There’s been a lot of focus on Mommy Wars and how best to end them. I can’t go online without being bombarded with ads and campaigns and uplifting blog posts about how we all make different choices and we can still be friends. Blah, blah, blah “we’re all in this together” yada yada “sisterhood”. While that’s all such a lovely idea, the latest campaign (a series of photos of happy moms holding signs highlighting their “choices”) still totally misses the mark here.
People, we have “Mommy Wars” because deep down we are all scared we’re doing it wrong. Or we feel we have to defend our choices. Or we feel guilty when some new study comes out praising the “other side” and feel we have to justify our differing choices by bitching in the comments section.
Seriously, the comments sections of any mommy blog topic can be ugly. Also, the sane and rational humans on either side of the argument get lost among the crazies. And then we are labelled as crazy too.
Yo, people! We are all “good” here. We all make choices and all those choices have consequences. Every single one. Are some of “their” choices not what “we” would pick? Absolutely, but that doesn’t make us right and them “wrong” or “bad parents”. There is no such thing as good and bad parents in that context.
Wanna know what a “bad parent” looks like? They don’t care about their kids AT ALL. They hurt their kids because they can, or neglect them, or abuse them or kick them out of the house because they don’t want to deal with them. Bad parents are the ones who should never have had kids in the first place. They are the ones that other parents look at and shake their heads and feel sorry for the kids and Good Parents are the ones who will look at that situation and offer to help. Good Parents are the ones who make decisions that work for their families and for them and for their kids. Good Parents are the ones who actually LOVE their kids and want to do right by them.
Good Parents are not “good” just because they breastfeed or use cloth diapers. They aren’t “good” for staying home or going to work. They aren’t “bad” either.
Here’s the thing, people. The good parents are the ones who care enough to make those decisions, whatever they may be. And calling one choice bad over another doesn’t make us good or right. It makes us assholes. Plain and simple.
The campaign circling the internet doesn’t show us this. The “new studies” and endless debates don’t prove us wrong or right. They don’t affirm that we are good parents or bad parents. Hell, these studies and articles can say one choice is awesome one day and then the next day another study could come out that affirms the other side.
It’s stupid. It’s the adult equivalent of the playground hierarchy I witnessed while volunteering at a daycare. “Suzie is my best friend today! Jenny is not,” only to switch to Jenny being the best friend and Suzie on the outs the next day. “Hey parents of X group, you’re totally okay…oh wait, no, you’re not anymore.”
Cut that shit out.
Hey parents, we’re all okay! Our kids are alive and happy and we’re not making any decisions to deliberately sabotage their chances so stop with the guilt already! Let’s stop getting offended whenever a study comes out stating a different side has a better outcome. Instead of being all “no, I do X and my kid is FINE” why not learn from it? Why not think “okay, I made a different choice but how can what I’ve just learned still be applied? What can I do reduce the risk or enhance the choice I made? Because really, all that study is saying is that one side has a more positive outcome in SOME things. It doesn’t mean you made the wrong choice, but learn from it. Look at what the risks are, or the benefits of the other side, and weigh them against what your individual circumstances are.
You are not a “good” mother if you breastfeed. You are not a “bad” mother if you give your baby a bottle instead. You ARE a bad mother if you don’t feed your kid AT ALL.
Breastfed babies do have a better outcome just because it’s nature’s perfect food for humans. It’s just a fact, people. I’m not saying you’re wrong for using formula, but if you do you should be aware of that fact. You should ADAPT to the situation. I’m not you. I don’t know what your circumstances are or why you’re using that formula. Maybe you had a low milk supply and struggled to breastfeed before tearfully giving in. Maybe you have a busy schedule and pumping doesn’t work for you. Maybe you just didn’t want to be tied to your baby 24/7 for the first six months. Or your baby was a lazy nurser or got too distracted or prefers the bottle. Doesn’t matter, but if that’s your choice OWN IT. If you breastfeed and read about how babies on breastmilk aren’t getting the added nutrients from formula (specifically vitamin D) OWN IT. Read the studies or the article or listen to the other side and really get what they are saying. Be critical thinkers instead of just critical.
Instead of just looking at these signs and thinking one woman is on one side and one is on the other, why not look at WHY the choices were made. Why not look at the circumstances and say “okay, this person weighed her options and chose this. She has her reasons and I have mine”?
“I had a natural home birth” vs “I scheduled my c-section”
We already know I would be on the home birth side. That is my choice and I totally own it. I own all the positives and negatives associated with my choice, and that’s on me. I totally own that a home birth means no pain medication. I’m cool with that. I’m cool with having a long labor (36 hours with my first was really no biggie). I own that my choice means I need to plan ahead to deal with the mess and I’m cool with not having a doctor around. I also own that, for me, a home birth is preferable because I simply don’t like being in the hospital. I am needle-phobic and I don’t trust nurses or doctors to let me labor the way I want. But that’s on me, not you. So those moms saying that a c-section was “easier” for them and “no biggie” do not offend me. For them maybe it wasn’t preferable to spontaneously go into labor because they didn’t have a support system in place to take care of their other kids on a moment’s notice. Maybe they had medical reasons. Maybe they aren’t freaked out by needles. So what? OWN IT!
A study comes out saying c-sections pose risks or long-term complications. Instead of covering your ears and going “lalalala can’t hear you!” read the study. Think about it. Say “okay, I know this is the risk of my choice. This could happen. Now what further steps can I take to reduce that risk?” Maybe skin to skin immediately after birth or breastfeed or use donor milk or whatever you feel might help that you can do so you can feel better about your choice? I mean, for home birth there are risks too, and I own them. I know that there won’t be any medication for the pain (our MSP doesn’t cover the gas for home births) but I’ve got a doula waiting in the wings for my next birth in a few years. She’ll help me manage the pain as will my husband’s support. If it’s a long labor then I’ll deal with it. That’s on me. I didn’t come to this decision on some whim or to be “edgy”. I came to it because after doing extensive research on labor and birth I discovered that the intensity of labor is only so bad as what is perceived, and that stress and fear make it worse. I wanted to be stress free. Hospitals and doctors stress me out. Needles stress me out. Therefore the place where I would feel safest and most comfortable is at home with as few people as possible.
That’s my choice. I OWN IT.
I own the fact that my son still sleeps in our bed. I own the fact that if my husband and I want some alone time we have to plan for it more than if he slept in his own room. But it’s a choice we make every night because it’s the best way to keep our boy asleep for long stretches. We sleep through the night. We actually get to sleep IN on weekends. So when we weighed the option of putting him in his own room and having to get out of bed whenever he woke up crying in the night or early morning vs having him with us and being able to just pop him on the breast or stroke his hair at the slightest fuss, while remaining in our warm bed still half asleep, we picked option B. And if a study comes out saying parents who bed-share with their kids have less intimacy then I’ll look at it and say “okay, so what can we do to increase intimacy and still keep our family bed?”. And then I’ll sneak out of the bedroom while our boy is passed out in the middle of our bed, turn on the baby monitor, and go pounce on my husband on the living room sofa. Problem solved.
As for the choices that we feel are “wrong”, well, then we can own that about ourselves too. You feel that vaccines should be mandatory. Own that. But accept that the other person doesn’t feel the same way you do. Take the precautions to keep your own kid safe. Yes, I agree that the non-vaxxers should quarantine when they feel sick or their kids are unwell, but they aren’t going to all do that. There will always be people in this world who do not care about how they are harming others. So instead of getting pissed about it, do something. Maybe limit your own time in places where you know there’s an outbreak. Wash your hands. Sanitize everything. If you’re friends with a non-vaxxer maybe just explain that they can’t have a playdate with your kid until your kid has been vaccinated. It’s all good. And non-vaxxers, OWN IT. Own that your choice may mean less playdates and overcautious parents. Own that your choice is controversial and adapt to it. You chose not to vaccinate, so respect the other parent’s decision to protect THEIR child.
Let’s stop finding ways to justify our own choices when another parent struggles with their own choice. Let’s support each other when things get difficult instead of saying “well if you’d picked X instead of Y then you wouldn’t be in this mess” and instead say “hey, that sucks. I know you are doing Y and I’m doing X, but if Y is still the better choice for your unique set of circumstances then maybe we can find some ways to make Y easier on you.” Or just listen. Sympathize. Don’t make it about how awesome YOU are.
In other words, people, let’s stop calling it Mommy Wars and just agree not to be assholes. M’kay?