I can't even remember what the big hullabaloo was last year with moms, but I do know it was the first time I'd ever heard of the "Mommy Wars." It could have been about stay-at-home-moms vs. work-out-of-home moms, or mothers vs. non-mothers, or moms who aren't employed, but have their kids in daycare vs. moms who are with their children all day long... the list goes on (and on).
Today, the war of words has drifted to style of parenting and all that falls under certain categories - or, at least, perceived categories and their associations.
On one side, we seem to have the group of mothers who dedicate their public spaces (i.e., blogs) to breastfeeding advocacy, natural child-birth practices, cloth diapers, organic foods, baby wearing, a mother's rights to knowledge and support via legal channels, gentle and non-physical discipline, bed-sharing, not letting their kids cry it out, Cesarean-section avoidance, and keeping their sons' penises intact.
The other side includes mothers with space devoted to telling other mothers that it's ok to formula feed, opt-in for the epidural and scheduled C-section, that disposables are a God-send as are the jars of baby food at the grocery store, a woman should go somewhere private to breastfeed for modesty's sake, spank, have their babies in a separate room from day one, let them cry themselves to sleep, and who circumcise their sons.
Pretty black and white, right?
Wrong. So wrong!
Not one family is all or nothing. There are mothers who breastfeed the first, but not the second child; who have an epidural, but refuse inducing; who spank, but don't do CIO; who formula feed, but make their own baby food. Nor is anyone "wrong" for doing what fits best for their situation and personality.
I don't know why we've done this to ourselves (pitting mothers one against the other, yet again), but we have. Sure, I might never spank my son and I could give you 100 reasons why, but I would never tell you you were a piece of shit for deciding to do it with your family. Of course I think MY way is better, it's why it's MY way. I mean, of course!
And therein lies the rub for all of us: We all think our way is the best way. It's a necessary job requirement when it comes to parenting. We have to be married to our methods - and also flexible if the outcome is not what we were expecting - in order to be consistent, fair, and stable. We have to commit!
I hate it that a blogger I really like because she's witty and wry got absolutely FLAMED for first, a guest post saying it's ok to use formula, and second, for an interview she gave about using over-the-counter drugs for uses it's not intended for.
Jill's whole shtick at Scary Mommy is that she's devoted, but also out-numbered, and sometimes chooses the path of least resistance (like letting her youngest eat like a dog), and yet other bloggers I also esteem (for entirely different reasons) feel entitled to go after Jill's posts with the fury of a mother scorned. And beat up and with the wind knocked out of her Jill writes this:
For all of you perfect parents making perfect decisions in your perfect lives, this isn’t the place for you. Why don’t you look up some of the feminist/breastfeeding blogs? Those folks always seem to have the right answers.
And, don’t let the door hit you on the way out.
I get that breastfeeding is intrinsically linked up with feminism, but why do feminism and breastfeeding always seem to be linked up with bullying those who choose differently? And likewise, why do the women who formula feed bully us, too (I've seen it and it's not pretty, either)?
The reason, I think, that feminist/breastfeeding bloggers go so hog-wild whenever anyone ever says that it's ok to formula feed is because they're thinking of protecting that one woman out there who's on the verge of giving up on breastfeeding because (and no one argues with this) breast milk is the best thing for a baby.
Ok, I get that, but going after a humor blogger whose main goal is to entertain and be light isn't the way to do it because breastfeeding might not be the best thing for every woman and her family. (And let me tell you that I practically choke on those words, but I also believe it.)
If I were that breastfeeding mom whose nipples were bleeding and baby was crying and whose mother kept telling me that she used formula and all 5 of her kids were fine I don't think I'd read Jill's guest post and think, "Hey! She's right! I guess I'll stop!" I would do more research and really ask myself the hard questions. Breastfeeding is intrinsically linked up to more factors than simply a woman's desire to breastfeed or not. She needs support, she needs will power, she needs determination, she needs love, she needs focus, she needs education, and she needs examples.
We haven't always been such an "enlightened" group of parents. So many used to be hit, beaten even, children were sold to be apprentices, girls were given to old men to bear him heirs, families were split up, children were treated worse than livestock in many cases (the Dark Ages, anybody?). And certainly NOT to say that any of that was ever ok, but I feel like I need to remind people that WE SURVIVED THE IMPERFECTIONS. We still created amazing human beings capable of great love, innovation, art, wonder and intellect despite their deplorable childhoods. Just because not everyone parents the same particular way today does not mean the fall of civilization as we know it.
This is how I think it should go: I'll tell you about my life, my decisions, and my reasoning if you care to hear it. I will show you what I think should be done by example, not by badgering or belittling and not by humiliation or condescension. And you do me the same favor.
I don't know... I'm just so sick and tired of all the animosity between these two camps. Mothering is hard, the most painful, soul-searing, isolating, and important thing I'll ever do in my life. The last thing I need is to feel like I have to defend my decisions to women who've made different ones. I beat up on myself enough as it is.
(Side note: I linked to some blogs that I think are good examples of those "camps", but I could be entirely wrong, so please let me know and I'll revise.)