I first saw Mothering magazine in the waiting room of my midwife in 1996. I didn't read parenting magazines but this one was clearly written for me. Breastfeeding, co-sleeping, baby-wearing, anti-circumcision, suspicious of the vaccine schedule. I didn't come to parenting with more than a desire to breastfeed and an academic understanding of attachment theory. Attachment parenting was not something I had heard of when I had had my first son in 1994 but by the time I was pregnant with my second son in 1996 a few short years later, I was living it. I was on my way to becoming a La Leche League Leader, co-slept with my eldest who was still breastfeeding, had stopped routine vaccination, was sling shopping and had moved my law practice home.
For the record, I owned the Birkenstocks long before I had kids.
So I became a Mothering subscriber. In perhaps 2000 there was a short piece in a Mothering issue about HIV and how we talked to our sons about it. I don't have a copy of it and am relying totally on my memory. My memory is that it basically said that telling our teenage sons to practice safer sex was creating an atmosphere of shame and fear around sexuality. It went on to either state or imply that research showed that HIV transmission and infection among children like ours (there was a vague assumption that all readers fell into a homogeneous category to which this assertion applied) was nearly non-existent. There was no citation. I believe there was mention of a study but no information that would have allowed me to find it.
I was outraged. Having worked with people living with HIV and AIDS since 1988 I know this small article was both inaccurate and dangerous. I also found it offensive – it seemed to me to imply that our middle class white boys don't need to worry about practicing safer sex because HIV is happening to some other people. Implicit, of course, was also the assumption that our teenage sons were having sex with middle class girls and not other middle class boys.
Offended on many levels, I picked up the phone and called the editorial department at Mothering magazine to ask 1) who the author of this piece was and 2) what the citation was to the science supporting the assertion in the piece about transmission risk. The person who answered the phone said that the piece had been written by publisher Peggy O'Mara and "Peggy doesn't need a citation." The person was rude and, I believe, wrong. Scientific assertions need scientific support.
So then I wrote an email to Peggy O'Mara. I didn't expect anything to come of it and I had already decided to stop reading the magazine. But, to my surprise, I did receive a response from Peggy. She apologized for the editor's rudeness saying this person was very protective of her, perhaps to a fault. However, she never addressed my main question: where was the science to support the assertion concerning "our" sons' risk of acquiring HIV being so low they need not practice safer sex. Though I appreciated the apology, I thought that was the end of me and Mothering.
But in 2006, I received an email from Peggy saying she had read some posts I had written explaining how breastfeeding law worked and asking if I had ever done any freelance writing. I was thrilled at the opportunity to write a feature for Mothering on public breastfeeding law. That feature became a cover story:
which turned into a job as a Contributing Editor and more writing and another feature:
which turned into a job as Politics Editor. There is a third feature – an update to these previous two features that focuses on why 2010 was a depressing year for breastfeeding law. It was to be published in the May/June 2011 issue. But in January, the magazine ceased publication.
There has been a lot of grief. There simply is no other magazine like Mothering. There is no other magazine that consistently presents alternative views on birth, breastfeeding, discipline, vaccines and raising our children with respect and intelligence. In the current economic and journalistic environment, there is unlikely to be another magazine like Mothering. We get our news and information on-line these days. Personally, I like the feel and smell of magazines. I subscribe to them. I fall behind in reading them and, yes I do far more reading on-line than I do on paper but I don't want to live in a world without magazines. But publishing them is expensive. It takes advertising. And a magazine full of articles about how little mass produced stuff you need to raise a child is by definition not going to draw lots of high paying advertising.
Personally, thanks to Peggy O'Mara and some fantastic Mothering editors who have now had to move on (I love you Candace Walsh and Laura Egley Taylor, as well as Cynthia Mosher who is still on MDC!) my words reached more people and helped more moms than I could have on my own. Being on the staff at Mothering opened doors and got me interviews I might have missed as a freelancer. It was exhausting, challenging and exciting. Candace made my words better, Laura made them visually more beautiful and Cynthia made them accessible on the website. And Peggy gave me input into how Mothering would respond to what was going on in our parenting community.
These are all people I hope to work with in the future. But my work continues nonetheless.
I am redesigning my own website so look for changes there soon. I am increasing my speaking schedule so keep watching for a conference near you. And I will soon be announcing an exciting new website where you will be able to find all federal and state breastfeeding law as well as my key writing from my Mothering years all organized in one place. Along with my growing private law practice, I hope to keep bringing you the content I would have had Mothering remained in publication.
Hang in there Mothering readers. Goodbye to the magazine but hello to new projects for all of us dedicated to attachment parenting.