(Image courtesy of Google Images, from “Let’s End the Mommy Wars” [Huffington Post, 06/11/13] Anyone look familiar?)
I heard an interview with the author Elisa Albert about her new book, “After Birth”, about how a mother struggles and tries to navigate her new world with her baby. In the interview, which aired on NPR earlier this week, Albert had a little bit to say about what is commonly known as the “Mommy Wars”, or stereotyping and slinging mud at groups of women who have made different choices than you have. She said, in part, “It’s a way of avoiding the actual issues, which is: Women don’t have enough support for any of the choices that we make…We are pitted against each other and ultimately, then, are pitted against ourselves. And everybody is unhappy, and everybody feels judged. It doesn’t have to be this way.”
Some of the judgements that are perpetuated about adult women:
Single and childless: Stubborn and demanding (and quite likely crazy)
Married and childless: Selfish, cannot tolerate inconvenience
Stay at home mothers: Setting women’s rights back to the 1950’s, lazy
Single parents: Bad relationship role models
Full time working mothers: Neglectful, don’t like their children
Such a convenient way of looking at things, of looking at the “others” who are not like us. It makes us feel better about our choices to put each other down. Have I made these kinds of mental categorizations? It pains and embarrasses me to say, but yes, I have. You want to know why? Because I have not been confident in my choices as an adult woman, in any of the categories I fell into at any point in time. But now that I’ve gotten experience in several of those categories, and I have gotten to know women in all different situations, I find the “Mommy Wars” tiresome, unnecessary and sad. I’ve learned it is so much more healthy and gratifying to lift each other up rather than put each other down.
My personal experience is that some of the most intelligent, witty and strong women I know are those who chose not to settle down and conform to societal norms such as marriage and child birthing/rearing. They are not any lonelier or crazy than anyone else, and in most cases, are much more stable, sane and confident.
Those married couples who chose not to have children? The ones I know bestow a ton of love upon my kids, me and a lot of other people in their lives. They are not selfish or materialistic, and in a lot of ways are more altruistic than most. Yes, they can focus more on their careers and devote energy to travel, if they wish. But I also see them sharing their experiences, volunteering for non-profit groups that help feed the hungry, help out at-risk youth or provide love and training for foster dogs.
Stay at home parents? I know both male and female stay at home parents. And across the board, none of them are lazy or anti-gender equality. They are amazing parents and partners, and their energy and devotion and creativity inspire me. No matter what their previous careers consisted of, they take the responsibility of parenting seriously, and yes, they WORK.
Single parents. I’ve learned that there are many, many circumstances that can result in a single parent situation. Ranging from the worst, which is having a partner pass away, or leaving an abusive relationship, to the best, which is where two people realize they would be better as supportive co-parents than masquerade as a couple “for the sake of the children”. No failures, only success in doing what is best for their children.
The Moms who work full time. This is the category I fall into. I don’t dislike or neglect my children, most of the time. Not any more than any other parent, that is. Because sometimes kids can be jerks, you know? And I know there are Moms who work who Totally Got This. They prioritize, they schedule, they work with their partners to get to 6am hockey practice on Saturdays, dance by 9am, midday music lessons and still manage to get in their 1-3 hour workouts/runs. They are Wonder Woman, Mary Tyler Moore and June Cleaver all wrapped up in one, with a little bit of a Charlie’s Angels edge. I don’t even remotely have my shit together, but as I’ve said before, I’m doing the best I can.
And that’s the other thing that should bond us together; no matter our situation or life stage, we all have our struggles. I’ve learned that empathy goes a lot farther than contempt, and if you put support out there then support you will receive in return.
So here’s to all of us, no matter our situations. Down with Mommy Wars and Up With People!
And lastly, there was this video that was circulating heavily a few months ago. Even though my children are no longer babies, the message still rings loud and clear. No matter your situation, we are all in this together.
(Video Courtesy of YouTube.com)