Social Media and the Mommy Wars

I use to think that the “mommy wars” were either something made up by the media or something that had long since been laid to rest. After all, I had never encountered it.

I was 22 years old when I had my first baby and judging by the reactions of friends, family and the cashier at the grocery store, I was doing it all wrong. (When did it become socially acceptable for total strangers to get a vote on how you raise your child anyway?). I picked him up when he cried, so obviously he would be spoiled rotten with inadequate lung development. I didn’t spank him, so obviously he was heading for prison. He slept in the bed with us, so obviously we were heading for a divorce. Well, we did end up divorced, but that certainly wasn’t a causal factor! My current husband and I have raised and co-slept with four children, all healthy and well adjusted and our nearly 13 year old marriage is doing just fine thankyouverymuch!

There have always been and will always be difference of opinions on how to raise children, differences in backgrounds, culture and experiences that play into these decisions.  And parenting trends cycle around, by the way. I raise my children more like my grandmother did than my mother did. Part of that is the natural tendency to rebel and do things differently from our parents I’m sure. But just try telling someone hell bent on converting you and showing you the error of your parenting ways that they are involved in a “parenting trend”. That should get some heads to explode.

Look, I have very good reasons for the decisions that I make and I’m sure you do too. Maybe we match up on some ideas, maybe not so much on others. Here’s the thing, are you ready for this? THAT’S OK!!  Yes, it is! People are different, children are different. Even children with the exact same parents growing up in the exact same environment are different. And that’s OK too. It’s why what I do at my house might not look like what you do at your house. It doesn’t make one of us right and one of us wrong, it just makes us different.

It’s really been with the advent of Facebook and other social media that I’ve noticed, not just an increase, but an escalation in the so called mommy wars. Sitting behind a keyboard anonymously attacking and judging strangers is much easier than looking a friend, neighbor or sister in the eye and telling her that her kids are stupid and going to grow up to flip burgers, that’s she’s a horrible parent who should have her children taken away from her or that people like her should just die. Seem extreme? Yes, I agree and yet I’ve witnessed every one of these attacks online. No one would say that to someone in real life, no one. Especially not to someone they know and love, or at least like and respect.

It’s much harder to paint that mom that breastfeeds past the age of two, home-schools or doesn’t vaccinate her children as a ignorant, slobbering, red neck, sociopath when you’ve sat next to her in PTA meetings, had play dates with her perfectly well behaved and socialized children and watched her bring casseroles to a sick neighbor, take in that stray dog and run to the aid of other people’s children on the neighborhood playground. You might not understand why she makes some of the choices she does, but you accept that you are different and move on because you like her. Much easier to assume the stranger online who does those same things (and that you know nothing else about) is some kind of selfish monster who lives her life just to piss you off.

I guess the hardest part for me is understanding the seething hatred that seems to emanate so easily and quickly from other people over the simplest differences. Why does it matter if your sister in laws children attend public, private or home-school? How does that affect you in any way? I have a theory. I’ve come to the conclusion, based on my experiences and people I’ve interacted with, that those who are most angry and hostile over other peoples choices are the ones who are least secure in their own. Deep down they question their choices and instead of admitting that, they lash out. They have a pathological need to make anyone who makes different choices “wrong” in order to prove themselves “right” by comparison. The reality is, there is not right or wrong (as long as abuse isn’t involved). There’s just different.

I’m perfectly secure in my choices and it does not anger me nor threaten me in anyway for my friends and family members to make choices that are different than my own. I have friends who home school and friends who public school, they all love their children. I have friends who co-sleep and those who don’t, none of them are monsters who don’t care about their children. We need to not focus on the things that divide us, but the things that unite us and we need to support each other. If we can’t agree, it’s OK to disagree and failing that, it’s OK to delete negative people from your Facebook feed!

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