In the same way that we can experience extreme road rage simply because we are not looking at the people who have enraged us, it can be easy to judge each other based on stereotypes until we have actually met each other and shared our stories. It is these biased judgments that fuel the mommy wars, and they need to stop.
I would love to be part of a world where these mommy wars don’t exist, and so I am trying to do everything in my power make myself a part of the solution instead of contributing to the problem.
If we could all focus on lifting each other up instead of putting each other down and loving and accepting each other even though we may be different, we could really break down some of the barriers that are preventing us from living in a more harmonious way.
Here are nine things that I think will really help to end all mommy wars. (And honestly, many of these tips are great for breaking down barriers between all people, not just mothers.)
1. Don’t Be a Bully
I don’t think that bullies always realize that they are bullies. When I was an elementary school teacher, I would talk to my students about bullies, and I would tell them that I felt sorry for them because they are usually people who feel insecure, alone, and scared. I would explain that even though bullies are hurting however, it didn’t make it okay for them to hurt others.
Bullies don’t just happen in the world of children, they happen in the world of adults too. Have you ever seen or experienced bully behavior in your mommy world? Or even worse, have you exhibited bully behavior yourself? Have you ever judged someone for doing something different than you and made a sarcastic remark about it? That’s what bullies do. Have you ever ignored a new mom at playgroup because you were too scared about fitting in yourself? You were being a bully. Have you ever rolled your eyes at the mother whose child was having a tantrum at the grocery store instead of offering her a reassuring glance? That’s bully behavior.
We need to stop bully behavior, and we need to stop supporting others when they exhibit it. Bullies can do a lot more damage when they have followers. Weak people often follow bullies because they don’t want to be bullied themselves. Moms who are scared and alone may saddle up to the strongest voice, looking for protection, looking for acceptance, looking for direction, but it is never worth it if it hurts someone else. Bullies are the ones leading these mommy wars, and their bully behavior needs to stop.
2. Motherhood Unites Us
Regardless of whether we are married or single, had a natural birth at home or a c-section at a hospital, breast feed or bottle feed, co-sleep or crib sleep, cry it out or nurse to sleep, feed our children organic food or processed food, or any other number of differences, we are all first and foremost mommies, and that is what’s most important.
We all created and carried a tiny human, and we all felt it kick and move inside of us for months and months as we struggled with questions, insecurities, and self doubt. “Will I be a good mom? Will I know what to do? Will I make the right decisions?” We all melted into a puddle of goo when we first smelled our newborn’s scent, and we bonded. We each bonded in our own ways, but we bonded with our tiny little humans nonetheless. We were changed forever. We became mothers.
We need to remember what unites us when we meet each other at the park, see each other at the grocery store, let our kids play together at play group, and join in discussions on online groups. We need to remember that even though we may make different decisions based on our upbringings, personalities, situations, influences, and resources, we are all still connected and we can all still support each other. When we are united, there is no room for mommy wars.
3. Be a Good Mom Friend
We have the potential to have many mommy acquaintances through playgroups, online groups, social functions, and the like, and if we’re lucky, we’ll also have a few good mommy friends. I have been fortunate enough to have a collection of wonderful mommy friends that extend far beyond my small town city limits. With so many small ones underfoot, I don’t get out much, but thanks to the advancements in technology, I am connected to them nonetheless.
The mommies that lift me up, that make me feel better about myself, that make me feel like I can do anything – these are the ones that I keep close to my tender mommy heart. The mommies who question me, put me down, make sarcastic comments, scoff at my choices, try to tell me how their way is better, and only talk about themselves – these are the ones that I don’t let in.
Your good mommy friends will help you to be a better mommy. They will lift you up, support you, help you to see things that you might not have seen otherwise, offer a new perspective, are excited for you, want to learn and grow with you, and most importantly, they know what it’s like to be a mommy and they share their mommy heart with you. When we can be a good mommy friend, we are building bridges that connect our souls and we are breaking down the barriers that lead to mommy wars.
4. What’s Right for You Isn’t Right for Everyone
Even if you’ve done all of the research and you KNOW without a shadow of a doubt the best food to feed your children, the best way to teach them, the best way to give birth, and the best car seat, you cannot assume that this is the BEST way, this is just the way that works best for you.
I get so excited every time I learn something new, and the main reason why I wanted to write this blog was to record and share what I’m learning, but I have to be really really careful that my voice doesn’t come across as “I know what’s best for everyone”. I know that every mom is on her own journey and will choose what works best for her based on her experiences, personalitiy, resources, and so on. This blog is about what’s best for ME based on MY research, MY personality, MY needs, and what makes ME happy. Maybe, just maybe, some of the things will resonate with you, or make you think about what works for you, or motivate you to do your own research, or just comfort you to know that there is someone out there looking for answers…just like you.
What’s important is that we all have the right to choose. Sadly, some of these rights are being threatened because while individuals are smart, society is perceived as stupid, and therefore, the government tries to tell us what to eat, how to sleep, how to give birth, how to medicate, and so on in sweeping “one size fits all” generalizations. I encourage you to seek out your own answers, to do what works for you, and to try not to impose what you have learned onto others. If we can treat others how we want to be treated, we can put a stop to the judgments that have led to these mommy wars.
5. Don’t Compare Yourself to Other Moms
Whenever I scroll through Pinterest and see a mom doing a bunch of crafts with her toddler that I just don’t have the time for, or I see a blog post from someone I’m following who is cooking something I just haven’t mastered yet, or I see images of moms one step ahead of me on Facebook, my first reaction is to compare myself to those moms. I don’t mean to, but it’s like my brain is saying, “You should be doing that! Why aren’t you doing that?” And then the feelings of guilt start to bubble up.
I start to justify why I’m not like the other moms (who all have it together way better than me, obviously), why I’m not doing what they are doing, how what I’m doing is more important, and then it’s like a switch where I’ve gone from guilty to angry. “Why are they doing that? I would never prioritize that! What I’m doing is better! ” And just like that, my feeling of guilt have transformed into feelings of loathing for the other mom.
Isn’t that horrible? Have you ever felt yourself headed down that path? I am trying to make it my new mission to not get swept away comparing myself to other moms. If I see them doing something that I would also like to try, I tuck that idea in the back of my mind to save for later, and if they’re doing something that I’m just not ready for, then I am training myself to say, “Good for them! I am glad that they are doing what makes them happy!” If we can all support each other even when we are in different stages of motherhood, I think it will most definitely help to end these mommy wars.
6. Stop Trying to Portray Perfection
We all want to share the good in our life, to post our proudest moments to Facebook and Instagram, and to show the world that we do, in fact, know what we are doing. But sometimes, we can work so hard on trying to prove that we’re doing good, that we even fool ourselves into believing this caricature of perfection. Our lives as mothers aren’t always full of perfect Pinterest posts. Yes, we all have our shining moments, but most of the time we’re elbows deep in poop, puke, and pee simply trying to remember what day it is.
I think it’s good to share the good and the bad, and to know that the bad isn’t really bad, it’s just real. I’m not saying that we need to sit around and complain about how tough motherhood is or post pictures of all of our failures, but we need to be able to get real with each other. We need to be able to share with those who we are close to what it’s really like, what we’re struggling with, what’s perplexing us, and what we’re trying to do about it.
If we all do this, if we can all share what it’s really like, then it won’t seem like we’re the only ones who are actually struggling. If we can all get real, it will create a culture that welcomes honesty, introspection, and meaningful relationships. This is the kind of culture where mommy wars don’t exist.
7. Avoid Being a Copycat Mom
I have always been fascinated when I see two or more girls in a group that are all wearing similar outfits. It’s like, did they all call each other before heading out and say, “Today we’re going to wear leggings, baggy v-necked t-shirts, and open toed shoes”? I see this so often that I’ve joked with my husband about wanting to create a coffee table book where I document all of the “twins” that I see.
We all have a desire to fit in, to be accepted, and to belong, and when we’re in a group where there is common ground, an agreed upon set of “rules”, it creates a sense of security. There’s nothing wrong with belonging to various groups, but if we start looking to the group to answer our questions instead of first looking within, it could be a problem. I mean, maybe you love wearing leggings, but maybe you don’t. What if everyone in your group was wearing leggings and you showed up with jeans? You would feel like an outsider, you would feel like everyone was looking at you, and you would question yourself.
As mothers, we may associate with a home birth crowd, a baby wearing group, or a working moms clique who all share similar characteristics. When we’re in these groups, there seem to be these unwritten rules about what all of the moms do and believe in. If you’re a natural mom, you should have a home birth, use cloth diapers, eat only organic food, co-sleep, wear your baby, breastfeed, and homeschool. If you’re a modern mom, you should have an epidural, vaccinate your children, teach your baby to self soothe, pump stores of breast milk, get back to work, and send your child to the best preschool.
But what happens when we pick and choose what works for us rather than adhering to the guidelines of a certain group? What happens when we abandon the checklist and just follow our instincts? Is it possible to be a part of the attachment parenting online forum if you don’t sleep with your baby? Can you still subscribe to the organic moms newsletter if you let your children have McDonald’s from time to time? Will you be shunned by the working moms group if you don’t vaccinate your children?
I have really struggled with this concept because my desire to fit in is strong, but my desire to march to the beat of my own drum is stronger. I choose to do what’s best for me and my family, and as a result, I kind of feel like I don’t really fit in anywhere. Slowly but surely, however, I feel like I’m becoming a part of a really cool new community. In this community, we are bonded by the fact that we are mothers, we love being mothers, we love doing what’s best for our children, and we support each other. It is truly liberating, and it is a mindset that will not allow for the behavior that leads to mommy wars.
8. Don’t Take Everything Personally
Did someone just post a Facebook comment that you KNOW what was meant for you, share a personal story that you’re POSITIVE was meant to teach you a lesson, or explain what they’ve tried when they were in your situation as a way to show YOU that YOU don’t know how to be a mom?
I think that sometimes we can get so lost in our own little worlds, and so absorbed with ourselves, that it seems like everyone else must be too. But the reality, is that everyone is living their own lives, struggling with their own daily battles, focused on their own goals and tribulations, and they really, honestly, don’t care about you as much as you think they do. (This concept is discussed in more depth in Don Miguel Ruiz’s book The Four Agreements, and I highly recommend you read it!)
I know that we can’t control our interactions with strangers, but with the people that are in our lives (who are hopefully in our lives for a good reason), we should give them the benefit of the doubt. When they say something that taps into one of our insecurities and it hurts, we can’t assume that they were trying to hurt us on purpose. If we can assume that everyone loves us and has our best interests in mind, it will reduce our stress levels and put us in a much more positive place.
Then, if time and time again, it becomes clear that a person in our life is trying to make us feel bad, is trying to put us down, and is definitely trying to hurt us, then we have two options. We can confront them about it and/or we can cut them out of our lives for a little while. There is no reason to associate with a bully. There is no reason to keep people in our lives who make us feel bad about ourselves. But there are also miscommunications that occur, and through open and honest conversations about our feelings, we can usually get to the bottom of them. In this way, we can stop the mommy wars one friendship at a time.
9. Find Your Own Happiness
My 6 year old daughter is already such an old soul and loves discussing her life plans. She’s always talking about what kind of mother she’ll be and what career choices she’ll make. Right now, she wants to be teacher, but she also sees herself as an artist, a mathematician, a writer, a nature girl, and a scientist. I always tell her that before she gets married, she has to find her own happiness. I tell her that before she can fall in love with someone else, she has to love herself first. I tell her that in order to love herself, she has to know who she is and that she can do this by figuring out what she loves to do. I encourage her to follow her passions, I help her to see what her passions are, and I guide her towards options that will help her to learn or grow in the areas she is passionate about.
Maybe you were lucky enough to have parents or a mentor who did that for you when you were a child (I was, thanks mom and dad!), but maybe you are just starting out on this journey to find your own happiness.
What makes me happy is always changing as I change and grow. Before I got married, I moved to Colorado, snowboarded like crazy, traveled, had adventures, and followed my heart. Now that I’m married and a mother of four, I feel like the true adventure is just beginning! I find happiness researching and learning about nutrition and how it affects our bodies, trying out recipes that are delicious and meet the nutrition needs of my family, learning about the brain and how children learn, creating learning activities for my children that are in their zone of proximal development, arranging our home into stations that encourage independent learning and creative play, and of course I love writing about what I am learning!
I don’t do all of these things so that I can show off or look good, I do what makes me HAPPY and as a result, my family is too! Maybe you’re a mom who is happiest to get outside and explore, maybe you love doing crafts and posting them on Pinterest, maybe you love learning about history and being a part of historical reenactments, or maybe you love computers and learning programming. If you do what makes you happy, if you follow your passions, if you follow your heart, your family will benefit.
Don’t follow some checklist of what you think you should be doing. Follow your instincts, do what makes you happy, and don’t let anyone else intimidate you to be something you are not. Get rid of the guilt if you’re not into making your own Christmas ornaments. Let go of what society tries to make you feel you should be doing. Just listen to your heart, do what makes you happy, and never look back! When we find our own happiness, there isn’t as much room for the self doubt that leads to us judging others and fueling these mommy wars.
If we can all take steps to stop bully behavior, realize we are all united through motherhood, be a good mom friend, stop comparing ourselves to other moms, know that what works for us doesn’t necessarily work for everyone, stop trying to portray perfection, avoid being a copycat mom, refrain from taking everything personally, and most importantly, find our own happiness, then I believe that we can stop these mommy wars once and for all.
If we can all embrace ourselves and our role as mothers, and if we can embrace each other, regardless of our differences and regardless of our preferences, then we can end these mommy wars, and get back to what really matters, being moms.