I want a ceasefire in the mommy wars

There it is.

(source)

The latest in the “mommy wars.”

Because everything is a war these days, it seems. Yesterday, we were talking about the “war on obesity.” I even heard that Obama declared “war on marriage.” So “war” means “having a different opinion.” Or possibly “wanting equal rights.” In a moment, it might mean, “Hey, what you lookin’ at? You got a problem?”

But I want to talk about the so-called “mommy wars.” The cycle of articles and news reports and TV interviews and books that argue for the one good way to raise kids, and explain why every other idea is not only terrible, but it will definitely destroy your children’s future.

The mommy wars keep going, and going, and then they’re still going, because they are at their heart about two things that almost everyone cares about intensely: what it means to be a woman, and what is good for children.

So we go endless rounds. Breastfeeding vs. formula, weaning at six months vs. nursing for a year vs. nursing until the child feels done, SAHMs vs. moms who work outside the home vs. moms who draw an income from work they do while staying at home, attachment style parenting vs. hands off, supposed Tiger Mom parenting vs. supposed helicopter parenting. I think there are maybe dragon parents and dog parents too? Eventually we might get to iguanas and giraffes (parents who are always craning their necks to peer over their child’s shoulder?).

I am twenty-six. One day I would like to have a baby. At that point, I would like everyone to shut up. I would like everyone to stop marching around with weapons drawn and armor up, acting like there’s a war where there are only different sets of knowledge, different necessities, and different worldviews. In exactly the way that worldviews and knowledge and necessities are different surrounding other areas of life. Like what career you pursue, who you choose to date and/or marry, how you spend your free time, what motivates you, what makes you feel fulfilled, and, um, just about everything else.

My childhood was, in many ways, just about as alternative as it gets. At least, it was alternative according to mainstream media, which is fascinated by the things that it designates as alternative. My mom is a La Leche League Leader (a breastfeeding expert and mentor). She trained as a midwife for a while. She had home births, and I was there for my brothers’ births (it was loud). We had a family bed when I was little. My mom grew vegetables in her garden and we only ate organic, even before people were really into that. We didn’t watch TV. I didn’t go to school until college.

Wow. You might need to take a breath. That was a lot of alternative.

Oh, and we’re Jewish! So we’re minorities there, too. Yay!

When I was little, I carried my doll around in a little cloth sling. So did my best friend, Emily. I was jealous of her sling, because it had tiny cherries on it.

My family is an easy target in the mommy wars.  My mom is, especially. But if you think that someone who did all of the things she did as a mom is crazy and weird and has stringy hair, you should meet her. She will be wearing a tailored, stylish outfit, have her nails done, look surprisingly young for her age, and talk about how much she loves classical music. You will like her. She is friendly and approachable. Some of her friends have flowing armpit hair and wear flowing skirts. Some of her friends wear pearls and host tea and book club at their mansions. People are not the way you expect them to be, based on the description the other camp devised.

Which is why some people are still shocked to learn that I was homeschooled. “But you seem so social!” they cry.

That’s because I am.

Being from such an unusual background, it seems to me that the two sides of the supposed war aren’t very equal. Most women work outside the home, give birth in hospitals, put their kids in school, don’t have a family bed, and let their kids watch plenty of TV. There’s not a ton of competition from the “other side” here. If anything, the battle feels contrived.(Although I think a majority of American babies are breastfed for up to six months—so maybe that’s why this is perhaps the most urgent debate).

Recently, I watched “The Business of Being Born” with a friend. Even though my mom is a passionate homebirth advocate, I always vaguely assumed I’d give birth in a hospital one day. I hadn’t given it much thought, and didn’t feel particularly interested. But when I watched the film, I got curious, so I asked my gynecologist, when I saw her a couple weeks ago– what did she think about non-medicated birth? She snorted. She thought they were a bad idea. Before I could say anything more, she told me that homebirths are really dangerous and not to believe any propaganda I see or read about them. I asked about birthing centers at hospitals. She talked about the one at the hospital where she had her baby. They’re very comfortable, she said, with big beds and tubs.

“Sounds good,” I said, grinning. “Is that where you gave birth?”

She rolled her eyes. “I gave birth in a normal room,” she said.

I have a friend who gave birth in a “normal room.” She wrote about it, and her words were so gorgeous. She got an epidural. She was being monitored the whole time. And she was happy with her choice, and had a healthy, alert baby.

I am happy for her. Why wouldn’t I be?

So why did my gynecologist roll her eyes at me? Why, when I asked about different birthing options, did she quickly tell me that there was only one “right” way?

I think that’s the way people act when they feel like it’s a battle. There isn’t room for a second opinion. There isn’t room for another way.

When in fact, in life, everywhere, all the time, there are so many ways, you can’t possibly count them.

(a little like this)

I am happy about the choices my mother made. As far as I can tell, the only real problem is that I can’t talk about the TV shows we all watched when we were kids with my friends, because I didn’t watch them. And it’s sort of amazing how often people talk about the TV they watched when they were kids.

I am thankful for the choices my mother made, and for my unique upbringing and that sling (even though it didn’t have cherries on it), and the big vegetable garden that I played in, and all the time I got to spend with my family, and the gentle world I learned and grew in.

But I don’t think my mother’s choices were the “right” ones. I think they were often the right ones for our family.

And while I do think some types of mothering are less healthy than others (don’t lock your screaming child in a room, please!), I don’t think that this means war. I think this means being human.

I am tired of womanhood being pushed and pulled and dragged over the coals as we argue about who is the best mom. Leave womanhood alone. Anything we are as women, that’s womanhood. Done.

No one is the best mom. Everyone who loves their children and tries to do their best by them is the best mom.

And give a girl a chance! I want to have babies in this world, too! Let’s make it a warmer, gentler place, where people have conversations, not screaming matches. Where people take off their armor and talk about how much they love their children, regardless of whether or not those children are currently being breastfed. Where people are honest about their struggles and their decisions, and how little they know, and how much they know.

Sometimes, I have a feeling that the world is already much more like that then these ongoing articles suggest. Sometimes I think we’re probably almost much closer to that then it’s profitable to admit. Because war so often is about money, isn’t it?

I am not shocked by the woman breastfeeding her three-year-old on the cover of Time Magazine. And it’s not just because I was breastfed until the age of three (honestly, I don’t remember it at all). It’s because I’m used to people trying to shock me with the catchy headlines and dramatic images of the mommy wars. It’s just a mom and a child, and a boob. Which, on their own, should not constitute a battle cry. They never really did. They shouldn’t now.

*   *   *

What do you think about the Time mag cover? About the mommy wars?

Unroast: Today I love the way my neck looks in my shadow on the street. I just noticed it yesterday, on my way to the subway, and it was cool.

46 Comments »

Kate on May 11th 2012 in being different, family, feminism

46 Responses to “I want a ceasefire in the mommy wars”

  1. Katherine responded on 11 May 2012 at 12:39 pm #

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. It’s easy for me to get really worked up and angry about nonsense like this, and I completely forget that other people are also rational. I start feeling like I’m the only sane person in the world and that’s no good, so thank you.

    All the wars should stop. All of them. The actual ones, and the fake ones. I just do.not.understand why we drag ourselves through this. Especially the war on Christians. That one is especially funny to me.

  2. Stephina responded on 11 May 2012 at 12:48 pm #

    First off, Thank you! Although I am a huge advocate for a natural birth process and home birth and however each person wants to raise their children, this is exactly how I feel. There is no wrong way and there is already way too much pressure on women to be super hero’s we don’t need to start belittling each other in the process.

    Secondly, I would suggest you take the time to find a gyno. Possibly someone with a more open mind about informed choice without rolling her eyes. Sounds like she needs to be educated about home birth, because believe it or not, for normal healthy pregnancies, it’s actually safe to give birth at home because of the high intervention rates at the hospital. Sorry for the run on sentences…

    Anyway, Thank you for this!

  3. teegan responded on 11 May 2012 at 12:59 pm #

    #1. War on women, and everything else, Jon Stewart Style:
    http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/mon-april-16-2012/the-battle-for-the-war-on-women

    #2. I saw this headline – I can’t wait for my in-laws’ Time to come in the mail so I can read it.
    The email I sent was the tip of the iceberg. I’m trying to find the right way for me to be a mother and OH BOY, are there decisions. I have been completely lucky so far in that the people I see on a daily basis are supportive: friends, family, and coffeeshop customers. I suppose it’s because most of the customers I talk to are older men (many divorced and single, but some married) who know enough about women not to DARE make judgments without a flak jacket on. A very few have reacted harshly to my decisions (unmedicated homebirth being the most obvious so far, but they don’t know about my plans for elimination communication, co-sleeping, or how long I plan to breastfeed, AND i don’t even know where we stand on vaccination, yet), but it’s been very few in the grand scheme of things. It is ridiculous to tell someone else how to parent. Every child is different, and every adult is different, and we all have to figure out the best balance.

    Your childhood sounds like it rocked, and so does your mom.

    And yes, I would find a new gyno.

  4. Also Kate responded on 11 May 2012 at 1:03 pm #

    Yes! And yes! And yes!

    I grew up without TV, too, so I never know what people are talking about when they talk about childhood shows. I just tell friends: “I grew up in a pop culture bubble”, and then occasionally shift the topic to books we all read as kids.

    On a related note, turns out all of my college friends were also in love with Tamora Pierce novels when they were 12 (and 13, and 14… and 22), so we never lacked for things to reminisce about. :)

    And just for good measure: I wasn’t breastfed at all, and none of my siblings were, either. It was the right choice for my mother, but (as you pointed out) not for everyone’s mother. Here’s to the end of all of these trivial wars, preferably before I start having babies.

  5. Kate responded on 11 May 2012 at 1:06 pm #

    @Also Kate
    Thank god for Tamora Pierce!

  6. Melanie responded on 11 May 2012 at 1:09 pm #

    I couldn’t agree more. I would go further to say that “my way is the right way” mentality is unacceptable on any front. It’s not acceptable about any lifestyle choice. Breastfeed as long as you feel you should, or don’t breastfeed at all. Immunize your child or don’t. Do whatever you feel is right for YOU. Stop acting like that is what is right for everyone. To me, there is a blatant insecurity represented when anyone feels the need to exert how their choices are the only correct choices. If they truly believed that, they would be able to sit back and live and let live.

  7. Kate responded on 11 May 2012 at 1:10 pm #

    @Melanie
    Oh, right, vaccinations! I forgot. There are so many categories…

  8. A. responded on 11 May 2012 at 1:15 pm #

    I’m a new reader of your blog and have loved everything I’ve seen so far. This entry about the Mommy Wars particularly resonated with me, as the Mommy Wars have, I believe, contributed to the breakdown of our extended family. My mother is passionate about being a stay-at-home mom, and has been quite critical of my aunt (her younger sister) for being a working mom. They are no longer speaking, and I have “lost” an aunt, uncle, & 3 cousins (not to mention another aunt who took working mom aunt’s side). I don’t think my mother knows how hurtful the Mommy Wars can be, and I don’t think she accurately gauges how much of a role they played in her troubles with her sister. I am currently working to earn an advanced degree, and while I do hope to have children someday, I also plan to utilize the degree on which I have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars (as well as multiple years). I am currently very close to my mother and I worry about how my parenting-related choices will affect our relationship. I believe there is no “one size fits all” solution for parenting; a stay-at-home parent may be best for some families, while 2 working parents may be best for other families (and this obviously doesn’t include single parenting situations, which must be worked out in their own unique way). The only thing I think can be generalized to all families is that we all need to support one another’s choices and stop judging one another. Being a parent presents enough challenges in and of itself, and parents judging other parents (i.e. the Mommy Wars) only magnifies the problem and makes it worse. Imagine if we could be a source of support for our family members and friends who are parents, instead of constantly judging their every move.

  9. Erika responded on 11 May 2012 at 1:19 pm #

    Just have to say I admire your insightfulness before even having kids! I never paid attention to this stuff before kids (or has it exploded in the past 10 years?)

    It makes me pretty mad. Shame on Time for trying to ignite fires. We just don’t need that kind of bullsh*t and there’s more important things to talk about.

  10. Heather responded on 11 May 2012 at 1:25 pm #

    I *loved* this! There isn’t one right answer for parenting, it is whatever is right for that family.

    I was raised on public television only (pbs, kteh), I went to the movies maybe three times my entire childhood before highschool, I had no idea what “cable” was, I spent a lot of my time playing in the mud in the backyard making mud people or reading a book in the walnut tree. All while living in a very urban setting. It makes me interesting :)

  11. morgaine responded on 11 May 2012 at 1:29 pm #

    I’m interested in what you think of the Free-Range Kids movement. http://freerangekids.wordpress.com/ I don’t think I’ll ever want kids, but I follow this blog avidly. It’s a general philosophy of life I can really get behind. Raising kids “free range” is about letting them discover the world as their own people and realizing that keeping them on a short leash, trying to be a perfect parent, ultimately won’t help. It’s also a refreshing dose of media literacy: the blogmistress, Lenore Skenazy, unpacks tabloid hysteria about parenting and helps her readers let go of sensationalism-induced guilt.

  12. Sarah responded on 11 May 2012 at 1:33 pm #

    One of my favorite pieces of advice sums it all up:
    “You do you, I do me.” :)
    Well written, Kate!

  13. Raia responded on 11 May 2012 at 1:37 pm #

    Agree! As a new mom, I feel caught in the middle of this so-called “mommy war.” And this Time article and picture is not helping anything. It’s divisive – putting moms into two groups who apparently don’t agree. But the truth is we, as parents, take in all kinds of advice and options from books, “experts,” friends, family, doctors, well-meaning strangers and it’s our job to figure out what works best for us, and leave the rest behind. What works is usually some mash-up of all the advice we hear and, more importantly, what just feels right to us.

    Full disclosure, I delivered my daughter at home (with trained, wonderful midwives to help), we share our bed with our daughter most nights, I still breastfeed (she’s 18monts) and I use baby carriers frequently. I also work full-time outside the home as an engineer and send my daughter to daycare. We cloth diaper our daughter, but we use a diaper service. These were things that worked for my family, at this time, but I don’t think they are the right choices for every mom or family.

    I felt really judged as a “natural mom” few times as a new mom. A fellow new mom asked for advice getting her son to sleep for naps, when I said I nursed my daughter to sleep and it worked for us, she looked at me horrified and said “I don’t want to nurse him to sleep, then he’ll never go to sleep another way!” For the record, my daughter falls asleep at daycare and with her dad without nursing but I still nurse her to sleep when I am there. When I told another mom that my daughter slept in our bed she said “I would NEVER let my baby sleep in our bed, that’s so dangerous!” I don’t tell people they should share a bed with their babies, just that it worked for us. I learned very quickly what information was not OK to share unless I knew the mom was open to hearing it.

    The one good thing I can see from this Time article is that it opens and extends the conversation about breastfeeding. Most moms don’t breastfeed until 6 months and very few after a year. And if a mom chooses not to breastfeed, that’s fine with me. What I would like to see more of is support and encourgement of the moms who want to breastfeed but struggle and get poor advice, bad information, and well-meaning but undermining assistance from people they trust. I’ve heard so many other new moms struggle with breastfeeding (it’s really hard at first!) and end up quitting sooner than they wanted tp and it breaks my heart. I wish that every new mom who wanted to breastfeed could have a great lacation consultant there to help 24hrs a day, paid leave from work to get the hang of it, and time & great pumping spaces available if they choose to or must go back to work.

  14. Kimmy Sue Ruby Lou responded on 11 May 2012 at 1:39 pm #

    Amen to this entire post! As for childbirth, I’ve had two natural deliveries…and one with an epidural. I highly recommend the latter, unless you enjoy feeling like someone has just shoved a double-edge saw (held over hot coals for a very long time) shoved up your nether regions and slowly removed :) Joking aside, I can understand how it would make the general public uncomfortable to see a 3-year old boy at his mom’s breast…discretion is best I think. I was not breastfed…and I’m perfectly normal ;)

  15. Maya responded on 11 May 2012 at 2:16 pm #

    I totally agree with you about the mommy wars with one really serious exception. Your gyn :rolleyes:ed at you because homebirth is actually a lot more dangerous than giving birth in a hospital or a birthing center attached to a hospital. How dangerous is too dangerous? That’s for the individual person to decide. But I think anyone who is planning a homebirth should at least consider that when things go wrong they go wrong incredibly fast and that no one wants to talk to a pregnant woman about the possibility that her baby might die or have brain damage from a decision that she made. When you are pregnant everyone just agrees with you because that is what you do when someone is pregnant.

    I have a lot of friends and family who have birthed at home or were born at home. Most of those births went just fine. But in one case my cousin died from a post-partum hemorrhage in front of her other 4 kids. The baby lived. My sister had a post-partum hemorrhage too. But she gave birth in a midwife-attended birthing center attached to a hospital so she lived.

    As for Time well I think it really is not a big deal to nurse a 3-year-old. It’s kind of a manipulative picture because the kid in question looks like he’s about 7.

  16. Meg responded on 11 May 2012 at 4:24 pm #

    I second @Maya’s post. Especially the idea that how dangerous is too dangerous being up to the individual to decide. But no one should gloss over how childbirth is the number one cause of death for women of childbearing age in developing nations for a reason: it can be very dangerous, even when you think you have a “normal” pregnancy.

    I also see the “mommy wars” as having two “fronts”, so to speak. The first is what most people here are talking about, which is not judging those who make different choices. Using a stroller instead of a sling doesn’t make you LESS. Cosleeping doesn’t make you MORE. Not having a TV doesn’t make your kids MORE or LESS anything.

    It’s not the individual parenting choices that matter, it’s the choice to be a loving parent that matters; to get to know your kid as a whole person and do what is best for that person. And it makes me happy to see the community here being reasonable about that, and hopeful that the loud, inflammatory voices highlighted by Time are the minority.

    But the second front is the idea that there are no bad, wrong, poor choices, just different ones. Vaccinations falls in this camp for me, because its a public health issue. If your personal belief was that pooping in a toilet was unnatural, unnecessary, and wrong, you still wouldn’t be allowed to poop in parks because you could harm others through your choice. A homebirth going wrong can kill a woman and/or a baby, but the woman made a choice. A growing number of unvaccinated children hurts people who had no say in that choice.

    And I’ll be happy when everyone stops telling everyone else how much more education they need so they all make the same decisions.

  17. Amanda responded on 11 May 2012 at 4:37 pm #

    “It’s just a mom and a child, and a boob. Which, on their own, should not constitute a battle cry. They never really did. They shouldn’t now.”

    This, exactly.

    The Mommy Wars are such garbage. Whatever I haven’t covered as a maternal practice, my sister has. And we’re both freaking awesome mothers. Ultimately all that matters is that we love our children and parent them in the best way we possibly can. For the majority of children, the manner in which they were birthed, the fluids they were fed… all these details are just that: details.

  18. Susanna Grace responded on 11 May 2012 at 4:46 pm #

    I could not agree more. No wars. Really, we don’t have that kind of time, do we? It’s funny because I read an awful lot about mommy wars, but – as a mom of three kids who are now 9, 11, and 13 – I have yet to really see too many in real life. ALL of my mom friends – working moms, stay at home moms, breastfeeding moms, bottlefeeding moms – are incredibly supportive of one another. Maybe when my kids were young, there was more animosity (and I don’t remember it because I was so tired), but I think most of the mommy war stuff has been concocted by the media to sell magazines, etc., so I won’t be buying this one. Real moms know we do what we do the best way we can, and sometimes we need help.

  19. Rachel responded on 11 May 2012 at 5:01 pm #

    I’m pregnant with my third child, and I will tell you that the *hardest* single thing about being a mother right now is Other People Who Know Better Than I, even though they don’t know me or my children or husband or family or ANYTHING about me.

    It’s really easy to get cynical about the Mommy Wars and how differences in parenting are used to fire people up and sell magazines or books or products. Really? If loving your children is your first priority as a parent, you’re probably doing fine.

  20. justmama responded on 11 May 2012 at 5:19 pm #

    This is a great post! …and the comments are superb.

    There is so much I would like to say, but I will TRY to restrain myself!

    I, too, wish there could be an end to the “mommy wars”. I have always been shocked at the venomous way women attack other women for their mothering choices. Having been on the receiving end of some of those comments, I can tell you firsthand how very much they hurt.

    Motherhood is the hardest job any woman will ever have…and it lasts for the rest of her life. That being said, it is also THE MOST rewarding, despite all the headaches and heartaches that it can entail. Rather than tear others down for their differing styles, it would be so wonderful to find support from other mothers.

    Birthing babies, raising children and just living in general is not like some big final exam where there is only one right answer. Every single person in this world is different and it should be expected that their life choices and paths are different as well. It seems to me that as a parent, but particularly a mother, your “goal” should be to have your child(ren) know that you love them, be able to love themselves, and express love and concern for others. How you reach that “goal” is inconsequential in the big scheme of things.

    The Time cover was one of the first things I saw online today in my early morning check of the news and such before heading out to work. It bothered me in that it seems yet another contrivance to stir divisive conversation swirling by exploiting a natural situation and focusing on the possible perversions. While I suppose that keeps sales figures high, it does nothing to promote goodwill and positive conversation. I find that incredibly disheartening….but, this post and the comments really encouraged me. Thanks. :)

    …and…HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY to your awesome Mom!

  21. Lynellekw responded on 11 May 2012 at 5:27 pm #

    I think that most of the time, you don’t have a problem until you have a problem. There’s so little value in claiming that one THING is the right THING and any other THING will cause the world to collapse in fire and smoke. Take the sleeping thing, for example. If your approach to getting your child to sleep results in you (and the child) being awake for hours and hours, and there being crying and stress and misery… well, that’s a problem. You should probably try something different. If your approach to getting your child to sleep results in you getting more-or-less a full night’s sleep and feeling rested and happy, then it’s not a problem – whether your approach is nursing or bath-story-bed or cosleeping or whatever. Yes, breastfeeding is best. If every feed is stressful and difficult and you hate it, then modern formula is a pretty good alternative. When I was diagnosed with Crohns the first thing my mother said was, “How could this happen? I BREASTFED you!” Then my mother heard a rumor that it could be caused by childhood measles vaccinations, and immediately feared she had caused it by having me vaccinated. I figured that even if they were linked, it was probably a better bet to take the risk of Crohns than the risk of measles, and that sometimes you can make all the “right” choices and things will still go wrong. Wouldn’t it be better to help each other be happy and strong than to fight a war over everything?

  22. Lynellekw responded on 11 May 2012 at 5:29 pm #

    And, as a childless-by-choice woman, can I also say that I’d like a ceasefire on the children or no children battle? Because being on the receiving end of some of the things people say about (and to) women without children are pretty darn painful, too.

  23. Marie responded on 11 May 2012 at 6:30 pm #

    Its so interesting to me as a mother blessed with a supportive group of nonjudgmental mommy friends that I still occasionally feel the need to justify my choices. The only people that could be putting me on the defensive is “society,” since my inner circle accepts my choices.

    Also, I believe I’m one of the minority of women who could do a home birth, and I won’t (miracle of life, etc etc I know, but I don’t want that mess in my house, and it’s a lot of mess…). I don’t really think first-time mothers should insist on home births- you have no idea what your body is going to do, it is one of the times in your life that you have absolutely no control, and it’s best if you accept that. I mean no control over your body- you obviously have control over your surroundings. Why not go for a midwife in a hospital? You can have minimal interference with the safety net of the hospital. I think that might be what I try next time.

    And probably the only issue I could bring to a war is vaccinations. Mostly because I am a microbiologist, and vaccines are one of the few issues that actually has scientific research behind it, unlike any type of parenting method(I know there is research, but like a lot of psych research it tends to be inconclusive/conflicting). I really think the only reason that someone would even consider not vaccinating their children is because vaccines are so successful that people have never seen measles, or whooping cough, or diphtheria… To anyone on the fence about vaccinations, go to your nearest college and request an hour of a virology professors time before you decide not to vaccinate.

  24. Melanie S. responded on 11 May 2012 at 10:16 pm #

    Yeah, I’m pretty live and let live about people’s choices, with the big caveat being the vaccination issue. A lot of people cannot get vaccinated because of health reasons, so everyone who can get vaccinated really should in order to boost herd immunity and protect the community. I really don’t understand the autism argument either re: vaccination. I mean, diseases that we now vaccinate against KILLED people. Honestly, I’d rather have a kid with autism than a dead child.

  25. J responded on 11 May 2012 at 10:32 pm #

    I love your blog and I think I’m finally going to comment. Although I’m not even close to being a mother, not by a long shot, I love your view on things. Not just your opinions, but the fact that you are willing to let other people also have their opinions, is so refreshing.
    I thought it was funny what you said about people expecting your mother to be weird and have stringy hair, or you to be unsociable. My mom also homeschooled, and gardened organic, and had homebirths etc. She’s stylish and beautiful and looks young for her age. And I’ve definitely gotten the, “But what about socializing?” when people find out I was homeschooled…also, TV? Never watched it as a child…

    I admit I was kind of freaked out by the Times picture until I found out the child is only three. He’s a giant. I thought he was nine or something. I guess I still think there’s a “too old” at some point, if only for the sake of the child’s social life!

  26. Laura responded on 11 May 2012 at 10:44 pm #

    Lovely post, Kate. Ever since the ridiculous Time story ever since I heard about it, I’ve been waiting for a good response to it on my favorite blogs (especially the birth-y ones) ever since. I wasn’t expecting it to come from you, but you hit the nail on the head!

    My mother also practiced many practices that now commonly fall under the umbrella of “attachment parenting” before the were in the vogue. Especially living about where the Midwest starts, the supposed war over birthing and parenting practices really does seem to be a pretty one-sided one, one where it’s just exciting to find a breast-feeding mother.

    Homebirth — in studies, planned homebirths are generally found to be about as safe as hospital births for low-risk women who’ve given birth before and whose birth is attended by a trained birth attendant (in the U.S., this is almost a midwife). Homebirth is riskier for first-time moms, because (as I understand it) nobody knows exactly how their body will react to labor, whereas a mother whose labored before has more of a proven track record. Still, I hope to give birth at home for my first child someday because I’ve weighed the risks against the 1/3 chance I’ll have a C-section in the hospital and the resulting higher risks for future pregnancies and births. That’s just what I’m comfortable with, though, and I totally understand why most other mothers make a different choice.

    Breastfeeding — as of a couple years ago, about 75% of babies are breastfed at birth, but only 43% are still breastfed at 6 months. I don’t have a figure right now for those still being exclusively breastfed at 6 months (as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics), but I think it might be as low as 20% or 25% of babies.

    Vaccines — Okay, I confess that the whole fuss over this is something I just can’t understand. A basic understanding of evolution has made vaccination very logical to me, especially now that the potential link between vaccines and autism has been thoroughly debunked.

    Free-range kids — some of the stuff resonates with me. As my future child(ren) grow, I definitely want to foster independence and self-sufficiency and avoid be a helicopter parent/unpaid chauffeur. However, the utter dismissal of breastfeeding in the FAQ’s section of the website is off-putting to me.

    Ultimately, I find it best to try to keep my mouth shut about parenting practices I disagree with. As long as the kids are healthy and happy, that’s all that matters in the end. There’s so many huge issues in the world that need addressing that potential allies should have better things to do than tear each other apart over over personal choices.

  27. Laura responded on 11 May 2012 at 10:52 pm #

    To clarify, when talking about homebirth, I was referring to studies done in developed countries. In the developing world, the dangers of childbirth are a different matter.

  28. melissa responded on 12 May 2012 at 12:36 am #

    I suppose there is a downside to too much communication…

  29. Val responded on 12 May 2012 at 1:41 am #

    Oh my gosh. I am so with you on this.

    I love homebirth and breastfed my babies for years.

    But there are also those two I bottle fed. (They’re beyond fine–they’re wonderful.)

    And we watch TV, including Sponge Bob and Price is Right, and I adore disposable diapers after having done cloth for EIGHT.

    (Madness.)

    So I’m too crunchy for the mainstream people and too mainstream for the crunchy crowd.

    Where that leaves me?

    Pssht. I don’t even care at this point.

    Let’s lay off each other. No war. love, Val

  30. Alpana Trivedi responded on 12 May 2012 at 4:36 am #

    Hello, Kate. Along with the mommy wars, I’ve also seen the whole judging of everything you do as a by-product of “how you were raised.” My boss asked me once if I was homeschooled. I said no, I went to a public school. Then he asked me “Then I don’t understand why you’re so sheltered.” Then he chalked it up to my culture. He asked me if I was born in India. I told him no, I was born in the U.S. Then he actually had the gall to say, “Then how come you’re not acting like a ‘normal’ American?” Hmmmmmmm, let’s see. I’m already thinking that this whole talk about how the Navy is supposed to be diverse is certainly not showing in a lot of his statements. I think a lot of the mommy wars are happening, because everyone is always on the defense. Most moms are afraid that if their kids do something different from the norm (whatever that is these days), everything will be blamed on how they were raised. There are people who think I didn’t get disciplined enough because I express my opinions freely (it’s funny, the people who blame my raising for this are usually crude, crass, loud-mouthed troublemakers themselves who, at the given moment, just want me to shut up).

    All in all, everyone’s just afraid. The ones who are most insecure with their own choices are the ones who’ll jump to criticize any choices different form their own.

  31. Aezy responded on 12 May 2012 at 8:38 am #

    @Marie Thank you! Vaccination is the only thing I feel qualified to share my opinion on as a childless scientist and you made exactly the same points I made except more eloquently. I think I would quite happily punch the quack who decided to publish that flawed study on MMR and autism and set this whole debate off.

    As for parenting, my mum’s given me a few bits of advice: mean what you say and never give kids false options :) I’m definitely in the “whatever works for you” camp though as far as most of parenting goes.

  32. Hillary responded on 12 May 2012 at 11:12 am #

    Yay for you! I dont think it occurred to me to even think about any of this before I had kids… I always assumed I’d give birth in a hospital and bottle feed (media exposure, maybe?) but ended up a a birth center, and breastfed until the babies wanted to stop. I think a lot of these “mommy wars” are perceived as such because of the passion moms feel about parenting. I had a friend think I was trying to “convert” her to cloth diapering recently, but really I was just so freaking excited about my new diapers- the cuteness overwhelms me at times. It works the other way too- its pretty easy to feel attacked by someone giving information when you are uncertain about your decisions (or have given them lots of thought and the person seems to think you make parenting decisions with a magic 8 ball). I’ve encountered very few real-life-attackers (lots online). I think there’s a lot of indignation from very informed moms doing what is right for them being told that society knows best.

  33. San D responded on 12 May 2012 at 12:38 pm #

    As a non mother, I do have definite opinions about moms ONLY when their worlds collide with mine. When the kid comes over to my house and starts rocking the large fish tank for example, and while waiting for mom to say something I watch my fish slosh, and no one says anything…I get up and gently but firmly grab the kid and bring him to my face and say “we don’t do that at my house”, or when when the kid tries to put her head through the iron fence bars, and I’m waiting for mom to say something, and again, no one says anything, and I go over and gently but firmly say “no, I don’t think you should put your head through those bars”, and then the mother comes over and says “don’t say no to my child”. My mommy war conversations are internal. I have had many silent conversations with moms who I know are loving, caring, and creative. Why? Because as a non mom, who by the way wanted children but couldn’t have them, I am regarded as “someone who just doesn’t know”.

  34. Hannabeth responded on 12 May 2012 at 10:19 pm #

    Very well said. I’m curious, though, because I’ve never heard of it: what do you mean when you say you had a family bed?

  35. Val responded on 13 May 2012 at 1:30 am #

    Hanabeth, a family bed is where the whole family sleeps together in one spot.

    It’s not necessarily in one bed, but it is in close proximity to each other, so children can be taken close at night if they wake up.

    When my kid used to wake up every night at 4 am and fetch his father to “warm his bed back up,” that’s family bed.

    Or sleeping together all night might be too.

    It’s all about comfort and sleep in the night, however that’s best achieved. love, Val

  36. Gwen responded on 13 May 2012 at 7:18 pm #

    We all have to make our own choices…somtimes they turn out well and sometimes they don’t. We can’t dictate one set of standards for every one…it just wouldn’t work. Why judge one another? It’s just to exhausting.

  37. jheath responded on 13 May 2012 at 10:37 pm #

    This is a great post! I do have something to say about vaccines though…..I’m not completely against them, but my child had EXTREME reactions to them when he was very little. They caused him to seize ( non-febrile) and he had a stroke. The doctors explained that immunizations can occasional cause these reactions, including death. It may be a slim chance, but when it happens to your child you realize that they are NOT 100% safe. I think that the vaccine schedule needs to be evaluated, and parents need to be told that bad side effects CAN occur. I believe that they give too many shots at one time.

  38. Web Weekend #12 « merricontrari responded on 13 May 2012 at 11:01 pm #

    [...] wait, no, the opposite of that. (Jezebel) Wow, um, I’m going to take up yoga now. (Blisstree) The Mommy Wars MUST END. This is getting toxic. (Eat the Damn Cake) I really really loved this article about drawing [...]

  39. Alana responded on 14 May 2012 at 8:25 am #

    It just pisses me off no end that we even talk about Mommy Wars – if there’s a war, it should be Parent Wars. I wholeheartedly reject the notion that parenting is the special domain of women. You hear it all the time – politicians needing to consult ‘moms’ on a child-related issue, people debating about discipline and child-rearing as aspects of ‘motherhood’…

    To be honest, even the concept of mothering is bizarre to me. To my mind we should be talking about parenting, undertaken by a female, or a male, of their own unique personality, temperament etc. Pregnancy, breastfeeding and labour choices are obviously a woman’s issue (and admittedly form the staple of the mommy wars), but that’s about where I draw the line on the special domain of motherhood! In terms of child-rearing (rather than child-bearing), my parents at least were distinguished as much by their personalities, temperaments, work set-up, and physical differences that had nothing to do with their sex, as by their gender.

    Gahh… you should see me when I overhear a woman complimented on how her male partner ‘helps her with the baby’! You know, cos it’s fundamentally her responsibility, since babies become humans through ‘mothering’….

    I do recognise, however, that I am in the minority with this view, so can’t really dictate… :P

  40. Kate responded on 14 May 2012 at 2:08 pm #

    @Hanabeth
    Yup, Val pretty much answered it! For my family, it meant that when we were babies, we slept in bed with our parents. And then, when we were a little older, we tended to sleep in the next room, but in the morning, we’d often all end up in the big bed together, telling stories and singing songs and snuggling :-)

  41. Kate responded on 14 May 2012 at 2:08 pm #

    @Alana
    Thanks for pointing this out!

  42. Toni responded on 14 May 2012 at 2:52 pm #

    Great post…I was a little startled by the cover (the boy certainly looks older than 3!) ..and as I read at another blog, the mothers stance seems really defiant…and that’s bothered me a little. But really, why can’t we all just get along? Even if I don’t agree with one persons choices, it doesn’t really matter because it’s their choice. Not mine. While I didn’t breastfeed my children, we did co-sleep, and I used a sling or sometimes a stroller…they had a mix of organic and conventional food..some years I grow stuff, some years I don’t..I considered homeschooling, but it wouldn’t work for me right now..I am a SAHM…but hope to work some in the near future…all decisions my husband and I made together for what is best for our family…as one of my sisters said, choose your battles (I know, more war wording), and that’s what we do. I mean it’s all we can do.

  43. Celynne responded on 15 May 2012 at 8:56 am #

    I think the biggest draw from that cover photo is that that child is very big! He looks pretty old to be breastfeeding, like he could be in school and little league or something, and is out of the baby-and-breastfeeding stage of things.

    Personally I think it’s probably a lot better for kids to spend oodles of time with their parents and have family beds and such. Most parents I know let their kids sleep with them anyway, even if the child has their own bed and bedroom. Our schooling system is really not one I agree with at all, while home and non-schooling is more up my alley.

  44. Jenn responded on 17 May 2012 at 12:00 am #

    “No one is the best mom. Everyone who loves their

    children and tries to do their best by them is the

    best mom.”

    I needed to hear that. I’m mom to an 18 month old and a 3 month old, so I still feel new and inexperienced. I agree that not enough moms get together to encourage each other in raising the unique, crazy little humans we have as offspring.

    Your blog is my favorite, ever. I hope this doesn’t make me sound creepy, but wish I knew you in real life. I really respect you and admire what you write about.

  45. Jenn responded on 17 May 2012 at 12:05 am #

    Oh! I forgot to say that I never watched TV as a kid, either. I always tried to catch Little House on the Prairie (12pm, I still remember!) during the summer, but only on the 2 days a week my mom worked and we stayed with my grandma. :)

  46. Jeanne responded on 22 Jun 2012 at 1:00 pm #

    I always felt like I grew up in a different world from my peers. We had TV but only watch PBS and movies. We rarely ate processed food and my brother and I spent most of our time fishing, exploring and rowing to our friend’s house in the river behind our house. I went to traditional public, catholic and parochial schools and the friends I made kept me oscillating between feelings of insecurity at being different and pride in my unique and quiet childhood. Now out of the drama of adolescence I am all pride and nostalgic happiness when I look back.

    I read your post today because my boyfriend who I love dearly comes from a background like yours. I always thought I was the different one and now I find myself in the role of the mainstream conformist. It’s confusing and troubling. When I felt different I never felt the need to defend myself, even when my friends gave the occasional gawk when I didn’t know this cartoon bunny from that one. In the opposite role, I constantly feel I need to justify why I think it is perfectly acceptable to watch PBS, or go to traditional schools, or even see an allopathic pediatrician.

    I don’t fully understand my reaction and I don’t enjoy wallowing in stubborn defense. Maybe I feel threatened by those who have the courage to be more ‘different’ than I currently do.

    We talk about starting a family and I’ve found I’m much more afraid of the disapproval I would sense if I gave my child a separate bed than any tongue wagging from the mainstream.

    I wonder if anyone else out there feels this way.

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