In my opinion, us moms are the most hardworking humans on Earth. We live and breathe for our families and our children. We sacrifice our time, our energy, our sanity, and our wellbeing for our kids. We would do anything to alleviate our children's sadness and to bring our children true happiness. Sadly, however, the ways moms are forced to compete with one another by a society that profits off pitting women against one another can make it all too easy to forget just how hard all moms — regardless of how they became moms or how they choose to be moms — are working.
Women are constantly scrutinized for their choices from the moment they are born. Little girls are called "bossy" when they are assertive, and "pushovers" when they are simply agreeable. As teenagers, they are called "promiscuous" if they show "too much" skin, and "prudes" if they cover up. As young adults they are called "hysterical" if they show actual emotions, and "cold" when they hide those emotions out of fear of being labeled hysterical. They are "shrews" when they turn down a man's advances, and are "easy" when they want to accept those advances. So what is the benefit of constantly berating half of the population in our society? Well, it's simple: it's about control. If our society consistently makes women feel unworthy by questioning their every move, they become easily controlled. Companies can now sell to them and market to them by playing upon their insecurities, which happen to be the same insecurities our society created.
Then, when women want and choose to become mothers, our society forces them to compete with one another. Every day new "research" tells mothers the "best" way to feed their babies, to nurture their babies, to discipline their babies. New studies force mothers into an ever-evolving cycle of questioning their choices. New movements erupt into the parenting landscape and mothers feel inadequate and unsure of the next step. The plethora of information at our fingertips is also responsible for constant anxiousness and apprehensiveness.
Dr. Jessica Zucker, a clinical psychologist specializing in women's reproductive and maternal mental health explains that "motherhood seems to stir profound insecurities for women as they traverse the simultaneously joyous, daunting, rewarding, and vulnerable journey that is parenthood. Most people aren’t forthcoming about how anxious they feel, how isolating mothering can be, or how fulfilling it is to love a little person in such an inexplicable way." So then mothers across the globe are yelling at one another, blaming each other for raising "snowflakes" or "bullies" or "sociopaths" or "whatever other noun that shames the mother." No matter what choice a mother makes, no matter how much "research" a mother does, and no matter how much professional advice she seeks, she will still be made to feel as though she's failing. Because instead of placing the blame where it belongs — our society — women tend to blame and shame one another, because that is how our world is set up.
I've read the several comments under parenting articles. I've been part of many mommy groups. I've seen the kind of vile things mothers say to one another. I've also seen true support from some moms. You know, the moms who understand that parenting is difficult enough without the constant judgment from one another. Getting to the point of constant support instead of endless judgment won't be easy, though, but the first step is always recognizing there's a problem. So with that in mind, here's how society at large has successfully encouraged mothers to compete with one another:
Medicated Births Vs Non-Medicated Births
It all begins before women even become mothers. In pregnancy women are praised for "carrying beautifully," which is really just a comment on how much weight they have or have not gained. Then, before you know it, the scrutiny starts.
"Oh, you're getting an epidural?" a mom asked me before I had my first child.
"Umn, yes?" I answered, now slightly unsure of my decision.
"Oh, hmm. Well, I had both of my kids without any pain meds and it was totally fine. Why would I want to ingest drugs so my baby comes out sleepy. Plus, no one really knows how these drugs affect the child, so I would never do that to my kid."
"Oh," I answered and realized I was just unwillingly initiated into the judgement zone of motherhood.
So, why not just do what is right for you and I will do what is right for me? How about that?
Breastfeeding Vs Formula-Feeding
Whether a mother chooses to breastfeed or formula feed she is judged by her peers. Even within the breastfeeding community mothers are judged by one another for not breastfeeding enough, for breastfeeding for too long, for not wearing a nursing cover, and for having a glass of wine prior to nursing. In the formula community, a mom is judged for the type of formula she uses. Is it organic? Non-GMO? How much sugar does it have and what kind of sugar is it? Is it the "best" formula available? "Are you honestly trying to save money at the expense of your child's health?"
And yet, mothers and all pediatricians agree that a happy baby is a fed baby. That's all. Can't we just feed our kids in peace without murmurs and judgmental stares.
Stay-At-Home Moms Vs Moms Who Work Outside Of The Home
If we were to listen to the mommy wars mantra, we would wholeheartedly believe moms who work outside of the home do not love their children and moms who stay at home are lazy and don't do anything but eat bon bons and watch their shows. Right? I mean, those are the general stereotypes we've come to accept as a society. Take it from someone who has done both: each way has its struggles and each way has its benefits. Neither way is "the right way."
Sleep Training Vs Co-Sleeping
Sleep training does not cause permanent brain and emotional damage. Likewise, co-sleeping does not raise co-dependent kids who lack coping and self-soothing skills. It's completely pointless to fight about these topics because "research" is so very flawed and changes in a blink of an eye. When I had my daughter eight years ago, co-sleeping was completely not OK. By the time I had my son, five years later, co-sleeping was now promoted by pediatricians and lactation consultants alike. Apparently, now new research states that babies who co-sleep breastfeed longer. Someone is spending way too much money on unnecessary research. Do what works for you and your family and you and your children will be happy.
Helicopter Vs Free-Range
At the playground, I enjoy sitting on a bench and relaxing while my kids are running off their energy. Other moms run after their children because they fear their children may get hurt. Either approach is fine. Why? Because both ways show moms who are doing what they believe is best for their kids. I believe I am letting my children gain their independence while the other mom believes she is preventing injuries. What's wrong with that? You can call me lazy and I can call her exhausting, but what would be the point? That kind of judgment only strokes your own ego at the expense of putting someone else down. Kind of silly for grown women to do, huh?
Organic Vs Conventional
Have you ever met a mother who feeds her kids only conventional food? Well, guess what? A pound of conventional chicken costs $1.99 while organic chicken runs at about $8.99 a pound. So while the sanctimonious will gasp at anyone who doesn't feed their kids organic, I'm just happy kids are being fed. Do you know how many children are living in hunger in our country? According to Feeding America, 13 million children live in households where food is not available on a regular basis. Consider that number for a second and then consider the families who live in poverty, trying to purchase organic produce.
Potty Training Vs Diapers
I've seen some children walk around in a diaper until kindergarten and I heard tales of children being completely potty trained by the time they were 1 year old. Trust me when I tell you I wanted my kids out of diapers as soon as possible, because I just couldn't fathom changing yet another diaper full of grown-up poo. Plus, diapers are expensive. But I also couldn't care less about kids who are potty trained at 1 or by 5. Don't care and you shouldn't either.
Sanitize Vs Expose
Some moms sanitize their children's entire existence while other moms allow their kids to eat dirt. And guess what? Either way works. It is impossible to create a completely sterile environment for a child, and there is absolutely no conclusive research that states children should be exposed to germs and bacteria at a certain age to boost their immune system. So, stop side-eyeing each other, moms.
Corporal Discipline Vs Gentle Discipline
Kids are kids. They are always loud, often obnoxious, sometimes spoiled, and seldom calm. They are little tornadoes, twirling uncontrollably and causing havoc wherever they go. And there are thousands of "proven" discipline methods for children. The thing is, hardly any of these methods acknowledge the elephant in the research: each child is truly unique, with his or her own personality, own traits, and own idiosyncrasies. So the method that works best for one child isn't necessarily going to work on another child. In fact, the disciplining techniques that used to work on my daughter do not work on my son. So just because one mom did something that worked for her child, doesn't mean she should be judging another mom using different methods that may work for her child.
Parenting is hard. Ridiculously hard. Us mothers are our own toughest critics. We tend to be sensitive to others' comments because of our own insecurities, and feel guilty for doing too little or too much. Guilt and shame are somehow rooted into motherhood like a ridiculous sense of accomplishment. As if mothers who don't feel guilty on a regular basis are somehow bad mothers? See? We can never just be.
Let me say this again, because it can never be said enough: nobody is perfect. No mother is perfect. No child is perfect. No type of parenting is perfect. Most moms are hardly keeping afloat, treading the waters of parenting while trying to catch a breath of fresh air. And instead of helping, encouraging, and supporting one another, we are tearing each other apart for absolutely no real, justifiable reason. I am not better than the mom across the street. I am just as flawed and just as real as she is. The sooner we start understanding and listening to one another, the sooner we can be at peace with ourselves and our parenting.