What Is Gained From The Mommy Wars

I’m kind of over it with the term Mommy Wars. And the idea of it. And the way it dismisses all discussions that include conflicting opinions into the same category as your cousin’s sister’s friend calling you a bitch on Facebook. Not. The. Same. Thing.

It’s probably true that many people in our culture, in the world, are taught overtly and covertly to avoid conflict. Maybe in the Midwest it’s an even stronger message to never, if you can avoid it, offend someone. At least not to their face. But it’s particularly true for women. That we are taught to be peacemakers not muck rakers. And even those of us raised by strong women who can’t help but rake some muck have this tiny voice inside our mind saying ‘be a nice girl! be a good girl!’

When you add parenting or motherhood into that cultural cauldron all bets are off. Nice girls get mad and good girls get upset. Because we all have a lot of feelings about our children, more feelings than we have ever felt or knew existed. And it’s hard not to get emotional about that. Because the whole thing is emotional. And it’s hard not to come across as angry or defensive when you are emotional. Even if you feelings are valid, even if you are more enthusiastic than angry. And then of course some people, mothers or otherwise, are assholes. All these things together mean: Mommy Wars. Apparently.

I’m about the 220 millionth woman to suspect that this entire term and cultural phenomenon is little more than an extension of the ‘women are catty’ troupe. The idea that any disagreement between women is a trivial, nasty, mean-spirited fight between girls. Limp wrists slapping at faces and hair pulling followed by tears. Girl fight. Girl stuff. Girls are catty, right?

But the truth is that I have many female friends, many of whom I disagree with on many things, parenting and otherwise. And when we disagree it’s actually an interesting, mutually respective, discourse between women. And sure we sometimes roll our eyes at each other or interrupt or use profanity (ok that’s mostly me), but oh well. And even when it gets heated, which it does sometimes because LANE CANNOT CONTROL HER FEELINGS, it is ok. Because we’re adults. With brains. And we love each other. So we can survive it.

It’s hard though. Because parenting is a really loaded experience. We all have a lot invested in this, and it’s hard. So hard. And even the most secure adult human being has moments during parenting where they say WHAT AM I DOING AM I DOING IT WRONG OH MY GOD I RUINED IT! So if you get caught in a disagreement during that moment, it might not be the high minded discussion you want it to be and it might turn into a terse exchange that involves a middle finger. No one is perfect.

But in the meantime, despite the tough moments and awkward conversations, I want us to embrace the chance to realize that parenting in general and motherhood for women is a deep, complicated, intense conversation worthy of discussions that people of our intellect are capable of even in a sleep deprived state. We were interesting before, we argued about things before, we still can. We still should.

Repeat after me:

Disagreement is not disrespect. Conflict is a part of life. Parenting is not off limits.

When we do hear stories of women simply cutting other mothers apart, in what we all can probably admit is a measure of insecurity, I’m obviously all for a total cease-fire in the mommy wars. No one needs to feel summarily judged in a hurtful way in such a difficult endeavor as motherhood. I have no time, literally AIN’T GOT NO TIME, to be worrying what people think and explaining myself to anyone who isn’t trying to listen to and support me…not AGREE with me, that’s not required, but just support me, have compassion for me as I do for you. That kind of insecure, petty stuff, let’s just ignore it if we can. And the bad behavior will go away. At least this is what I try with my toddler so it must work, right? Because she’s a perfect…angel.

All this being said, I totally understand the tendency towards relativism when talking about and to other mothers. There are some parenting styles that really don’t sit right with me. They aren’t what I would do, but it isn’t my choice. If you have made it 10 minutes into parenthood I hope you have been humbled enough to know that you don’t know the answers, there is no ‘right’ way. If you haven’t accepted that yet, close your browser, walk to the next wall you see and bang your head. No one likes a know it all.

With that being true, I can see where it’s easier and faster and nicer to simply say ‘whatever floats your boat.’ To each their own. Whatever you think is best. And sometimes, that is truly the only response that’s applicable. But at other times that sort of feels like an intellectual cop out. Like a way to avoid having in-depth, sometimes difficult, sometimes painful, possibly awkward discussions about what it means to be a parent and what it is to parent the way we do. Some things aren’t worth discussing, but others certainly are.

We are moms, not nuns. We don’t have to play all nicey nice and keep our mouths shut. We were professionals and intellectuals and had political, social and philosophical feelings before we had kids and SURPRISE, we still are those things and have those feelings and they inform our opinions and our beliefs. Let’s use them. Let’s be ourselves. Let’s not accept the cultural implication that mommy brain has made us all mom-bots who engage in the occasional cat fight. Let’s accept conflict when appropriate, have discussions, question each other, let others question US. Accept joyfully that we don’t know everything and humbly share what we do know. Then let’s take a nap.

5 thoughts on “What Is Gained From The Mommy Wars

  1. Could not agree more but am as guilty as the next person.
    I have a parenting (doesn’t every issue come down to parenting once you are a parent?) issue that I seem to struggle to identify with both ends of the spectrum. I could definitely use a genuine discussion with all two (three? ten?) sides to understand myself and my (un)reasonable arguments better, but, short of a couple of close friends whom I could say anything I genuinely believe in and still stay friends, I tend to go for “we are all doing the best we can”.
    The stakes are so high in parenting, it is the one thing we cannot fail, which makes the discussions loaded with emotions and reasoning takes second place. Instinct vs intellect I guess.

    1. I am guilty too! Which is why I write about it, to get it out there and admit it! 🙂

      I totally agree, it is SO high stakes which explains why we are insecure at times and why that insecurity leads to defensiveness. But I think in the RIGHT situation, with the right companions, we can lay that shared insecurity over what a hard job this is out on the table and allow for some hurt feelings while knowing that exercising our minds and argumentative muscles is a worthwhile process!

      Let’s do this exercise together someday! Over wine! 🙂

  2. I’m no where near as smart as you, and I’m not a mother. However, I have an insecure mother who loses it when you disagree with her, and a sister who might take my advice but will later blame it on me. I avoid conflict when ever possible. At 56 my skin is thicker than it used to be, but I have to force myself to calm down when criticized in a demeaning way. Your post is food for thought, but I doubt I’ll ever feel confident enough to really have the kind of discussion you are talking about.

    1. I absolutely understand! Insecurity (in us and in others) drives so much of the daily conflict in our life. Not every moment is right for this kind of intellectual conflict, but I challenge us to be ok with it when the time is right!

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