There is one thing that makes motherhood unappealing in this day and age, and it has nothing to do with spit-up, poop, or even all-nighters. In fact, it has nothing to do with the actual children you’re parenting, and everything to do with how you parent. Specifically, how others view how you parent, and how you react to those opinions. Of course, I’m referring to the Mommy Wars.
A new mother’s entrance into the Mommy Wars begins with the stream of pro- and anti-breastfeeding articles, tweets and Facebook posts. Suddenly, a biological act that should be addressed medically becomes a social and cultural issue. Of course, this means that your private life and your intimate relationship with your baby are the subject of public scrutiny, or so you’re made to think. All you wanted to do was Google breastfeeding tips, or find a local lactation consultant, or maybe get some tips on what formula would suit your baby best. Instead, you get a barrage of hormonally charged commentary about being an evil mother and contributing to everything from the dumbing-down of culture to global warming. Yes, that’s right: your choice to use your boob will impact the polar ice caps. You’ve been warned.
Then, as your child grows the criticism follows suit. How to introduce foods and when to potty train are governed by the pro-organics versus the pro-GMO crowd. Needless to say, if your child isn’t finger-feeding herself organic kale by age one, you’ve lost her. Might as well give her up and start all over again. Actually, maybe you shouldn’t because you’re the one who let her linger with pre-packaged baby foods and puff snacks. And if you decide to buy organic because your little one likes those particular strawberries, you’re obviously giving into a global conspiracy against farmers. Either way you should just have your tubes tied before you ruin the planet completely.
By the time your child is mobile, you’re sure you’re being judged on your parenting style. Helicopter? You’re creating a mama’s boy. Free range? Obviously you want your child kidnapped and molested. Now you start taking this criticism so personally, so deeply that you find yourself defending a woman who couldn’t wrangle her three-year-old before he climbed a 3-foot fence, crawled through 4 feet of bushes and then fell 15 feet into a moat in a gorilla pit. “It could happen to anyone!” becomes your watch phrase. That’s how determined you are to prove to the world that you aren’t a bad mom, even though you long ago gave up on the idea of taking your little wild one to the zoo for fear of much the same thing happening.
At this point you’ve given up on the terms “good” and “bad” completely. Not because the ability to objectively view facts and reach logical conclusions eludes you, but because you just don’t want to have another insult slung your way. Well, you aren’t really the target. But that celebrity you love, and that girl you follow on Facebook, and like, 10 of your favorite mommy bloggers are. And you are a faithful part of the Sisterhood of Motherhood, which means you’re all in this together, right?
Even if the anonymous tweeters and the faceless writers have never even heard of you, they’re out to get you. Because, even though they don’t know it, they just commented on co-sleeping which is what you started doing 2 weeks ago because you Just. Needed. One. Good. Night. Of. Sleep. And maybe you’re not so sure it was a good idea, because even though your friend Becky co-sleeps with her little angel, Aidan, your devil child spends the night kicking you in the ribs. And your husband has been sleeping on the couch. And your mother never did it this way. And now the expert you came across on the Internet at 2 in the afternoon after your 8th cup of coffee today says you’re wrong, too?
WHY IS EVERYONE ALWAYS PICKING ON ME?!?!?!
Motherhood today appears awful because it has the face of a caged animal hissing in defense. That is a mask, of course, for the real face no one ever sees: a panicked, tired woman looking for answers and getting mired in constant confusion.
The next time you get caught up in the Mommy Wars try to remember: You may be a mother, but this is not about you. It’s about selling papers, ad space, clicks. It’s about promoting social media accounts. It’s about the fact that drama is conflict and conflict sells. And if you can’t treat it as an entertaining conversation with (hopefully) a nugget of truth, it isn’t worth your time.
Trust me, avoiding the Mommy Wars makes motherhood a whole lot more appealing.