Someone catch me up. Who is winning the “Mommy Wars”? Is there a final score? Is it still raging?
In the early days of the internet the first place I found community was a parenting website. I found it by way of a chat room that I stumbled upon one evening. Without reading the title of the chat I took in the conversation and began sharing my parenting thoughts with the others. The responses were a bit strange and the way they referred to their children were just plain odd.
Then I noticed the topic: “Parenting and Pets”. (Well, alrighty then...)
As I began visiting the message boards I found some of the topics just as confusing. Not because I didn't understand the subject, I didn't understand the rage. The terrible things you can be accused of if you choose bottles over breasts, disposable over cloth, cribs over co-sleeping, cry it out vs soothing, work outside the home instead of staying at home.
Then there were the parenting book discussions. Clearly, you were an awful parent if you didn't use the popular method of child rearing. You were abusive if you used the other. If your child wasn't perfectly mannered, on a schedule or reading chapter books by aged two you were considered lazy and if he was you were known as a tyrant.
It was exhausting.
In the real world it wasn't much better. Who has the cutest clothes, whose child is biting, who has a rigid schedule and who sees flexibility as a gift were all topics of conversation. When I visited family in California I apparently dressed my child all wrong, didn't keep her hair perfectly coiffed and didn't allow her to eat sugar. I was a parenting contradiction. Around home I was told that I didn't understand what it was like to have a “strong willed” child. Clearly, this person spent too little time around my little free thinker.
Then there was the comparison of who did what first. Who walked, talked, drank, ate and signed the Star Spangled Banner first were discussed. Not to mention the deep conversations about how organized, how clean or how beautiful each other's homes were. Are you still driving a mini-van or have you moved up to an SUV? (If you are still in a mini-van it better be the higher rated version on Consumer Reports.) Do you decorate like Martha and cook like Rachael?
I would love to tell you my mind never went there but it did. It didn't just go there, I set up camp there. My poor daughter spent time not knowing which was was up. The expectations fluctuated between what I knew in my gut was right and the pressure of those around me. The pressure that implied my worth as a wife/mother/woman/human depended on doing it right. The gauge by which I measured my importance was not only faulty, it changed depending on who I was with.
Here at home in rural Oregon there were different rules then where I grew up in Southern California. Add in the internet with folks weighing in from all over the country with media saturated standards and it is a miracle I kept a shred of sanity. (I'm only claiming a shred.)
Then Allison came along.
Allison, our daughter who was placed in our arms at 6 weeks old. Born with an rare syndrome that at the time only had a medical description and no name. Only about 500 people in the world are known to be living with Emanuel Syndrome (name a few years ago) so there aren't too many to compare her to.
She is learning to walk at the age of 13, she still doesn't talk and will likely never be fully potty trained. She doesn't read books, she uses a g-tube to be nourished and she has only been on one “time-out” in her entire life. (She was a little defiant with her teacher at school.) She won't be in sports, win merit badges in The Girl Scouts or be awarded scholarships to college.
She came with no bragging rights in the world of parents.
Truly, when she entered our lives she gave us the most beautiful lesson on the value of a human that anyone could. Every person, every human, every life holds intrinsic value. Our worth is determined by our Creator, not by each other, not by what we do, not by how smart, pretty, thin, athletic or efficient we are but just by the fact we are created.
So while it is great as moms to commiserate with each other in the world of parenting, swapping ideas and recipes can make life more fun. Shopping for a darling outfit or dressing up our children makes us smile and spending time with a hobby can add texture to our lives. What we need is friends to share our stories with. We need other women to “do life” with.
I'm raising the white flag.
Let's do away with the competition. Let us stop comparing ourselves to each other, to air brushed models on tabloids and to the woman who looks like she has it all together. Let's take the pressure off of ourselves and our children to perform and just live life. Instead of trying to outshine each other, lets find away to help each other shine.