As much as I hate to bring up the mommy wars (oy, can we think of a better term already?) it’s been a good few weeks of reading articles, thinking about articles, thinking about magazine covers, thinking about responses to articles and magazine covers, starting to write–then hesitating to write–my own articles in response.
I haven’t written any magazine covers either. Yet.
As seasoned journalist Anna Quindlen said when I asked her whether there was such a thing as a mommy war (and I paraphrase) she suggested that each one starts in the newsroom of a publication desperate for viewers and page views.
In other words, we agree that outrage is good for ratings.
However I’ve been thinking, there’s a truth to the teeny spark of insecurity that lies deep within any of us, or else there would be no spark to be flamed. No need for defensiveness. No need for attacks. No need for some crazy woman on my Huffington Post article to suggest that moms who stay home full time are superior because ” I don’t want some stranger to teach my child values my family doesn’t agree with” and “our homes are clean and our children are well cared for.”
(I will just say to her here, with as much restraint as I can, that staying at home is no guarantee of you having the kinds of values worth passing on, especially if those values include shaking your fists at parents who make different choices than you. I can also assure you it’s no guarantee of a clean house.
Former SAHD Nate will be the first to attest to that.)
So I suppose there’s one thing I’m starting to understand with some age and distance regarding this whole war thing: we’re not at war with each other at all.
We might just be at war with ourselves.
It’s my reality vs my fantasy. My expectations vs my worst fears. My idealized parental self vs the one who had to go back to work and miss a dance recital.
I know that when I am at peace with myself, I am also at peace with others.
Don’t you feel that too?
Any time I start to feel judgey about a parent’s choice–one that I don’t think is irreparably harming the kid–I look at myself and think, hm, what’s going on here? What is it about me that finds this so bothersome? Why do I care that that kid is wearing flip-flops in the fall? Why does that extended breastfeeder make me uncomfortable?
It’s a good exercise. And a hard one. And I don’t have all the answers.
It may take a while for us all to get there. We may not ever get there completely. Although if I can share one anecdote with you, it might be helpful.
This week, Sage is her preschool class’s Star of the Week. In her mind that means special attention, snacks of her choosing (something having to do with candy corns evidently), and a day with her family visiting class.
In our mind it means holy crap, we have to sort through 5 years of photos for the Star of the Week bulletin board.
As Nate and I poured through photo after photo this weekend (hazard of the digital generation), a lot of things went through my mind. Like oh, look how cute she was! And aw man, I forgot when she used to do that with her face. Here were the things I was not thinking:
Man, if only I had breastfed her a few months longer.
That Cry it Out thing? Clearly a huge mistake.
Eek, that was the time we played in the park then ate ice cream without even using hand sanitizer.
Sigh, if only we had pureed more of her baby food ourselves.
Oh no, those Baby Einstein Videos! What a terrible, horrible choice with long-term implications that turned out to be.
Missing that two-year old well visit really seems to have scarred her, poor thing.
Remember how she sat up by herself 1 month before the neighbor kid did? That was awesome!
When I look at her friends I can really tell which ones were born by elective c-sections, poor things.
It’s really weird how well-adjusted she is considering she slept in a crib.
Mostly I just thought about how lucky I am to have such an amazing kid in my life.
My point isn’t that our own choices were right or wrong. My point is that all that shit you freak out about in the early months? Eh. Save your freakouts for the playground bullies, the learning disabilities, the cough that doesn’t go away for three weeks. And no matter what, save it for your own kids. Not mine. Not your sister-in-law’s. Not your neighbor’s. Not the anonymous chick on the message board who tells you that God doesn’t want you feminists working or he wouldn’t have given you ovaries.
Now she may piss me off, and I may respond, I don’t need to attack back. Unless she’s personally blocking my path to work with her own body. Then I might have to say something snarky. (Or buy her a coffee, depending on the kind of day I’m expecting at work.)
As my mother has always asked throughout my life when I was upset about something or other, “will this matter in five years?”
Now, as the mother of a five year-old, I can answer: no. It probably won’t.