Whoa. That’s quite an, um, arresting cover photo on this week’s Time magazine: a full-body shot of a young woman named Jamie Lynne Grumet, looking straight at the camera, with her 3-year-old son standing on a chair, sucking on her semi-exposed breast.
The cover headline: “Are You Mom Enough?”
Except that the striking cover image is only somewhat related to the cover story. As the subhead on the magazine reads, “Why attachment parenting drives some mothers to extremes — and how Dr. Bill Sears became their guru.”
The main story is about Sears, a pediatrician known as “Dr. Bill” who has written more than 30 books on parenting and childcare issues. An academic (UC Irvine School of Medicine) and frequent TV guest, Sears and his physician-wife Martha are the avatars of “attachment parenting,” a child-rearing philosophy in which parents and child caregivers are encouraged to be more “emotionally available” and immediately responsive to the emotional and biological needs of their newborns and toddlers. Such attachment fosters greater socio-emotional development in children, according to Sears.
The philosophy advocates breastfeeding, eschews spanking children and other kinds of corporal punishment and has inspired the natural childbirth, anti-circumcision and natural and organic foods movements.
Grumet is a 26-year-old, stay-at-home, homeschooling mother of two in Los Angeles who writes a blog about parenting issues. She is an advocate of Sears’ work and of breastfeeding, and often posts photos of herself breastfeeding her son on her blog.
“There are people who tell me they’re going to call social services on me or that it’s child molestation,” she said of her blog posts in an interview with Time. “People have to realize this is biologically normal. It’s not socially normal. The more people see it, the more it’ll become normal in our culture.
Grumet’s son, Aram, the boy in the cover photograph, will be 4 next month. Grumet said in the interview that her mother breast-fed her until she was 6.
Apparently, she was a more attractive cover model than Sears, who is 72.
The Time cover image calls to mind the then-shocking Annie Leibovitz photo of a very pregnant and very naked actress Demi Moore that appeared on the cover of Vanity Fair in 1991.
Rick Stengel, Time’s managing editor, said in an interview today, “It’s certainly an arresting image. It’s an image to get people’s attention about a serious subject. Judging by the reaction on Twitter this morning. some people think it’s great, and some people are revolted by it. That’s what you want. You want people talking...Do I expect some people to be outraged? Sure.”
(Updated: 12:45 p.m. 5/10/12)
Stengel said the cover story focuses mainly on Sears and the debate about attachment parenting, with breastfeeding as one part of the story. “The [cover] picture is on exaggerated version of what he’s talking about, but it’s in line with” what Sears advocates.
Time won’t split its print run with different cover images, as magazines sometimes do with potentially controversial covers. The cover with Grumet will be mailed to subscribers and sold on newsstands, Stengel said.