Lately, I’ve been thinking the term “Mommy Wars” is a bit of a misnomer.
Sure, there’s a lot of in-group bickering going on about stuff like using formula vs. breastfeeding, staying at home vs. going back to work, and whether we should be allowed to skip vaccinations.
But the term “mommy wars” makes it seem like we wouldn’t have parenting debates in America at all, if it weren’t for these endless, tedious catfights… as though parenting is somehow only a woman’s problem and we women just refuse to sort it out.
And I don’t get it.
Yes, biology means women have to deal with pregnancy and childbirth, but there is so much more to parenthood than that.
Weren’t all of us children once? Don’t children also have fathers? Even if we don’t all choose to be parents, doesn’t someone need to do it for our society, not to mention the human race, to exist?
I don’t believe the parenting problems in our country are caused by a bunch a disagreeable moms, but by a growing us vs. them mentality in general. The real hostility, in my opinion, exists between parents vs. non-parents.
I’ve been on both sides of this debate. Before having kids, it used to annoy me to hear them screeching on planes, in grocery stores, and in public places. I used to wonder why the world seemed to revolve around kids and why parents didn’t keep them under better control.
I had lots of ideas about what kind of parent I’d be if I ever became one, the kinds of reasonable solutions I’d have for every conceivable problem. When my kids acted up in the grocery store, for example, I’d threaten to march them out and drive straight back home if they didn’t straighten up and fly right.
And these reasonable solutions ALWAYS worked, of course, because they were imaginary. Scripted perfectly in my head.
Since having kids, I’ve had the chance to try these perfect solutions and watch them completely bomb. I’ve experienced the mortification of having your child come unglued when your grocery cart is packed full and nothing seems to calm them down, not food nor comfort nor changing nor distraction…
I’ve felt the hostile stares and seen the rolling eyes and panicked because there was no easy way out. We have to eat and there’s no food at home. The cart is full and I can either ditch it mid-aisle or try to get through the line as fast as possible. Threatening to leave is meaningless because the kids are too young to care.
Now that I’ve had children, I can’t believe how naive I used to be and feel terrible about any hard stare I ever gave a struggling parent on a crowded plane or in a packed grocery line.
My perspective has changed as I’ve felt the waves of palpable hostility coming from non-parents everywhere. Life isn’t a zero-sum game, so how did we end up on opposite teams?
I’m an animal lover myself, but understood the point she was making: you may love your dog very much, but taking care of a dog in no way actually approximates the enormous investments required by parenting. You can’t leave your kid in the backyard with food while you go out, for instance, or put them up in a kennel while you’re on vacation.
As you’d expect, the comment section blew up with angry dog parents defending their relationships, but what shocked me most was the nastiness spewed toward human kids. Children were repeatedly called snot-nosed brats, inferior to puppies. Parents were called selfish, narcissistic monsters overburdening the planet with their vile offspring.
One woman talked about how upset she was when her four-month-old Yorkie was ran over, saying she didn’t think any parents would be that upset.
Reading that, I wished I could reach straight through the computer to choke her out. I love animals and have bawled for weeks over the loss of a beloved pet, but if something happened to one of my children? I don’t know how I could go on at all.
How did things get so ugly?
Some lady recently wrote an article for the New York Post about how she thinks women should be entitled to “me-ternity” leave without having to have kids. In her amazingly self-centered piece, she complains about how needing to have margaritas with her buddy is somehow not considered as sympathetic a reason to leave work on time as needing to pick up your kid from daycare.
Cue the parent vs. non-parent commenting outrage, with an added bonus of a bunch of guys explaining why her ludicrous argument justifies paying women less in general. Also, the author’s bizarre assertion that only women should be entitled to this so-called “me-ternity” leave, which seemed to undercut anything potentially salvageable about her argument in the first place.
The sad thing is, this shouldn’t be an us vs. them issue. We’re cannibalizing ourselves with these kinds of arguments.
Anyone who has stayed up for nights on end caring for a child who is projectile-vomitting every fifteen minutes won’t appreciate someone whining about their margarita needs not being met in a timely-enough fashion, yet there’s a larger argument about American work-life balance that is valid.
We have the longest working hours and shortest vacation time of any industrialized nation. Many Americans struggle to work multiple jobs to keep food on the table while suffering the uncertainties of inadequate healthcare and employment protections. We’re even afraid of taking the relatively low amount of paid leave to which we’re entitled, because we could get laid off or overlooked for promotion for doing so.
It makes perfect sense for American workers to be angry, to demand a better quality of life and more personal time. We’re completely out of step with our counterparts across the world and we have every right to demand better.
But in a nation with the worst infant and maternity mortality rates and parental leave options in the developed world, aiming your hostility at parents is the wrong way to go.
Folks without kids? We parents are not your enemy. We’re on the same side, or should be.
So I, for one, am vowing to never use the term “mommy wars” again. This isn’t about a bunch of prima donnas bickering for entitlements within the ranks of some special interest group.
And this isn’t about me expecting you to pick up the slack when my kid is in the hospital.
This is about everyone having a decent quality of life in a wealthy country, about having compassion for each other instead of fighting tooth-and-claw in some Ayn Rand-inspired nightmare. About having higher expectations than being used up for our production values then tossed aside.
The problem is not how we’re inconveniencing employers by having offspring. The problem is that the convenience of CEO’s seems to be our nation’s only priority.
Not you. Not us.