When it comes to mommy wars, the struggle is real. Thanks to blogs and social media, it’s easier than ever for moms to judge each other on everything from how you feed your baby to how you discipline to even how you dress your baby. Your daily choices are accessible for loved ones and strangers alike to scrutinize and attack.
This harsh criticism quickly can overwhelm you and cause you to doubt your decisions, especially if you are a first-time mother. It can negatively affect your emotional and physical health and limit your ability to care for your baby.
The good news is that there are things you can do to come out of the war without a scratch. When you apply these tips to your life, you will achieve greater self-confidence and find peace. Parenthood will still be difficult, but it will be a manageable experience that helps you grow and teaches you compassion.
7 Remember, Mother Knows Best
As Mother Gothel sings in Tangled, “Mother knows best!” One episode of the TV show Reba highlights this important message in a more positive way than the song does. One evening, Reba is hosting her son’s birthday party in her home, and her daughter Cheyenne is worried that the noise will wake up her sleeping baby, Elizabeth. When it does, Reba tells Cheyenne to let Elizabeth cry herself back to sleep so she learns to self-soothe.
Later, Reba goes upstairs to find Cheyenne outside the baby’s room looking distraught. Reba tells her she remembers what it felt like to do that with Cheyenne, and even though it was hard, it felt like the right thing to do. Cheyenne responds, “But it doesn’t feel right in my heart.” Reba tells Cheyenne no one but the mother knows what is right for her baby. She asks Cheyenne if it doesn’t feel right, what is she going to do? Cheyenne replies, “I want to pick up my baby,” and then does.
Mother always knows best
This example isn’t to start a debate on whether or not it’s okay to let your baby cry it out. The purpose is to tell you to trust yourself. You are likely the one who spends the most time with your children. Even if you aren’t, you bond with them and know them in ways no one else can.
Don’t doubt your maternal instinct. It is real and it is powerful. You won’t go wrong if you listen to and act upon it. It will become stronger the more you follow it, and doing so will become easier with practice. Having a loud maternal voice inside you will help you drown out the negative voices from outside and the second guesses from within.
6 Understand That Parenting Is a Learning Experience
Even with the best intentions and intuition, you’re bound to make mistakes as you raise your child. Your fumbles may be minor or severe. Either way, all you can do is learn from them. You can’t change the past, but you can do differently in the future. As Maya Angelou said, “When you know better, you do better.”
Don’t let undesirable things happen for nothing. Making mistakes is how we gain knowledge and experience. It’s how we progress and refine our judgement and skills. Take something away from those less-than-perfect moments to help you become a wiser parent.
No one has all the answers, most parents learn through trial and error.
Doing so also will help you remember that every mom is going through a similar journey and you are more alike than you think. You are both doing your best with the information and beliefs you have, even if they are different. At the end of the day, you both love your children and want the best for them.
A Similac commercial reminds us that mothers have the same mutual goal for their children regardless of their parenting styles. It ends with, “No matter what our beliefs, we’re parents first. Welcome to the sisterhood of motherhood.”
5 Recognize That Your Parenting Will Evolve
Your parenting style will change over time, so don’t get too attached to it or defensive about it. As your baby grows older, you may find that something that worked before, no longer does. If you have multiple children, you may discover that different approaches in discipline and bonding work for each child.
Other circumstances may affect your choices as well, such as a divorce, death in the family, health condition, job loss or change, remarriage, religious change, educational challenges, or big move. Parenthood requires you to be flexible. If you stick to only one way of thinking and doing, you will miss out on opportunities for personal growth and the growth of your children.
As your children grow, you’re parenting style grows with them.
Being flexible will help you be more understanding of and compassionate toward others, too. You’ll see that parenting is less of a polarization of ideas and more of a broad spectrum you will move across in various directions throughout parenthood. Every mom is at a different stage of parenting and in a different spot on the spectrum.
4 Be Open Minded
Part of being flexible is being open minded. Often, suggestions mothers offer or information they provide comes from a place of genuine concern, passion, or helpfulness. Not everyone who questions your decisions is trying to be rude or arrogant. She may simply want to inform you of something she recently learned herself or something that brought immediate or lasting improvements to her family.
Before you dismiss another mom’s advice as condescending or not applicable to you, consider it for a moment. Is it based on sound research? Are there valid points to using the method? Is there something useful you can take away before discarding it? Is it at least worth a try?
Looking at an issue with fresh eyes may help to solve a problem with less resistance.
You may be surprised to find something new that works perfectly for your circumstances. Maybe you would have found it on your own eventually, but maybe you wouldn’t. Regardless, sometimes the shorter route to success is taking the heartfelt advice of someone who cares and has walked down similar roads. Don’t let your pride or insecurities make you misinterpret other parents’ words and actions as mommy wars instead of seeing them for what they are: life preservers.
3 Use the Right Judgement Scale
If you’re ever in doubt about your parenting choices, try to pinpoint the source of your feelings. Is it from what others are saying to you or doing in their own lives? Or do you actually see adverse effects in your children? If they seem happy and healthy and you have a good relationship with them, then that is what matters most.
In assessing this, it’s important to be honest with yourself. Sometimes defensiveness stems from guilt at not doing better, whether that is based on actual complacency or impossible expectations of perfection. You should always strive for excellence, but you should not try to be perfect because you will always let yourself down.
If you feel you’ve been too harsh, it never hurts to tell your kids that you’re sorry.
It’s also important to let your children be honest with you. If they’re old enough, ask them for feedback. Ask in what ways you can improve and in what ways you are doing things right. This approach will further establish trust between you and boost your confidence. The fact that you care so much about doing what’s best for them shows how much you love them and how involved you are.
As you see your family blossom, the happiness you feel will help you brush off criticism and other hurtful behaviors from family, friends, and strangers. You will have evidence that you’re doing things right, so it doesn’t matter what other moms think or say about you.
2 Work on Yourself
Perhaps you’ve done all of the above, but still doubt your abilities. Take the time to work on yourself. Write down your positive, unique qualities. Review everything you love about yourself. Remind yourself how resilient and strong you’ve been in the past and can be now and in the future. If you need to, ask your loved ones for reassurance.
Jeffrey R. Holland said, “To all mothers in every circumstance, including those who struggle—and all will—I say, ‘Be peaceful. Believe in . . . yourself. You are doing better than you think you are. . . . [Y]our love “never faileth.” ’ I can pay no higher tribute to anyone.”
It never hurts to work on yourself for your family
Remember how wonderful you are! You created life. You have a capacity to love this human being who grew inside you as no one else can. You are wearing your heart outside of your body every day. You are continually putting someone else’s needs above your own. Your role as a mother carries great power. As the poet William Ross Wallace wrote, “The hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world.”
1 Be an Example, Not a Mud Slinger
Once you’ve reached a place of self-confidence, the best—and sometimes only—thing you can do is be an example for other moms to follow. When you’re caught in a mommy war, in person or online, be a pillar of positivity. Give people the benefit of the doubt instead of making assumptions. You don’t have the complete picture regarding their situations.
You’re not inside their heads or hearts, witnessing the turmoil and anguish as they make decisions and carry them through in the face of fear and judgement. Be empathetic. You know what it feels like to be misunderstood and attacked, to be considered unintelligent or selfish based on your parenting choices. You know how ridiculous and unfair that is, so don’t do it to others.
Don’t get involved in the nasty online culture of mud-slinging and self-righteousness. The less that moms get pulled into the war, the less power it will have, until hopefully it disappears. You may feel that this approach can make it difficult when you want to share new-found enlightenment or warn others of safety hazards. Just remember to be careful in your wording so it’s apparent you’re not judging anyone, just spreading information.
Be a soft place for people to land, and they will listen to you more easily
Remember that it’s easy to misinterpret tone and intent from a simple post or comment. If you know a specific subject is a hot-button topic that will raise hell fire within certain people, avoid it altogether. Some people enjoy causing trouble and aren’t ever going to change their minds. If you come across a scenario that truly is dangerous, then speak up. For example, maybe you see a baby not properly secured in the car seat.
Say something like, “I couldn’t help but notice how beautiful your baby is. I know you love her so much and wouldn’t want anything bad to happen to her, so I just thought you might want to know to place the chest buckle higher and tighten the straps to decrease the likelihood of her getting injured in a car accident. She is so precious! She’s very lucky to have you as her mother.”
With a thoughtful approach like that, how could any mom get offended? If you are on the receiving end of such a comment, don’t take offense. Even if you don’t take her advice, be grateful she wanted to help and did so in a respectful manner.
When you remember that each mother is on a unique parenting journey with her own fears and stumbles, it will be easier to be confident, forgiving, and kind. You will not only come out of the mommy wars unscathed, but also help to end the mommy wars completely.