Mother’s Day: A Radical Act of Defiance

Secretly, creeping through the brain and heart and blood of every mama there is a deep, dark fear that we are Not Mom Enough. We snap at our kids, or grab the sharpie out of their little hand a bit too roughly before they can decorate another piece of furniture, or are the last to pick them up from daycare, again.

We nurse and people in the street look as us like we’re perverts. We don’t and other mothers look at us like we’re child abusers. No matter what we do there is the nagging feeling that it’s not enough. It’s never enough.

Are You Mom Enough?

-Time Magazine, 2012

Bravo, Time Magazine, for exploiting that fear with your latest cover. It’s about time that we capitalized on the insecurities of Mothers directly. The indirect route used successfully for decades by ad makers looking to sell lipstick, formula, Happy Meals, dayplanner systems and everything else under the sun was getting a little too subtle.

So I’m glad you got it out there. Let’s have all the cards on the table.

Yes, we do not feel like we are Mom Enough. You nailed it. You found the topic that keeps us up at night, that can move us to tears if we linger too long on the personal, particular details of why We Are Not Mom Enough.

All around us are reports of people who do it better: The Chinese Tiger Mom produces child prodigies because she cares more and is willing to put in the time. The chic French mom has children who are well behaved in restaurants and isn’t afraid to let them explore the world. Now we have Time Magazine, profiling attachment parenting with the now-infamous “Are you Mom Enough?” cover on the cusp of Mother’s Day weekend.

For moms, little pieces of trying and falling short of the impossible ideal pile up. They whisper that Good Moms breastfeed. Good Moms read at least 45 minutes a night to their kids. Good Moms set up playdates. Good Moms have kids who speak foreign languages. Good Moms put in the time. Good Moms take time for themselves.

Good Moms should work. Good Moms should stay home. Good Moms should volunteer. Good Moms never run late and they don’t run out of diapers. Good Moms don’t get angry. They discipline with love. They are patient and kind and they never think their kid is a little asshole. Not ever.

You furnish the pictures and I’ll furnish the war.

-attributed to William Randolph Hearst, publisher of the New York Journal

And then someone like you, Time Magazine, comes along and forms that pile of insecurity and doubt and fear and shoulds into another mom. She is thin and beautiful and well-dressed and her nearly 4-year old kid is sucking on her tit.

You have capitalized on those mama fears and managed to get a tit-shot in as well. Combining blatant sexual overtones and female insecurity into one cover piece? Well played, Time – well played.

Thank you for making it abundantly clear that your Mother’s Day cover is a sensationalistic ad job designed to sell magazines and nothing more. Sometimes the more subtle messages of Not Good Enough from Revlon and Disney stick like velcro to our psyche. They feel so much like truth that we can’t bear to rip them off.

But not your message, Time. No, in yours it is so easy to see adman genius at its best. Look what a buzz! Look what controversy! Look how many hits and searches. Think of how many magazines this will sell.

You have furnished the picture that you know will furnish the mommy war.

And the war will sell the magazine.

What, Sir, would the people of the earth be without woman? They would be scarce, sir, almighty scarce.

-Mark Twain, January 11, 1868

Time has shown that they are more than up to the task of furnishing the pictures, but I feel quite sure we moms are up to the task of not furnishing the war.

All it takes is a radical act of Mother’s Day defiance.

  • It is a radical act of defiance to look at yourself and your mothering and all you give and say: “My parenting is enough. As good as I can do is good enough. I am mom enough.”
  • It is a radical act of defiance to trust other mothers to make decisions for their families that are different from your decisions and not hate them for it.
  • It is a radical act of defiance to trust that there are a lot of ways to raise good kids.
  • It is a radical act of defiance to know that a good yellow journalist could turn your family into a poster child for divisiveness, too, and laugh in the face of such an obvious trap.
  • It is a radical act of defiance to understand that not all children respond to the same “system” or technique.
  • It is a radical act of defiance to keep motherhood in perspective: the most important job in the world, sure, but not a unique one by any stretch.
  • It is a radical act of defiance to become the greatest parenting expert in the world when it comes to your kids, and not let anybody take that away from you.
  • It is a radical act of defiance this Mother’s Day to be kind to yourself as a mother, and kind to all the other moms out there who are doing their best. Even when their best doesn’t look exactly like your best.

Happy Mother’s Day to all my fellow defiant, radical moms.



  1. Terri says

    Thank you, I would like to say I could have benefitted by this blog years ago but that would be a lie….I had been so indoctrinated with my “not mom enough” that even if I had read this I would have continued to berate myself….I am now 57 years old; I have two 31 year olds, a 22 year old and now a 7 year old. That’s a lot of years to feel like a failure. And I am sick of it.

    I can remember feeling like a failure due to infertility for nineteen years, then when I had trouble breast feededing, I cried in shame at my lack of being “a real woman”. Fortunately the breast feeding obstacle was overcome by setting an alarm clock for every two hours; pump the milk while feeding the baby the milk I had pumped two hours previously. Heaven was when I could breast feed “normally”.

    I have finally come to the blessed peace, that we are all dancing as fast as we can, and it is a rare being that intentionally gives their child less than their best. I REFUSE to criticize another woman…I will not comment on her parenting, feeding choices, working outside the home, what she wears, how much she weighs, nothing. Thank you for this blog.

    • ccsummer says

      Thanks for your honesty Terri. I raised 4 step-kids (we really need to find another term for the kids we “inherit” and step in to try to do our best for) and one I gave birth to. I’m 65 and still feel like I’ve never been nor can I ever be, a “good enough Mom”. Strangely, it’s my 4 older kids who assure me I did the best I could with 4 adolescents and that they love me. The son I gave birth to constantly tells me how I failed him in spite of all evidence to the contrary.

  2. says

    “It is a radical act of defiance to trust other mothers to make decisions for their families that are different from your decisions and not hate them for it.”

    YES! Thank you!

  3. says

    Wow! You are hitting on all cylinders. Ever since seeing this picture plastered all over MSN and the Local News a response had been forming in the back of my head, but every fresh view of it would hit the refresh button in my brain and start me off on another track of thinking. You summed them all up well.

  4. Jen says

    My grandmother told me something as a child that I will never forget: Do the best you can with what you have and what you know — it is an act of bravery and honor.

    Great piece!

  5. says

    Have you seen Willow Yamauchi’s “Bad Mommy”? You can find her on Facebook. I can’t believe we are having these conversations AGAIN.

    The crazy thing is that 40 plus years after the start of the second wave of feminism the topic is still presented as a bunch of choices made by individual women. What about the sad reality that the jobs that supported the fifties SAHM family are gone? There is so much more……
    I thought we had at least done away with the Guilt Momma trip. It looks like it is worse than ever. Don’t fall for it girls! Good blog Erica.

  6. Essie says

    Great insight and perspective! Thank you for getting it out there! Happy Mama’s Day to all the wonderful Mamas out there!! (even if you are different from me :)

  7. says

    Again…Thank You! Sometimes you just need to hear something outside your own head to make you realize you are doing your best, that every choice you make (right or wrong) starts with the nugget you want what is best for your family. Sometimes you get it wrong, sometimes it is square on, both either way, kids are resilient and adaptable as long as they know there is love (my opinion).

  8. Tiff says

    I am not a mom of two legged kids ( if you don’t count the 3 chicks growing strong in our garage ), this hasn’t been because I don’t want them. it’s just that it hasn’t happened yet. I too often watch all my mom friends struggle, beat themselves up and ‘should’ all over themselves about not being perfect. YOU spoke of the monster under the bed better than time magazine,and I thank you. I will be re sharing this with all my mom friends ( of the two legged human type ) and maybe just maybe it will help one of them to ‘see’ that they are doing it right!

  9. says

    another stellar post. Since I live in a closet, I hadn’t even heard about this article until yesterday. I still haven’t read it and, in a radical act of defiance, I’m not going to. Fuck their war propaganda.
    Edit that if you want.
    Love to you, righteous mamalady.

  10. says

    Well said. I think so many people forget that children are simply tiny people that are gaining their life experience, not objects of your pride (or shame), ways for you to validate yourself or recapture your lost youth. When you gain a child, you gain a relationship, with its ups and downs, goods and bads. I love my children, and try to do my best for them. I don’t define myself by them or validate myself based on their accomplishments, or what other people think of my parenting style. The internet and other media have us too connected – suddenly we’re not just getting chastised by our grandmas, but also by a national magazine.

  11. says

    Thank you for putting my rage and fury into words!!! I have been trying to form my own post for a week…but now I just linked to yours instead. THANK YOU Erica. You rock. As usual.

    • Arrianne says

      I think I must live in a closet too. Thanks for helping me feel grateful for that! I don’t need any crap like that for Mother’s Day. We all do the best we can.

  12. says

    Well said! I have gotten to the point where I could care less what anyone thinks of me or my mothering as long as I do the best that I can. Motherhood is all about balance.

  13. says

    Fan-f**king-Tastic Erica!!! You are dead on with this post…as usual. Thank you for your insight, candor and validation. Just very very well said my friend xo

  14. Meaghan says

    Thank you. Radiacal indeed. Radical self-acceptance, radical other acceptance. Thank you so much.

  15. says


    I actually had the opportunity to try and explain the cover to my MIL, a doula who hadn’t seen or heard of it yet. Her son brought it up:) I didn’t do as well as a job as you have here.

  16. Christy says

    If you haven’t already read this, I suggest the book Free Range Kids by Lenore Skenazy. She really puts things into perspective. My kid is happy, healthy and she has watched her mother reach personal and professional goals all her life. I refuse to feel guilty for showing her a good example of a strong woman, as my mother did for me. What she ultimately does with the things I have taught her is out of my control. Besides, if my kid doesn’t need therapy in the end, I haven’t done my job as a parent ;) Keep it up, Mamas, its all about SURVIVAL!!!


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