Ending the Mommy Wars

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You know how God keeps banging on a theme until you finally respond to the knock on the door and let the idea in? This was one of those weekends. We spent it with family, and over the course of three days, I had several really good, thought-provoking conversations about politics, polarization, and the human propensity to classify others as “us vs. them,” and belittle, deride, and otherwise dismiss those who don’t drink our particular brand of Kool-aid.

I return to blogging this morning, joining Ann in talking about how to serve “the least of these.” But after these conversations, it occurs to me: how can we talk about serving “the least of these” when we can’t even stop ourselves from tearing down the people we encounter every day?

They’re referred to as the Mommy wars. Breast vs. bottle. Cloth vs. disposable. Homeschool vs. private school vs. public school. Two kids versus five. Work vs. SAH.

People are really un-Christian about these issues. I’ve been guilty of it, too, despite my best attempts to hold the middle ground. We pass judgment, we generalize, we make assumptions about people’s motivations and choices, without knowing their hearts, without knowing their reasons—and often, without knowing all the facts. My sister-in-law, who works full-time, regularly protests being denigrated as something less than a “real” mother. Protests the assumption that she’s one of those blasted contraceptors, simply because she works. “Honestly,” she said, “I don’t feel like I have a home in the Catholic Church.”

People, she’s right. We’ve got to stop this. And it’s not just the Catholic Church, either. This applies across the board of Christianity.

A man named Tom Strunck, whom I interviewed for an article last spring, made a comment that seems even more important now than it did at the time. He said, “What do we have to follow? The moral law and the laws of the Church. And if you look where those two stop, and everything else starts, God has given us enormous amounts of freedom—a lot of this stuff is personal preference, and a lot of people turn that into absolutes.”

Those artificial absolutes become our own personal idols, if we’re not careful. We’ve got to open our minds and hearts, and approach people with charity—especially on the internet, where it’s all too easy to type in a diatribe and hit “send” because you know you’ll never see the person face to face. If we don’t do this, then all works of charity are really in vain. Charity begins at home.

47 thoughts on “Ending the Mommy Wars

  1. Contraceptor?
    I love that!
    Sounds very Jurassic Park.
    I believe it’s when one doesn’t have faith in what the chosen path is that there is can be feelings of disapproval.
    In other words, we wouldn’t worry so much about what other people are saying and thinking about us if we realized how little they are doing it.
    I got one nasty spam…compared to 100 positive comments but of course I read and reread the spam. Unfortunate human nature.

  2. My mom was very untraditional so I learned to be that way myself. She worked, basically is the head lioness of the family, and we’ve never quite fit in with things, but that’s just the way it is. I don’t think anyone should really be judged for their choices, it’s just whatever makes them happy in the end.

  3. “Those artificial absolutes become our own personal idols, if we’re not careful.”

    Very well put. I’m a single woman with no children and I’m in the Mommy wars too when I go to church. I feel the same pressure that your sister mentioned to be a stay-at-home-mom and I am way further behind than she is because I’m not even married.

    I often feel as though the people at church think I am wasting (or a waste of) my uterus. I get a lot of pity looks and plenty of “you’ll find the right man when you least expect it,” types of comments.

    But for the first time in my life I honestly want to be single — and…shhhh, don’t tell…I have NEVER wanted to have kids.

    Crystal
    http://www.crystalspins.com

  4. I have no idea where the line is between constructive discussion and unhelpful generalizations when it comes to discussing “mom issues” on blogs.

    But I completely agree with you about charity on these topics… I am just not so good at the practical application of not offending others, even when I do not actually hold to an artificial absolute.

  5. I could not agree more! I think most of us are probably guilty of judging those who don’t follow our particular brand of parenting. However, I think most of us also know how it feels to be judged as parents. (Even if I’m the person judging myself!) I think it’s possible to hold strong, parenting convictions yet still respect those who disagree just as strongly. At the end of the day, we’re trying to figure out what is the best for our kids, our families, ourselves. Thanks for bringing up this issue!
    Amy

    • This is absolutely true. I’m not at all adovcating that we stop discussing–or trying to promote our own POV, for that matter–just that we need to be respectful of others in the process. Maybe some people are hypersensitive, but then, so are we when our dearest convictions are ridiculed.

  6. Chogyam Trungpa talks about spiritual materialism, the concept of turning artificial absolutes into idols. It’s so safe to hold onto an opinion as truth and to join with those who share the opinion against “them,” the “others” who don’t. That is not what Jesus taught. If we separate ourselves from others, we separate ourselves from God. And yes, it starts right in our own homes. Your post is right on target. Thank you.

  7. There are many issues, “mommy” and otherwise, that I’ve been getting increasingly strong opinions on in the last few years. To me, those strong opinions are spiritual, moral, political, emotional, etc. Sometimes I want everyone else to think the way I think. I have to remember that just a few years ago, I was a person who didn’t care very much about things that are extremely important to me now. Everyone has different experiences that make them different people at different times.

    I was talking to my mom yesterday about one of these war issues. She said, “I think the Lord really knows our hearts, and He knows when we’re trying to do something good.” We need to learn to argue less and instead encourage others to stay close to the Lord. That’s what’s most important.

  8. It’s true whatever we all are doing we’re all doing and trying to do the best we can for ourselves. And WHO are we to judge??? Just live & let live!!! Do your best everyday & hope everybody else is too, help them if they ask, otherwise keep your opinions to yourself!!

    evelyngarone.com

  9. I’ve really over the Mommy Wars. Right now my baby is 1 and I’m so glad to have navigated the breast vs bottle debate. Really I never knew how hard it was since trying to raise a child is hard enough why do we see the need add more pressure?

  10. Army Wife and Mother of 4

    Great post! And I so wish that folks would understand that we each have to do what works for us. I am a SAHM, that breastfeeds, and sends my kids to public school. But some folks just think that I need to do it their way! We so need to stop the “Mommy Wars”.

  11. i struggled with “being the perfect mother” for a long time. i didn’t fit the mold and, quite frankly, my kids didn’t either. thankfully, the Lord has been gently pulling me closer to His desires for me while patiently waiting for me to see MY desires, attitudes, thoughts on parenting don’t mean a hill of beans.

  12. Great post.

    I’m a city dweller and live in a ‘luxury’ building. I am one of the ONLY women in my building who is a mother that works.

    One of them actually said to me in a snotty manner, oh, you have to WORK? (Yes, I have to. But I also like to.) Further, it’s not like they’re little miss homemaker. They’ve got the housekeeper, they get manicures, have their hair done while the nanny watches the baby. But now here I am judging.

    It’s tough. Why can’t we all just be nice??

  13. Wonderful Post. I really enjoy the way that you write, keep up the great work. We all struggle trying to find ourselves and our place in this world. We are so hard and critical of what we don’t understand. Thank you for your post.

  14. Great post! Congrats on making Freshly Pressed … I’m so glad you did so that I found your blog. When my kids were little (they’re pretty well grown now), we used to talk about how we should love our neighbor as ourselves … and that the closest neighbors in our lives were the people who lived in the same house. It reallly helped my kids understand the need to be gracious to each other, not just to people who lived outside the four walls of our home. Not sure why I’m sharing all that … something in your post reminded me. Well, have a great day, and congrats again!

    ~Debi
    http://thesimplemom.wordpress.com

    • Glad you found me! This has really been a theme lately. It’s coming up in a book I’m writing, in conversation, in multiple “business” related things…definitely a divine message, n’est-ce pas?

  15. Maureen

    I agree! My mother took a LOT of crap for putting us into public school.

    Oh, and don’t forget about the annual Halloween hullabaloo. I don’t know how Catholics feel about Halloween, but a lot of evangelicals work themselves into a tizzy over it–I say if you want to celebrate it, then celebrate, and if not, then don’t!

  16. Amen sister.

    My son is now 5 years old but I started feeling “it” right away. I went to a breast feeding group because I had not a clue about the whole lactating thing. Well, the general vibe was that no GOOD mother would be a “bottle feeder”. Although I did breast feed my child, I never went back to that group, just didn’t like the clichey feeling it gave me.

    Thanks,
    Mon Trice

    http://www.montrice.wordpress.com

  17. Such a good post. I think most people would say they try to be kind and loving, if they are Christian they try to be “Christ-like”. But somehow, when these polarizing themes come up they forget that each person can choose for themselves, and that although they might feel strongly about their stance, others have that same right. If we are truly Christ-like we will allow others the right to make different choices and be kind about them.

  18. You are echoing Bishop Tom Collins’ words.
    Charity. Then Charity. Finally, More Charity.

    You are Absolutely right in regards to that Cowardice/Bravery to hit Send online. More than half of what is out there, if we were face to face with the Person, we would not say.

    What DOES it say about us?

    Heaven Help Us.

    God Bless You.

  19. Tara

    I love this post! I used to be guilty of the mommy wars myself. I think most mommies do it 1) to make themselves look better and 2) to prove they ARE better. I don’t care about these issues anymore…I’ve had enough issues lately that have taught me to keep my nose on my own face and take care of ME.

  20. My husband (who is a Pastor)and I engaged in a similar conversation this morning. I think the problem comes when we try to use our POV to “fix” other people’s “problems.” When those same people don’t even know it’s a problem to begin with. We do not have the omniscience required to press upon others our opinions on matters like child rearing. God does promise to give us the love necessary to be patient, kind,hopeful, and desiring of all good things for all people. Thanks for the post.

  21. Ironically, I planned to blog about this same topic recently, but you have said everything that needs to be said… and far more eloquently than I would have.

    We all have our children’s best interests at heart; we love them and want to keep them safe. If our kids grow up to be healthy, happy, and have respect for others… we have done our jobs as responsible mothers.

    Take care,
    – Tara

  22. I really like your post. I am a single father raising a 9 year old daughter. We actually quit going to church because of the wagging tongues passing judgement(as if I was less of a parent because my daughter likes sports and wears a ponytail and baseball cap) and advice I neither needed or asked for.

  23. Interesting post to read while I am less then 5 weeks away from the arrival of my first baby. I think as long as you aren’t doing anything that endangers the child, there are a variety of ways to raise one that will all end well with a healthy, happy, wise child. What works well for one person might not be a good choice for another. There certainly are a lot of decisions to make!

  24. Personally I’ve seen a lot more of the “Mommy wars” online than I have in real life. I never realized what a bad mom I was until I got on the internet. IME the main determinate of whether Mom stayed home and for how long was Dad’s income–unless Mom had a really high-level job.

    Online I’ve met women who struggle mightily financially to stay home with kids, and who continue to have more kids despite that financial struggle, and I suppose if you are in that number, and really marching against the conventional drummer, you spend so much time defending your choice to others that if you find a supportive community online it is easy to move from supporting each other to touting the superiority of your choice (and thus the inferiority of everyone else’s).

    The point I keep remembering when this all comes up is that today’s SAHM, a parent who takes care of the children and doesn’t produce economically, was not the historical norm for most people.

  25. evanscove

    The “Mommy Wars”? I guess I shouldn’t be surprised about all the skirmishes over even petty issues–like Kool Aid! I swear, if people aren’t fighting about one thing, they’re fighting about something else.

    A well-known evangelical who was an expert on financial matters talked about bringing together a group of mothers–both working and stay-at-home moms–in the hopes that they would have fruitful discussion about what it’s like from both perspectives. But he said that within mere minutes the two “sides” had turned on each other viciously, with the working moms complaining that the SAH’s had it easy, while the SAH’s berated the working moms for sacrificing their families for the sake of a career. Recriminations and hurt feelings dominated the scene! So sad, and so unnecessary. Alas, human nature…

    Evan

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