The moment I found out I was pregnant and decided that I wanted and was able and was willing to be a mother, I started preparing. I thought books would prepare me and research would prepare me and questioning my own mother would prepare me, because I wanted to be the best mom I could possibly be to my future kid. Turns out, while all of those things definitely helped, surviving the mommy wars actually makes you a better mom, and perhaps pushes you towards becoming the best parent you could possibly be.
I wish it wasn't necessary; no one likes being judged and shamed and criticized for the choices they make, especially by people who probably don't know your background and definitely don't take the time to realize the undeniable fact that different choices work for different families. However, given the accessibility of social media and the microscope we all live our lives under, judgement and shame are endless and inevitable. I've experienced my fair share of both by way of the #mommywars, and while they often left me in a pile of my own tears, feeling like a failed mother as self-doubt consumed me, they also made me stronger and more capable and more steadfast in my decisions, even the decisions that were outright ridiculed by others.
When people judge you, you tend to look inward. While that self-exploration can be difficult and humbling, it can also teach you so many valuable lessons that inevitably make you a great mom. It can validate your choices and it can help you change a potentially bad decision and it can make you more inclusive and understanding yourself, because you know what it's like when other people aren't. So, with that in mind, here are few ways the mommy wars actually help you become the best mom you can be, because it's not all bad, right?
You Learn Which Battles Are Worth Fighting...
It didn't take me long to realize that some battles, just aren't worth it. There's no point in defending my choices or debating which parenting decision is best, with someone who is as set in their ways as I am. Sometimes, people just want to yell into the ether (like toddlers) and there's nothing you can do to convince them (like toddlers) that it's pointless.
...And Which Battles, Aren't
And, of course, you realize that sometimes standing up for yourself is exactly what you need to do. Just like with a toddler, there are battles you're OK losing and battles you refuse to lose, and with the #mommywars, sometimes it's worthwhile to stand your ground and let someone know that the shame and judgment they're throwing your way, is unacceptable.
Your Thick Skin Will Help You In The Future
I don't think anything has prepared me for motherhood the way the #mommywars has. Any tantrum my toddler son might throw and any self-doubt I might feel and any situation that may seem semi-impossible to deal with, pale in comparison to some mother judging me endlessly and attacking me with reckless abandon. Seriously, read all the parenting books you want and ask all the questions and do all the research, but it will be the #mommywars that turn you into a tough mother that can take anything, and everything, in stride. Should it be this way? Absolutely not. But it is? Until something changes and the mom-world learns how to be inclusive, unfortunately, yes.
You Learn How To Handle Temper Tantrums
The closest palpable example you'll ever have to a toddler throwing some inexplicable tantrum, is a mom viciously attacking you for no discernible reason. The #mommywars brings out the absolute worst in people, kind of like spilt milk or the wrong colored cup or waiting five seconds for a snack does to your toddler. If you can survive the mommy wars, a temper tantrum from your kid will seem like a freakin' breeze.
You Realize Who You Should Keep In Your Life, And Who You Shouldn't
Before I became a mother, I couldn't have possibly imagined saying goodbye to any of my friends, both mothers and kid-free friends alike. It turns out, motherhood threw me into this unsaid competition between many of my mom-friends, and left me vulnerable to their endless scrutiny if (and when) I did something they didn't necessarily agree with. I learned, in the span of a few months, who was truly a supportive friend and who wasn't, and then I learned how to say goodbye to the people who were more hurtful than helpful. I know that getting rid of toxic people who didn't make me feel like garbage on a daily basis, made me a better mother to my son.
You Can Actually Learn Something Beneficial (Sometimes)...
If you're able to separate someone's selfish need to attack you in public or on the internet, and perhaps dive into the real reason why they're choosing to say something (albeit in the worst way possible) you can actually learn something that could potentially be beneficial. When someone attacks my choices, I try my hardest to separate my ego from the situation, and look inward. I can evaluate my choices, really think about why they work for me while simultaneously researching other options, and I am either validated in my initial choice or learn something that is actually more helpful.
...That Makes You A Better Parent
And when I am able to look inward and evaluate my choices and make sure that what I'm doing really, and truly, is best for my son and my family and myself, I know I am becoming a better parent. Motherhood isn't something automatically endowed upon someone the moment they procreate; it's a constantly evolving part of your existence that you're perpetually changing and adapting and evaluating and building and defining.
You Realize That No Matter What Choice A Mother Makes, We All Have One Thing In Common...
It took me a long time to realize that when a mother attacks another mother (online or behind her back or in person or all of the above) it's because, deep down, she's scared.
...We Want To Do Our Best, And Feel Validated In Our Choices...
She's just as scared as any other mother. She wants to do the right thing by her child and her family and herself, and that need can manifest into anger or hate or rudeness. Deep down, she just wants someone to tell her that she's doing a great job and her choices are correct and she is a good mother, raising a good child.
...And When You Realize That, You're Kinder To Every Mom You Meet
When I realized that, I was given this sometimes annoying, but overall healthy ability to be kind to not only the mothers who attack me, but all mothers in general. I know that we're all just doing our best and trying our hardest and the pressures that are put on us by an unforgiving, patriarchal society can send us into a self-hatred that even the best of us end up deflecting onto those around us. I'm a kinder, more accepting, more realistic, more inclusive and more understanding mother because I've survived the #mommywars a time or two. I wish being judged and shamed wasn't a requirement of motherhood, but it can make you a better mother, and perhaps that's the silver lining we're all looking for.