Before you head to the comment section to rip my head off, let me explain.
The other day I was scrolling through Facebook, and happened upon a video from a formula company who shall remain nameless. The basic premise of their advertisement, thinly veiled in a viral Facebook clip, was that we should end the mommy wars. This horrendous, awful tradition of women tearing down other women because of how we each choose to parent. And while yes, I agree that we should support each other and try to make this marathon called motherhood a bit easier for each other, I couldn’t help but wonder: is this an all or nothing premise?
You’ll notice in the video I mentioned, because it’s produced by a formula company, it doesn’t happen to mention any of the negative aspects of feeding your child formula. Interesting. Also interesting? They did take the time to mention women’s criticisms towards breastfeeding: it’s weird, it’s awkward, etc. So while I understand what they’re trying to say by asking us all to end the mommy wars, it sure seems like they’re also trying to sell some product at the same time. And that’s not necessarily cool by me. Especially when said product is subtly undermining women’s breastfeeding chances everywhere as we speak.
I speak from experience: those formula samples magically arrived in my mailbox for my first born and looked all too tempting when the first few months of breastfeeding were tough. I was lucky enough to have the support from my family and a wonderful lactation consultant to tell me straight up what the truth was about formula and my ability to breastfeed my daughter. So I was able to continue thanks to their input and my own will to succeed.
That leads me to my second objection to ending the mommy wars. It’s this idea that we can no longer say ANYTHING to ANYONE, lest it be taken the wrong way. We have list upon list of “37 things to never say to a pregnant woman” or “23 things breastfeeding moms are tired of hearing”. It’s gotten to the point that nobody wants to say a word for fear of offending someone. But maybe we shouldn’t be thinking of this as a war at all. Maybe every mom isn’t out to simply attack another mom.
Maybe it’s more about an intelligent discussion and less about judgement. Because I can tell you that more than once I have seen a mom’s question in a Facebook parenting group and the advice they were given was flat out wrong, outdated, or based more on old wive’s tales than scientific research. Sometimes it’s even their pediatrician telling them to give rice cereal at four months in their baby’s bottle. So what am I supposed to do in that situation? Look the other way in the hopes of ending these so-called “mommy wars”? Or should I be allowed to at least thoughtfully share some research-based information showing that might not actually be best for your baby?
This applies to every area of parenting. There are misguided thoughts on cosleeping, breastfeeding, birth, car seats, on and on. Are we supposed to withhold a kind suggestion simply because we don’t want to hurt another mother’s feelings? We’re moms. We’re supposed to be tough as nails, right? I’ll give you an example. A friend of mine who is even crunchier than I am found out I was using a certain type of face wash. It contained ingredients that she chooses not to use with her family. So she sent me a link with information on the research that had been done. I read it, gave it some thought, appreciated her concern, and continued to use my face wash. I wasn’t hurt because she manages her household differently than me, and I don’t think she was hurt that I chose to continue my own practices.
I think we can all be adult enough to end the hurtful or thoughtless things we say to other moms without forcing ourselves to remain mute on every single parenting subject. If I see a mom asking if she should give formula to help her 2-day-old stay full, I think I should be able to gently let her know that her baby’s stomach is far too small to “need” supplementation at this point. I should be able to tell her she’s doing great, keep working at breastfeeding, and trust her instincts. And if she chooses to give formula at some point, I won’t be offended. But I hope she’ll give me the same courtesy of being able to share my perspective. There are ways to offer a different view without crushing someone’s will to live. And then we have to be mature enough to let people make their own decisions, whatever that might entail.
It’s true that parenting is hard. It can be isolating, infuriating, and sometimes it just makes no sense at all. But that’s when we need not only support, but INPUT from our fellow mothers. We have to be willing to both give and receive it. Kindly, with the right wording, but instead of trying to end the mommy wars, let’s just all agree to have honest, open conversations about parenting and then respect the decisions we all come to. Because this might be an uphill battle, but we can all be on the same side.