Here we are at the last day of 2012. I was thinking about what one word I would use to describe this year, and you know, I can’t pinpoint one. Contenders included joyous, exhausting, triumphant, devastating, difficult, life-changing and life-affirming. I think they could all apply equally, depending on which part of my life I’m looking at and/or the time frame.
I have covered my thoughts on the so-called “Mommy Wars” before. But today I feel like I need to plead with my fellow moms (at least, the moms of my generation): stop it. Please, please, stop it.
I have not met a mom of a baby or toddler yet who hasn’t personally felt judged by something someone has said about parenting, whether that something was said on TV, in a magazine, or on Facebook (which I am now calling Hatebook, thanks to my blogger hero Jen Hatmaker). And I’m pretty sure I have all the types of moms in my friend arsenal: crunchy granola moms, moms who formula-feed, moms who let the TV help them watch the kids for a few minutes, moms who cloth diaper, stay-at-home moms (of both varieties – those who do only because they wanted to and those who do because they wanted to and they can’t afford childcare) and working moms (also of both varieties – because they love their jobs or because they need to for financial reasons). Conclusion: no one is immune from this judgy cloud of paranoia and hate.
Case in point: I saw this graphic on my Hatebook newsfeed the other day.
The mom who posted it loves her kids and wanted to make a point about responsibility. And I think that’s fine. But in doing so, she singled out a lot of her fellow moms, who were quick to point out that some moms have more photos of themselves than their kids for a multitude of reasons, not least of which is that they don’t feel comfortable posting lots of photos of their kids online (we all know that once you post a photo online, it’s there forever in one form or another). Responsibility is very good. But is there some number of times which a mom is allowed to go out without her kids before she’s considered in the wrong? And if so, I would very much like to know what that number is (sarcasm here).
I think it’s great to be curious about what other moms are doing (i.e.: method of diapering, breastfeeding vs. formula, age at which to introduce solid foods). But within the past few years, I’ve noticed that as a society, we’ve become nearly incapable of sharing our ideas without inflicting judgment on moms who don’t do it our way. And this is so incredibly hurtful.
Something I need to admit to you, dear readers: I struggled with postpartum depression for a few months after Baby I was born (post about that to come). And I can tell you that one of the most crushing, debilitating things a mom who is struggling can hear is that she’s doing it wrong. It still hurts now that that cloud has lifted and I feel ‘normal’ again. I can’t stand it.
It’s just human nature to think that the way you’re doing things is the best way. After all, it’s your best way, or else you would be doing something different, yes? But let me propose something to you:
Breastfeeding moms: smile at a mom feeding her baby a bottle without mentioning that breast is best. Acknowledge that bottle feeding is a bonding experience as well.
Moms whose babies sleep in cribs: high-five a co-sleeper. Toss that crap about safety out the window. Get warm fuzzies when the co-sleeping mom tells you how much she loves waking up next to her baby. Don’t worry about when/if the baby will move to a separate bed later; that’s the mom’s job. Not yours.
Stay-at-home-moms: praise your working mom friends for finding a caregiver for their babies who loves the baby almost as much as they do. Do not remind the working mom that she spends 8+ hours away from Baby every day. Open your mind to the possibility that this separation is good for the entire family. Do not assume that the family could make one income work if they really wanted to. That family is not your family.
Detachment-style parents: help a baby-wearer carry her grocery bags. Don’t scoff at her and assume she can just put the baby down for a second. Entertain the idea that this is the best nap the baby gets all day.
You get where I’m going right? I know, I KNOW that all the moms out there can remember how tough it can be when they’re uncertain of their parenting choices and just trying to make it work. Taking sides in the mommy wars is a way to proudly proclaim to the world the way you do things. If you can’t do that without implying that someone else’s way is second best, I’m asking you to stop. Think. Empathize. Love. Show respect for your fellow mom, no matter who she might be.