This is not a war

The Compass - - OPINION -

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

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