Celebrity culture isn't exactly filled with role models. Most parents can agree that we don't want our children looking up to Miley Cyrus or Lindsey Lohan, so it seems odd to suggest that we might look to a celebrity as a role model for ourselves. But it's hard to deny that many of us are addicted to celebrity culture; if we weren't, Charlie Sheen would be out of a career, and reality TV wouldn't exist.

Whatever the reason, celebrities have the power to make things trendy, and this includes parenting styles. Pregnant women and new mothers often identify with celebrity moms who are pregnant and give birth around the same time, eagerly reading about the kind of stroller they've purchased and searching for details of what kind of moms these celebrities will be.

It might be easy to argue that celebrities shouldn't be role models, but it's hard to deny the fact that, for a lot of people, they are.

A Kardashian Role Model? Really??

You probably don't think of the term role model when you hear the name Kardashian. They're a pretty famous family these days, but they're famous mostly for...being famous. Whether making sex tapes, gracing magazine covers, or flaunting a lavish lifestyle on their latest reality series, the Kardashians aren't exactly known for being shining examples of the way the rest of us should live our lives.

I'm not a big fan of reality television, so I don't usually pay much attention to the Kardashian clan. I haven't watched them take Miami or New York, or picked up a magazine just because the cover promised juicy details about their latest exploits. But when Kourtney, the oldest of the popular trio of sisters, gave birth to her son Mason, I started taking notice.

A Breastfeeding, Co-Sleeping Mom

The scantily clad woman in the bikini pictured above hardly seems like the same woman who would become a breastfeeding, co-sleeping mom, but she is. Kourtney Kardashian has talked openly about her decision to breastfeed exclusively for the first 6 months, how she decided to keep breastfeeding until Mason was ready to stop, and how sad she found it when he finally weaned at 15 months.

"I said I would try to nurse him for six months and see how I felt. At six months I said I would nurse for a year and see how I felt. At a year, I introduced Mason to cow's milk and goat's milk and alternated the two. (All organic of course.) I listened to lots of people say 'when are you going to stop nursing already?!' At 13 months, I had weaned from all of our day feedings, but we continued to nurse all night long."

Kourtney has also blogged about how much she loves co-sleeping with her son, writing that:

"I know that having Mason sleep in my bed might be a controversial topic. But I have to be honest: I just love that time...I always look forward to every night and us spending time together when we sleep."

What Makes Kourtney A Role Model?

There are plenty of ways to argue that Kourtney Kardashian is anything but a role model. For one thing, she's a celebrity, which means that she lives (and parents) in a world that's completely different from the one in which most of the rest of us are raising our children.

But despite arguments to the contrary, Kourtney is a positive role model for parents for three specific reasons.

1. She Defies Stereotypes

Whether you approve or disapprove of the way the Kardashian sisters use their bodies as their primary asset, you can't deny that they've been successful doing it. From clothing stores to reality series to blogging about fashion, Kourtney is a successful business woman.

And while women who are still breastfeeding their one-year-old and sharing a bed with him are frequently labeled as "crunchy," and often expected to be dowdy, earth mother-types who wear long, flowing skirts and birkenstocks, Kourtney doesn't fit this stereotype. At all. This is a good thing, because women, particularly new and expectant mothers, need to see all different kinds of moms combining all different types of lifestyles and parenting styles.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to motherhood. Being a mom shouldn't come with predefined stereotypes, but it often does. Kourtney is living proof that it doesn't have to.

2. She Has Introduced Attachment-Style Parenting to a Young, Mainstream Audience

I'm not suggesting that breastfeeding or co-sleeping or attachment-style parenting is the "right way" to parent. There is no right way. But women deserve to know that exclusive and extended breastfeeding are parenting options, as is co-sleeping.

Many of Kourtney's fans are young women who have yet to become mothers themselves. A lot of them may never have learned about the benefits of breastfeeding, or even considered the option of co-sleeping with a baby, if it weren't for Kourtney's willingness to open up about her own choices. By sharing her own positive experiences, Kourtney is encouraging many young women to expand their knowledge about the different parenting options available to them.

3. She Is Open and Forthright About Her Parenting Choices, Even in the Harsh Light of the Public Eye

Kourtney practices a style of parenting that is not exactly the norm in our culture, and she's opened herself up to a lot of criticism because of it. Many mothers who breastfeed for longer than a year or co-sleep with their children receive negative comments from friends and family, but Kourtney receives them from the whole world. Still, she talks openly about her choices and her reasons for making them, and doesn't seem to care what other people say.

It takes courage to pursue parenting choices that aren't always the most popular, and even more courage to do so in the public eye. Kourtney handles this with grace and confidence in her own decisions, making her a role model for all parents, regardless of their personal parenting style.

A Positive Message for Moms

I'm not enough of a celebrity culture junkie to ever be a true Kardashian fan. But I admire any woman who can raise her children in today's incredibly invasive celebrity culture without worrying about the opinions of fans and critics. It's a hard line to walk, being both a celebrity and a parent with an opinion, as other new-mom celebs like Giselle Bundchen and Bethenny Frankel have learned the hard way.

In the end, Kourtney Kardashian isn't a role model because of how she parents or where her baby sleeps or the fact that she actually looks like a model.

She is a role model simply because she knows what works for her, and parents without regard for stereotypes or the opinions of other people (and without getting preachy about how everyone else should raise their own kids). By combining motherhood and celebrity as she does, Kourtney Kardashian sends the message that it doesn't matter how other people think you should parent, it only matters what works for you.

That's a message that parents don't hear nearly enough these days. But, thanks to Kourtney, we're hearing it just a little more often.

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