The mommy wars.
You hear about them all the time. Online battles about vaccines and breastfeeding. Pinterest jealousy. Snarky comments about organic foods in the grocery store.
If you read every social media post and news story out there, you'd be convinced that every mom is sitting in the trenches of World War III. Some on offense, some on defense, all heavily armed with convincing research and biting blog comments.
But does this war really exist?
Here's the thing... We believe the cultural rhetorics that are readily available to us. If someone keeps saying something, we'll start to think it's true. The mommy wars rhetoric is well-defined and grows more prominent with each passing year and every new online platform. We are supposed to believe that every mom strongly aligns with one viewpoint or the other on every child-rearing decision. Every mom thinks her way is supreme and is out to judge and belittle anyone with different beliefs and practices.
If you baby-wear at the grocery store, a nearby mom is labeling you as an "attachment" parent as she sneers. But if you sit down to feed that baby a bottle, another mom might call poison control since your baby is ingesting "toxic" formula. The battleground is dark and foggy, and you can only catch glimpses of the uniforms. Moms are trying to figure out if other women are allies or enemies, scanning for evidence in baby slings, nursing covers, and amber teething necklaces.
But when I go about day-to-day life, lugging a toddler and a baby with me to church, the grocery store, or the gym, I don't see signs of this war anywhere. I never feel chided or belittled by other moms, whether close friends or practical strangers. And I've been writing online for over five years now and have read not received a single comment judging my choices as a mother. Sure, I've been offered advice a time or two, but never by anyone who was trying to meddle more than help.
I'm not saying that all moms are nice to each other. I've seen volatile comments online when a few women are too passionate about their breastfeeding or vaccination views. Those moments aren't pretty. And I'm not trying to invalidate a painful experience you might have had with someone condemning your choices as a mom. I know that happens. But what I'm saying is... I don't think it's the norm.
I think most moms are really nice, encouraging, and probably a little tired, just like you. I think they want the best for you and hope your kids are thriving and would probably babysit for free or drop off a meal if you were ever in need. When my daughter throws a fit in the grocery store, I see fellow moms with little ones smile softly from across the aisle as I try to discipline my flailing toddler. I don't think they care if I believe in spanking or time out or using the word "no." They just know tantrums are tough, and they encourage me with sympathetic eyes. In the parking lot, a middle-aged mother sees me juggling two little bodies and ten grocery bags. She walks out of the way to return my obnoxiously large race car shopping cart to the store for me, probably feeling nostalgic for the days when her own children would accompany her to the store each week.
We can choose to believe that every mom is donning weaponry, out to annihilate every other mom who disagrees with her. Or we can choose to believe what I think it more accurate, that other moms aren't really out to get us. Sure, all moms have opinions and sometimes they might not get expressed gracefully. And, sadly, we remember negative comments far longer than positive ones. I can specifically remember the two times (ever) someone left a mildly critical comment on my blog, but the thousands of uplifting comments I've received over the years are a blur in my memory. I can recall the one time (ever) that another mom made a half-way judgmental comment to me while I bought a coffee at Target, but I can barely recount the hundreds of kind, encouraging words fellow moms lavish upon me constantly.
It shouldn't be this way. We should speak words of gentleness, encouragement, and hope to other moms, and we should certainly celebrate and remember when those words are spoken to us. Because if you really think about, those uplifting conversations and small acts of love are happening between moms all the time. We just don't talk about them enough.
We need to change the rhetoric about motherhood. Let's stop glorifying this so-called "war." Most moms aren't out to fight a battle. They are trying to love their kids well, and they want to help you love yours too. We should spend more time celebrating the moms who are united by kind words, sympathetic looks, nods of encouragement, and laughter in the midst of chaos. That's a conversation about motherhood worth having.