I felt like before I became I mom I needed to prepare for battle. I’d heard many tales of woe. “Beware the Mommy Wars” they said.
I came into all this quite defensive, naturally. Wasn’t that what I was supposed to do? Pick a side and be prepared to defend it?
8 years in, and let me bestow some of my wisdom on you- you don’t have to fight anyone. There’s no real war. It’s more like a battlefield reenactment that some people choose to dress up for, but there’s nothing at stake for you, nothing for you to lose if you don’t join them.
The Mommy Wars are largely created and perpetuated by media outlets* that certainly have something at stake- page views, engagement, clicks, conversation, ratings. That doesn’t mean they aren’t based on some reality. That doesn’t mean there aren’t parents who suit up and write scathing open letters to each other. It just means you can opt out.
*This includes bloggers, and while I’d like to think I haven’t taken part in perpetuating this, I’m not certain I haven’t. Like I said, I came into this pretty defensive, but I’m always working to allow myself to change.
Realize you never have to pledge allegiance to a side.
Just because you bottle feed or breastfeed or wear your baby or push your baby in a stroller, whatever. None of that puts you in anyone’s camp. It doesn’t assign you to any certain movement. You can do things that both (all?) “sides” do. You don’t have to wear your baby if you breastfeed. You can have a c-section and still join that super crunchy moms group that looks cool and meets up to make organic baby food on the weekend. Don’t let anyone box you in.
Understand that parenting is deeply personal and emotional for all of us, and none of us will have the same experience with it.
Really think about that and keep that in mind next time someone treats you with what you perceive as judgement. Where is that coming from? Instead of responding back with judgement or criticism either a. walk away or b. acknowledge what’s at the heart of their concern and reply with logic and facts. Then walk away.
And while realizing all this is deeply personal, try not to take things too personally. 90% of the time, someone’s criticism or judgement of your choices will have nothing to do with you. This is basically the “take the high road” approach, and I know it’s very hard to do sometimes.
Online is an awesome place to make mom friends! Spend less time fighting and more time commiserating. Morgan and Jenny are part of my online tribe, invaluable to me, and I’m sure we don’t parent the same way. Who cares? Not us.
Know the difference between judgement and constructive comments, both on the giving and receiving end.
Issues like extended rear facing laws for carseats get a lot of talk time online and in parenting groups. It’s good to talk about these things. We all have our kids’ best interest at heart. A suggestion to not turn your 1 year old around in their carseat just yet doesn’t have to be the first shot in a Mommy War. It’s all about the tone, and about how willing we are to take off our armor. If you come prepared for battle, of course you’re going to feel like people want to fight you. If you approach someone with judgement, they’re going to be defensive.
Be confident in your parenting, and also willing to change.
Nobody is 100% confident in how they parent 100% of the time, at least not any parent that I know. That doesn’t mean you can’t have confidence in the choices you’re making, to the point that you aren’t going to let people who aren’t important to you and your family have a say in changing that. THAT SAID, realize that there’s always room for growth and change. If new studies, advice from those who matter, and experience lead you to change your mind or parenting approach, there’s no shame in that. THIS is the beauty in not pledging allegiance to a side.
Refuse to engage.
After a while, you’ll see a “Mommy War” battlefield reenactment from a mile away. The comments will be pinging at high speed, the shares will be flying, people will be suiting up and preparing to defend. Just… move on. Don’t feel the need to tell them this is pointless, or to try to make peace. Ignore, hide if you must. Walk away from the conversation. Let them fire their fake cannons. Whatever. There’s nothing at stake there for you.
Again, it’s not that the Mommy Wars (or Parent Wars, I guess) don’t exist. They do, and that sucks. Parents can say really shitty things to each other, both online and off (but WHOA online is a shit show sometimes). Once you realize you don’t have to participate, though, and you opt out, it feels real good. Nobody is going to die if you don’t defend them. The “sides” are made up. Those swords aren’t even real. Go get you some more snacks and find an uplifting cat video to watch or something.