Incident 1: Mom-of-the-year asks nicely if I can remove my child from the play structure shaped like a fire truck… because her kid wanted to play on it.
Incident 2: My kids occasionally bring toys to the park. Once we brought a plastic toy cork gun. Cue mom-of-the-year talking loudly to friends about the dangers of playing with toy weapons (to which her much more intelligent preschooler rebutted, “But mom, it’s just a toy!”).
Incident 3: My kids sometimes climb on things at parks. Not anything dangerously high or located next to spikes, or shark infested waters or anything, but you know, things that invite climbing such as benches.
And sometimes, other kids want to imitate them. Cue mom-of-the-year running exasperatedly toward her perfectly capable, safe distance from the ground toddler grunting, “Don’t look at those kids.” She meant my kids.
The last incident did cause me to open my mouth and say to her sarcastically, “Well, that wasn’t condescending,” Perhaps my protruding baby bump did intimidate, for she sized me up for a second, picked up her child and walked away. But something happened in that moment and it’s the reason I dislike and don’t ever engage in mommy wars: you can’t say a thing without coming off as condescending yourself.
Sure, her reaction was over the top, but notice how quick I was to think and say so. Was that not a bit condescending of me?
Don’t think that I didn’t feel a twinge of the, “How dare you judge my parenting in public,” pang, because I certainly did. And then my next uncharitable thought, which happened in all three cases, because it was another commonality between the three, was this: “It’s because she only has one kid.”
Ouch. While it’s true that all three moms-of-the-year only had one child, is it not rather judgmental on my part to chalk that up as the reason they all behaved like insecure dunces (which, again, is own my harsh opinion)?
The irony of mommy wars is just that: no mom wants to feel judged, and no critic is a harsher judge of motherhood and childrearing than a mom.
The very second I feel like some phantom rosette adorns an invisible sash reading, “Infallible Mom,” across my chest, whether I have one child or ten children, is the moment that I have completely lost the battle, so to speak.
Think about it. Who ultimately wins in the war of the mommas? Nobody. We like to think the kids are the winners, and that the fruit of our bickering over things like organic vs. processed foods, tv vs. no tv, playing with toy weapons vs. hugging small animals is a society that will eventually raise truly balanced children.
But when does that ever happen, really? And do kids really win when one mom is busy pointing the finger at another mom’s choice of snack food?
This goes both ways I find. Some moms revel in their kids’ healthy edamame option while other moms rebelliously pack the Cheetos as a sign that they just ain’t apart of that crowd.
Where do I think we Christian moms should fall on the spectrum of overbearing vs. bone-headed motherhood? Exactly where we should fall in every other aspect of our lives: try the best we can (even if it means Cheetos and toy guns sometimes) and err on the side of charity, in this case, towards other moms (i.e. don’t go around publicly and loudly condemning her kids’ actions and snack foods as though they’re a microcosm for the whole of her parenting).
In two out of the three park incidences I mentioned above, God’s grace helped me do just that, and to put aside my initial angry feelings.
For the first, I did move my child off the play structure because that mom begged and assured me that they would only be one minute and were leaving anyway. Ten minutes later when they were still playing on it and it was obvious she had lied I then wanted to react to her (but God helped me with that too).
For incident number two, instead of stewing, I struck up a conversation with the mom who was bemoaning the presence of a toy gun at the park. I asked her how her son’s school was going and we had a really nice conversation about my homeschooling.
To boot, she even let me gift our toy gun to her son (the “Mom, it’s just a toy,” kid) because he was having so much fun with it, and plus my kids have a whole armory of toy guns in our house anyway. Yeah, go ahead and judge away.
I think the true victors of the ‘mommy wars’ are the moms who don’t engage but step aside to focus on what really matters: on those kids whose upbringings we’re all fighting to prove we know more about, and who have more to gain by our respecting one another’s journeys in our vocations as mothers, instead of pretending like we are the only ones who have it all figured out all of the time.
My advice is this: don’t engage in mommy wars, and may you win laurels of peace by doing so.