What Every Mom Can Do To Stop The Mommy Wars
It’s so hard not to criticize how other moms do things, but here are six ways you can put the kibosh on those little jealousies and judgments.
Want to end the Mommy Wars? We've created Moms for Moms Day with CTWorkingMoms.com in an effort to support, encourage and stand behind each other's choices, judgments aside. Join moms (and moms-to-be!) by sharing your Mommy Truths with us.
At the most black-and-white level, the phrase "Mommy Wars" calls to mind stay-at-home moms who think working parents are neglectful and selfish, versus working moms who see the stay-at-home crowd as unambitious and outdated. Petty and divisive? Sure. But here's something I didn't know before I became a mom: it's hard not to judge, or at least evaluate, other moms and their choices. After you give birth, suddenly there are dozens of other people around you who are, quite publicly, doing the same job you are. So you wonder: How are they handling things? Better than me? Or worse?
In my own parent-filled neighborhood in Brooklyn, I've found that most of the punches thrown — mine included! — stem from mothers' insecurities about their own choices. Would my child be more social if he went to daycare? Will she feel abandoned because I'm not staying home with her? Is he too attached because I'm with him all day?
Of course, the truth is that everyone’s dealing the best they can — usually with things you can’t quite gauge from a playground bench. We talked to a few moms about how they've learned to leave judgment at the door and approach other moms with curiosity and a willingness to see each other as not just yardsticks, but as actual resources in the great big messy world of parenting.
Focus On What Works For You
Figure out what feels right for you. “If you're happy with your own mom role — whether you stay-at-home or work fulltime and outsource childcare — you won't feel a need to look at what others are doing with judgment,” says Katie G., a North Carolina mom of three. “There are positives to all situations, and it helps to concentrate on what's going right in your family, and share that with others.”
This idea not only helps you avoid comparisons, but it also makes you a great resource for other moms: the more you work on your own system, the more insights you can share with friends about why it works.
Start a Conversation
It’s easy — especially when you’re feeling judged — to hit back. Ereka V., a Connecticut mom of two toddlers, is a freelancer who sometimes works long hours — which prompted run-ins with stay-at-home moms who openly disapproved of her schedule. “I was a wonderful target for them," she says. "Some would make comments like, ‘You know children learn the most when they are always with their parents.’”
Ereka dismissed most of these barbs, but one with one mom, she made an attempt to break the ice. “I told her it was hard for me to find balance, that I felt like I was missing milestones in my child's life,” she confesses. “But also that I found great joy in working. And I told her how much I respect stay-at-home moms.”
Ereka’s honesty was rewarded — she and that mom became friends who could support each other's different parenting journeys.
Embrace the Roller Coaster (Because We’re All On It!)
Brooke G., mom to a one-year-old in New Jersey, has a motto about the highs and lows of parenting: "Easy come, easy go."
Brooke works fulltime, and her neighbor across the street is a stay-at-home mom. “On the nights when I get home and see two cars in her driveway, I’m jealous that her family is already together and I'm running — really running — in for a late dinner after a long day. But I remind myself that the next night, it might be only her car there at 6 p.m., and she's been going it alone for the last 12 hours without a break.” One evening the neighbor's life looks easier; later in the week, Brooke’s does. Keeping that balance in mind is helpful.
Create a Community
“You can only raise your own kid,” says Alecia P., a mom of two in New York. “I tell myself that anytime I see something that is starkly different than the way I do things. The most important thing to remind myself is that doing things differently doesn't mean doing things incorrectly.”
Each kid is different, each family is different, and no matter what path a mom has chosen, she has wisdom to give. “Some of the best ideas and suggestions I've gotten about raising my own kids are from other mommies,” says Alecia.
But it can be touchy because some moms see suggestions as criticism. One non-threatening way to share methods is to frame your ideas within your personal experiences. For example: “My daughter used to get so cranky around lunchtime, but I found that moving her nap an hour earlier made the day go more smoothly.”
And if you feel like a hot mess sometimes, well, so does everyone else. So if you’re honest, others will be too. “If we look at each other as resources instead of competitors, then our village will be much better off,” says Alecia. “Except of course for those crafty Pinterest moms. They're just showing off.” (She’s kidding. Kind of.)
Have a Second Kid
With baby number one, you may have obsessed over sterilizing spoons after they fell on the floor or making sure every toy was educational and aesthetically pleasing. But with kid number two? There's just no time for all that obsessing, which means there's less time to be judgmental.
“When you have more than one child, there's much more of a sense of ‘I'm just doing the best I can and so is everyone else,’” says Emily F., mom of two in New Jersey. “Also, the second kid tends to be a great karmic leveler: Those who had easy babies the first time around get colicky second ones and vice versa. So you realize no one can really credit (or blame) their life choices for their kids' personalities.”
Say This: You're a Good Mom.
Remind yourself — and don’t forget to remind others too. “It feels good to say, and even better to hear,” says Julia G., mom of an 18-month-old in New York. Plus, it’s an affirmation that sets up a positive dynamic between you and other moms — with one sentence you're creating a warm and open setting for sharing parenting ideas and experiences. Tell your friends, your family, your neighbors, and the mothers at the park: “You’re a good mom.” Their smiles will astound you.
While it’s sometimes hard to avoid knee-jerk reactions when you see a mom doing the same job you are but doing it very differently, the positives of creating connections rather than rifts are huge. “Moms have to be honest with one another,” says Ereka V. “When we talk openly about our weaknesses and strengths, we can pool information from all sides to be one community of moms, all doing the best we can.”
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