Stop wasting your time arguing with other mothers

April 26 2011 | offbeatbride
This is funny on so many levels.
OMG, I cannot believe that bitch said that! Photo Rebekah Pavlovic, used by Creative Commons license

Emma Donoghue, author of the book Room (which I found uplifiting, despite its darkness), has written a wonderful piece for the Guardian about how mothers need to back off from bitching at each other about EVERYTHING:

I've been thinking a lot recently about what makes so many mothers invest not only hard-won reading/thinking/blogging time, but also so much emotional energy and their sense of identity, in the Mummy Wars. By which I mean not just the big question of stay at home, go to work, a bit of both or something in between, but all the other decisions too: from Caesareans to feeding to time-outs to toilet training, to when to start charging them rent.

When it comes to motherhood, our culture has a strange tendency to slide from the descriptive, to the prescriptive, to the proscriptive. From "Ah, look at that baby happily nursing", to "breast is best", to "if you put that bottle in your baby's mouth you'll damage his IQ".

Surely we can do things differently without forming hostile tribes?

She makes such a great point: as parents, we have so little time to ourselves. Why should we spend that time arguing with each other over our kids? I vote for spending those fleeting "me time" moments focused on non-kid interests, like trying out for that Rollerderby team, working on that nerd quilt, or writing that memoir.

The whole article is definitely a must-read.

  1. "Argh. I didn't realize I'd written What to Expect When You're Expecting Your Kidnapper's Baby." Emma Donoghue, I love you.

  2. It's one of the reasons I enjoy Offbeat Mama so much: people don't always see eye-to-eye on everything but the majority of the time it's respectful, learning from one another, not being separated by the differences – rather being united in trying to do the best we can

  3. I'm quite a social media novice, and some months back I started looking into some of the 'mommy bloggers' in my area. I backed off because one of the big ones, with lots of followers, posted what I thought was a really nasty editorial that said, in a nutshell, that "don't judge me" is code for, "I know I didn't do the right thing for my kids and I don't appreciate you calling me on it," Then she went off on the same tired old tirade against women who don't breastfeed or practice attachment parenting, blah, blah, blah. And all these other women were backing her up! It really upset me, and since then I've avoided those folks, local moms though they may be. I just don't have the time or the emotional capital to deal with that, you know? And I do quilt, thank you very much.

    • This. I have problems connecting with local moms in my area because I've been burned by some real crazy types, one of which was my lactation consultant! Now I just sort of smile and nod. I don't suppose my son needs me to be friends with a mom in order to play quite gleefully with her children.

    • Parenting has totally changed how I deal with social media. I've been using social media forever, like since chat rooms, or Friendster, if anyone remembers that. But I think as Facebook got bigger and the information more detailed and the interactions more intense, and as our social networks grew from like, 100 people to 1,000 people, after all that I started to disengage. I became a parent, and I'm not interested in sharing my life with my kid with random people who I should have fallen out of touch with in the natural order of pre-Internet life. So I engage with things like Twitter and Instagram where I can interact just on a lower level, and mostly about my interests. Like sewing! I love sewing. Anyway, with the whole Facebook thing, I feel like I end up sharing a lot more detail and absorbing more information than I would like. So I don't mix Facebook and parenting.

  4. I like this piece a lot.

    But I also find myself wondering, where are these Mummy Wars anyway? I know they are there on the internet — this is one reason I prefer OBM to most parenting websites — but in real life, in my 20 months of parenthood, I have had surprisingly little encounter with the Mommy Wars. And I have friends from all across the spectrum, too — work outside home, don't work outside home, breastmilk, bottle, sleep training, co-sleeping, etc.

    I've just never really felt much of the Mommy Wars. Maybe in some interactions there has been like 5% of that, usually rooted in one person (sometimes me!) feeling a bit insecure about a decision. But for the most part, in the real world, vs. the internet world, I haven't seen much of this.

    Maybe I am just lucky, but I do wonder if people are just a lot nicer in person than online.

    • I find in real life, the mommy wars are still there just a bit more thinly veiled. My group of Mom's that I hang out with, we all do things very differently and for the most part that is okay. But the bottle feeders feel VERY defensive about the fact that they bottle feed and ask questions constantly about how long I'll breastfeed my son for and don't i feel like I don't have any freedom… I NEVER bring it up, but if we are out and I need to feed Oz, I would bet money every time it will come up. People feel defensive even when judgement isn't there.

      • That doesn't surprise me, the defensiveness I mean. The breastfeeding nazi brigade is so hardcore, so smug, and so EVERYWHERE. Then when someone is nice about it, we're sitting in the corner waiting to be attacked again and get defensive.

        I think having a non-fraught conversation about feeding in general can break the ice and get past that stuff. "How often do you nurse her? Can you tell how much she's getting?" I might ask a breastfeeding woman. It feels nice if she asks me questions, too, even though I'm stuck being a bottle mom. "Is it true that formula helps them sleep through the night?" she might ask. Or "how did you decide what kind of bottles to use?"

        Often, breastfeeding women talk with each other about techniques and tips, and inadvertently leave the bottle mamas out of the conversation.

  5. To me, the issue is about awareness, not just judging. When I meet other mothers, I try very hard to not look through the narrow scope of "the way I do things." I can recognize that other people parent very differently than I do and still end up with wonderful children and happy lives.

    That said, I'm not a total relativist either. I think that it's important to vaccinate your children, and if that sounds "judgey," I'm okay with that. I also think that it is poor parenting to reject a child because of their sexual identity. I don't believe that spanking is the right way to teach children to behave. To me, there are some absolutes, and if you fundamentally disagree, we're probably not going to be friends.

    Rejecting the "mommy wars" doesn't mean that _everything_ has to be okay with me. It means that I need to be aware that there are lots of ways to skin a cat (or parent a child). And it means that, even if we disagree, there doesn't have to be a "war" about it. We can just go our separate ways in peace.

    • Agreed! There are just somethings that you have to stick firm to.

      As for the 'skin a cat' thing… umm… that made me lol!

  6. That's really interesting!
    I think all the "society is broken" fears about how we raise our children, and the general judgey-ness of women whether they are mothers or nots, has left us in a bad way. How are we supposed to be a "village" when we are so busy splitting hairs about how we differ from those others?

  7. I don't even have a child yet and I totally get this! I decided about a year ago to have a water birth when the time comes and hungrily will read anything pertaining to any type of birthing plan but the second anyone hears I'm planning water birth they act as if I'm crazy. Being as knowledge hungry as I am it blows my mind some people just don't care to learn other ways of doing things.

    • Funny, I must live in a very different community. Here, water birth is the more expected thing to do, and some people look down their nose when you say you're planning a hospital birth.

      Knowledge is great, and so is mentally/emotionally preparing yourself for loving your birth story even if it goes nothing like you're planning. So many women end up guilty or angry about their birth — they took the epidural! They had to go to the hospital! God forbid, a C section! It's nice to arm yourself with knowledge about all the possibilities, and if you end up with a big ol Cesarean, 36 hours of labor, crazy hospital situation like I did, you don't have to feel bad about it at all.

  8. My husband and I call this "Vegan Syndrome" not to hate on vegans but it got its name from us coming in contact with an increasing number of vegans who were really tetchy not just about their food choice but about the food choices of others at the table.
    I explain it this way: When you do something hard and sometimes unpleasant because of a belief system you have (like rinsing poop out of cloth diapers, or not getting to eat the delicious bacon crusted whatever or not being able to drink or dance) it helps you do it if the story you tell yourself is not only that you're doing the right thing but that OTHER people are doing THE WRONG THING.

    Because otherwise you have to own the fact that you signed up for whatever it is and could just as easily not do what Jesus would do, or buy baby food from a store. And that's a much more complicated inner battle to fight.

    I think parents do this a lot because there's a lot at stake and a lot of the things you do to help your kids are hard and time consuming and looking at other moms relaxing and not worrying how much caffeine they are drinking or struggling to breast feed or whatever makes you doubt yourself. So instead you turn that insecurity on others.

  9. Mommy wars is basically "Mean Girls," after high school. The bigger problem, and true shame is the urge women have to cut each-other down weather it be parenting, fashion, lifestyle, ect…. If you have the time to dissect someones parenting, then you are probably lacking in your own. Between pulling the "stay at home mom", gig during the day, and running off to work once my partner gets home, I don't have the time or energy to care what other women are doing as if it was my business.

    • While I see the point you are trying to make, I don't agree. I think it is healthy to acknowledge what other mothers/parents are doing and how they are raising their children. It allows us to learn by proxy. I just think there is a more respectful way to learn. Rather than say "you are doing that all wrong," you can think "that is not for me, and this is why." Assessing our own actions and those of others allows us not only to learn from what we see but to also make a more confident and positive stance on the things we do ourselves that we find positive. You may be busy with your own life, but you most definitely notice others and evaluate their choices against your own. This is a process that allows people to grow and change. For example, if you never heard of vegan choices, you would be much less likely to make those choices for yourself.

      • I agree with you 100% that comparing and contrasting yours and others beliefs and actions is how people learn, and propels the human race forward. To clarify in saying, "I don't have the time or energy to care what other women are doing as if it was my business." comes more from a stance of “Live and Let Live”. I am too BUSY trying to be a good momma, partner, daughter, individual, ect… to but my nose in someone’s business (making the assumption that my way is the right way). Keeping your opinions to yourself is not a bad thing, especially if no one asked for it. I love Offbeat Mama, for the opportunity to learn and see what is out there. I love that I can seek out different ideas without having them shoved down my throat. For example, if you were a Butcher you would probably care less about living the Vegan way. Having the info out there might change the Butchers mined, whereas Vegans protesting outside his shop would not.

  10. The "Mommy Wars" drive me nuts. I avoid websites where they abound, and I know of one mom's group in my area that is similarly judgemental. Being a parent is hard enough; we need mutual support, not harping.

  11. Recently I had reason to visit the Skype support forum and I'm guessing it must be totally unmoderated because the people on it? Fucking vicious. They ranked out the developers, they ranked out each other, they ranked out each other's mothers. People wrote long hate-filled screeds over the tiniest bug/misunderstanding. I read for pages and still didn't find an answer and guess what? At the end *I* was upset and full of my own invective that I wanted to unleash on them for wasting my time with their bullshit hate. I refrained but, man, inside I was all "FLAME ON". So I had my own personal experience of hate breeding hate right there.

    Now, I don't read any "mommy blogs" but this one. But, if people are becoming unhinged over fucking telephony software, I can well imagine the potential for pure unadulterated rage over something that really matters, like parenting. I'm so very, very grateful to Team Offbeat for their indefatigable efforts in keeping the Offbeat Empire not just a "not negative" space but a positive one.

    You guys rock my socks!

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