Sunday, March 6, 2011

What Mommy Wars?

One of the things I love the most about social media like Facebook and Twitter is that it has opened up a whole world (literally!) of other mothers with whom I share parenting experiences and philosophies. It's amazing and so validating for someone like me, who used to look toward trips to the community playground with anxiety and self-doubt. Giving myself a little pep-talk "They're just like you, really. You're not so weird. Really.", I would approach the other mothers and just try to remember why I was there... "Im not here to make friends. Im here so my kid can play." Still, it would have been nice to have a circle in which to sit or stand, talking about this and that, comparing ideas and experiences. But, it seemed like wherever I went, I was the odd-mama-out.

The Richy Rich Moms, well. Why would I even attempt to go there? I mean, really, the only reason I lived in the neighborhood was that I was staying with my parents while I went to Nursing School. What the heck did I, a single mother whose kid was dressed in Salvation Army chic, have to talk about with the members of the Ginormous Wedding Ring Set club. I didn't wear makeup. My Jeans size was in the double digits. My stroller, at home, because I prefered to wear my baby, was not the thousand-dollar all-the-rage-in-Europe-kind and I was not preparing my son for the entrance exam at the Country Day School down the road.

When we enrolled Ian in a parent-child program at the Waldorf School, I thought for sure Id get to finally connect with parents on a deeper level. These would be "my people". I would finally have a "tribe". They got the whole natural parenting thing, too, so we would get along famously. We'd stand around in our Birkenstocks and nod in agreement about the many uses for hemp. Not so much. These Mamas were WAY too hip. I mean, I couldnt tell you the last time I saw a band play live or an independent film....or any film for that matter. Standing near them made me really feel like I had lost the "me" I found in college. Then there were the Moms who let their kids wear cartoon-character tee shirts (was this not clearly addressed in the handbook?) and were not only NOT vegetarian, but let their kids eat the NON-organic variety of goldfish crackers. WTF were they doing here??? Didnt they know we were expected to fall-in-line and be good Steiner parents? So, while I struggled to fit the Waldorf mold, I still found myself alone and without a real tribe of women to call my own.

This continued in the years leading up to my discovering Facebook. And then: Viola. It was as if the floodgates were flung wide open and all the Moms-Like-Me came rushing toward, anxious and ready to befriend me and talk about all the wonderful Mommy things we had in common.

But then, something else happened. I lost a homebirthing "friend" (I actually assisted at her birth) because our political beliefs were so diametrically opposed to one another that we could not possible find any common ground other than the birth experience. Which was sad for me, as it had been a very long and labor-intensive process for all of us. But, it turns out that moment in time was really all we had in common. We were not even able to maintain a "facebook friendship".

And then I started noticing that fans of people I liked were somehow at odds with other fans of other people I liked. And I felt compelled to choose sides, even though I really was not aware of all the details. There was ugliness and nastiness on every side, and these were all people whom I had come to respect for their views and for the fact that they seemed to be "just like me".

I also started noticing that into every conversation people were having on Facebook about parenting, one or more people would insert the assertion that everyone talking about the subject was "judging" everyone who did not make the same parenting choice, and how dare we all band together to "make people feel guilty" for their choices.
It got to the point where anyone who presented any factual information about the benefits of say, breastfeeding or co-sleeping, or keeping sons intact, was now a "fanatic" out to browbeat anyone and everyone into repenting and reforming.
It was kind of.... madness.

And that's when people started talking about the Mommy Wars. You're either on one side or the other. On one side, you have the "Granola" moms. I think the young kids call 'em "Crunchy". They breastfeed, wear their babies, sleep with their babies, don't vaccinate and feed their children a steady diet that excludes anything unnatural and any television. On the other hand, you have the "Keepin it Real" moms. The moms who formula fed because they didnt want to breastfeed, put their babies in cribs right away, feed their kids cocoa puffs three meals a day and use the television as a babysitter on a regular basis. And they don't care what you think about it.

So, there were allegedly two camps. And allegiance to one meant betrayal of the other. Which, really, is insane.

I personally dont know anyone who fits into either of these two categories perfectly. And if I did, I dont think I would like that person very much.
More realistically, I believe that this "Mommy War" is just another unfortunate fabrication of the media. It gets you to tune in at eleven, it compels you to click on the link. "Oooooo look, women fighting!" It perpetuates the unfortunate stereotype that women are all BITCHES and you can't have too many of them in one place at a time or a CAT FIGHT is going to erupt.

And guess what. We keep delivering fuel for this perpetuation.

So, in the spirit of the Swiss and their impeccable chocolate-making abilities. I would like to go on the record as stating the following.

I am not involved in any Mommy War. It's not even so much that I'm a pacifist, really, I just can't figure out which side would take me.

Ive had a highly medical birth featuring Pitocin and an epidural and an unmedicated homebirth in which my midwife basically was there just-in-case. She helped my husband "catch" the baby.

I breastfed my son for about seven months and then switched to formula because I started nursing school. Im still nursing my almost three-year-old.

My son slept with me til he was about ten months and then became so combative in his sleep that I had to put him in a crib. I let him "cry it out" more than once. My daughter has two beds of her own, one in my room and one in hers, yet she still sleeps with me.

I kept my son intact, but my kids are vaccinated.

As a baby, toddler and pre-schooler, my son watched almost no television. I was a single mother who had no other parent with whom to hash out the rules. I had live-in grandparents who adhered to my no-television philosophy of upbriging as well as they could. My daughter probably watches too much television. She can tell you the name of every show that turns up on Nick Jr.. Im a single, working parent with a house to maintain and a washing machine that is in the basement. You do the math. But you know what, she can tell you all her shapes and colors and puts on a show like nobody's business.

I feed my kids organic cow's milk and sometimes I use it to make the macaroni and cheese FROM THE BOX.

I bribe my daughter with a lollipop (albeit an organic one) or a marshmallow for letting me comb her super-curly hair.

My son used to get to go to McDonald's once a year, right after he saw Santa Claus. My daughter knew by 18 months that she could get french fries at that restaurant with the big M.

I lie to my kids. I tell them that the candy machines are broken and that there is a Santa Claus and that "All the little girls are going to bed now. It's a rule". Yet, I approached my children from birth as individuals with their own personalities, temperements and needs. I respect them as small people, not as an extention of myself.

I homeschooled my son for two years. Before that, he went to the Waldorf (aka Leftist) School. I know that both of those experiences were good for him. They gave him some experiences that his peers in public school were not priviledged to have. Now, he goes to (gasp) public school. And he is thriving there, experiencing all sorts of positive things I never would have been able to expose him to myself.

Im a working Mom, but because of my career, Im able to be at home with my daughter several days and nights a week. I wouldn't have it any other way. But, even so,
I sometimes tell my daughter I have to put a load of laundry in the washer, then I go into the basement and stare out the window for five minutes, or read a piece of junkmail, or just think because I need a minute of not hearing "Mama!".

And even though that's the case sometimes, I still think my favorite sound in the world is "Mama!".

So, while Id be thoroughly impressed if you could tell me which "side" I belong on in the "Mommy Wars", Id prefer it if you kept your hypothesis to yourself. I prefer to not engage, but rather to embrace Mommyhood and Mommys and honor the fact that while it comes with its problems, social media for me has been a doorway into communion with Moms -- alike or not -- all over the world. And I think that's good for Mommys.


  1. Heather- Exactly, the Mommy Wars, are a sad manifestation of the media because most parents I know respect the differences in parenting philosophies and believe that we are all just doing our best. While I believe we all judge from time to time and have our soapbox issues, I would like to think we share the same inner heart, the one that loves our children fiercely. You are a great Mom and your kids are great!!

  2. Yeah!! Miss you Heather. I too am still breastfeeding John :) Hope to see you soon.Well said btw.

  3. I love the part about you lying to your kids...I'm actually writing a blog post about the whole Santa Claus thing. :)

  4. You hit the nail on the head! No one fits into either category 100%. I believe as well that we all do the best we can. I could relate to do much of what you were saying! Keep up the good work mama!

  5. Beautifully written!

  6. I don't know what side you'd be on, but I want to be on your side. Very well written.

  7. I love this article. Thank you. :)

    I am so tired of being pushed into something I don't want to be part of. Like you said: as soon as you share thoughts or even facts you're 'one of them'. No, I'm not. I'm me, this is what I believe in/do and I share it if I feel someone could benefit from it etc. It is a shame that although we're all in the same massive boat, we still can't be on the same page. *sigh*

    Will share this. :)


  8. Very well said! I have been growing quite weary of the mommy wars - it's really quite sad to think how much we could learn from one another if we could drop the judgments and assumptions and just respect each other as mothers. I'll leave you with a phrase I have stolen and just love, "Mamaste - the mother in me recognizes and honors the mother in you."

  9. This made me laugh - I love it! And right there with you... :)

  10. Thank you for posting! I too don't "fit" into either group. I do find it intresting that I do not parent like any of my friends and family, but that's okay because I'm doing what's best for my child.

  11. Thank you. This is exactly how I feel right now!!

  12. Love. Love. Love. Love this post. Thank you so much. It almost brought me to tears. So glad I'm not alone in not being a specific type of parent. I especially loved your line "Then there were the Moms who let their kids wear cartoon-character tee shirts (was this not clearly addressed in the handbook?) and were not only NOT vegetarian, but let their kids eat the NON-organic variety of goldfish crackers". I seriously LAUGHED OUT LOUD.

    I don't vaccinate, don't feed non organic food, breastfeed as long as possible, adore my midwives, and yet I don't co-sleep and can't survive without my BOB stroller. Thanks again.

  13. That was beautiful. Good on you for penning what most of us won't admit to for feat of judgment from the other camp of mothers. Makes me feel ok about making custard from the pack.

  14. So very well said! I feel very much the same. Why can't we all just be mom's together??? I think a lot of the differences descend into such aggression because we have the cloak of (semi) anonymity over the internet. I'm doubtful that most of this aggression would come out on the playground if we were all face to face (at least, I hope it wouldn't!)

    I think the only "rule" should be "Do what works FOR YOU!"


  15. So wonderful!!! Thank you! I think the best thing is being INFORMED. Some people may learn about organic food (for example) and decide that it's essential that they feed it to their kids; others may think their money is better spent in other places... just as long as there is information out there and people are making parenting choices, not just defaulting to the norm because of lack of information.

    And I agree, the media always wants to create a scandal. Ugliness and arguing are everywhere--on reality TV shows, in politics, on the news. Apparently it's entertaining. I find it depressing, and VERY reassuring to read a blog post like yours.

  16. that is very true. life is too short for soap boxes. we should all be more positive and encouraging.

  17. thank you so much for this article!! i couldn't agree more ...

  18. I really identify with your blog! I'm new to the blogging world but have no desire to get involved with these mommy wars. Having natural childbirth has changed me forever. That doesn't mean I'm going to feel guilty for having a career I love or continue to feel guilty because my son ended up on formula. We do the best we can a mother with love.

  19. **and mother with love*** (sleep deprived new parent :))