This is not a war
Some of my best parent friends fed their babies formula. A few had their boys circumcised. Some are gung-ho cloth diaperers, others think the whole concept is nuts.
Some of them went back to fulltime work when their baby was six months or six weeks; others never went back to work at all. Some of them would never let their boys wear pink or dresses or mommy’s lipstick; some decorated their daughter’s room all in Disney princess décor. Some would feed their kids Nutella and hot dogs every day without batting an eyelash. And, a few — very few — of them do things almost exactly the same way I do parenting-wise.
All of them are brilliant, caring, considerate, gracious, generous, funny, charming, wonderful people. Some of them were my friends for years, some I’ve only met since having children, or met because of our children. I would never presume to tell them they’re doing things wrong just because they’re doing them differently. I know for a fact that every single one of them — like most parents — are doing what they think is best given their circumstances … just the same as me.
We all love our kids. Every single one of us. That’s pretty much the dealbreaker for my friendship. I can even handle you letting your kid ride his bike without a helmet (but for the love of all that’s holy, why would you!?). But if you don’t love and protect your kids? You can’t be in my circle.
Not that you can’t also hate them sometimes. We all do. Let’s be honest about it.
And while we’re being honest, can we admit that we do judge each other? Like over the bicycle helmet thing? But can we also admit that a little bit of judging is perfectly normal? We’re not going to agree on everything and we all do stupid things sometimes.
There’s two kinds of judgment, though. There’s the “I can’t believe she just did that; I could never do that” kind, which covers everything from wearing pajama pants in public to letting your kid eat their gum after it fell on the bathroom floor. And then there’s the “Oh my God, she’s a horrible parent! Look at what she just did. I would never do that!” kind. The first kind is normal. The second is insane.
Hardly anyone actually, really, thinks that way — except behind their computer screen when commenting anonymously online or semi-anonymously on Facebook. Most of us spend our day judging the actions of others. But it’s not to judge them, but to determine our own limits and lines.
Take the bicycle helmet thing: yeah, I think it’s pretty stupid to get your kid a bike and not a helmet. But I also understand that kids lose helmets; that they take them off; that sometimes you’re given a bike for free but can’t afford the helmet; that you can’t watch your child every minute of every day; that you may not even be aware that they are biking without their helmet. So given all that — I’m going to roll my eyes and say “I can’t believe it,” but I’m not going to knock on your door and tell you what a horrible parent you are.
And my limit, my line when it comes to this, is that if your child wants to ride my child’s bike or ride their own bike on my property, the helmet is a deal-breaker. Because that’s my rule. And I came to that rule by comparing my beliefs and actions with those of others. That’s how the more innocuous form of judgment works.
The way the more dangerous form works is that it sells magazines; and website hits; and books; and all manner of marketable items. Like TIME magazine. They really hit on it with their pre-Mother’s Day launch of an issue featuring an article on attachment parenting and a cover photo of a woman breastfeeding her threeyear-old. I breastfeed my threeyear-old. But I don’t do it the way they showed on the cover.
The kicker to the whole thing was their headline “Are You Mom Enough?”
Guess what? Yes indeed I am. And so are you. The majority of us are. And the majority of us believe that others are too. There is no war, no drawing of lines in the sand. We all recognize that those lines quickly crumble and fade with the tide.
Mothers are not at war with each other. And we’re not at war with fathers either, despite what the media would like you to think about that. We’re not at war with anyone. Who has the time? Or the energy? Or the quiet moments to plan that wartime strategy.
What we should be at war with, though, is this idea that as women the thing that identifies us most is how we parent our children. Because I don’t care if you use cloth or disposables; I care only if you’re informed, articulate, funny, caring … you get the idea. If I was going to pick a battle with you I’d be much more likely to ask if you support Stephen Harper than if you breastfed your child
“The Mommy Wars” hype is merely that. It’s hype designed to keep women in their place — fighting with each other rather than fighting for equality. And, less subtly, it’s designed to sell more. Because the more they make us question and hate ourselves, the more junk we’ll buy — not just the magazine but all the crap in the magazine — to feel better. Divided we fall — and fall for it, over and over again. Dara Squires is a freelance writer and mom of three based in Corner Brook. You can contact her on facebook at www.facebook.com/readilyaparent