For months – no, for about a year and a half now I have been disheartened and frustrated about “Mommy Wars.” They completely caught me off guard. For me, it started when Tim and I were in our natural childbirth class. I was somewhat skeptical that the “Bradley Method” was the best way mostly because of its negative opinion of modern medicine. My dad is a doctor so I have grown up around modern medicine, whereas the people with Bradley seemed afraid of it. But eventually I decided I wanted to give birth naturally and almost immediately I felt the aftershocks of that decision. People told me I was crazy and if they didn’t say it I got the look that told me they were thinking it. Others said I couldn’t do it. I just stopped telling people my plans because I didn’t want to be on the defense in another battle. And then I ended up having an emergency c-section anyways. Oh well.
But the Mommy Wars didn’t end at childbirth. Oh no. I quickly discovered that there’s attachment parenting vs. “ferberizing.” Cloth diapers vs. disposable. Breast or bottle. Spanking vs. not. Homeschooling vs. private school vs. public school. And everyone has an opinion on everything! (including me of course)
I think my experience with deciding to have a natural childbirth has made me afraid to stand up for my ideals. The truth is I often feel like I’m in the minority and I’m afraid other moms won’t think I’m a good mom because my decisions are different than theirs.
It is really disheartening to me when other moms tell me my approach is wrong.
Ever since Jack was born and I have struggled to find my way as a mom, I have desired to be a woman other moms can come to to talk. I have been very careful to not express my opinions as fact or as the only way because I know that every mom is different and every child is different. I firmly believe we need to act in ways that support both the parent and the child; therefore, my parenting style is different from my cousin’s or my neighbor’s or my friend’s.
I know it is hard to withhold our opinions from one another as I am a very opinionated person. I had to make a decision to keep my opinions to myself for the sake of another new mom. I wanted to give her the freedom to do it her way while offering encouragement and advice when she asked for it. I’m not trying to talk myself up, rather I am humbly asking other moms to try to act the same way towards me.
What do I believe that is so different you might ask? Ok, I’m going to be vulnerable and tell you.
- I am not going to spank my kids.
- I use cloth diapers.
- I wanted to breastfeed Jack for 18 months (he was ready to stop at 11).
- I let Jack cry himself to sleep at 5 months.
- I do not buy organic foods because our budget does not allow it and it’s not my priority.
- Even though we let Jack cry himself to sleep at 5 months I now often go and comfort him in the middle of the night.
- I (at this point in time) plan on sending Jack to public school.
- Jack still drinks his milk from a bottle that I warm up in the microwave.
- We turned his car seat around as soon as we could.
- I turn on Sesame Street so I can get things done.
- I let Jack eat cookies.
- I plan on always working – well, part-time at least.
I feel like I could go on and on, but I think you get the point, right?
A woman named Caryn Dahlstrand Rivadeneira (I don’t know how to pronounce it either ;)) wrote the book Mama’s Got a Fake ID which was published last year. I quickly grabbed a copy for myself in the midst of struggling to find my own ID as a mama. She writes this about the Mommy Wars:
“Members of my Big Mom Group have said they struggle the most with personal identity problems when they’re with other moms, second only to being in church. Maybe because we’re all struggling, it makes it tough to accept one another when we get together… The quest for belonging and acceptance transcends so much else – the fringe issues just aren’t that important. If we can extend this grace of getting to know other women, of drawing them out, instead of disparaging them because they have no problem buying war toys for their boys, we moms can do such a huge amount of good… We can change a generation of moms and tilt the culture in favor of moms by being a blessing when we talk with other moms.” (179-180)
I love Caryn’s vision of forming a society of moms who allow themselves to branch outside of the stereotypical “Mama” lifestyle (read the book to understand more – or maybe I’ll tell you a little about it soon). Part of this is allowing moms to be different from one another. Maybe you don’t agree with some (or all of) my decisions in raising Jack, but I’m asking you, will you please still support me? We need each other. I know it.
Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.