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Wednesday, August 2, 2017

The Futility of Mommy Wars

Babywearing. The subject of many Mommy wars.
11 years ago I was the perfect mother. Of course that was before I was even pregnant with my first. I remember writing a list of all the things I'd do as a parent, like never co sleeping with my baby, all the things I'd insist on with my kids, how they'd be, how I'd discipline them, etc. The list was actually a couple of pages long if I recall correctly and I was so proud of myself for having written it out, for going into motherhood prepared with a plan instead of just winging it and probably flubbing it as I was sure a parent without a clearly defined direction would be doing.

Well, then I gave birth. And boy was I in for a rude awakening. It doesn't matter how much I read, how much I researched, how much I planned ahead, motherhood was so different from what I expected. That list ended up in the trash because nearly none of it was relevant. My kids were themselves and not anything that my master list could have predicted.

But even so, once my kids were born I developed a very rigid idea of what the proper way to mother was... And at first I stuck with it religiously, even when it was hurting me, even when it wasn't working for me, because the guilt was so bad if I didn't.
And all around me the Mommy wars raged.


The Mommy Wars. You know all about them. Where what a mother does or doesn't do with her child makes her a good person or a bad one. It starts with birth, whether you have a natural birth or get an epidural or *gasp* have a c section. But it doesn't end there. The next steps of the Mommy Wars start within the first day of birth- are you nursing or formula feeding, and at night- will you try co sleeping with your baby or put the infant in a bassinet in your room or in another room entirely?
The Mommy Wars continue throughout every single aspect of motherhood at every single stage of childhood. Stay at home mom? Back to work at 6 weeks or 3 months postpartum? Individual nanny or group day care? Cloth diaper or regular? Baby wear or use a stroller? Nurse all night long, cry it out, or baby whisper? Public school, private school, or homeschool? Have another child and give your child a sibling or give your full attention to the child you have? Spend lots of money on your children so they feel pampered and loved or be frugal and teach your children money consciousness?

I have barely ever scratched the surface of all the topics and skirmishes involved in the Mommy Wars... But there's one thing they all have in common. On both sides of the wars are two moms who are so passionate about what they're doing, and how they know the truth of parenting, they know the right way to rear and raise a child and anyone else is so wrong! These women will fight and fight and mud sling and name call and imply all sorts of nasty things about moms who make different choices than they do... They sometimes argue passionately about the reasons the choices they make are right and how the other choice is going to permanently damage their child.
But can I tell you what I learned?

No one ever changes their mind as a result of Mommy Wars. When the world is screaming at you that you're wrong and you are destroying your child, the first and strongest instinct people have is to bunker down and defend their position, themselves, and their child. When someone says straight out or implies that you don't care about or love your children enough, you don't respond "You're right! I'm doing it all wrong!" No, what happens is you dismiss everything this person is saying as inane baseless ramblings, and it doesn't matter how many statistics or articles they shove in your face, you've already written off everything they have to say and their words fall onto deaf ears.

Mommy Wars, I've learned, are a useless waste of energy. I don't think anyone's ever changed their stances or become a better mother because of Mommy Wars. They don't work.

So why do moms do it? Why do we do it to ourselves? And I'll admit, I took part in Mommy Wars, both as someone flinging facts, accusations, and judgment towards mothers who 'did it wrong' and as someone subject to the same... And I don't even fully know. I can make some conjectures but I don't really know the truth.
Maybe we do it because we are so sure there is only one right way to parent so anyone who does it differently must be wrong? Maybe we do it because we're actually unsure about whether or not we're doing the right thing but if we shout loud enough or throw enough facts in other people's faces we'll end up feeling more secure in our stance? Maybe we're feeling guilty about not living up to everything we'd hope we'd be as a mother so by putting down other parents we are hoping we'd feel better about ourselves? Or maybe we feel so alone as mothers in today's world, raising children without a village that we had in the past, that we feel so desperate to belong to some tribe and we think the admissions qualifications for the tribe of our choice is by putting down and fighting with moms in other tribes?

Who knows.

But Mommy Wars are futile.

In one month and two days I will have been a mother for ten years. And I've realized a few things.
I am not a perfect mother.
No one is a perfect mother.
So many of us have confessions as mothers that we are so afraid to admit to lest someone else judge us for our imperfections. I'm in some motherhood confession Facebook groups that are so refreshing. Because we've all been there in some way or another. We're all far from perfect moms. People show their mistakes and get empathy.

That's it.
That's what we need.
Not Mommy Wars. Mommy empathy.
We, as parents, have such a hard job, needing to juggle so many different things and responsibilities and different personalities and personal situations... and we struggle so much. All of us want to be the perfect parent. Maybe not everyone has written out a list of their parenting dreams the way I did but everyone came into parenthood with some goals and wanting to be the ideal parent. And we all fall short in at least some things. Because motherhood is so, so, so hard. And we have people judging us all the time for our failings. And when we don't have other people judging (and even if we do) we often end up judging ourselves and living one giant guilt trip.

We, as mothers, need to support each other. To come from a place of love and understanding. To show we care and empathize with each other's struggles.
And you know what? If you see a mother doing something that you think is harmful for their child, if you approach it from a place of love and compassion and concern for the mother's and children's well-being (and not the sanctimonious "care and concern" which everyone knows is a farce) and are able to bring up the problem respectfully and from a place where you can show you understand the mom, you might be able to problem-solve with the mom so that she may be interested and open to applying the loving suggestion that you had for her, that she wouldn't have if you'd approached her from a place of judgment and Mommy Wars... (Yes, I know that was a really long run on sentence and I don't care.)

In the Mommy Wars, you know which side I choose?
I choose the side of sanity.
Each mom needs to make the best decision she can at the time for her family and for her sanity and once she makes that choice, she should be lauded for making the choice that keeps her sane. Of course parents need to try their best, trying to raise healthy, happy, safe kids... But mom's sanity is also important. Mom's sanity leads to healthy, happy, and safe kids.
So which side of the Mommy Wars is that? For some that'll be the side of nursing and others the side of formula feeding. For some it'll be homeschooling and other public schooling. For some it'll be crying it out and for others co-sleeping and nursing until the child self weans and then wants to move to their own bed. For some it'll be the side of being a stay at home mom and for other's it'll be being a career woman with her children in day care from a young age. And so on.

There is no correct side.

Unless you've lived in someone else's place, you have no right to judge moms for the decisions they make. Even if you think you've been in their place, trust me, you haven't. Everyone's life circumstances and strengths and weaknesses and baggage are so complex that no two people are identical.
What we need is empathy.
And to forgive ourselves for being a less than perfect mom.
And still to try our best, but to understand that we may fail at times. And that's ok, because we can always get up to start again, and make new choices the next time.

Empathy. Forgiving. Understanding.

End the Mommy Wars. They're futile.

Have you ever been part of the Mommy Wars? Are you still part of the Mommy Wars? If not, why not? If yes, what do you feel you get from it? Do you find you manage to change other people's opinions and actions?
Anyone else really sick of the Mommy Wars?
Anyone else ready to start a global movement to get rid of the Mommy Wars and replace it with Mommy empathy?


See my disclaimer.

12 comments:

  1. Your best post yet !!!!

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  2. Wonderful post! I'm pregnant with my first and I have been shocked and dismayed to see how much judgment and bashing goes on. Thank you for this thoughtful post on the subject.

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  3. beautifully written. I am a mommy to 5 children ages 30 thru 24 yrs. many mistakes but thats how we grow. we can advise the younger generation, but they will decide themselves, what to do and what not.

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  4. Well said. I'm an older wiser mum these days abet to 6 and 4yo kids I too had ideas of how I would do things.and as the years have gone past I think that I have had to make choose and every option given the change in circumstance.I have learned to apply grace and adapt to the circumstance.wd

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  5. Thank you for sharing. Another great post. I hope some new or soon to be Mom's read this and are inspired and reassured that there is no perfect Mother. Being a Mom and being surrounded by Mom's one thing I can say is true. If you spend most of your child's life encouraging them and pushing just a bit for them to be the best they can be...they will. I didn't push my kid, I had more of a step back approach because my Mother was forever making sure I didn't hurt myself or try new things for fear of being hurt. All this did was create a child who became a bit sneaky and now a bit of a hermit but I'm now working on being more personable.

    My child, with the step back approach, became a good person, but very LAZY. She's 22 and is just now wanting to learn to drive. And I didn't push college because I wanted her to WANT college. She didn't. Can't blame her, I hated school and she picked up on that by middle school. She has faith in higher power but questions life. Well rounded but LAZY. Can't fault her too much, I was a lazy parent and a lazy human.

    Now all I can do is provide her with advice and pray she finds her path.

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  6. My son was ADHD. We homeschooled, used meds for a time, tweaked his diet, made sure he got plenty of excercise, etc, to make it easier on everyone (especially him). Someone was always telling me I was wrong. It was hard.
    Finally God helped me realize that He hand picked me to be this child's mom and I should be confident that I was making good choices.
    So my new response was, "God picked me to be his mom. Unless you spend more time with him, you will never know him like I do, so let me do it."
    It worked great.
    Great article, Penny, you are so wise.

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  7. You are spot-on! Moms can be so rough on other moms...it's sad. Let's lift each other up, ladies!

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  8. Lovely post. I missed the Mommy Wars, too busy trying to be the breadwinner and a good mom, then spent years worrying that I was failing my daughter somehow because she didn't walk a typical path (college, job, marriage, kids). But in the end she chose for herself and I am deeply, deeply proud of her.

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  9. I love this article!!! Totally sharing!

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  10. Definitely your best!

    Regards
    Manorama

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  11. There is one woman I know who throws herself into the middle of mommy wars and inflicts her judgement on the parents we know....and she doesn't even have a kid! It drove me absolutely insane as my personal philosophy has always been that everyone is the perfect parent until they have a child and that unless the child has suffered harm, no one should criticize another person's parenting.

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