“Oh my gosh, did you see that? She’s feeding that baby a bottle!”
“No way! She’s whipping it out in church. What a breastfeeding Nazi.”
Welcome to the Mommy Wars.
The Mommy Wars aren’t about noticing differences in each other. They’re about judging and being judged.
“Well, she is not parenting like me so her choice must be wrong.”
One of my favorites was the woman who told us we were wrong to adopt because it was stealing our “real” children’s inheritance money. (No money to be had anyway, so no worries there.)
The list of things to be Judgy McJudgerson about it is endless: Homebirth, birth center or hospital. Circumcise or no. Breast or bottle. Pacifiers or no binkies. Cry-it-out or attachment parenting. Family bed or own crib/own room. Organic, homemade baby food, a jar off the store shelf or food off the table. Stay-at-home, work-at-home, work away from home. Private, charter, public or home school. Do we put kids in piano, sports, dance, theater, debate or 4H? Free-range or helicopter parenting.
Those “Mommy Wars” and the hurtful, judgy comments that are slung with deadly accuracy have their roots in insecurity.
“Am I making the right choice? What if ‘they’ are right and I am wrong?” Insecurity becomes defensiveness, and defensiveness can lead to attacks.
It’s time to lay down the weapons of war, ladies, and walk away.
Look, being a mom is hard enough. Going to war with others over their perfectly legitimate choices — or your perfectly legitimate choices — causes deep and completely unnecessary wounds.
What would happen if we all made the assumption that everyone loves their kids as much as we do and everyone is doing the best they can? Just because someone makes a different decision than we do does not mean that our decision is wrong. Nor is theirs.
Leaving the battlefield can be as easy as becoming comfortable in your own choices. No, you will never be a perfect parent. Yes, your teenagers will think their friends’ lives are so much better than theirs. Yes, you’ll change your mind and maybe even your parenting style. (Just ask any oldest child how Mom and Dad treat the youngest differently.) Becoming comfortable in the choices you are making, with the knowledge you have at the time, lets you avoid taking the bullets that may be whizzing overhead.
You’ve probably heard this adage: “It’s none of your business what other people think of you.” And their business is also none of your business.
Oscar Wilde famously said, “Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.” What would happen if we used Instagram to share our authentic lives and were not trying to be someone else? What if we did not care how many likes we — or pictures of our children — got? What if we were just comfortable in our skin and comfortable in our path?
In the words of Charles Handy: “The moment will arrive when you are comfortable with who you are, and what you are — bald or old or fat or poor, successful or struggling — when you don’t feel the need to apologize for anything or to deny anything. To be comfortable in your own skin is the beginning of strength.”
What if we do our best to make good decisions and then stop the second-guessing and self-flagellation? Parenting is to be vulnerable and unsure, to wonder if you are doing your best. Cut yourself some slack. Cut your neighbors some slack. Cut the parents across the state some slack. Stop participating in the Mommy Wars, even the one going on in your own head, and learn to love your choices.
We can do this.
Holly Richardson, a regular contributor to The Salt Lake Tribune, knows that mommy guilt comes wrapped in the blanket along with the first baby. She’s grateful for resilient kids.