I’m a conscientious objector in the Mommy Wars

Successfully raising children

It’s one the greatest internecine conflicts of the past 50 years.

No, I’m not talking about capitalism vs. communism, nor Democrat vs. Republican. I’m talking about the battle for mothering supremacy, the Mommy Wars.

I just finished reading a declaration of intent in one of the latest battles, and I disagree profoundly. When it comes to the central premises of the Mommy Wars, I’m a conscientious objector.

Manic Pixie Dream Mom, who writes for the Today Parenting Team, declares Bring on the Mommy Wars!

And after all the effort to stop the mommy wars, after all the kumbaya we-can-all-get-along every blogger’s been pushing lately, I’m ripping up the fragile truce. I’m done. I’m sick of the mealy-mouthed we-all-have-to-support-each-other.

Because I don’t support some of you, and I’m tired of pretending.

Don’t hold back; tell us how you really feel:

[pullquote align=”right” color=”#009bd1″]The Mommy Wars are premised on the idea that there is one right way to raise every single child.[/pullquote]

We all got into this parenting thing with various ideas. We picked those ideas because we think those are the right ideas…

That means that, by definition, we decided some ideas were wrong. Maybe not wrong in all circumstances, but wrong. For example, I think cry-it-out is barbaric unless it’s necessary for the sanity of the family, and then only as a last resort. Maybe we think some things are always wrong: for me, that’s circumcision. I’m sick of pretending to support moms who made a choice I think is contrary to human rights and dignity. I don’t support you…

But that doesn’t mean I have to shout you down. As women, we’re programmed to be butthurt when other women disagree with us. That doesn’t fly. We need to learn to live with disagreement, however uncomfortable. I can not support your choices without being rude or thinking you’re a howling idiot. I can think you’re wrong, and we can still be friends

Learning to live with disagreement is a good thing, but it is premised on the idea that there is one right way to raise every single child and that’s absurd.

Consider the following scenario:

When you attend a wedding, are you dismayed to find that other women are not wearing the exact same thing that you are wearing? Do you criticize them secretly or to their faces for not choosing the same color outfit that you chose, in the same style, with the same accessories? Of course not.

There are several reasons for this.

  • First, everyone recognizes that different things look good on different people because some styles are flattering for one body type and not for another; some colors are attractive with some skin tones and not with others. Women are different from each other and what looks good on you won’t necessarily look good on another women.
  • Second, individuals have different tastes; some are modest and prefer covering up, while others may want to flaunt a daring decolletage. Some women prefer frilly, while others feel more comfortable with simple, pared down styles. Some women love red, while others hate it.
  • Third, no one thinks that what she wears to any given event indicates whether or not she is a worthy woman.

In other words, we don’t expect every woman to show up at a wedding wearing the exact same outfit because women are individuals with individual needs, desires and preferences.

Mothering is like clothing in that regard, there is no “one size fits all” for every single mother or even for every child of the same mother. The parenting styles that women choose reflect their needs, desires and preferences and (hopefully) the needs, desires and preferences of each individual child.

It makes no more sense to insist that is best for every mother to choose the family bed her children than for every mother to wear a black pencil skirt to every meeting. And it makes no more sense to judge women by their parenting choices than to judge them by their clothing choices.

Manic Pixie Dream Mom concludes:

But it means that yes, if you find extended breastfeeding creepy, by all means, say so in the politest of terms. This should be the civilest of wars, fought with scientific evidence and eloquence. No personal attacks. No “you’re ruining the baby.” This is the only way we can discuss different ways of parenting without degenerating into “I’m okay, you’re okay” or “I’m right, and you’re a bitch.” It’s how you actually change minds – and foster honesty.

You can separate the practice from the person. You can see the failure to circumcise not as a moral judgement, but as a parenting choice. You can view cry-it-out as a choice rather than a sign of someone’s character. And we can all agree to be polite and kind about it.

But that presumes that it is one mother’s business how another mother raises her child. That’s the fundamental premise of the Mommy Wars. And that’s why I’m a conscientious objector. I would suggest that instead of viewing things like extended breastfeeding and circumcision not simply as parenting choices that you can disagree with politely, but as parenting choices that are none of your business.

Don’t “bring on” the Mommy Wars, just do your best to raise your own children in the way that you think is right for them and for your family. We don’t need to learn to “live with disagreement.” We need to mind our own business. Raising your own children is hard enough without some mothers feeling entitled to pontificate on how other women raise theirs.

To paraphrase the great Jewish scholar Hillel:

Successfully raising children requires loving them and letting them know it. All the rest is commentary.