When I first thought about the topic of mommy wars, I pictured current social media: critical Facebook posts and parents tearing each other apart in the comments of a blog. This is what I've seen and experienced. I keep wondering though, why its happening. Are parents so insecure in their parenting choices that they are offended by those doing things differently? Or is it "the other side," the parent zealots who act like its their way or the highway when it comes to feeding, vaccinating, or diapering? I suppose it comes down to the fact that no parent wants to feel inadequate when it comes to raising children. Protectiveness naturally emerges too; we are designed to protect our families. But is there really a right way to parent? Yes and no, I think. It reminds me of a recent post by fellow Boba blogger Heather about parenting choices. There are some things I just can't condone - like spanking for instance - but there are many other things that either work or don't for different people, and that's ok.
When I sat down to research I realized that this is quite an old argument. The term Mommy Wars was coined in 1989 after Felice Schwartz wrote an article for The Harvard Business Review focusing on the differences between working and stay at home mothers. This article caused quite a stir that never really calmed down but this wasn't really the true start of things. Before the high speed business world of the 80's was the feminist movement of the 60's and 70's when women's roles were challenged. This was a monumental time for women's rights but it also put a lot of pressure on women to make the *right* choice. If you didn't work you weren't exercising your rights, you weren't feminist enough, or smart enough. You weren't woman enough. But of course those who went to work were also critiqued for not staying home with their kids. You can't please everyone I suppose.
With help from big time media like the infamous Time article last year on full-term breastfeeding, the question "are you mom enough" is fresh in the minds of many parents.
Blog posts spread like wild fire and social media has made it much easier to throw fuel on an already rampant fire. Sites like Pinterest and Instagram where families' lives are painted like a utopic picture sure don't help either. I've seen articles saying there's no such thing as mommy wars, saying that the media made it up to stir up emotions and get more publicity. A commenter on this blog says: "Implying there’s a war means that someone can “win.” And parenting isn’t about winning"
It's true, it shouldn't be about winning, but for whatever reason I do think it is happening. Every parent wants to do the best for their child, but no two will do things exactly the same. Moms get online looking for advice - it's like there's finally a parenting manual! It's every parent's dream with so many experienced parents at your finger tips! And there's a message board for every problem, style, and age group, filled with mostly well-meaning people who are dying to tell you how they do it. As with many community spaces online, things can escalate quickly. It's easy to forget as we sit alone at the keyboard that hundreds of other *real* people might see what we've written. Tone and intent can be hard to judge in written word. Before you blink, a simple question has turned into an argument where real feelings are being hurt.
I've seen this in many different parenting communities. My usual haunts are natural parenting sites; homeschooling, elimination communication, homebirth, babywearing... These are subjects that parents are SO passionate about. It can be almost spiritual when something resonates with your parenting style so perfectly, you can't help but spread the love. Only its not quite as joyful when the love isn't reciprocated. So where is the line between being helpful and being offensive? And where's the line between being too sensitive and protecting yourself? There doesn't seem to be a simple distinction.
I've found myself on both sides of the mommy wars. As a newbie parent I read online often and it took me a while to feel secure in my decisions. I did feel hurt by words sometimes but luckily I was too shy to argue. I realized after seeing hurt feeling over and over that for the most part people aren't trying to start a fight. I've learned that when I read online I should always assume the best of people and believe that they are trying to help.
Years and a couple kids later I became the passionate one who wanted to share my ideas with everyone. It became apparent quickly however that online forums are not always the best way to help. I also realized that breastfeeding and vaccines are equal to religion and politics. There's really no reason to talk about these things with people you don't know unless they express major interest. I got into a few arguments online, got a little too excited when people asked me about homeschooling, and I didn't want to hurt anyone's feelings. Seeing my explanation of why I homeschool bring out the mama bear in a nice lady at play group was it for me. I *wasn't* telling her she was wrong to put her kids in school. I believe every parent wants the best for their child and is making the best decision for their family. These days I just say homeschooling works best for us, so that's what we do and I do my best to not bring up vaccines at the dinner table. :)