Mommy wars. It started as the debate between stay at home moms and working moms. It’s grown into a discussion on just about every parenting decision possible…breastfeeding vs. bottle, anti-vaccination vs. vaccination, co-sleeping vs. crib, feeding on demand vs. schedules, cloth diapers vs. disposable, and the list goes on and on.
Some say that the media has exaggerated the extent of mommy wars, but others say the fight has been heightened due to the availability of information and social media interaction. Call it what you want. If you’re a parent, you’ve probably been judged, or at the very least questioned, about your parenting choices. You’ve been given unsolicited advice. Strangers in the grocery store have enthusiastically told you what you’re doing wrong. Spirited debates often break out on online boards, even if they violate specific community rules. Being a parent is hard enough without having to prepare for battle and clean up the carnage of this war.
I’ve found being a therapist provides me with a set of skills that help me navigate through life. Through my discussions with other parents and clients, being a part of online communities, and talking with non-parents, I’ve put together this guide for surviving the mommy (or parent) wars.
You’re the Expert of Your Own Life
One of the most important concepts that I connect with as a therapist is the idea that my clients are the experts of their own lives. I do not come into session telling my clients what to do or how to do it. I explore the client’s values and what’s important to them, while helping to broaden their perspective, listening to them, and challenging their ideas. I encourage you to consider this approach as others are attacking, and also during the times when you are picking up a grenade to throw at someone else.
When someone judges you for a choice you have made, especially one tied to something as deep as parenting and the love you have for your child, it’s natural to start second guessing your decisions. All of a sudden we worry if we are doing the right thing or if we should be doing something different. This leads us down the path of feeling like a “not good enough” parent. When this happens, take a step back, ground yourself, and remember that the other person is not the expert on your life. You and your partner can ask opinions from family members, go to therapy, research, or seek advice from online boards, but at the end of the day it will be up to you to figure out what works best for your family and situation.
Mindfulness is a word you’ve probably heard more lately as it has gained popularity with therapists and authors. Mindfulness revolves around the idea of focusing your awareness on the present moment and accepting your own feelings without judgment or criticism. There are many useful therapy techniques revolving around the idea of mindfulness. In relation to mommy wars, I have used mindfulness practices in a variety of ways. Although mindfulness seems simplistic, it takes a great deal of practice to master.
When in the midst of a battle with another parent, or even if you’re caught in the cross fires, slow down. Take a moment to understand and name how you are feeling. Take notice of all the emotions that are surfacing, and those buried deep down. If you’re really fired up about a topic, you’ve probably armed yourself with all the points you want to get out during a discussion. You’re likely in your own head, thinking of the next thing you want to say, and because the other person is doing the same thing neither of you are listening. Emotions are getting high and the conversation is no longer productive. Allow yourself some time to process those feelings/thoughts and then re-center so that you are able to bring yourself back into the present. Being present allows you to think more clearly, engage in constructive conversations, and enjoy your family and life right now in the current moment.
“You can’t control other’s behavior; you can only control your reaction to it.” If you’ve been my client, heard me speak publically, or had an in-depth conversation with me, you’ve heard me say this phrase. For me, this idea is so helpful in almost any interpersonal situation because it allows people to be empowered. You have choice and control over your involvement in mommy wars.
Let’s say you’re in the trenches about to battle with another parent over baby led weaning versus purees. The other parent is pushing all of your buttons and then the judgment escalates. It’s very easy to engage in the conflict. After all, you’ve done your research, you know you arguments, and you want to share your knowledge. When the discussion gets to the point of war, you can choose to disengage. You can’t control what the other parent will do, how they will view you, or the words that they say, but you can control what you do, how you present yourself, and the words you use. Don’t further the war, help to end it.
Maybe humor isn’t specifically a therapeutic idea, but I personally find it extremely important in the process of therapy. I love laughing at myself, my relationships, and the situations I’m presented with. I believe that looking at life with a bit of humor can be healing and give you a bit of perspective. Has there ever been a time that you were so worked up and passionate about something and when you think about the situation down the line you laugh at yourself and the absurdity of what happened? Perspective.
Don’t get me wrong. All of the topics that fuel mommy wars are important for you and your family, and need to be figured out. The issues are serious and should be carefully considered. It’s the interactions with other parents around the subjects that can be viewed with humor. Next time you are on a parenting forum online and a heated discussion breaks out, take yourself out of it and view it as an outsider. I’m going to venture out and say that something funny will happen when you’re not overly involved. When a stranger approaches you and implies that you have damaged your child for life because they are fussy (true story), acknowledge the humor of it and move on.
If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed or struggling with parenting or interpersonal issues, I can help. Call me at (832) 827-3288 for a free consultation so we can discuss your unique situation. There are many different family configurations. I work with single parents, couples, LGBT families, new parents, blended families, and families with adopted children. Whatever your family looks like, you are welcomed to work with me.