Another "Mommy War" Casualty: Enough is Enough
I can’t get this blog post out of my head. The author, Ms. Horn, is a mother who discusses her experience as a “secret supplementer.” She describes her transition from an exclusively breastfeeding mom to a 50/50 mom, a mom who gives her baby breast milk and formula. She also describes, more shockingly, how it is possible for breastfeeding and formula to happily co-exist. (Gasp!)
Her journey is not original. In fact, it is a journey most mothers share. She describes the process of making a decision based on the pros and cons of the result. Welcome to parenting.
So, why is this post clanging in my ears?
Because even though Ms. Horn intently and appropriately thought out her decision to become a 50/50 mom, she is still a victim of a battle. Her decision, that is best for her unique family, has left her doubting herself as a parent. She should be commended and strengthened by her community for finding a way to continue to breastfeed, despite her work and family responsibilities. Instead, she feels the need to justify her choice to the women on the other side of the Breast versus Bottle Battle Royal.
Even worse, the community of battling mothers is so real that she chooses to avoid the wrath of the “opposing” side by executing her plan in secrecy.
This is unsettling to me because I see moms in my office like this everyday. Moms who are desperately needing to make parenting choices, but are completely paralyzed by the rigid dichotomies that these “Mommy Wars” have created. The anxiety that comes with the mere thought of making a wrong choice is more than some parents can bear.
Breast-feeders versus Formula-feeders. Stay-at-home versus Work. Cloth versus Disposable. Daycare versus Nanny. Night-parenting versus Cry-it-out. Organic versus “Regular”. Traditional versus Montessori. Public school versus Private school.
Should I go on...?
Mothers have the strange ability to wave personal decisions as flags of superiority, only making those who choose differently feel like they are sacrificing the wellness of their child. This is cruel and unproductive, because hearing hurtful things about choices we make as parents is a threat to what we hold most dear, our children. And we are all influenced by the shrugs, “looks,” and comments more than we would like to admit.
Sadly, I believe the current parenting experience reflecting these rigid dichotomies are making parents weaker, not stronger.
More parents are beginning to believe the false notion that there is only one “right way” and a “wrong way.” Parents are becoming more likely to simply “choose a side”, rather than collect unbiased information and create a working plan for their family. In turn, they are losing their ability to independently parent, losing the confidence to trust their gut, and losing the boldness to stand up for their families.
Online blogs, discussion boards, and parenting sites are only making this worse. Moms used to only have to endure the shoulder shrugs from their mother, or the evil eye from their sister-in-law. Now, discussing any parenting issue online risks the verbal lashings from PixieDust294, or any number of anonymous “experts.” There is no victory, here.
We need to be supporting each other, learning from each other, listening to each other. Sharing dialog about parenting should be met with compassion and understanding, not name-calling and judgement. Our children are depending on us for guidance, and we cannot do it alone.
I want parents, including myself, to be empowered to make decisions based upon what we believe will allow our unique families to thrive. We need to recognize that our parenting decisions should not be used as a public display of supremacy, nor as a secret act of shame, but as an example to our children that we will not be influenced by arbitrary rules and destructive comparison.
We owe that to Ms. Horn, and to all of us who are just like her. We owe it to all the other moms like us. Because beyond the battlefield, we are the same. We all want the best for our kids.