I must admit, I am fascinated by the phenomenon of judgment dubbed “The Mommy Wars.” From a sociological perspective I can’t help but almost find it amusing. Ironic. Illogical. But still, there isn’t a mother alive, myself included, who hasn’t been witness to the warring segments of the mommy hierarchy that surrounds them. As I watch and listen to the maternal world around me I can’t help but wonder if everyone is aware of what these social battles represent? Do they know that the existence of this so called war should have us all thankful? It sounds crazy, I know. But the mommy wars represent something wonderful and powerful happening in our society. We are all just too busy fighting over the minutiae to see that we are often missing the big picture.
We all know the war. It’s those issues that are the most commonly fought over in the mommy community. To cosleep or to crib sleep, to breastfeed or to bottle feed, to cry it out or to respond to every cry, to wear the baby or to push the stroller, to work or to stay at home… It’s a battle over parenting styles and what’s really best for our children. Even if you find a mother who believes passionately in the same side of one of these topics as you do, chances are on the next issue you’ll be equally unaligned.
There are an infinite number of choices when it comes to raising our children and all of our decisions are based on a multitude of factors from income to physical and mental capacity, spousal and familial support and the health of our children. No two families are the same and even within the same family no two children are the same. I myself have made some very different choices for my boys on some of these very issues. Their personalities and their medical needs required me to. And that’s the point I guess. Aside from the very obvious that there is more than one right way to raise a child, I think a very important point is being lost in the mommy wars…and that is the presence and diversity of choice.
We have choices and social support that the women in previous generations could only have dreamed of. At the park yesterday I saw mothers carrying, wearing and pushing their babies. I saw babies being bottle-fed and I saw babies being breast-fed. I saw stay at home dads and working parents who were represented by their loving nannies. Watching the diversity of parenting styles and seeing them all cohabitate and exist simultaneously gave me warm fuzzies.
Whether you identify as a feminist or not, one thing is certain, our daughters are growing up in a different world than our mothers and grandmothers. My great grandmother didn’t have the right to vote, but our daughters can be president of the United States. Our grandmothers had the expectation of raising babies and staying home regardless of their dreams and ambitions. Yet my friends and I can be doctors and lawyers and astronauts. In our mothers’ generation it would have been socially difficult for a man to be out earned by his wife. But now I have many girlfriends who are the sole breadwinners with stay at home husbands.
The important thing to me isn’t determining which of these choices are right and which of these lifestyles are the best. I simply love that these diverse choices and lifestyles exist at all. Women in our generation have an unprecedented amount of options. I myself was the primary breadwinner and a working mom. Then my life changed, my husband’s career changed and my kids medical situation changed. Now I’m a stay at home mom with a working husband. I’ve done both. I understand both. And while my status in the professional world has absolutely no bearing on how much I love my children or what kind of mother I strive to be, I will always be thankful to the society that allowed me the ability to do what I needed for myself and my family. I will always be thankful for my career that allowed me to excel professionally, feed my family and nurture my ambition. I am also thankful to the same society that allowed me to quit my job and take care of my kids. I’ve been blessed by feminism in that it gave me the ability to do what I needed to do for my family when I needed to do it. While not all people have supported all of my choices, society as a whole has made it possible for me to reach out and find the support that I needed when I needed it. I have feminism and the women’s movement to thank for it.
I’m also thankful that the women’s movement has allowed so many entrepreneurial mothers. Mothers who said, “We can do better than this.” Mothers have reinvented strollers, carriers, pacifiers and toys. To the working women who have made my life as a mom easier through your innovation, I thank you. To the stay at home moms who I see everyday, you offer me much needed emotional support when I’m struggling to survive the toddler years. For this I thank you. To the women working in the professional world, you are paving the way for our daughters and showing the world that women can do anything. Thank you. To all the women who have ever fallen to one side or the other in the mommy wars, I thank you. You represent how far we’ve come as a society by highlighting the diversity of choices women have.
But let us not forget, we all love our children and we all want the best for them. I can’t help but wonder what would happen if instead of women fighting over which way is the right way, we started celebrating the fact that we can each choose our own way. Because if there’s one thing we can all agree on it’s that being a mom is hard. All of us mommies, regardless of which choices we make, are just trying to survive. We all need support. It is my deepest hope that women will stop fighting and start uniting. Because really, we are all fighting the same battle. We just do it differently. We are fighting for choice. Fighting for equality. Fighting for respect. Fighting for our children.
How can we tell our daughters and our nieces that they can be anyone or do anything they want in life and then criticize those who do it differently than us? Supporting our fellow women is supporting our own daughters. It’s supporting our daughters future choices and supporting their future ambitions…whatever they maybe. As a mother of boys I can’t lead young girls into womanhood. But I can lead my boys into manhood. As a mother of boys, I can help shape and define my sons’ future expectations of the women in their lives. I don’t want my boys to think that being a homemaker is the only way to be a good wife and a good mother. I also don’t want them thinking that any woman not working isn’t pulling her weight. I want my daughter-in-laws to have choices. I want my daughter-in-laws to be respected by their husbands. I want my little boys to look at women of all segments of society and value their contribution and think they are amazing.
So to all my fellow moms out there, I promise you this…. I promise to do my best not to judge you. I promise to have compassion for your choices and understand that you are doing the very best you can. I promise to try and remember that what works for me does not necessarily work for you and that’s okay. I promise to do my very best to teach my little boys that all of you are strong and valued regardless of where you come from and how you do things. I promise to respect you and the fact that you are raising the next generation of parents. One of you out there is raising the women who will one day give birth to the next generation of my own family, and I need your little girl to have support.
To the future mother of my grandchildren, I wish for you to be strong and independent and valued. I need you to have choice and to have your choices accepted and supported not only by the society around you but also by my son. In order to help facilitate this, I promise to teach my sons to respect you and support and see value in your ambitions whatever they may be.
I also promise to do my best to support your mommy. I promise to help her when I see her struggling and not to judge you when I see her doing the unconventional. I promise to support her so that she can support you. You are a very important little girl. You are going to be the mother of my grandchildren and the person who makes my son whole. Because I respect you, I will respect your mommy too. I do not know who you are but I do know that you could be anyone, anywhere. So I’m going to have to assume you are everyone. Therefore my kindness and support must be everywhere. This is my promise to you.
My dear daughters to be, I can’t wait to meet you. I can’t wait to see how happy you make my sons! I can’t wait to see the wonderful women your mothers raised. When I’m feeling judgmental I will continue to remind myself that at the end of the day, you will be the love of my sons’ lives regardless of how you were fed as a baby and how your parents decided to carry you around. These are not the things that will make you a good person. They are not what will make you a good wife and they will not be what makes you a good mother.
Please know that we will love you when you come to us. As hard as it may be for me, I promise to honour your place in my sons life and support the choices you make. Respecting you is the best way I can pay homage to the women who came before me, who fought so hard for our freedom of choice to exist. Without them, “The Mommy Wars,” could not be and you would most likely not be able to do whatever it is you will do.
I can’t wait to find out what choices are available to you that weren’t available for me. It will be fun to watch you raise the next generation in a world full of progress.