attachment parenting/natural family living niche. The email specifically asked for families that were “big proponents of attachment parenting, had one toddler, and preferably had two or more children.” I called to refer several other bloggers I know who volunteer with NaturalParentsNetwork.com; but after Neil and I chatted for awhile, he asked me if my family would like to participate.
Continue to Part 2 >>>>
…or Jump to a question:
- How did TIME find and choose you?
- What were you hoping to achieve by being a part of this and do you feel that you were successful in achieving your goals?
- What messages about attachment parenting and/or breastfeeding were you hoping TIME would convey in their article?
- What kind of reaction to the article were you expecting? How has reality compared to what you thought you could expect?
- How do you feel about AP being portrayed as extreme? (TIME is not the only media outlet to do this)
- What area(s) of AP have you struggled with and how were you able to resolve your issue(s)?
- Why do you think so many women think this article is calling them a bad mom?
- What advice do any of you have for moms who feel caught up in the “Mommy Wars”?
- How did you feel about the way extended breastfeeding was portrayed on the cover of TIME?
- How would you respond to people who believe that your child(ren) will be negatively impacted by the current conversation or face bullying in the future related to their presence in the photos showing breastfeeding?
- What would you say to a new mother to help normalize sustained breastfeeding for her and possibly help her envision that for herself and her family? How would your message change for a mother who is coming up on a year of breastfeeding?
- How does your partner participate in attachment parenting your child(ren)?
- Do you believe that attachment parenting could cause America to take a step backward in the fight for women’s rights?
- What has been the best thing to come out of the TIME story about Dr. Sears? What has been the hardest thing?
- What advice would you share with a friend if they came to you and were considering becoming involved with a major media outlet for a story related to breastfeeding or attachment parenting?
- Do you think the TIME article/cover helped or hurt (or both) the effort to educate about AP?
…or Read the Entire Article on one page.
I would like to thank everyone – Jessica, Jamie, Melinda, and Dionna – for responding to our questions. The TIME article has raised both awareness and controversy, and it might be some time before the dust settles. We applaud your efforts to advocate for breastfeeding and attachment parenting, and are proud of you for taking the negative publicity and leveraging it into something positive.