Ending the mommy wars has become quite the news item and one that everyone seems to get on board with. I mean, how can you not? Doesn’t it sound so lovely to say that we have to support each other as moms no matter what we do? After all, they’re just choices and isn’t each choice as valid and wonderful as the rest? If we all just accepted this, the world would be… well, what would it be?
What would it be if we decided to no longer talk about breastfeeding versus formula, sleep training, circumcision, spanking, and the many other things that seem to constitute the basis of these “mommy wars”? What would it be if we said anything goes and that using formula is just as good as breastfeeding regardless of the reason you used formula? Or if spanking was just another way one person chooses to discipline over another?
It would be shit.
Why? Because in many cases these parenting “choices” aren’t actually choices and when we try to take these acts and turn them into 100% voluntary acts by every family, we ignore the problems that lead parents to make some of the so-called choices they do. I see it first hand on EP when I write about any research on anything. People come out with their personal experiences, pissed that I would share something that could possibly suggest another way is associated with better outcomes or that “their” way is associated with a higher risk of bad outcomes. Yet almost inevitably they mention the numerous “traps” or problems they faced that led to the choice to use formula, sleep train, circumcise, spank, etc. The only problem is that they now see it as an insult that you’ve presented research saying their “choice” isn’t just as good as what they initially had hoped to do.
At this stage of trying to get everyone to say all parenting acts are equal, you are not only calling for the cessation of sharing information, but to stop fighting for a society that should enable families to make true choices (whatever they are). Sleep training your 3 month old because you have to back at work at six weeks, switching to formula because your child has an undiagnosed tongue tie and you don’t have a lactation consultant on your medical plan and can’t afford one, or pushing your child to ‘self-settle’ when he isn’t ready because you are bombarded with false information about what you should be expecting from your child are not true choices. (You may do any of these things after tons of research or realizing it’s best for your family after weighing pros and cons and you actually have the option of different choices; that’s a true choice and one that should be respected even if disagreed with, as many people disagree with co-sleeping or breastfeeding a toddler, but when you *don’t* have a real choice, it’s a problem.) You’re being pushed into making the ‘lesser of two evils’ choice that only a society that is non-supportive of families and doesn’t freely share information allows. And that sucks. You should be pissed.
Some of you may be ready to jump in about how you have been bombarded by a stranger at the store while buying formula, claiming you’re poisoning your child, or something like that. Folks – that’s not a mommy wars problem, that’s an asshole problem. And sadly there are assholes everywhere and all the rhetoric about supporting each other isn’t going to change those people. But it’s also indicative of the larger problem too – by framing the issue into “choice”, this person believes you are making a true choice without knowing your individual circumstance and that you may have made the decision that works best for your family. Maybe it is a true choice (i.e., you weren’t painted into a corner to make it because of circumstances but had options and chose one after thinking of the pros and cons) and you’ve done all your research and come to this conclusion about what’s best for you and your family taken as a whole, and that’s why the person still remains an asshole, but for many it’s not, yet that’s exactly what “ending the mommy wars” is pushing for it to be seen as.
There’s that quote about how the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist. I will say this, the people that benefit from the way our society currently is – the government that doesn’t want to offer family-friendly policies, the businesses that don’t want to change to support their workers, the formula companies who want to make a profit over all else, the baby “experts” who don’t read a lick of research but want to sell their books anyway – have managed the great feat of making us think the real problem is with other moms. Instead of turning against those who benefit from reducing our choices and fighting for a better place to raise our kids where we don’t have to worry about booby traps or sleep traps and where our choices would be true choices, we have turned on each other even more.
Only now those of us who aren’t towing the line and continue to share information are viewed as the “bad guys”. Those of us who want to change things so that families are supported and given real options are accused of just trying to make people feel “guilty” or say it’s “our way or nothing”. We are heading down a path where families will have fewer and fewer true choices if we allow it. We can’t. We have to do something if we want families to really feel supported and cared for, not just given lip service to.
The “mommy wars” don’t need to end. In fact, they need to get bigger and bigger. They just need to be redirected at the real problem: A society that doesn’t support families.