Mothers Against Mothers: A Modern Civil War
Imagine this - you're in a grocery store waiting to pay. A woman in front of you has two small children; one child in a carrier in the basket, and a toddler wrapped around her legs. To say the toddler isn't happy is an understatement. This little guy is red-faced and screaming at levels that could shatter glass. The baby in the carrier is fussy and adding to the wall of noise. The frazzled mother is trying to unload the contents of her basket onto the conveyor belt, so she can pay and get out of there. The screamer is oscillating between laying on the floor wailing to hitting the mom to pulling items off the child-level shelves and throwing them.
Here's my question. What are YOU doing? As you stand behind the family watching all the action, are you ticking off in your mind all the things this mom SHOULD be doing? Are you, like everyone else in earshot, saying to yourself, "MY child would NEVER act like that."?
Sadly, many people do just that. They judge the mother. Even more sad is the fact that most of the people doing the judging are fellow mothers....the people who you'd think would understand the frustrations of being a mom.
So, why are we moms so quick to look down our noses on each others parenting? This article isn't about mothers who are obviously harming their children(abusing, neglecting, leaving them in hot cars, etc). Those situations are the kind we NEED to make our business for the sake of the child. I'm talking here about the daily decisions we mothers make. Why do those decisions become the business of every other mother out there?
A Modern Problem
Some might assume that this mother against mother thing has been going on for as long as humans have been on this earth. While I have no proof, because I've only been on this earth for 47 years, I don't think this is the case.
Remember the old adage, "It takes a village"? Many years ago, that was exactly what was happening in the world. Families didn't live in brick houses, separate from each other. They lived in communities where they shared everything from drinking water to chores. While the men were out doing what men did back then, the women would take care of the children - and not just their biological children. Women helped raise each others children as well. If a mother couldn't nurse for whatever reason(illness, under-active milk glands, etc), other lactating women would step in and feed the child. I doubt these women were judging the non-nursing mother. Back then, there was no time to judge. Everyone was too busy trying to survive.
You Just Can't Win
Women are judging each other on everything. If a mom doesn't breastfeed, she's wrong. If a mom breastfeeds her child past a certain indeterminate age, she's wrong. Here is a list of just some of the things about which mothers silently(and sometimes loudly)judge each other.
- Nursing - see above
- Sleeping - co-sleeping, crying at night, etc.
- Eating - "Can you believe she lets toddler eat chicken nuggets!"
- Discipline - "She needs to spank that child!", "That child just needs more love and attention.",
- TV - "You are rotting your child's brain and giving them ADHD, if you let them watch TV."
- Video Games
- Clothing - "Did you see what her 14 yr-old daughter was wearing?!"
What is it that makes us judge each other so harshly? Is it because we ourselves are struggling with this whole motherhood thing, and finding faults in others somehow makes us "the better mom"? Is it because we have lived in a bubble all our lives and can't imagine that ideas different than ours are valid?
Sadly, it might just be that some of us feel superior - as mothers, wives, etc. These women have probably always felt superior - from the sandbox to the Junior High Cafeteria to the Sorority. There may be nothing that I could say here that could change those particular women. It's who they are.
For the rest of us, there's hope!
WSYD (What SHOULD You Do)
Now, back to the grocery store. What should we as fellow moms do in this situation? What would happen if you stepped forward and offered to unload the groceries from the cart, so the mom could deal with the unruly toddler? What if you offered to hold the fussy baby? I'm sure some of you are thinking, "I wouldn't want a stranger holding MY baby." Fair enough. Maybe the woman wouldn't want that either, but what if you offered? What's the worst that could happen? She says no? I'm sure we're all big enough to handle that type of rejection.
But - what if she accepted the help? What a difference you will have made in that mom's day - which, in turn, will make the children's day better as well.
Don't get me wrong here. We don't have to agree with other parenting styles, but why can't we learn to respect them? If a mother is still allowing her seven year-old child to have a paci at night, why is that our business? We are not all the same. Our children are not all the same.
I have three children. My older two(17 and 16) have always been very well-behaved children. They've honestly never given me any real problems(knock on wood). My 12 yr-old, on the other hand, is another story. What worked for my older two doesn't work for her. She's strong-willed and hard-headed. I'm sure when she was little, I was that woman in the grocery store with people judging me over the tantrum my child was throwing.
The fact is, we need to help each other, not tear each other down. Motherhood is no picnic, and we need to support each other in everything, even in decisions we may not make ourselves. I hate to break this to you, but none of us know the PERFECT way to raise children. We're all struggling to find our way. Wouldn't it be a much nicer journey, if we helped and even encouraged each other and along the way?