After Ruby was born, I was surprised by how hard I was on myself about being a mother. But the thing that really surprised me was how hard some mothers were on other mothers about being mothers. And how easy it was to join them in it.
I’ve looked to Amy Poehler for laughs in the past and inevitably gained some sage wisdom on womanhood along the way, but when I picked up her book, Yes Please, I got more than I expected. The funniest comedian I know managed to put my entire outlook on motherhood in check with six simple words – “Good for you, not for me.”
I won’t pretend that I’m completely innocent in the Mommy Wars, but I now strive to be a conscientious objector. By that, I mean, I try not to participate in mom shaming or judging. When I feel myself engaging, Amy Poehler says to me, “Good for you, not for me.”
You co-sleep? Good for you, not for me.
Disposable diaper? Good for you, not for me.
Breastfeed? Good for you, not for me.
…and so on.
This little saying reminds me that what works for someone else doesn’t have to work for me to be valid. I admit that there are a handful of choices I don’t support, but they aren’t my choices. I’ll do me and you’ll do you, and we’ll both be wonderful mothers because of it. Or in my case, proud to be the world’s okayest mom (see picture).
In today’s hyper-connected, social media fueled world, we are trained to put labels (or hashtags) on ourselves and our children and to take pride in those labels. We share our carefully curated identities and opinions loudly, sometimes at the expense of others. Whatever the parenting choice (cloth diapers, babywearing, feeding), there are groups out there to fuel our fires and feed us propaganda indicating that we’re not only making a good choice, but the best choice.
We have turned motherhood into a competition that we all think we’re winning or failing, based on the choices other mothers are making. We have fallen prey to the same division that humans are experiencing on a larger scale around the world. If you’re not the same as me, one of us is right and one of us is wrong. If you’re not the same as me, you’re the enemy.
And our children aren’t exempt either. We not only compare them to their siblings or our friends’ children, but also our ex-boyfriend’s sister’s best friend’s kid that we follow on Facebook or a blogger’s baby from somewhere across the world that we follow on Instagram. We see someone celebrating a milestone and we immediately compare, feeling the need to justify why our children aren’t doing that or brag that our children already did that, but better or sooner.
We aren’t doing ourselves any favors, as individuals or collectively as mothers, by carrying on this way in the so-called Mommy Wars. Even if our kids are smarter, taller, and have more hair than the kids next door, or if they’re exclusively breastfed and cloth diapered unlike the kids next door, what purpose does it serve to call attention to the differences? We have exiled ourselves from being members of each other’s “villages” because we aren’t identical.
Truthfully, my mom friends and I don’t have that much in common. If you removed the babies from our lives, we would have never run in the same social circles, let alone shared our inner most thoughts with each other. Before being moms, we were lawyers, teachers, nannies, housewives, baristas. Even with the babies, we all do things differently. They don’t have much in common either. Some of us breastfed and some of us formula fed, some did baby led weaning and some did purees. Some of us co-sleep, some sleep trained, and some of us just get sleep however the heck we can. Some of us work and some of us stay home, some use daycare or nannies in both situations. Some of us love OTC medicines, and some use elderberry syrup and essential oils.
The common factor that we should never take for granted is that we are all mothers – scratch that, HUMANS. And we are all doing the best we can with the information and experiences we have. We are cheerleaders, therapists, babysitters, and sisters in arms. We should offer advice or experience, but only when solicited. Otherwise, it’s “good for her, not for me” and mean that. If we let our differences divide us, we are going at it alone.