In an era of helicopter parents and delayed nest-jumping, these are all debatable points. But the core of debate over the provocative picture is fueled by the extent to which American moms and dads are ready and willing to debate their own basic parental insecurities: Am I doing this right? How do I know?
“Part of the issue here is, she can do whatever she wants, there’s no abuse going on,” says Joani Geltman, a child development expert in Cambridge, Mass. “It’s a way for people to look at their own values and their own belief systems, which I think is what a good magazine article does. It gets you to look at your own life and your own family, and your own children and ask, Why wouldn’t I do this? What’s my belief system that I wouldn’t do this?”
To be sure, what Ms. Geltman calls the photo’s “icky” quality suggests that America as a whole may not be totally comfortable with so-called “child-led weaning” espoused by Sears. According to an unscientific online poll by MSNBC, 73 percent of respondents said they would rather not see those kinds of images.
One mom who took part in the Time photo shoot said the confrontational nature of the photograph and the headline may actually serve to inflame middle-class “mommy wars.”
Proselytizing child-led weaning, co-sleeping, and gentle admonitioning for bad behavior is not the intent, writes Dionna Ford, one of the Time moms, in a blog on the Huffington Post. “Why does my [4-year-old] son still nurse?” she writes “He nurses because I am his warm, safe place. This is what works for us. You may do things differently. Neither of us is more extreme or better than the other.”