Monday, April 16, 2012

Mommy Wars 101

To begin, I just want to clear the air. I have definitely been involved in mommy wars in my time as a mother, and do you want to know what? They're awful. I've hurt so many feelings--feelings of some of the women I hold most dear in my life. I've caused doubt and discouragement where I should have given help and encouragement. I've been a bit of a jerk. Plain and simple. There have been too many times when I've left one of these mommy scuffles with frustration and feelings of sinful pride that are followed by months of feeling like one of the worst human beings on the planet.  So first, an apology. I am truly, truly sorry for any hurt feelings I have caused. I worry that I have destroyed friendships that I hold so dear, only to make my point. What an idiot I have been.

A little bit of personal history (for those of you who haven't watched the vigor of my blog posts diminish over the last few months): I found myself in a number of online mommy wars in my first few months of motherhood--debates about crying it out, breastfeeding vs. formula feeding, co-sleeping vs. solitary sleeping, strollers vs. slings, and the like. At the end of the day, my personal preferences haven't changed much. I still think breast is best, that safe co-sleeping should be considered a viable option for most families, and that a sling beats a stroller any day. But here's where I have changed--I don't think my way is the only true way. I sure as heck think it's a good way. It's the way I've been inspired to raise my children (or at least the one I have thus far). But the "true" way? Nope. Don't think so. At least not anymore.

I was talking with another mom a while ago about this subject. She mentioned that she found it ridiculous how there can be wars, famine, homelessness, and other really BIG problems going on in society; but rather than focusing on these big problems, moms get themselves worked up over parenting issues. It does seem kind of silly now, doesn't it? 

In the last few months, I've really been wondering about the "whys" of Mommy Wars--why do they happen? Why do we become so attached to our way of doing things? Even more, why do we feel a need to share push our way on others?

I've thought of a few truly legitimate reasons for this kind of behavior. I'm not at all trying to justify the behavior, only to say that I think that if we can understand the reasons behind the wars themselves, maybe we'll be in a better position to turn away from them:

  • The "Only True Way" Syndrome: As human beings, we are constantly seeking for "capital T" Truth. The universal, all-encompassing truth that will show us the way to all things--how to live our lives, where we are going, and what we should be doing. As a member of a religion that claims the title of the only completely true and living church upon the earth, I kind of understand where this mentality comes from within Mormon Mommy circles. We feel a truly genuine desire to share our way--the True way--with others. After many, many attempts to find the "true" way of parenting in the scriptures, I came up a bit empty handed. Truth be told, there isn't a set-in-stone recipe for parenting, even (and perhaps, especially) in the scriptures. If there truly was a "true and only way" to raise children, I think God would have been really clear about it. Turns out there are two basic principles to spiritual parenting: Love and Righteousness. From there, you've got a whole lot of different and valid interpretations.
  • The "I See My Child" Syndrome: There is this crazy thing that happened when I became a mother and maybe others of you have experienced it. Anytime you hear/see/learn of a sad, horrific, terrifying, or otherwise upsetting thing happening to a child, you imagine it happening to your own child. If there's something that you don't agree with and someone does it with their children, it almost feels as if they're doing it to your own. And it hurts. Truly. So the Mother Bear emerges. But what needs to be remembered is that it's NOT your child and that really, save any true form of abuse, their children are probably going to be just fine and so are yours. It's just hard to remember when your heartstrings are being tugged.
  • The "I Feel Insecure" Syndrome: Isn't our good ol' friend insecurity the cause of most contention? When we feel secure in our decisions and in ourselves, we are almost untouchable. That's not to say that we can take a beating, but little mommy bickerings aren't going to sway our decision or make us feel that we are doing a poor job. But when a mom feels insecure with her decision and/or feels that she is being judged or ridiculed, things get tense.
  • The "I Really Want to Help Syndrome": This is most likely in conjunction with the "Only True Way Syndrome." When a mom feels strongly and/or when something has worked very well for her, she may want to help others. At it's best, this results in encouragement and conversation. At it's worst, this turns into bossing around and judging. 
  • The "My Circumstances are Your Circumstances" Syndrome: The big debate point for me in my early days of Mommy Wars was CIO sleep training. I couldn't understand how other families could possibly do such a thing. And then I stepped back and realized that I was: 1) a stay at home mom who could take naps/sleep in after a bad night, 2) a co-sleeper, which means I got more sleep than moms with baby in another room, 3) someone who operates fairly well on little sleep, 4) I only had one child, and 5) I had some personal emotional reasons for not feeling comfortable with leaving someone alone when they wanted/needed comfort. So, for me and my circumstances, not crying it out was an (and really, THE) option. After I stepped back and realized that not all moms were in the same situation as me (duh!), I was able to be a lot more understanding of the experience of other mothers. Too frequently in parenting, politics, and in general life, we think in our own circumstances and what we did/would do. But that's not always the same set of circumstances that another person experiences. In fact, it's rarely so. But it's still hard to do--to think outside of our box--and Mommy Wars are just one of the unfortunate results.
Those are just a few of the reasons I could think of, though I'm sure there are many others (please feel free to share!). More than anything, I hope the mommy wars can stop. I hope that we can learn to honor and understand one another. I hope we can spend our time uplifting our fellow moms rather than saying or doing things that tear each other down. Let's face it, being a mom is tough work. The last thing a mom needs is something superfluous to worry about.


  1. First of all, I love this post.
    I think competition is another reason. "Oh, your child isn't signing 20 words and points to all the correct things in the book? Well mine is, because I'm doing EVERYTHING right." It's hard to see other children at similar ages doing different things and not blame your parenting. I'm sure some of it is related to parenting styles, but a lot of it is just the developmental timing of each individual child. I had to learn that it was ok that my son wasn't crawling at 6 months and walking by 9 months. Far from it. He just started walking on his own at 16 months. It was frustrating to feel behind and so the competitive side of me would burst through.
    My whole mommying career (16 months) I've tried to be open minded about other options for parenting. Every time I talk to another mother, I try to remember that every child is different, every situation is different. I try to learn what works best for others so when what I'm doing stops working (which can be a week after it started working) I can have an idea of what to try next. That's how I've worked on avoiding Mommy Wars, myself.

  2. I totally agree as well. The older my son gets the more I understand his personality, temperament, quirks, and issues and I realize why I made the choices I did given my situation. I'm sure every parent does the same with the way their children

  3. It almost seems like everyone who gives advice expects the person to take it, and then gets upset/offended when they don't. It's funny, you and I have completely opposite parenting styles in those main categories, but I bet both our kids would choose us to stay being their mom. They receive love, and nurturing, and are taken care of. I wish mommy wars would stop too. I don't think there is ever a reason (besides clear abuse) for moms to ever think there way is it. My way is it for me, but if it doesn't work for one of the children I have adjusted it to what they need. You are a wonderful mom, and woman, Amy. We all do and say things we wish we didn't, but the key is to always forgive, and to not take offense. I love ya!