By now, we’ve all heard the phrase “Mommy Wars”. But what comes to mind when you hear it? Do you picture a clique of judgmental women scoffing at another mom on the playground? Maybe you envision a solo mama rolling her eyes at another who can’t control her 2 year old’s tantrum. More likely, you think of a grown up Mean Girl, spewing hateful opinions and unwarranted lectures about how your parenting style is: a) wrong; b) harmful to your child and/or the environment; c) not really doing your child and/or the environment any good; or d) some or all of the above.
Yes, we like to think of the ongoing maternal battle as an abstract idea. It’s easier to imagine the villains are those bullies who harp on others for no good reason. Unfortunately, it’s more likely that we are all fighting in the same war – some of us simply carry different, albeit smaller, weapons.
Maybe you haven’t launched a personal attack (in person or online) on a mother whose choices contradict your own. But if you’ve judged her for them, you’re doing your part to perpetuate the ongoing struggle. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not innocent in any of this. While I don’t belittle others or tell them why I disagree with their techniques, I’ve definitely found myself judging (even if only to myself) the way others raise their kids. I’ve seen the pictures of moms nursing 6 year olds and thought to myself, “Really? At that age?” But then I have to stop and remind myself – I don’t know them. I don’t know what works for that family. And even if I did know them, not only is it none of my business what they choose to do, but my opinion doesn’t matter.
That’s the really hard part to accept in all of this, isn’t it? The idea that our opinions don’t matter. Because, essentially, they don’t. It doesn’t matter to me what Sally What’s-Her-Face thinks about how I put my kids to bed. So why in the world would she care what I think about how she feeds her child?
Many of us already know this. We grew up hearing, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all”. We regurgitate that brilliant advice to our kids. But what are we really teaching them when we make snap judgments and backhanded comments about others? I’ve only been at this mom thing for 2 years, but even I know that kids absorb more quickly and more fully what we show them through our actions. We can talk about being nice until our faces turn blue, but the second they hear us say, “I can’t believe she just…” or “What kind of a mother does that…”, a connection is made between mom and a perceived level of acceptable negativity. I know I’m supposed to be nice, but that must not count because Mom does it.
Granted; I’m no expert. I’m not a psychologist or a sociologist by any stretch of the imagination. But I know that every mom, regardless of parenting style or personal choices, wants to set the best example for her children. We all want the same thing: to raise kind, responsible adults who treat others with respect. That has to begin with us and the way we treat others. That means every time, every interaction, every person. It’s not easy. I know that. Sometimes we slip up and make mistakes. We say things we shouldn’t and regret them later. That will happen. But it’s our job as parents to do our best to always lead by example. Because, really, in twenty years, we want to say we raised good, kind people; not mean-spirited soldiers in the still-raging mommy wars.