Sometimes discussing parenting feels like this (if you have little kids around you, you probably don’t want to watch that clip! It’s the end of Reservoir Dogs where four characters have a “Mexican standoff” and all shoot one another. You get the point).
I keep hearing people say, “We as a culture need to end the Mommy Wars.” Or “Let’s all….” Or, most ironically, “You should…”
I recently came across a link to a blog post talking about this very subject. I excitedly followed the link, thinking, “This chick gets me.” And for the most part, she did. She had some really great things to say. But then, in the middle, she broke into some version of, “I think the most common ignorant criticism is levelled at people who parent like me.”
The trouble is, everyone thinks that.
The key to ending the Mommy Wars is not getting everyone else to stop making me insecure and angry. The key is to stop being insecure and angry. If I wait around for people to kindly decide to desist shooting me with their bullets of sleep training and “you should tell your child no about this thing because I would,” that moment will likely never come. Someone has to be the first to lower a weapon. If you walk around with your parenting decisions like a gun pointed at everyone in case they shoot at you, everything looks a lot more threatening. Once you are looking at the world as though most people are not setting out to criticize you or make you feel bad, though, it frees you up to take what information is helpful to you and leave the rest. If you are really able to do this, after a while you start to realize that even if someone is trying to shoot down your parenting style, they were shooting blanks anyway.
It’s great to find people who agree with you about things, if you can. It is super helpful to have someone who has experience with something you want to try. I wouldn’t go to La Leche League for advice about which formula to try, just like I wouldn’t go to the Babywise blogs for advice about safe cosleeping practices. I also wouldn’t go to an all-beef hamburger place expecting vegetarian food, or a vegan restaurant for steak. Know your sources and where they are coming from, to avoid feeling offense where none is intended.
Even when you’re talking to people who agree with you it’s good, wherever possible, to avoid the trap of saying things more strongly than you mean to because it’s a relief to be with people who are like-minded. Even if someone who isn’t like you doesn’t happen upon the conversation, engaging in “what we do is better” kinds of conversations just reinforces othering. It makes your ideas more likely to leak out of you at an inopportune moment and in a way that will almost certainly be taken as judgmental by someone who does something different. This goes quadruple on the internet.
Parenting is so hard. Our emotional energy is too important to spend so much of it fighting against people who could be our allies in the trenches. If our children see us constantly battling the idea that our parenting might not be quite as good as someone else’s, I think they will learn a small view of the world. There are real things in the world that need to be fought against. Injustice. Poverty. Racism. Classism. Modern day slavery and human trafficking. I want my children to see me using my precious resources (things like my words, my time, and my sparkling personality) to fight against those things.