Monday, August 26, 2013

Moms, put down your weapons

This article has been sitting in my draft folder for weeks now as I decided whether or not to send it into the public domain. I've decided that it probably needs to be said, so here it is. 

Recently I've been thinking about going on a very long internet vacation. Things are getting out of hand out there. The "Mommy Wars" are getting far too vicious. I recently stumbled upon an article that bluntly stated that putting your child in day-care should be considered the same as child abuse followed by an article entitled "Why I Hate Stay At Home Moms" that launched into the common "my out of home work life is harder than your at home mommy work life" argument, followed by a hateful counterattack of "my mommy work life is harder than your out of home work life." Throw in some "you're killing your child with (insert basically any food that isn't organic, home-grown from seed, personally harvested, raw, vegan, sugar-free and prepared on a counter free from all cleansers except for castille soap that you made from scratch at home here)" or "you're killing your child with (insert any product that touches your child such as sunscreen, toothpaste, cotton shirts that aren't organic, cotton shirts that are organic but don't carry a fire safety label, cotton shirts that were made in a Chinese sweat shop, cotton shirts that were pooped on by endangered brazilian monkeys, disposable diapers, or band-aids here) or some arguments about how having any only child is cruel, having two children is ideal, and having three or more children is environmentally irresponsible and we're looking at the Mommy Apocalypse.

I don't even understand how we have the time to be so nasty to each other. Sometimes I'm still wearing my pyjamas at 3:00, thinking that it might be a good idea to have some breakfast, but not until I rescue my son from the kiddie pool he just fell into and can't seem to get out of even though he's perfectly capable of walking and climbing. How do women have the energy to argue about whose life is harder, who has sacrificed the most, who's the bigger martyr, who sleeps the least, and who has gone the longest without attending to a single one of their own desires?

Life might be easier if we all accepted that having a child or children is hard. Period. And every life situation brings its own advantages and challenges. My suspicion is that everyone is just doing their best. We're all making sacrifices, we're all tired, we're all yearning for a vision of life that is no longer available to us. We're on the same team! But instead of supporting each other, commiserating, having a cup of tea and buoying each other up, we appear to be busy tearing other people down to give ourselves a single second of self satisfaction in the midst of parenting chaos. It seems that if you can prove you're doing at least one thing better than some other parent then you get to enjoy a fleeting sense of victory at someone else's expense.

I know there's hope. I've seen it. I've seen some amazing Facebook conversations developing supportive networks of new moms. I've seen blog posts that seek out the humour in the chaos of parenting. I've listened to people speak candidly about post partum depression and the unexpected challenges they have encountered as parents. I've seen more and more resources for parents of all types--working, at home, part-time, single, same gender, divorced, depressed...It's a tough world out there and the last thing we need is more judgement heaped upon people who are already experts at making themselves feel guilty. It's time to lay those verbal barbs down.

The ridiculous nature of all of this is gaining recognition. A recent satirical article  called "Formula Fed Boy gets into Harvard Medical School" highlighted this perfectly. The future doctor interviewed talks about how he thought he would be at a disadvantage compared to his breast-fed counterparts, but realized they all had their own issues. Another student, for example, was subjected to "cry it out," and another had their soother taken away at age two, yet they were all finding a way to make it through their studies.

None of us have to be perfect parents in order to be good parents. It's time to embrace the "Good-Enough Mother." The one who does her best, screws up, says sorry, and moves on. A chicken nugget won't destroy your child's chances for future success and your own worth doesn't depend on maintaining a nugget free zone at all costs.