The other day I got sucked into an online fight I had no particular skin in. Two parents were arguing via social media while others chimed in with their hot Twitter takes. The dustup was over some video content where one parent felt the other was misusing their children. Insults were slung back and forth, and there were cries of, ”Think about the kids!”
You’d think this was just another chapter in the Mommy Wars, yet the people involved in this particular fight were actually dads.
In fact, it’s been awhile since I’ve seen a Mommy vs. Mommy battle amplified in the media. Are the times a-changing?
I’ll admit upfront that since my son is now 10, I’m a bit more removed from what was the central battleground of the Mommy Wars: infancy. A lot of those online fights—played out in blog posts and social media—centered around issues related to newborns and babies: Breast vs. Bottle, Co-sleeping vs. Crying-It-Out, to Vax or not (OK, there’s no real debate on this one! Always vaccinate if you can!), Baby-led weaning vs. rice cereal and purees, and all kinds of other questions that are moot by late toddlerhood.
It’s not a surprise that majority of in-fighting when it comes to mothers happens to occur when we are at our most sleep-deprived, physically recovering from birth, finding our footing and voice as new parents, and are usually ruled by our ever fluctuating hormones as they try to find some postpartum balance. And whenever women have divisions, they are amplified by the media because the Mommy Wars create clicks, and sell books. Truly, it’s a recipe for disaster. I remember how rough it was for me. In fact, that first year postpartum and seeing the arguments and fights that popped up around me was one of the motivating factors for creating my anthology, “The Good Mother Myth.” I felt so surrounded by judgment and I needed to break free.
Looking back, it’s easy to see how we get so absorbed in this media-driven narrative of the “Mommy Wars.” We all want to be “good” mothers and that outside judgment (a lot of it fueled by other new mothers’ fears and insecurities) can certainly impact what and how we do things with our children. But from my vantage point now, 10-years postpartum yet still engaged in the online mothering community, I wonder where the Mommy Wars have gone. Sure, they may still be there in our own heads and via social media, but I’m not seeing the same volume of pointed blog posts or trend pieces that I did when I was in the thick of it.
So, is it time, distance and my perspective that’s changed, or have moms and the media changed as well in the past decade?
I would love to think that mothers have moved past the need to pit women against each other when it comes to parenting, to randomly uphold some while vilifying others. But I doubt that we’ll ever be free of some level of mother-judgment, whether internally or externally motivated. There’s a lot at stake when it comes to parenting (the children are the future and whatnot, no big deal), so it makes sense that we can be overly critical.
But it seems like we have a lot more at stake these days—especially here in the US with an administration that is not family/woman-friendly. So perhaps mothers are coming together more often to fight unified against something instead of against ourselves? It’s a nice thought at least. Or maybe the reality that so many of us don’t fall squarely into one camp these day— we work, we stay home, we breastfeed and then switch to the bottle. In those cases, it’s harder to see everything as “team A” vs. “team A.” Perhaps, also, family structures have changed, from queer families to stay at home dads to single parents, and the climate has become more mindful of different choices (is that wishful thinking?)
But wait, let’s get back to the dads for a moment. One thing that has always vexed me about the supposed Mommy Wars is that it was all about the women. I know that in our society, women are the default parent (thanks, patriarchy and sexism!), which is why they are targeted with the lion’s share of the criticism when it comes to parenting. But really, what about the men? Clearly the dad vlogging community, which I found myself getting sucked into last week, is a real and very messy thing. But until a spare tweet fell into my timeline, I had no idea.
And it made me think, Men are arguing about parenting online—I see proof of it right here!— but where are all the think pieces about the men? The dads? Why haven’t I seen a single headline about stay at home dads and working dads hating each other? Is it because maybe men’s choices are afforded more respect and less criticism, whatever they are?
Part of me would like to see dads’ parenting choices fall under the same scrutiny, mockery, and outrage that mothers have been subjected to for a long time. Not because I want to see them suffer, but because it would be nice for them to have a taste of what so many of us have dealt with on a daily basis. But, my guess is that any Daddy War think pieces will be a blip on the parenting radar, and we’ll go back to finding a way to pit women against each other soon enough.
Never mind. To my fellow moms: You’re doing awesome. If this truce, or pause, in the Mommy Wars does end, and “Mom vs. Mom” returns as a narrative, please remember that these stories are just distractions, and most of us are just doing the best we can.