You’re a terrible parent.
You’ve made some awful choices, and your kids are probably not going to turn out well now.
You know who you should act like when you parent, and when you make every decision that will affect your family? Things like whether or not to work, if you breastfeed or use a bottle, how you put your babies to sleep, what friends you let your kids play with and whether you’ll take their homework to school if they forget it?
You should act just like me.
Because I’m always right, and I know how to type.
I’m on social media.
I like to hide behind the anonymity of the Internet.
And I just like to prove how right I am and make you feel horrible about yourself.
Because I can.
I’m a mom.
I have opinions that everyone needs to hear.
I’m an Internet troll.
And I don’t belong in your head.
Mommy Wars don’t exist.
If I can believe that, I might be able to make it come true for the only person who matters.
The one typing now, not the fictional mommy who opened this post.
I hope you all didn’t believe that was really me.
There are a lot of real people out there who think they are “fighting” about motherhood.
Since 1986, when the term “Mommy Wars” was coined to describe hostile attitudes between working and stay-at-home moms, mothers have been finding ways to make one another feel badly.
When I was in first grade.
This is not a new thing, ladies. It’s just on steroids because the Internet allows us to have sooooo much information about everyone else’s lives.
But it takes two to fight.
A war with guns shooting opinions and bombs made of words is not real.
It can’t actually hurt someone, unless they allow it to get in their heads.
Let’s make it a one-sided war, and it will snuff out as surely as a candle without oxygen.
At least for the person who really matters.
Just unsubscribe, people.
If you don’t like what I have to say, just click the word at the bottom of the email.
You don’t have to reply with criticism about my feelings and advice for my family.
One reader did anyway this winter, and I had the choice to let her email wiggle its way into my thoughts and ruin my day or realize that my life is impacted in no way by this woman, and delete it from both my screen and my memory.
Here’s the email:
I just wanted to let you know that I am unsubscribing because that was a negative morning newsletter about the most blessed things in your life: children and husband, who runs nonetheless.
Putting God first is important, but not at the expense of complaining about what He has given you.
Put your Bible in your cookbook stand and make one hearty breakfast for everyone at the same time.
Love and blessings for your day.
I won’t lie and say that the words didn’t sting when I read them the first time, or that my jaw didn’t drop at the dripping venom and judgment cloaked in “blessings for my day.”
Believe me, ladies, if my Bible was in my cookbook stand, no one would eat.
That’s not a multitasking activity I can handle.
If you’re wondering what my horrible email said that sparked this response, it was actually my attempt to reach out and connect with tired moms, to empathize with the frazzled feeling I know many have on bumpy mornings:
Daylight savings time, you’d think the kids who don’t have to get up early would sleep until at least 8, right? Bah. Not in this house.
No, the baby who consistently sleeps great from 6-9 in the morning woke up at 7:40, just as I was the only adult in the house about to get the 6yo to school in 20 minutes, because I wisely let her sleep 20 minutes later than usual so the time change didn’t feel as bad, only to be greeted by a tearful raging mess of tiredness anyway. Bah.
As soon as she was out the door, the 3yo woke up before I could finish my devotions for the day, so I got to juggle him and the baby, who did not go right back to sleep like I thought he might after a diaper change and a nurse. Bah. At least they were happy, right?
When my husband got home from his run, he asked the 3yo if he’d eaten breakfast already. “No, but Mommy has!” he announced.
“No she has NOT!” I called, muttering under my breath, “Even though she’s been up for over an hour and is still in her pajamas and hasn’t even started the slow cooker for dinner yet…”
I did get to oil pull before waking the 6yo at least, so that’s one check on my anti-cavity plan list for the day.
I’m just sitting down to work and wanted to dash a quick note to let you know that I get it. I get the day-to-day craziness of life, the amount of time you spend in the kitchen, and the mornings when you make breakfast 4 different times for 5 people.
Was I a casualty in the Mommy Wars?
Was this interaction a potential battle ground for a Mommy War?
But if I play my cards right, it’s over before it starts.
I firmly believe that God designed women with an inherent need to reach out, to relate with others, to feel connected on an emotional level with both our husbands and other women.
It feels good to know that other people are experiencing the same things we are, that our trials and tribulations, no matter how small or how large, are a burden we don’t carry alone.
It’s part of our femininity, and it’s the origin of our compassion, our generosity, and our fierce determination to love and protect our children, no matter what.
That’s a good thing, a healthy habit, something that helps women feel alive and balanced.
It’s beautiful that connections can even be forged across wires with people we don’t even know, that our souls can be buoyed for the work of motherhood even through a screen.
It does, because I get emails and comments all the time from people who just feel good knowing that I have flaws and little troubles to juggle too.
I like to be real in my conversations here at Kitchen Stewardship, because I know there are others out there who see their own situation in mine and immediately feel a sense of relief, that connection, that knowledge that they’re not alone.
The trouble, on the flipside, is when people who don’t connect with my story feel that somehow my experience diminishes theirs, simply because they are different.
This is just silly. It’s impossible.
Newsflash: My life doesn’t actually affect yours.
If my child wins a reading award, it doesn’t mean that your child is dumb.
If my house is spotless, I’m not passing judgment on your clutter simply by how I keep my own house.
If my husband and I have a good marriage and build it by taking walks together, it doesn’t mean that your marriage is any less because your husband hates to walk with you.
There are many, many ways to achieve the same good goals.
And life is not graded on a bell curve!
I was shocked not too long ago at the response to what I thought was a simple, positive comment on Facebook.
It came up at lunch one day that my 3-year-old had never heard of Spaghettio’s. He had no idea what they were and we had a lot of fun hearing his guesses about what they might be.
It struck me that it was pretty good evidence that we eat a whole foods, unprocessed diet, that he doesn’t even know a classic like Spaghettio’s, something many of us, myself included, grew up with as a staple in the pantry.
Whether it was warranted or not, I felt good about that.
Even though my 3-year-old DOES know what candy, corn chips, and Lucky Charms are, I still felt good about that one small “win,” that little piece of proof that I’ve protected him from some of the processed junk out there (so far).
Was this a defining moment in my life? A tale worthy of a trophy?
I mostly just thought it was funny.
I was completely blown away when I hopped back on Facebook later to see 800 “likes” and almost 100 comments in just a few hours. Facebook showed the post to 20,000 people, which is 4-10x more than an average post.
What I thought was a completely innocuous, non-judgmental, mostly humorous and encouraging comment became my introduction to the “Mommy Wars.”
(Yes, I live with my head in the sand quite successfully, as I didn’t even know they were a “thing” before that moment.)
Some of the responses, with dozens of “likes” indicating agreement, included:
My kids have had them. I don’t judge my parenting by those standards. Let’s not fuel the mommy wars.
Give yourself a pat on the back if you’ve given your kids spaghettios and don’t have an ounce of mom guilt over it! Whole foods are awesome but enough with the guilt already.
Whether you have or haven’t doesn’t make u any better or worse of a parent. Posts like this tend to start judgmental comments towards each other and fuel “mommy (or daddy) wars”.
My response, which was my best attempt at infusing the situation with both grace and logic, was:
“I’m absolutely not saying “you’re a bad mom if your kid eat anything out of a can.” I am saying that if you’ve dodged that cultural bullet, pat yourself on the back. Can’t anyone rejoice in making one good choice without it becoming an Internet dichotomy of good mom vs. bad mom? If your babies sleep well, good job. Mine don’t. I’m not going to get mad at you if you’re thankful yours do though…see? My older kids have eaten plenty of junk, but it always tickles me when we find something they’ve never seen before. It’s all about 80/20…but that doesn’t mean we can’t be pleased with our choices when we hit the 80% how we want it.”
It didn’t set well with everyone, apparently. One commenter, who said “let’s not fuel the mommy wars,” brought her gasoline can to the party with this one:
I don’t shove my kids out the door 180 days per year to be raised by strangers….I call that a bigger thumbs up. Sorry.
Who is judging now?
My response: “This is not a competition, and no one is keeping score. Please don’t make a fun comment into an argument.”
I cannot fathom how asking people about what their child knows about food and saying that one small thing is GOOD somehow automatically means that:
- I’m judging everyone.
- If someone doesn’t do exactly this one thing, they are bad parents.
- Every other way of parenting is automatically BAD.
The Problem of the Lowest Common Denominator
We see it in schools and sports, where every child must get a small trophy for participating in soccer that season and rewards are heaped on schoolchildren who sit in classrooms and do what is expected of them, rather than trophies and rewards being reserved for those who actually excel athletically or academically.
Our society tends to tell children, “Good job!” for every scribble they’ve ever produced on a piece of scrap paper, “Way to go!” for showing up.
But when everyone gets a reward, the rewards are as meaningless as pouring a spoonful of water on a fish in a pond. When “participation” is the highest goal that can be achieved, no one is inspired to care at all.
The lowest common denominator becomes the only socially acceptable goal when we aren’t allowed to celebrate true achievement for anyone.
How have we degenerated to the point where whatever one person does well (or perceives they do well) is automatically not only a judgment on someone who does it differently but an insult?
Since when did my action result in a sliding scale for your action?
And we risk making everyone Orwellian average if we’re neither allowed to celebrate our successes nor discuss our differences without unintentionally wielding a weapon in the Mommy Wars.
No fair to have a draft into this war without even a draft notice!
I’ll say it again:
What I do well in no way impacts what you do.
If I’m proud of my choice or my kids, I am not inherently (or explicitly) saying that you have done something wrong if you’re not a carbon copy of my life!
The only way to stop fueling the Mommy Wars is to read what other people say with a modicum (or more) of grace and understanding.
Most people are actually nice.
While I was in the middle of writing this post, I found myself once again on the brink of a MW battle.
I shared the controversial fact that we put our babies to sleep on their bellies. I knew folks would be brimful and spilling over with advice, and they were.
What surprises me is how quickly the knee-jerk reaction of everyone in the conversation is to assume people are judging me when they share “safe sleep” advice.
I truly appreciate the gals who jump in to defend me, and it’s sweet that they are looking out for me before I get back to respond. But I truly also appreciate the commenters who are disagreeing with me.
They feel they have some important knowledge that, even in the age of the Internet, I might be lacking. Sometimes it’s clear that the dissenters don’t know much about me, my family, or my real food mission – yet they still want to help.
Unless someone uses truly mean language (and then I usually delete them), I do my best to give the benefit of the doubt.
I believe that most people really want to be helpful.
Women, especially, are designed to give advice.
To share their opinions.
To enter the conversation and to be helpful.
That’s all a good thing, an aspect of our femininity that God has given us to help us connect with the world.
But in the Internet age, all of that advice can get overdone.
I am a fan of conversation, even dissenting opinions. If we can converse as adults, share our opinions and research, and if it comes to it, agree to disagree, I think that’s a positive environment to foster.
I have to agree with Kenda, who calls the Mommy Wars “ridiculous” a dozen times, rightfully so, and pledges to “say no” to them completely.
Are the Mommy Wars real?
I started this post by saying that, in order to protect myself, my own emotions, I have to believe that the Mommy Wars don’t exist.
It turns out that I’m mostly right:
While a majority of stay-at-home moms and working moms believe that “mommy wars” are real, few see them in their own community and even fewer report having been criticized for their choices.
According to a Parents poll of more than 500 mothers nationwide by Quester, a research company in Des Moines, 63 percent of mothers believe that a mommy war exists. Yet as you’ll see in the results that appear throughout this story, when we asked moms whether they saw evidence of such hostility in their own social circle, the number who said yes dropped dramatically — to just 29 percent.
How to explain the disparity between the large number of moms who believe there’s a war “out there” and the smaller number who experience one close to home? We don’t know, but a Google search of “mommy wars” yielded nearly 25 million results. If you read anything enough times, you start to believe it.
The Mommy Wars happen.
But if I can keep believing the best of people, I can prevent the “wars” from getting from the screen into my head, or into my heart.
And then, for me, they don’t exist.
I can watch them from afar, but they’re not affecting me.
We tell children, “Sticks and stones may break your bones but words will never hurt you.”
We all know that’s harder to put into practice than to say, but if we’re honest with ourselves, it would save a lot of grief if we could make it reality.
In reality, we can’t believe in the Mommy Wars, because if we do, we become part of them.
We start to see others’ innocuous comments as fuel for the fire.
We start to assume that others’ successes pass judgment on our own lives.
We start to behave as though others’ lives can actually impact our own.
We let it get into our heads.
And then it’s real – and it really hurts us.
Faith is believing without seeing.
Don’t put faith in the Mommy Wars.
They’re not worth it.
Words are out there.
Can we have opinions anymore?
Do we know how to disagree like adults without cutting one another down and making each decision, each opinion, the pinnacle defining moment of a person’s entire life and worth?
It’s okay if you think I’m wrong.
It’s okay if I think you’re wrong.
It doesn’t automatically mean either of us is fighting, being mean, or judging one another.
Sure, we can’t stop people from making mean or judgmental comments online.
It will happen.
But like a child who stops believing in Santa Claus, suspending belief in the Mommy Wars will only take away their magic.
Their power over us.
The presents on Christmas morning are no less real for the 10-year-old experiencing his first Christmas with the knowledge that it’s actually Mom and Dad wrapping things at midnight and stuffing stockings.
But the magic is gone.
The words of others online about parenting decisions will continue to appear, but if we believe that most people just want to help, that words cannot truly hurt us, that the really mean ones are just caught up in their own misdirected belief that Mommy Wars are worth participating in, then the magic of the fight is gone, too.
With the small exception of awful situations where real-life people’s opinions DO ruin the lives of good mothers, like these ladies who left children in a vehicle for a few minutes and ended up arrested, the Mommy Wars cannot hurt you or your family, unless you open the doors of your mind and heart and let them in.
Let’s be a team, not a platoon.
I’d ask you to do three things with me to fight the Mommy Wars – not to fight IN the Mommy Wars as soldiers, not to add fuel to the fire, but to fight against them and diffuse the bombs of words that a few are throwing with such venom that it makes this seem like a bigger problem than it is.
1. Don’t believe in them.
Try hard not to behave and react as if the “Mommy Wars” are alive and well.
Give people the benefit of the doubt online.
Realize that hurtful comments can only hurt you if you let them.
If your personality type makes “being a duck” and letting it all roll off your back very difficult, know thyself. You may need to get your head out of social media more often.
Don’t be afraid to use the almighty delete button if people are throwing meanness around on your own Facebook wall, page, or blog.
2. Stop comparing
If you’re going to get through life without feeling horrible all the time, you need to make a few truths a very deep part of your psyche:
- Other people’s successes do not mean you are failing.
- Other people’s goals should never diminish yours.
- Your opinions and others’ opposing viewpoints can co-exist without either of you needing to (a) change or (b) feel awfully about yourself. It’s a big world.
If comparing your life to others makes you feel worse about yourself, your family, your homemaking skills, or your marriage, I beg you to change your perspective and work hard to remind yourself of those three truths.
Plus, God made YOU to be you, and He gave you your children as a precious gift, a loan for this world. Of course you want to do your best for them – and we should set goals and be constantly trying to improve ourselves.
But we don’t have to feel awful (or make others feel so) to make positive change.
3. Inject positivity
When you see a fiery conversation or someone who may very well hurt someone else’s feelings online, be the voice of reason.
Of “we’re all in this together, let’s focus on what’s important here.”
The more we can saturate online conversations with positive language, the faster we’ll calm the waters.
Someone is proud of an accomplishment that you do not share with them? Compliment them.
Another mom’s child achieved a milestone, even though yours hasn’t shared that one? Congratulate them.
You see a house cleaner than yours, food nicer than last night’s dinner, or a wardrobe that costs more than a year’s salary in your house?
Take a deep breath.
It’s okay, ladies.
Lives are going to be different than yours, but it doesn’t make your life anything less to be grateful for.
Count your blessings, whatever they are, even if they feel like crosses today.
You are enough.
Looking for more on the perceived “Mommy Wars” and mommyhood? Here are some great posts from other bloggers:
- Dear Mom Who Thinks She’s Not Cut Out for Motherhood from The Humbled Homemaker
- The Anti-Viral, Non-Pinterest Way to be a Great Mom from The Humbled Homemaker
- I Am Not Supermom – From Mommy Guilt to Mommy Grace (link no longer available) from Stacy Makes Cents
- It’s Time (To End The Mommy Wars) from Scary Mommy
- If Motherhood Isn’t a Competitive Sport, Then Why Do We Beat Ourselves Up? from Keeper of the Home