I’ve started writing this post three times today and was interrupted each time by Lottie crying. She woke up this morning with a runny nose and is very whingey so I’m guessing she has her first cold. She is extra needy today, so I cancelled all plans and have accommodated her three 45 minute naps, which all ended in coughing and crying, and then she had her first ‘at home sleep on the boob’ in weeks. Now she’s back in her cot for her record breaking fifth sleep of the day. I’m hoping she stays asleep long enough for me to get through this post.
The hot topic in the world of mothers on the internet this week is this new documentary/advertisement by formula company Similac: End Mommy Wars. The ‘cynical me’ would say this is a very clever marketing ploy to promote the formula product category and Similac brand by creating a clip of social commentary that entices viral sharing. I have read a couple of interesting critiques of the ad, such as this one which makes the valid point about the missing fathers and women who are more than happy to go back to work. And this one that argues ‘‘mommy wars’ are the patriarchy’s latest attempt to control women’ and that making judgements and sharing opinions is a perfectly natural way for mothers to behave. But the ‘trying not to be so cynical me’ can acknowledge that watching the video is a worthwhile way to spend seven minutes of your life and makes some good points about the destructive and unnecessary ‘judging’ of some mothers towards others.
I have written about baby wars before, including sleep and feeding battles. I have no doubt that most advice given by one mother to the next is well meaning and if it does have all the hallmarks of negative judgement it is, mostly, unintentional. But I think unnecessary judgmental comments can be avoided if we are mindful of what we are saying and how we express our advice and opinions. I will put my hand up now and admit I am a judgemental person, extremely opinionated and stubborn in my beliefs. But there is a big difference between silent, locked away inside my head judgement which I do my best not to communication in my facial expressions, body language and words, as compared with harsh, unhelpful judgement provided to anyone and everyone who will listen or read it on internet parenthood sites. To put it simply, if we are all going to take Similac’s advice and #EndMommyWars, here are some things ‘mommies’ need to stop doing.
Don’t criticise other parent’s decisions while justifying your own
An example of the underhanded way some people put down other parents while explaining (in other words, justifying) their own ideas and methods is this typical statement by a co-sleeper:
I co-sleep because my child loves being with me and as a result my child has great self-esteem, is a very loving person and has a deep attachment to me.
Such statements imply parents who don’t co-sleep are raising children who have low self-esteem, are hateful and aren’t secure in their attachment to their parents. This is offensive and also ridiculous. All children adore their parents if they are brought up with love and care and where a child sleeps has absolutely zero impact on their personality. Why not just say:
I co-sleep because it works best for my family. And leave it at that.
Don’t assume your experience is the same as everyone else’s
No two mothers will have the exact same experience of raising their child. Some mothers will leave their jobs to have children and will make the decision to work part-time or to not go back at all, preferring to become full time stay at home mothers. Other mums will miss their careers and will go back to work as soon as they can. Every mother experiences motherhood differently and so it’s important not to assume everyone feels the same way as you do about all the myriad of decisions parents have to make in raising their babies.
It is equally important to remember that where you may see choices as just that – choices – other people’s experiences might lead them to be forced into a particular outcome which they then have to do their best to deal with. Feeding a child formula rather than breast feeding is one example. So is the decision to go back to work, and a long list of other scenarios where one woman’s experience and situation might be completely different from your own.
Agree to disagree and mind your own business
The subject of sleep-training is one where I feel mothers should do their best to agree to disagree and avoid forming camps of ‘against’ or ‘for’ particular sleep methods. I have written many times about my experience sleep-training Lottie and the benefits my family have gained from this approach. It’s not been easy but I am content in my choice. If another mother would prefer not to sleep train her child, then that’s completely her family’s decision and nothing to do with me. Whether it is choosing to use dummies or not, feeding with formula or breastfeeding, when to introduce solids, crying it out or attachment parenting, everyone needs to remember that the only decision they have any influence over is their own and that literally everything else is none of their business. Some mothers seem to go on what I would call crusades of persuasion, trying to convince other mothers to emulate their own decisions in raising their children. But really, unless it affects your own child, such as the risk of your child catching deadly diseases off children who haven’t been immunised, or your child being hurt in some way by the behaviour of other children, everything else really is none of your business. Full stop.
Ok, so Lottie is now awake and so I will finish this post here. Here’s to a better mothers-getting-along-supporting-each-other world.