If there has ever been a buzz word of the last 10 years, in the parenting world, Mommy Wars would be it! Whether you breast feed, bottle feed, co-sleep or sleep train, becoming a parent in the last decade means gearing up in your armour and entering a pretty epic battle!
Basically the idea is that if anyone does things differently on their parenting journey than you, well, obviously they are wrong….and it’s your job to tell them! Easy! Anyone can do it… and some days, it feels like everyone has.
But today, I want to talk about how I put down my (metaphoric) gun and found peace in the midst of the Mommy Wars!
First off, a little back ground. I have LOVED babies since, well probably, I was a baby myself! I grew up babysitting, and volunteering in the church nursery. I worked as a nanny and then studied Early Childhood Education in college. There was a long time, I was pretty convinced there was nothing I didn’t know about taking care of babies. I WAS THAT PERSON. You know, childless woman, with loads of ideas and advice for someone currently in the trenches of parenthood. Yeah, them! Now listen. I will never discredit that advice. Sometimes the perspective of somebody not currently struggling with the same challenges is refreshing and helpful. Often it is not. I’m so very sorry for those times.
Fast forward to my positive pregnancy test. I was bound and determined that I was going to do everything for MY baby “right”. It started with giving birth “right”, then feeding baby “right” and getting baby to sleep “right”. It went on and on and on. It became an obsession. Without even realizing it, I spiraled into an anxious ball of stress. Angry, tired, obsessed stress!
I was so focused on what everyone around me was doing “wrong”…”Pffft, not cloth diapering your baby…. do you EVEN CARE about your child, or the environment?”. As if by some stretch, love was measured in the soft piece of minky fabric your baby shits in! It seems ridiculous, and honestly, it was agonizing to live this way. I didn’t understand why I felt the need to be so aggressive about what other parents did, it just spilled out of me. I felt personally attacked whenever someone chose a different path, or method! I couldn’t rationalize the idea that none of it had to do with me! Not even a little.
Then, one day it all hit me like a ton of bricks. I felt sad, and lonely. I didn’t have close friendships with other parents and I was exhausted (remember, I had a non-sleeper). Being so critical of other people did NOT make me feel better about myself, it did not improve my self esteem, it was all just a reflection of my own severe insecurity! And the worst revelation for me, it was sucking the precious time and energy I could have been focusing on my family.
I had been terrified about what other people thought of me, as a person and most importantly, as a mom. If I didn’t live up to my own, completely unrealistic standards of what a “good” mom was, others must think I’m a huge failure too! I was caught up in feeling judged by others, whether I was or not, so I fought fire with fire, and everything just burned. Being “right” was more important than finding joy. It didn’t take long before I became desperate to find some joy!
I made the conscious decision to look at myself and my parenting choices differently. No longer allowing the pressure to be perfect and “right” to overwhelm me. I realized what I did for my family did not hurt anyone else. If it worked for us, there was no downside to letting criticism or judgement (real or perceived) just roll off my back. In the exact same way, I realized that it added ZERO benefit to anybody to waste time and energy on offering criticism or judgement to others. It actually kind of made me a huge jerk. I didn’t want to be that person anymore. So I took a page from Elsa’s book and “Let it Go!”
I’m far from perfect, I have had many moments since this realization where I catch myself having judgemental thoughts, or saying unkind things. But the more I focus my attention inward, to my own family and myself, the less time and energy there has been to focus outwards on others. In the past when I would read or hear someone shaming any of the parenting choices that I had made, I took it personally, and it bothered me for a long time. Since making this change, when I hear something negative, I sit on it for a moment, and then decide, is this information, or it’s source, worth any more of my time or attention? 99.9% of the time, the answer is no! Letting it go is a conscious choice, but one that I have learned to make time and time again! Practice makes perfect!
I feel like it is important to note that I DO NOT have it all together. Not even a little bit. At 5 years old my child, drives me absolutely batty on a very regular basis. I’m still very unsure of what I’m doing, but that is normal. Most parents, feel this way! I’m the mum online that tries to keep things real, (a quick look at my Instagram Stories will reveal this truth!) and I hope to be there for anyone who needs a gentle chuckle, and a “I’ve been there too!”, because likely, I have! Parenthood does not require perfection, and the first steps I’ve taken to lifting some of that pressure is to recognize that I’m never going to get it totally “right!” There is right for me, and right for you, but never one kind of “right” that works for everyone! Keep on trudging through the trenches of parenthood, but know you can leave the “Mommy War” at any time! There is a wonderful peace to be found outside the battle!