What if there were no television, no Internet, and no parenting books?
What would we do differently?
Would we treat each other with more compassion? Would we feel better about ourselves? Would we have less anger?
How would we raise our children, if we weren’t constantly being told that we were doing it wrong?
It was questions like these that led me to my belief that not only are the “mommy wars” stupid, they’re not natural. And they don’t exist.
Think about it. Does anyone really care whether the mother next door works outside of the home, breastfeeds, or owns a television? We really aren’t at war with other mothers at all.
We’re at war with ourselves.
We’re faced with so many options, that we constantly wonder whether the one we’ve chosen is “right,” whether it is best for our child. We know that raising our children is the most important work that we can do, and we don’t want to mess it up.
Add that to the fact that nearly every family is an island, away from the support of a community, and, as mothers, we’re alone, unsure, and looking for some sort of validation. We don’t have Grandma living in the house (or next door), to tell us that we’re doing a good job, that our children are going to be all right. We don’t have the mother next door, to compare notes with.
So we turn to books, and to the media. We look for others who have made the same choices as us, so that we can see that it is okay.
The problem is, the media aren’t run by Grandma or the mother next door. They’re run by corporations, willing to cash in on anything they can find. And they know that many of their customers are mothers who are feeling insecure. So they provide the advice. They tell us exactly what we must do, so that we don’t ruin our children forever. Often the advice contradicts itself, so we are no more capable of making choices than we were before. In fact, we become more confused.
Thus, the invention of “mommy guilt.”
And, with this mommy guilt, the corporations realize that they will attract more readers, more attention, if they pit mothers against each other. Any article that focuses on the “mommy wars” is guaranteed to activate strong emotions, from both “sides.” Mommy guilt and the mommy wars sell. They are big money makers.
So what’s a mommy to do?
First, we need to see all this nonsense for what it is. There are no mommy wars. There is no reason for mommy guilt. The problem is the lack of support and community. We don’t need permission from multi-millionaires. We need other mommies.
We need to understand that sensationalist claims make money. We’re really not ruining our child’s life by allowing television, not practicing flashcards enough, working outside the home, or eating fast food. Yes, there are many things that are beneficial for us to do, and will help our child, but we need to understand that children are resilient. There is some room for error.
Next, we need to seek out supports in any way we can. For me, the Internet has been a very useful tool, for connecting with others. Parenting groups, when they are positive rather than competitive and accusatory, can be a great source of support. I’ve met up with old friends on Facebook, and we’ve found that we share many of the same laughs and struggles. Playgroups, classes, and the like can also be helpful, if they have a positive atmosphere.
Finally, we need to realize that, when other mothers criticize us, they are only doubting their own choices. They don’t have a village to support them either, and they’re bombarded with the message that if you don’t do X, Y, or Z for your child, they will amount to nothing. We need more compassion, and it starts with each of us.