The Mommy War never fully enters treaty status. Since I became a recruit almost 11 years ago, I’ve seen my share of battle lines. Let me tell you, folks, it can get pretty ugly.
I wanted to be a conscientious objector, but the forms were never ending and complex and I basically had to sacrifice my firstborn to accomplish it. So, every day, I don my shiniest battle gear (Pro tip: absolutely no one can see a mom when she’s shiny), and choose some moments to enter the fray. I avoid dreaded circles of gripe-about-those-with-which-we-war. On this front, being introverted is a major strength (Note: Personality, not nipples – inverted nipples are the purest form of torture). And I type a lot of Facebook rants that I then erase, which keeps me battle ready without telegraphing my position. I also have a secret cadre of battle buddies because one rarely encompasses all the same beliefs in this war. A mom must be part soldier, part spy, part traitor, part flip-flopper, and part captive. Is it any wonder we are all so tired? (Hint: no)
I’m not high enough in the ranks to have concrete schematics on the end game, so I’m often left to decipher independent and mixed battle cries.
My first foray into the Mommy War hit before a baby entered the picture. I was a pretty young thing (or at least young) and I wanted babies. ALL the babies. I longed for the day I could count myself alongside my foremothers. I struggled to identify with the complaints of full-fledged mothers. If only I were pregnant, I could be a paragon of happiness, an all-enduring incubator of the myself – the me I would surely be once motherhood completed me. I barely hesitated when I shot down actual mothers’ real struggles. It was as if I had impunity among my kind.
Then I peed on a stick. My basic combat training commenced. At first, I pitied those poor women at my obstetrician’s office who were there for a gynecologist – how sad! They quickly dodged my radar as my efforts sunk into books. ALL the books. Soon afterward, I began hearing enemy fire. And it grew closer all the time.
You’re not going to eat that, are you? You might as well eat toxic waste! You’re going to work after the baby comes? Well, I’m taking an extended leave. @$!#, THAT MUST BE NICE. The name you choose will impact everything forever, do you really want a name like that? How could you plan a hospital birth? You’ll never bond with this alien who will use you like a parasite and kill you in your sleep! (An obvious lie – moms don’t sleep.)
Offensive maneuvers were sometimes sneak attacks. Oh, my aunt’s cousin’s stepfather-once-removed had a fourth cousin who had a baby BORN INSIDE OUT!
Don’t be misled. I battered enough others with sharp reminders of their worst fears. (Did you see the medical drama last night where a woman had that thing that made the baby have that other thing and now the baby squawks instead of babbles?!?) It was like a sixth sense, like I just knew what would hurt the most without even trying. The more myopic I became, the sharper this bonus sense.
Breastfeeding v. Bottlefeeding (prebaby)
Breastfeeding v. Bottlefeeding (postbaby)
Depression v. Serenity
Cloth v. Disposable
Again?!? v. Be Fruitful
Old Pro v. Newbie
Medicine v. Naturals
Antidepressants v. Godly Joy
Third Child v. First Child
Work Here v. Work There
Screen time! Veggies! Processed snacks! Fine motor! Gross motor! YOUR CHILD IS 1 AND READS 500 WORDS PER MICROSECOND WHATISWRONGWITHMYYOUNGLINGS?!?
Some might identify where and how hard I fell on each of these fronts. I’m not proud. I’m sad. Sad that these big personal decisions – all of ours – were fraught with contention and the need to defend, defend, defend. To those I may have injured in this war I hate, I am sorry. This post is not a new battle cry; it’s a call to cease fire.
The current battle I face is schooling options. This one is particularly gruesome. The strain for that one right answer discounts other legitimate answers, and it’s exhausting. The battle seemed slow to brew in my corner of the galaxy. It started with open letters to imagined foes and advanced to posts with titles like ‘What Homeschooling/Employed/Public Schooling/Hybrid Moms Wish You Knew’. This prompted a growing surge of rebuttals and re-rebuttals that reached comical proportions. Or, at least, the proportions would have been comical were it not for the women scattered like casualties of spite.
I picked up arms, dusted off old losses, and typed a scathing reproach yesterday that I then quietly deleted one character at a time. And now I’m here, in a space that is mine, and I am ceasing fire.
Because I choose to believe that most people want to do right by their kids. Because I cannot possibly grasp every factor that touches a family. Because it’s as okay to love your work as it is to love to school your own kids. Because there are those who don’t possess the skills or desire or resources to parent/homeschool/fill-in-the-blank. Because there are those who do. Because momming can be done well exceedingly many ways. Because dadding can too. As well as womaning or manning, generally. Because a woman’s worth is not determined by the titles she wears but by her very existence.
Stay at home mom. Working mom. Career woman. Fertile. Infertile. Adopting mom. Ms. Mrs. These are labels. That’s all. Labels we can give up. We can change the question from ‘what are you’ to ‘who are you’.
This is surely not the only place, but even if it is, you can meet me here – no armor necessary. I choose to believe you when you tell me your experience. And I choose to believe that you make the hard choices the same way I do, with care. Because circumstances are not hallowed or cursed but fluid. If I witness you abusing your family, expect my voice, not toward battle but toward safety. If we disagree, well, cool. Parents and their charges are no less diverse than life itself, and I welcome the diversity.
That’s why I’m setting aside my weapons.
(I even trust that y’all understand that this post is about way more than motherhood or womanhood, so if you see your battle amongst these pixels, pull up a chair and rest a while.)