ADVICE: Conflicted Mom (Caught in the Mommy Wars crossfire.)

Sara,

My daughter is one, and we’ve been going to our community center a couple times a week for a toddler playgroup. I’ve become good friends with some other moms there, and I like that the center is close to my house and the playroom is clean. We have coffee and talk while we watch the kids play. It’s been nice because I don’t get much time to talk to adults these days. Now I’m feeling uncomfortable because one of the moms in our group recently went back to work, so she’s not there. After she went back to work the other women in the group started talking about her. They talk about how they can’t believe she went back to work, and that her daughter will suffer because she’s in daycare. One of them said that she shouldn’t have had a baby if she wasn’t going to be around to raise it. I feel so uncomfortable talking with them, but I do think that staying at home with my child is important, and I wouldn’t have gone back to work either. That’s the problem. I think that being a stay at home mom is best, but I don’t want to talk about someone that I like to hang out with behind her back. How can I tell them that even though I pretty much agree with them I don’t want to talk about her like that? I don’t want them to start talking about me and I know that some of them would disagree with some of the things I do as a parent. I want be able to go there without feeling uncomfortable, but I’m not sure I’m ok with the whole thing.

– Conflicted Mom

 

Hey Mom,

Ah yes, the Mommy Wars shit-talk strikes again. Whether it’s breastfeeding or formula, daycare or stay-at-home, disposable diapers or cloth, attachment parenting and whatever you call other types of parenting, mothers with strong opinions wage war on other mothers with strong opinions, and they fight for the right to feel superior over the other. What a crock of shit. While everyone has an opinion on these parenting choices, and everyone has the right to voice their opinions regarding them, somewhere in there, a number of women have decided that their opinions are the correct opinions and have commenced a full on attack of those who disagree.

If the women in your playgroup wish to voice their opinions in front of you, that’s ok. They are entitled to do so. In that case, you could choose to share or not share your opinion as well, and get back to blah blah blah and suck down your Starbucks. All is well. However, nasty remarks that accuse other mothers of bad parenting, such as the comment that the absent friend shouldn’t have had a baby if she wasn’t going to be around to raise it is, quite simply, someone being a straight bitch. I don’t think you’re upset with the nature of the conversation, but with the realization that you have been spending your mornings with assholes.

The situation you’re in really isn’t about this particular parenting topic. It’s about women talking shit about another woman behind her back. If there’s one thing I know for sure, it’s that you can bet your ass they’d do the same to you. You have to ask yourself whether or not you want to spend your time with people like that. Maybe you do. Maybe your daughter’s playgroup setting is worth putting up with them for a few hours a week. Only you can make that call. If you do, you probably want to keep in mind that these women will probably continue to say things that you don’t like. You have to choose whether or not you want to tell them that you’d prefer that they not talk about your absent friend. Just remember this, if you sit there quietly, not saying anything, then you’re being a shitty friend, too. Since it’s bothering you enough to write me, I’d guess that you probably aren’t a shitty friend. So, since you’re a grown-up and value friendship, let the bullies know that their shit talking isn’t welcome when you’re sitting at the table. Yes, they’ll probably turn their fangs on you later, but at least you stood your ground. If you’re scared to rock the boat (as many people are), look over at your daughter. Someday, someone’s going to bully her behind her back. Wouldn’t you want someone to stand up for her?

Like I said, I think your issue is really about how these women are behaving, and not so much the topic they chose. They happened to have chosen a very emotionally charged topic, one that brings out some seriously judgmental attitudes. But, no matter the topic, slamming someone who disagrees with you behind their back is just a dick move.

Good luck, and I hope for better coffee conversation in your near future.

Sara xo


Extra Credit:

I will briefly remark on this whole ugly issue of parents attacking other parents for having opinions that differ from their own, because this is my column and I can do whatever the hell I want. A note to the parents that know what’s best for everybody else:

Dear Judgy McShutyourface,

Don’t approve of another parent’s parenting choices? Feel the need to pass judgement on them because your choices are the correct choices, and anyone who disagrees with you is obviously a bad parent? That can really suck time out of your already busy day. I’m here to help, and I’ve got great news for you! It will free you of your self-imposed duty to inform other parents that they are (clearly) doing it wrong. Here it is…

It’s none of your fucking business. Period. Go spend your energy being the best parent you can be to your own child. You could start by setting an example for your child by not disrespecting others and/or saying shitty things about them behind their backs. Be a good role model and show your kid that Mommy’s not an asshole. That just might be the best parenting advice you’ll ever get. You’re welcome.

5 comments

  1. Sara

    Comment from Facebook:
    As a mom who has no choice but to work, I think the mom who sent you the post to begin with is one of the jerks as well, so she may be in good company with her nonworking friends who can still afford Starbucks. It’s nice for her that she had a choice not to go back to work. Not everyone does.

    Me:
    I’m so glad you brought this up. I think your POV gets lost among parenting blogs and online debate about these things. So many arguments are being fought by those *with* choices, and those who don’t have a choice get drowned out of the yakety-schmackety.

    So, because I know you, I know that you are not a Judgy McShutyourface, but the sentiment of your comment is so often brought up during real, live conversations among parents I know. While the chitter chatter of who’s right and who’s wrong hogs the mic, below the fray, there are frustrated parents thinking, “Fuck you. You have a choice and you’re gonna slam others who don’t?” And yes. Fuck them. They irritate the shit out of me too, and I’ve been a working-outside-of-the-home-mom, a stay-at-home-mom, a-work-from-home-mom, a pretty good mom, a terrible mom…wait. *ahem* I digress. So, I’ve heard it from many camps. Lots of shit talking to go around.

    However, we have to remember that there are those (many) parents that have a choice, make a choice, stand by their choice, and go on their merry way, not judging others for making a different choice. So, in this case, with this woman, having an opinion on the matter doesn’t make her a jerk, how she behaves/treats others is what makes her a jerk or not. Whether or not she fails to recognize that having the opportunity to choose is a privilege in the first place, I don’t know. Maybe she’s a jerk. Maybe she’s a raging asshole. Maybe she’s a man. Maybe her “child” is a Cabbage Patch Doll and Playgroup is the name of her dog. So, jerk or not, I’m happy that she/he wrote to me so that we could all have a conversation about it.

    But we’ve got to be careful… Just as parents who have the luxury of making parenting decisions without financial, emotional, situational, [insert other] constraints should keep their judgements to themselves, parents who’s parenting decisions are dictated largely by personal circumstances can’t direct their frustration at people who (seemingly) have no constraints on their choices.

    Ultimately, we all have opinions on parenting, and these are, and will likely always be some of the strongest and most sensitive opinions we ever hold. The sensitivity is exacerbated by the infighting among us, and we all fear judgement regarding our parenting choices. Because at the heart of it, we are talking about our children, and ain’t nobody better step to us about OUR babies, right!? None of us really know what the fuck we’re doing, and I think we all are really defensive about how well we are succeeding at this parenting gig.

    I’ve listened to parents rant on and on about choices big and small, everything from only giving your baby puréed homemade food, to the “evils” or the “miracles” of Desitin, to bottles or no bottles before bed, to fluoride or no fluoride, to ear drops or Tylenol… and I sure as fuck am not even going to touch the whys, whens, hows, or wheres of breastfeeding. Yes, I have opinions on these things, maybe I agree, maybe I disagree, maybe I think some of them are ridiculous and could care less. I am being 100% straight up honest when I say, that usually, I care less. Because, what the fuck do I know about anything? I’m treading water over here trying to get this shit right, and I worry that I’m fucking it up every day. So, I navigate my own kids’ needs based on my opinions, and while I may disagree with someone else’s, I will mind my own fucking business and work on the daily battle that is “trying not to fuck this whole thing up”.

    After more and more discussion on this, it all still really boils down to something that doesn’t have anything to do with parenting at all.

    Some people are assholes. Their personal blend of assholery extends to all facets of their lives. Some assholes have kids. Becoming a parent doesn’t cure one of one’s assholery. It only gives them one more thing to be a judgmental prick about.

    Ain’t none of us got time for this shit. And I really need to shut the fuck up now…better late than never.

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  2. RachelK

    For real.

    This is great advice.

    I was listening to some feminists talk on NPR when it was the 50th anniversary of Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique and the one thing that really struck a chord with me was:
    “Stop judging other women and stop comparing yourself to other women.”

    Duh.

    Truth time: I love my kid. I’m a pretty decent parent most of the time. However, I do not have it in me to be a full time mom, nor do I have the luxury. Plus, I think it’s important he have experiences outside of the home with his peers.

    This is what stops me from going to play groups. I do have to give props to one of the moms at the Big Backyard though. Henry hit a kid, slapped another child across the face. I was so very embarrassed sitting next to him while he cried out my scolding him. Another mom came up and said, “as you see, there are lots of two year old boys here right now. They have a lot of energy they need to burn.” As it was the first time I was there, it definitely wasn’t my last.

    Who has the emotional energy for judgey loud mouths?!?

    If it was someplace my kid loves, I’d suck it up and bring a book to read. If asked what was wrong, I’d tell them, “reading a book is more interesting than listening to your gossip.”

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  3. sawaboof

    I was raised by a working mom. I turned out pretty OK. I think it’s pretty neat that we had enough money from combined incomes to put food on the table and clothes on our backs and a roof over our head and take family road trips fairly often. I also think it’s pretty neat that my mom had a masters degree and didn’t give up the opportunities that presented just because she wanted a family too. It’s pretty neat we had both love and financial stability growing up.

    If someone talked shit about my mom and her parenting choices, I’d probably punch them right in the face. Because fuck them.

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  4. ladyestrogen

    Agreeeed.
    And being a stay-at-home mom is more often than not a privilege. I have no choice but to go back to work. In a perfect dream world I could stay home with my babies & paint critically acclaimed landscapes out of the art studio in my backyard. Also, I’ll poop gold.

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    • Sara

      YES! That’s just the thing. Many of the hot button “Mommy Wars” issues and choices aren’t really a choice at all. Maybe a family cannot get by on a single salary, maybe there is one one salary to begin with, maybe daycare is too expensive and a parent must leave their job for that financial reason…the list of scenarios goes on and on. Which further supports my “mind-your-own-fucking-business” stance.

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