Saturday, September 14, 2013

Ending the Mommy Wars

We love war. We use the term "war" far too frequently to give more weight and depth to issues that while important, don't deserve the distinction. After all, who doesn't love to soldier up in righteous indignation when there is nothing going on on a Tuesday night?

Enter the mommy wars. If you have never heard of the epidemic that is ravaging the hearts and minds of young mothers everywhere, (read dramatic) then there is simply no hope for you. How on earth do you expect to be a good mother if you have not taken a side in these all important conflicts? Because there is ONE way to raise your child, and if you don't do it THAT way, then there is NO way you are ever gonna be the perfect mom. 

On Facebook, blogs, Pinterest, editorials, and in person, moms, and soon to be moms, all over are becoming casualties of Opinion. Rather than trusting in your own mother instincts, intuition, research, or prayers, it has become far too tempting to constantly see how your parenting compares to that of those around you. After all, why read books written by MDs, use your brain, or pray when you can simply Google "my child won't poop in the toilet and I have no idea how to make him and if he doesn't do it soon I'm going to trade him in for a potty trained child"? Why do we trust an online collective group of strangers, or that hovering mom at Costco more than we trust ourselves? It doesn't end there either. In order for it to be considered a war, there must be casualties of some sort. A winning side and a losing side. There has to be a breast-feeding vs. bottle-feeding, a cry-it-out vs. a family bed, a Gain vs. Downy. 

I used to think that I was above such nonsense. I went into motherhood with what I thought was considerable experience. What with having a degree in human development and growing up LDS (read babies everywhere) I figured I had it all figured out. I had an entire list of things I would always do and things I would never do. Then I had my first baby and it all got blown to hell. Most of my hell centered on how I was going to feed my child. I am saving my experience with breastfeeding for a future post, but long story short, it didn't go well. So I now found myself put on the bottle-feeding side of the line. Breast-feeding moms were the enemy, they couldn't understand me, couldn't tolerate me. Every time I mixed up that bottle, I felt the judgement, the lectures- I was doing it wrong. I would scour the web, searching for women with experiences similar to mine, searching for validation. I wasted so much time that could have been spent enjoying my little bundle. Time spent fighting instead of loving. 

Enter baby #2. Again, breast-feeding did not work. Again, I waged a mental war on those stupid moms whose stupid boobs could put that stupid milk into their babies. It all came to a head when an extended family member made an innocent comment that absolutely rocked me to my core. We were sitting around the table after a dinner and my little girl was sucking away on her binky. One family member commented on how lucky I was that my babies took a binky, hers never did. Another family member (a male family member I might add) jumped into the conversation and said" Oh, ours never took a binky because they had the real thing." In that moment every bit of confidence I had in myself as a mother went right out the window. All the emotions surrounding the choices I had made, even came to peace with, came rushing back with such intensity I had to leave the room. Once I had cried my eyes out, I felt my heart begin to harden against this family member. What did he mean by "real thing"? Just because the milk came out of a bottle and not a boob it wasn't real? And by extension was I not a real mother in his eyes? I continue to stew over the conversation weeks later until I realized that I was letting his comment dictate how I felt about myself as a mother. I was losing a war that he didn't even necessarily know we were fighting. I decided then and there that I was not going to be offended anymore by anything anyone ever said, wrote, or blogged about the choices I make as a mother.

Thats the key to it right there. If all mothers decided they were not going to engage in the mommy wars, we wouldn't have mommy wars. If the mother who gets the stink eye while nursing in public shrugs her shoulders and looks at her sucking bundle of joy instead, there is nothing to fight about. If the mothers who don't vaccinate decide not to judge the mothers who do, and visa versa, everybody wins. If the mother who endures some extremely judgmental remark at the grocery store lets it roll off her shoulders instead of repeating it verbatim on Facebook, there are no casualties. 

I am a bottle-feeding mom who is decidedly pro breastfeeding. I know the benefits; I know the difficulties. It did not work for me, may never work for me, but I can be confident that I made the right choice for my child while simultaneously being glad for the mothers who can nurse their kids into the toddler years. When we celebrate all the different mothering styles and keep our noses in our own parenting business, we have so much more energy to be positive influences on our children on on each other.