Another day, another story of a mom forgetting her child, this time in a grocery store shopping cart. Cue internet hysteria: How could she do that? I would never forget my child, and I have seven! She deserves to have them taken away. If you can’t keep track of your kids, don’t have them! That’s not an accident, that’s child endangerment and neglect!
This may be just me, but I’m always worried that someday I’m going to do something wrong and my child is going to be taken from me – either because he perishes in a horrible accident that was my fault, or because CPS gets wind of my mistake and drags him off screaming. As I’ve said before, I think this is a bit of post-traumatic stress from my losses – my other babies were all taken from me, so it’s something that’s always in the back of my mind. But, I also think this makes me hyper-aware of being super-careful and not making a mistake (while hopefully not turning me into a helicopter mom either).
But although I don’t think I could ever forget my child in a shopping cart, I am familiar with the circumstances under which it could happen. This woman was no doubt sleep-deprived – she has four kids (four!) including a two-month-old baby. Maybe she didn’t plan to have four, but she has them. Maybe she needed to go to the store because she has no food in her house and she didn’t have anyone to watch the kids. Maybe the baby was up the night before and she’s running on the fumes of two hours sleep. Who knows? I certainly do know, though, that I’ve had a hard enough time with one kid at the store. I know I’ve left feeling harried and overwhelmed. OK so yes, I do try to have a mental checklist that includes my kid. Put the groceries in the car. Return the cart. Carry kid back to car. Strap kid in car. Make sure haven’t left anything – kid, cell phone, diaper bag, groceries. But I can see how a change in routine – she put the kids in the car in a different order than usual – could have thrown me off, too.
Adding to the uproar over this woman is that she didn’t realize she had left the baby for forty minutes, including an errand to drop flowers off at a school. How did she not notice during her errand, you ask? She left her kids in the car while she ran in. Horror! This is the cardinal sin of bad parenting. In the internet’s eyes, this condemns you. Never mind that many moms have done it – maybe not in a parking lot, but in the driveway when they realize they’ve forgotten something or don’t want to wake a napping child by removing him from his car seat. What’s that, you say? You’d never do that? Well congratulations – that must mean you’re a better parent than everyone else! Yay, you!
The fact is, unless the car is turned off on a hot day (this is an extremely dangerous situation and I don’t want to make light of that), what are we worried about? That our children will be kidnapped by a pedophile who just happens to be waiting around for some neglectful mom to leave her kids unsupervised? Come on, statistically kidnapping by a stranger is really, really rare. Parenting is calculated risk. Only a parent can know their kids enough to trust that they cannot or will not get out of their car seat or the car. It’s just not a one-size fits all scenario. I read a comment referring back to another mom who was arrested for leaving her kid in the car for five minutes while she ran an errand before a plane trip, which said that her kid should be removed from her care simply because she let him be in charge – she should have dragged his ass kicking and screaming into the store instead of allowing him to say no to her. My response to that was Bwahahaha! Right, because it’s worth causing a meltdown when you’re trying to catch a plane. If every mom had her kid taken away for occasionally giving in to his refusal to do something, we’d have no moms left with their kids.
C’mon people, let’s be real! Kids are tough. Parents make judgment calls. Parents make mistakes. Good parents. Honest parents. Loving parents. What purpose does it possibly serve to lock them up? It would be more traumatic for children to be removed from their parents’ care in cases like this. It is a waste of taxpayer money and resources that should better be spent on actual, real problems like children of drug addicts and poverty. Every parenting mistake is not neglect. Even if something bad had happened to this mom’s baby, which thankfully it didn’t, what would be the point of charging her with a crime – to prevent it from happening to her other children? I can guarantee you, she already feels horrible guilt and will never make that mistake again. And she’s probably on high alert to not make any others, either.
But the high alert that many moms find themselves on nowadays isn’t just for the benefit of the safety of their children. We are talking about two separate issues here – one about a mom forgetting her kid and another about a mom leaving her kid alone on purpose. But either way, what scares many moms is not fear of what could happen to their kids, but fear of others calling the cops on them. And that should flat out not be the case.
We don’t live in a society that makes it easy for moms. We live in one where we expect moms to be perfect, to have it all, to do it all. We don’t do enough to recognize moms’ needs that aren’t being met. We don’t have long enough maternity leave – or paternity leave, for that matter. Our society is based on living to work, not working to live, and family matters get pushed aside. We preach “family values” but don’t know the true meaning of the words. We don’t have a village anymore.
My heart goes out to this mom. I don’t understand why the rush to condemn her and label her as a “bad mom.” Where is the line between “bad mom” and “good mom” drawn, and who is qualified to decide where that is? None of us are perfect. Even if you’ve never left a child in the car, you’ve probably made some other parenting mistake. You’ve probably had a close call that shook you to the bone and made you wonder if you should be trusted with a child. Tell the truth. Admit it. Saying, “Well, I’d never do that,” is just you looking for a way to feel better about your own parenting. It’s just being an internet bully.
We give a lot of lip service to “we’re all in this together” and “moms need to support each other.” We cry to end the mommy wars and stop judging each other. Yet it continues, round and round. We are all capable of making mistakes. In fact, not realizing that is how we get into trouble – we think we are immune and infallible then bam! something happens to make us realize we’re not. Better to recognize the possibility of our own imperfections, so that we can protect our children against them.
Why are we so quick to judge moms who make mistakes? Are some parenting mistakes unforgivable?
I wish I had a video to post to YouTube. That’s how awesome it was. To the mom who took down the lazy moms: Whoever you are, you were sublime. I hope I run into you again so I can express my fervent admiration for you and invite you to join my mom group. I wish I had your cahones!
This is what happened: Some mom friends and I met at a local playground that is handicap-accessible. So the actual structure of the playground, the big metal thing, is built with ramps for wheelchairs. Pretty cool, huh? Well, kids will be kids, so a few smarty-pants youngsters thought, “Hey, wouldn’t it be fun to ride our bikes and ride-ons down these ramps at full speed?” Which they proceeded to do. Never mind the many other children, some of them small like LM, at the busy playground.
“Move!” one bratty girl on a scooter car thing exclaimed. “These go fast!”
These kids proceeded to annoy all of my group, and presumably other moms at the playground as well. Where are their parents, you ask? Sitting on a bench, never moving. Two of them had babies, no doubt happy that their older kids were occupied with other activities, however ill-conceived. These women did not once get up.
Actually, one got up, once. A man walking three dogs stopped outside the fence as the playground kids ran over to pet them. “Can I pet the dogs, mommy?” one of the scooter kids asked his mom, who had left her perch probably because she questioned the safety of the dogs (but never mind the safety of the other kids on the playground during her child’s race car antics). “You have to ask the owner,” she replied, which the kid did. “Yes,” the man said. “They were trained as seeing eye dogs. They’re very gentle.”
Great manners from kid, proper response from mom. So why was she so oblivious to the havoc the children were otherwise wreaking?
None of us knew what to do. There weren’t rules prohibiting bikes, but it seemed to us like common sense that it was not appropriate to ride them onto the structure. One of my mom friends said she would say something but she didn’t want to embarrass us.
After our one brave friend left, we were completely at a loss. At one point LM stood in the middle of a ramp, unaware of the ride-on toys barreling down toward him. Standing a few feet away, I yelled out and moved toward him, but I couldn’t get there in time. The toys stopped literally an inch away from him.
I then realized these kids had been here before. The bratty girl had tried to bring her bike down the spiral slide, and I had just been able to whisk LM, who had been climbing up the bottom (OK, I know you’re not supposed to do that either, but come on, all kids do) out of the way before she came down. Another mom ran over, but I couldn’t tell if it was the girl’s mom or not. “Is he OK?” she asked me. I told her that he was, but said to the girl, “It’s probably not a good idea to bring your bike down the slide.” The other mom laid into her: “No, it’s definitely not. It’s very dangerous! Don’t do that again.” Hm, I thought. Maybe that was her mom, to have scolded her like that. But, I later discovered, it wasn’t. Her mom had been sitting on the bench, too far away to witness what had happened.
As I remembered this, my blood started to boil. This was a repeat occurrence at a playground we like to go to. Is it up to us responsible moms to talk to the lazy moms of these errant children? How can we do that without a confrontation? Is there a nice way to do it?
Then, one mom entered the playground who didn’t give two shits about being nice. As her children walked up the structure, she followed. Upon seeing one of the bikes, she said, “Oh, no no. You can’t ride that up here.” The kid got off. Without a moment of hesitation, she picked the bike up, held it above her head, and yelled out, “Whose is this?”
She looked at us. We shrugged (I’m now so embarrassed of my cowardice – I couldn’t even point out the guilty party).
She turned to the moms on the bench. “Is this yours?” she asked. When they replied yes, it was, she said, “They can’t ride these here. It’s not safe.” The moms replied that their kids were being careful, that no one had gotten hurt.
Then another mom joined in the throw down. “Are you kidding me?” she exclaimed, getting up and walking over. She obviously saw the ridiculousness of the lazy moms’ defense – is it really a good idea to wait to do something about it until somebody gets hurt?
What had began as a moderately civil conversation was descending into a shouting match. All the other moms on the playground stopped and stared, mesmerized by the drama. We looked on, in open-mouthed awe. I suddenly felt like a kid again myself. “Fight! Fight!” I thought. Why is it that we are drawn to altercations, entertained and excited onlookers who have no intention of getting involved ourselves – even as much as we might want to.
Everyone was frozen in silence, watching. I think I can safely say that we were all on the side of the ballsy mom, the one who spoke up when we didn’t have the courage. The one who fought for her kids’ right to a safe play space without kamikaze bikes.
Then the air was let out of the balloon, and suddenly it was over. The lazy moms, no doubt intimidated by the bold mom and the can of whoop ass she had opened on them, acquiesced, and their kids removed their ride-upons and bikes from the ramps (although they continued to ride them around on the ground).
The kick-ass mom held her face in her hands. I walked over to her. “I’m sorry!” she said, seeing me approach. “No, I wanted to thank you,” I said. “None of us had the guts to say anything!”
It was over, and we left the park soon after. I’m not sure what will happen the next time the lazy moms show up. (To be fair, maybe they’re not really lazy. I shouldn’t judge. But given that I saw this behavior twice, and therefore it’s a pattern, I’m reserving the right to use the nickname for this sake of this post’s clarity.) Will they remember how they got taken down? Will they have learned their lesson? Will they only ground their kids’ bikes if they see the kick-ass mom again?
But it also makes me wonder at my own behavior. Should I have jumped to defend my son’s safety? Was I being just as lazy as the lazy moms by not saying something? What does it teach my son that I was scared to speak up and afraid of confrontation?
Being a parent has made me open my eyes to my own shortcomings. Maybe next time I’ll have the strength to do what this mom did.
Have you ever witnessed an altercation on a playground – between moms, that is, not kids? What happened?
Recently, one of my mom friends got very riled up by a video comedian Kevin Hart posted (watch out of earshot of young kids please).
Kevin Hart, meanwhile, was riled up by a woman he saw who had two kids in child safety harnesses, a.k.a. leashes. “I hate this sh*t….walking these g*damn babies on a leash,” Hart said. “I should go bop her in the back of her head!” In response, my friend wrote:
This really pissed me off … You have really easy going kids? Good for you! Maybe no kids at all? Yea ok that’s why you think you know. Judge away if you need that to make you feel good about yourself but I will do what ever I have to protect my child in this world and a harness is the least of it! My child is strong and fast and he’s 19 freaking months old … He isn’t obedient he’s a f*ing toddler… And I’m supposed to let him possibly run of into a crowd or get hit by a car because you’re so f*ing smart you see a similarity between a harness and a dog leash omg you f*ing genius.”
Can you tell she was upset?
I thought at first that this was a mommy wars topic that divides parents; but now I’m actually thinking it might be an issue that divides parents vs. non parents. I would think that any mother of a toddler could see the need for a harness – those little monsters don’t want to hold your hand, squirm out of your grasp and can get lost in a crowd in seconds. But non parents (although Hart is a parent; maybe I should say non moms?) just see kids on a “leash” like a dog. Our gut instinct is to think you shouldn’t treat your kid the way you treat animals. But, as my friend retorted, “Why do you care enough to protect your dog from running away but not your toddler?” Good point!
Strapping a kid in a stroller is just as bad as, if not worse than, a harness. It’s actually even more confining, and doesn’t allow the kid to get exercise like a harness does. In fact, a harness gives the kid the illusion of independence, because he can walk on his own without holding your hand. And if you have multiple young kids, like the woman in the video, a harness can save you from having the impossible task of chasing your kids in opposite directions at the same time. It’s silly to tell parents, “Just control your kid.” Anyone with a toddler (unless your kid is super easy) will tell you that young children can’t just be controlled. They’re not robots. My 21-month-old does not even speak English yet, and he doesn’t understand the danger of running away.
I have not yet bought LM a harness, although I did do some online research for the eventual purchase. But I saw the need for it first-hand when we visited the Bronx Zoo a couple of weeks ago. We knew LM couldn’t walk the whole way, so we brought the stroller. But he soon was itching to get out of it, and when we tried to hold his hand, he resisted. The zoo was not very crowded when we first got there, so we let him run on his own for a little while. But as the day wore on, the crowds grew, and it was no longer safe to have LM out of the stroller without holding our hands. This did not go over very well, and we soon found ourselves struggling to either keep hold of him or get his wriggly body back in the stroller. If we had had a harness, he would have been proud to walk “independently.” Win-win, for us and for him.
I think Kevin Hart knew that he would be ruffling feathers with his video – he is a comedian, after all, and was probably looking to push the envelope. And though I generally find him to be pretty funny, I think he missed the mark here. I will definitely be buying a harness for LM.
Would you use a harness for your child? Why or why not?
In case you haven’t heard, apparently super wealthy moms on the Upper East Side of New York are not only staying home, they are receiving a “wife bonus” from their rich husbands. The monetary bonus is supposedly based on how they did at getting their kid into a good preschool and otherwise doing their wifely duties, according to a recent New York Times op-ed by Wednesday Martin. While the concept is abhorrent (although I’m in the camp that believes this may not actually be true), something else pissed me off about the piece. Martin’s argument against stay-at-home moms is not new and it’s not shocking, but it is extremely cringe-inducing. She purports to be talking about these crazy rich ladies, who she compares to “mistresses,” but what she’s saying could apply to all SAHMs. And that makes me mad.
Wife bonus or not, SAHMs are economically dependent on their husbands. Many of us achieved degrees of higher education that we’re currently not using. We may be giving those skills away “for free” by volunteering (or mommy blogging?). We may spend a lot of time in the company of other moms, segregated from our husbands. We may go to the gym. We might be intensely involved in our children’s lives. These are the charges that Martin levels against the rich Upper East Siders – but wife bonus aside, doesn’t that sound like SAHMs of the middle classes, too? Is this article, with its “wife bonus” as click bait, taking a generalized jab at all moms who don’t work?
It sure sounds like it to me.
But as someone on one of my FB groups said about it: “Yawn.” OK, so this is just one more log on the fire of the mommy wars. We’ve heard this before. Women should work so in the event that they divorce they have means to support themselves. So that they are not marginalized. So that they can have power and influence. So that they are not kept women, mistresses, prostitutes.
Here’s the thing: Women do not make life choices so that they can advance the feminist cause. That’s not to say they are not feminists: Many SAHMs, myself included, identify themselves as such. But when you become a mom, your needs are second to the needs of your children. One could argue that by working you are ensuring means of survival for your young ones, or that you are providing a good role model for your daughters, or that when you work your life is more fulfilling, so you’re happier, which makes you a better mom. Maybe these things are true for some moms. But maybe for others, they are not happier being away from their kids. Maybe they can be just as good a role model by staying home. Maybe what to do in the event of divorce is not a consideration in a marriage based on love and trust (sure, husbands could die, but that’s less likely; and there is probably life insurance in place for that scenario). Maybe even though they don’t make the money, they have equal access and claim to it.
In the case of the UES moms, well, rich people are easy targets to hate. Why are we to assume these women are unhappily living in gilded cages? If we won the lottery, I’d venture to say most of us would not work, or would do only the work that fulfills us, even if that means doing it for free (because we wouldn’t need the money anyway). So what if these women have nannies and spend their day at the gym, volunteering and lunching with friends? Maybe they’re happy that way. Who wouldn’t be? In a retort in Elle magazine (by Blair Schmaldorf, ha) the author argues that all the UES women she knows work in high-powered roles. But this is not a good rebuttal – she’s defending UES women, but not the concept of not working. In fact, she seems to be agreeing with the first article’s premise that not working is something to be judged for.
I will still argue that for most of us, staying at home is not an “extravagance,” as the NYT author says about the UES women. We make sacrifices in order to do so; or with the high costs of daycare it might not even make financial sense to work. It may be a choice, but it’s not akin to entering a menstrual hut, and I find that comparison, put forth in the piece, to be extremely insulting. We’re doing what we think is right for our family.
Look, if you want to work, work. If you don’t want to work, don’t. Twenty-first century feminism is supposed to be about choice, isn’t it? And I would venture to say that if workplaces were more family-friendly, more flexible, and had longer maternity leave policies, women wouldn’t be leaving the workforce so readily. I, for one, can’t imagine dealing with all the crap that goes along with a high-stress job in addition to raising a family while actually being able to enjoy my life. Technically, I do work, but my part-time freelance pay is a fraction of what I used to make as an editor-in-chief. I’m doing it because I like having a creative outlet, and if I do go back to work I won’t have been out of the game completely. My real goal is to find a way of working that suits my lifestyle and my family’s needs, a la Diane Keaton in Baby Boom (best line: “I’m sorry, but the rat race is just going to have to survive with one less rat.”).
I know moms who work part-time. I know moms who don’t work at all. I know moms who have gone back to work only to quit because they couldn’t take the long commute or the inflexible office policies or because they were just not happy. I know moms who have followed their husbands’ jobs across the country or even to new countries. People make decisions based on what is best for their family as a whole. Maybe that’s too puppies and rainbows; maybe I’m supposed to, as a feminist, have a stronger opinion about the way women are “supposed to” act. But I just don’t. Because I don’t believe doing what you’re “supposed to” do, one way or another, is what feminism is about. So study away, anthropologists-who-think-they’re-being-smart-but-are-really-just-hating-on-their-neighbors.
What do you think about the “wife bonus” article? Did you feel that it was condemning all SAHMs?
I eagerly scroll through my Facebook feed, which includes posts from the several mommy FB groups I’m a part of. I see something controversial, something I have an opinion on, and I feel the need to chime in. I spend the rest of the evening checking to see if anyone else has responded. I feel my heart flutter as I read what others have written. My blood boils as someone calls me out by name. Then I think, why am I wasting my time debating vaccines for the millionth time?
There is some part of me that likes to debate. There is a part of me that enjoys arguing, enjoys making my point of view be known, enjoys telling other people what I think.
I don’t think I’m a jerk. I don’t think I’m unfair. I don’t name-call. I make sound arguments. I don’t try to stir up trouble on purpose.
Well, I’m not sure if that’s entirely true.
Something just showed up on my newsfeed: This article about CIO. It’s not a journalistic, let’s-examine-all-the-facts type of piece. It’s very clearly written with a specific point of view in mind: CIO is bad and will forever scar your child.
It starts by presenting this laughable scenario: Parents put their kid to bed in no time flat, then gleefully sit down to watch TV and drink beer while their kid wails. This so shocks their houseguest that he decides to leave.
The person who shared the article on my FB feed, and those who responded, were all like, “I could never do that!” Let’s call it CIO-shaming. So what do I do? I decide to respond with my own experience/thoughts, which are that the scene at the beginning of the piece is unrealistic and purposefully paints parents who let their kids CIO as neglectful and selfish, when in reality they are probably miserable and sleep-deprived, as I was.
As I type this, I’m waiting to see if there’s any backlash. Especially since I know and like the original poster and some of the people who responded.
But why debate to begin with? Some would argue that we debate parenting choices because we’re insecure about our own. But, I’m just not. I’m OK with the “sleep training” or whatever you call it. I stuck it out for eleven months, responding to LM’s every cry, but I just could not take it any longer. I was at a breaking point. Something had to be done.
OK, OK, you’re thinking. Got it. But why bother engaging people on the internet? Aren’t you just adding fuel to the mommy wars? Can’t you just leave well enough alone?
This is my ongoing internal battle with the internet. It gives me good information. It helps me see different perspectives. But it also can sometimes be a time and energy suck. I don’t need to defend my choices, so why do I? Is it because I truly feel the need to “educate” people? Maybe. Am I an oversharer? Maybe.
But I do feel like at times, I have helped people by talking about my experiences. I write this blog for the same reason – because I have something to say and a specific perspective to say it from. I am: Someone who’s had five miscarriages. Someone who did seven IVFs. Someone who had a C-section. Someone who breastfed. Someone who let her son CIO. Someone who got fired and decided to be a stay-at-home mom. This is who I am, and I like sharing it.
Do you engage in mommy debates on the internet? Do you think that’s a good or bad thing (or both)?
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I am a proud breastfeeder. I had it really hard in the beginning – my son wouldn’t latch and ended up in the NICU, I had to pump (which I hated) before I successfully got him back to the breast, we dealt with a dairy allergy that put me at odds with my pro-formula pediatrician – so I feel like I’m entitled to be proud. I went through a lot, and now, at 14 monts, we are still going strong.
I don’t say that to be smug. I don’t say that because I think I’m better than anyone else who does not breastfeed. I know that breastfeeding is hard. If it’s not your thing, or it’s too difficult and focusing on other things would better allow you to enjoy motherhood, I get it. It’s not up to me to say that you should breastfeed. As long as you are informed (which sadly many women are not, because many doctors are not, but that’s a whole other issue), then it’s really up to you.
But that said, it really pisses me off when people who are not breastfeeding (men or women) say they “support” it but want it kept discreet or private. Such was my reaction when a Facebook friend of a friend posted about how annoyed she was at Alyssa Milano’s recent breastfeeding Instagram photo. “Since when did breastfeeding become a spectator sport?” she asked. “I don’t want to see it…There is underlying judgment if one is fed ‘the less natural way.'”
I think there are a couple things going on with comments like these, which arise anytime a celebrity posts a breastfeeding selfie. One is that there is still stigma around breastfeeding in public. It is still taboo. You can’t say that it’s only acceptable if the mother uses a cover or “is discreet,” otherwise she’s flaunting it and shoving her boobs in your face. I have used a cover because I don’t personally like to be too exposed when nursing in public – but that’s me. There shouldn’t be rules or contingencies around how someone is allowed to feed their child. That’s not supporting breastfeeding. That’s not normalizing breastfeeding. That’s allowing it to remain marginalized.
Second, I think there is a lot of guilt around the issue of breastfeeding, like there is around so many mom-centric issues. Often, women who did not breastfeed feel guilty – not that they should – and then take it personally when others “flaunt” their breastfeeding, as if there is implied judgment. I get this. For six years while I struggled to get pregnant, I felt like children were flaunted and shoved in my face everywhere I went, because I couldn’t have one. I hated it. But I knew that their parents weren’t doing it out of disrespect (well, except maybe when they brought their kid to the fertility clinic, where they’re pretty much guaranteed to run into emotionally distressed infertiles. But maybe they couldn’t get a babysitter, so what can you do?). People need to live their lives, and that included inundating my Facebook feed with pictures of their children. They weren’t trying to make me feel bad, even if I did feel bad after seeing their pictures – that was my issue, not theirs. So I understand why women who aren’t breastfeeding don’t want to see breastfeeding; but should that mean nursing moms need to keep it private for fear of hurting others’ feelings?
A tactic my infertile self used for dealing with the barrage of kids I encountered was to downplay their importance. “So what, you have a kid. Any idiot can get pregnant,” I would think to myself. I see this now with breastfeeding: “So what, you are breastfeeding. Everyone does it, so why post a picture on Twitter?” people say. But I know now that it is a big deal to have a kid, and likewise it is a big deal to breastfeed.
Breastfeeding is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever experienced. I want to be able to say that without feeling guilty (see, there’s enough guilt to go around) for making someone else who doesn’t breastfeed feel bad. I want to celebrate it. And so, I think, did Alyssa Milano. Why shouldn’t we be able to revel in the joys of motherhood, wherever it is that we find them?
How do you feel about celebrities posting breastfeeding selfies? What about nursing in public?
The newest mommy war trend is being so over mommy wars. A group of moms in Connecticut even started a campaign to end judgment among moms, and a photo shoot of them holding up encouraging signs like, “The mom in me honors the mom in you” went viral. It’s a great ideal. It’s very PC, very puppies and rainbows. But is it realistic?
I try not to be judgmental of others’ parenting. It’s not my business, and I’m generally pretty good at keeping my mouth shut. No one wants unsolicited advice, and I respect that. But even if we don’t voice them, we all have our own opinions.
It’s kind of like politics. It’s difficult to talk about politics with people you’re close with but yet who have radically different views. Discussions like that often end with everyone taking it personally, because how could you not? It’s hard to separate your political opinions from your sense of self; they are part of who you are. So how can someone else who you in every other way respect and love have such fundamentally different values?
It’s easier just not to talk about it in the first place.
But if we don’t feel free to discuss our views and opinions, where does that leave us? I think in some form, discussions about parenting styles and what’s best for children are healthy. We could just leave it to the experts, but we are the moms on the front lines. If anyone should be an “expert” in the real-life practically and logistics of parenting, it’s us.
And even when the experts do weigh in, what then? Debates still rage over whether or not crib bumpers should be used, even though the experts have clearly said no to them. Does that mean those on the “no bumpers” side are “right”?
One night while nursing LM at 4 am I was watching reruns of the sitcom Yes, Dear on Nick at Nite. The main female characters are two sisters with very different parenting styles.
The laid-back mom says, “You always think your way is the best way.”
“Well, yes,” the uptight mom replies. “That’s why I chose it to be my way.”
And therein lies the crux of the mommy war problem: We try so hard to do what’s right for our kids that it bothers us when we see another mom doing it differently. It either means that A) Their kid is not reaping the benefits of the “best way” or that B) Our way might not actually be the “best way.”
If we were fully confident in our parenting choices, maybe it wouldn’t bother us to see another mom make different ones. I often wonder if I’m doing it right, if the choices I made, despite all my research, are the “best.”
On the other hand, I admit to giving the side-eye or secretly judging (even if I don’t say anything) choices other moms make, because some of my choices I do feel confident in. I’ve been guilty of thinking that other kids are not benefitting from the “best way.” I try to remember, though, that it’s not my kid, and therefore not my business.
But, I also want to be able to celebrate my victories. I overcame a lot of obstacles to breastfeeding. When I tell people about that, though, I worry it’s going to offend those who’ve encountered obstacles and instead chose to wean. Does my success imply their failure? I try not to make it sound that way, and instead stress that I understand how hard it is because I was this close to giving up. But does that just make them think, “What are you saying, that you’re better than us because you didn’t give up and we did?” So I find myself only talking about it with other like-minded breastfeeding moms.
The PC solution to the mommy wars is, “Everyone has to make the decision that’s right for their family.” I do practice this by trying hard not to say something that will offend others. I admit that’s harder since I’ve started a blog, a place where I want to share my opinions unfiltered. I don’t have the answers on how to truly end the mommy wars because I believe that in many ways, debate is just human nature.
What is your take on the mommy wars – are they played out or just a part of life as a mom?