Monday, February 13, 2017

Can we talk?

The only thing I have to offer is my perspective and what has worked for us. And I think society could benefit, and children could benefit, from more discussion between parents about what works and why.

Or we could have a Mommy War! You get on one side, and I'll get on another, and we can shoot each other with Mommy Arrows, which look sharp enough but are actually soft, gooey with love, and prone to swerve. We can pretend to be very serious and intent, but in the end fall laughing into a pile of softness to rest before we move on to the next fun filled event: Toilet Scrubbing Races!

The phrase “mommy war” is patronizing and marginalizing. Silly mommies, thinking their jobs are important, valuable, and worthy of discussion. Saying there is no right way to do the job of parenting is equal to saying it doesn't matter how you parent. Saying there is no single right way gets closer to reality but still suggests that the job isn't worthy of much discussion. Derisive name calling intended to shame mothers into silence absolutely implies that we have nothing of value to discuss.

Or, it implies that someone has something to lose.

Some parents might be more skilled or experienced or creative than others. It might be that things like how to feed, diaper, or speak to a child, what example you provide, and how you teach them to move through the world (including thoughts on sleeping, working, having fun, choosing friends, handling emotions, and thinking) all matter in the effort to grow sane, healthy adults. This is to say nothing about all the brutal, curve-ball challenges inherent in the job of parenting. There could be quite a lot to say about it all, quite a lot to learn.

If mothers held open discussions about their parenting, someone might learn something, or change an opinion, or help a child. If potent, meaningful words, sharp even to pointedness, were used, what might happen? Men might even get involved in such a discussion because it might be serious. It might have weight and be loaded with meaning about a valuable subject. It might be just like what happens in offices, where people feel the need to hold meetings to discuss options and ideas, to learn from each other, to give consideration and grow, as if their jobs matter.

Or we could call those conferences at work "business wars." We won’t, of course, because business is understood to be valuable in society, rather than a scourge like war. Business is constantly discussed in classes, journals, meetings, emails, and conferences without any hint of derision or suggestion that those silly business people are at their wars again.

A mommy war is more than one woman audacious enough to have an opinion about parenting, believe it matters, and be interested in talking about it. Opinionated, mattering, relevant, forward-thinking mommies? Does such a thing exist? Can you even use the word “mommy” while thinking about important choices? Mommies have babies. I think our society has shown, very clearly, just how important we think babies are. Sometimes, it seems like children barely even have parents anymore. What children have is daycare and formula, or school and pasteurized milk -- for their best waking hours straight through the years of their young lives.

If a mommy were ever to say a thing so important it might actually hurt another parent’s feelings or cause a parent to consider changing, what would happen? It cannot happen, surely. If such a thing happened we might be forced to admit that parenting is important and profoundly influences lives and society. Getting parenting wrong means, by one definition, raising a family from which one wishes to escape. How convenient that part of the measure of success in our culture involves independence. Most teenagers wait for escape from school and their families. How curiously circular, that our culture pushes the separation of families at every turn, all in the name of industry and capitalism. If parents wanted to look closely at this situation and discuss it, seminars might start popping up, but who would fund them?

Here are some opinions based on my experience: Home birth is safer, cheaper and healthier for mothers and babies. Healthy happy babies don't cry very much and you can generally meet their needs if you care to try and know how. Babies need breast milk, and lots of it, for many years. Diapers aren't necessary, but if you don't care to practice elimination communication, most children can be potty trained, to be dry night and day, before the age of two, easily. You probably should hold your own baby nearly all the time, as if you are in love with your little stardusted sweetheart. Institutional school, including day care, is vapid and unlikely to do a very good job of raising your children.

Does any of this hurt your feelings? I am sorry. Mommy War is all about mommy's feelings, in the end. God forbid anyone suggest that a child ever had a feeling that mattered, much less needed a parent who put serious effort and thought into how they choose to do their jobs -- as if their jobs matter.

But what about that other idea, that someone might have something to lose when mommies start talking? If society normalized and legalized home birth with midwives that would be safer, a huge environmental win, and save billions of dollars for families. And hospitals would lose billions of dollars. If most people stop buying diapers that would be a huge environmental win and save billions of dollars for families. And Pampers would go out of business. If most people stopped buying formula, that would be a huge environmental win and save billions of dollars for families, in addition to improving the health and security of millions of babies. And Similac would go out of business. If most people stopped putting babies in daycare… You get the idea.

Did you see the commercial where diverse warring families in a park stop fighting and rush to save a poor, neglected infant rolling away in a stroller? The commercial where parents who discuss opinions are shown to be not only shallow and mean-spirited but to actually cause child neglect? That commercial was paid for by Similac because they are profoundly terrified of healthy intelligent public discourse. How we parent our children matters very much to Similac, Pampers and several other corporations. You better believe they've had serious business meetings about it. I solemnly swear, as a mother and a citizen and a person who truly cares about other families, that the concern of those corporations has nothing to do with the health or well being of your child. They don't care about your baby or your right to work or your dissertation or Feminism. They only care about your money, and how they can get more of it.

At the end of the commercial, Similac proudly proclaims, "No matter what our beliefs, we are parents first. Welcome to the sisterhood of motherhood. Sisterhood unite." By which they mean: Never criticize baby formula again. Stop all discussion at once. There are no significant parenting choices. Similac is betting that we are not smart enough to see what they are doing. They are engaging in an actual war on parents and babies, and it is driven by blistering, ravening greed.

The next time someone suggests that you are trying to start a mommy war, tell them to fuck off. And come sit next to me. I'm happy to hear your opinions and your reasons. I think experience matters, and I think the way you parent matters, for your baby and for society. Almost everything I've learned about parenting, I’ve learned from other mothers. Thoughtful discussion is the sisterhood of motherhood.


  1. *every* time a woman introduces herself as "Just" a Mom in my workshops, I stop, and usually, unless it feels just too unsafe, I repeat it back to her as a kind and prodding question. "Just?" Then a small discussion follows before we get back on track with Science.