Choosing a Mommy War Worth Fighting (Or I’m So Over Being a Judgy Mom)

No one likes feeling judged. Especially moms. I had my first real feeling that I was being judged the other day and it sucked. Looking back, I’m pretty sure that I wasn’t being judged… but I still walked away with that icky feeling like I was perceived as a crappy mom. You know that feeling right? It’s like hanging over you when you leave the conversation. It’s sort of like driving through a dust storm… It’s disorienting, the road is there and you know you need to stay on your route but there’s so much swirling around you… and then you’re through it, but now your car is covered in a blanket of dust. Driving faster makes some of it fly away but it’s mostly just there. Lingering. The feeling that I had been misunderstood was just lingering. Then of course, I started thinking of all of the things I could have/should have said… It’s so annoying. After a few hours of that icky feeling lingering over me… I realized that ruminating over it was just ridiculous.

The thing is…  I’m insecure. I don’t always know that I’ve made the best decision for my kid. I try to. I try really really REALLY hard. It feels so much better when people agree with my decisions and better yet, have made the same decisions for their families. It feels like confirmation that I’ve made a good decision. Sometimes I wonder if that’s what’s really behind the whole “Mommy Wars” thing. Is it just that we are all insecure about raising kids and it makes us uncomfortable/angry when people make different decisions for their family? Because when people choose another way, they’re basically saying, “Your way is stupid, I’m doing it this way instead.” Oh sure, we all love to sing Kumbaya and hold hands and tell one another that, “What’s best for your family may just be different than what’s best for my family.” Whatever. We’re full of it and are just avoiding confrontation. Let’s be real: We would much prefer everyone to do what we’re doing. It’s less complicated that way.

OK, so here’s the problem: people don’t do what we think they should do. Obvious I know. But this has created a whole phenomenon dubbed the “Mommy Wars” in which we bicker about anything from breastfeeding to babywearing. Why do we get so worked-up about what others are doing? My only guess is that it has to with what I wrote about above (our own insecurities) but I think it’s also about something else. I can’t be sure because I can’t get into everyone else’s head, but for me, I get worked-up because I feel like kids don’t have a voice. Kids are helpless and voiceless. I really find myself aligning with kids because I feel genuine sadness over the fact that they are often misunderstood. Children have little to no rights in our society. They are often seen as a nuisance (even though we say we want them so badly) and they are often disregarded. This really bothers me. I wonder if it really bothers you too. We could also get totally psychoanalytic about it and speculate that as a child we felt voiceless, making us so passionate about wanting to stand-up for those who are voiceless now…. but I’m not gonna go there. Just a thought.

One of my professors said something one time that really stuck with me. He said: Kids are more resilient than we think. And you know what? He’s so right. People are resilient. Do we really think that breastfeeding until 2 is the solution to achieving world peace? Come on now. I will even be so bold as to say (crunchy friends, take a deep breath) that kids who’ve been put through the whole “cry it out” thing, can still grow-up to be perfectly healthy well-adjusted kids. We can’t really say that ONE decision such as that will make or break a child. It’s just not true. There are decisions that seem to influence a child into becoming more well-adjusted, of course. Yes, breastmilk is amazing and if you can give your child that, awesome. But let’s not get so worked-up about it. We have other places we can direct our energy.

Earlier this week, I was grading papers for a Trauma class. I was amazed at how many of them entailed accounts of child abuse. In one of the papers, I read probably the most horrendous story I could ever imagine. I won’t get into the details but I will say that it involved a mother disfiguring and suffocating her two young sons. She basically had a psychotic break and just lost it. When I read it, I literally sat motionless, staring at my laptop, hoping that I had misread the story. Later, I couldn’t shake the story from my head. And man… I just kept imagining something like that happening to me or to someone I loved… it made me sick.

 Of course, there’s no way to know this, but I’m guessing this mom probably had shown some signs of psychosis before she totally lost it. I wonder if she had anyone in her life to show her love. I wonder if she felt like she wasn’t good enough… Unsupported and unstable. Our society is really good at making moms feel like they’re not good enough. Of course, I’m speculating here but regardless of the cause of her psychotic break, this story put things in perspective for me.

Speaking of perspective… A friend of mine just recently learned that she and her husband had been matched to receive a baby for adoption. Woohoo!! They are elated. Yet, not too long after this awesome announcement, came the pressure to decide how they would feed their new little boo. In a blog post, she mentioned that she’s a little intimidated but the whole “breast is best” campaign because they will be feeding their baby formula. That makes me really sad. Not the formula part, the intimidation part. Here they are, doing this amazing thing for a child in need, and yet it’s dampened by the fact that she’s not breastfeeding. She actually considered trying to breastfeed but decided not to for personal reasons. I wonder how many people will judge her for making this decision. Why is it so hard for people to trust that she’s (and every other mother) is making the best decision that they can with the resources that they have? Can we not look beyond the whole “breast is best” thing and just celebrate that an orphaned child is getting a loving home? That’s what really matters.

That’s when I realized:

This Mommy War business is crap. Why are we bickering over pacifiers and plastic toys?  Like, what the…?? REALLY??!!

Crunchy friends, we tend to have a lot of passion for advocacy. That’s one of the things I love about being a part of the crunchy community. We want the best for our future generation. This is a noble cause to fight for. Don’t stop being passionate (or believin’). I’m merely suggesting that we redirect our passion towards a cause that will actually make a guaranteed impact. Child abuse awareness and prevention… Orphans needing homes… Moms on the brink of insanity who desperately need support… These are causes worth fighting for. Instead of judging other moms for making decisions over superficial matters, we need to consider that they may have made those choices for reasons beyond our understanding. I’ve been challenging myself to this and it’s really hard. When I find myself being judgy, I have to ask myself, “Am I just trying to feel better about myself as a mom? Is that why I’m being judgy??” Maybe. Or maybe I’m just feeling really passionate about the child that’s involved. Now, I’m realizing that when I get upset about another mom’s decision, I need to do a reality check: Is this child actually in danger? I may not agree with the mom’s choice but I don’t need to get so upset about it. There are other children in desperate situations who need someone to get upset about their situation. That’s where my energy will be focused from now on.

I leave you with this image from Rage Against the Minivan, it has impacted me greatly:

Advocacy for Orphans
Advocacy for Orphans
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