Yep, that’s right. I’m going to tell you how to win the Mommy Wars. I’m going to help you find out if babywearing, or breastfeeding, or strollers, or white noise machines, or co-sleeping, or disposable diapers, or homemade organic baby food will make you a better parent.
Except, first you have to realize that when you win the Mommy Wars you aren’t going to be beating anybody but yourself.
Also, I’m not going to tell you exactly what to do to win. I’m just going to tell you how to find out. It’s a simple question:
“What makes you a better mother?”
Not, “What makes you a better mother than the other mothers around you?” but
“What makes YOU a better mother?”
A parenting choice only makes you a better mother if it makes YOU a better mother than you would be without it.
Babywearing makes me a better mother. I am absolutely 100% confident that this is true. Not a better mother than the one pushing the stroller (which by the way, is also often me), or a better mother than the one carrying the infant seat (me again), but a better mother than the stressed-out, overwhelmed hot mess I would be without it. Babywearing has kept my baby close and happy for a great part of her first year. It introduced me to other moms and got me out of the house when I might have stayed home wondering if what I was feeling was actually PPD. It helps me keep up with the toddler, enjoy my older boys’ soccer games, and put dinner on the table. So yes, babywearing makes me a better mother.
Makes ME a better mother.
If you get suffocated by the thought of having a baby strapped to you; if you’re not going to take the time to learn how to safely wear your baby; if you are surfing or paintball-fighting or driving while babywearing, then it’s not making you a better mother.
Are you picking up what I’m putting down here? This is not just about babywearing.
Let’s do another example, just to drive this baby home.
Breast milk is better for babies than formula. This fact is so undisputed that formula companies have to state this on their product.
But does that mean breastfeeding is better than bottle feeding or formula feeding YOUR baby? What makes YOU a better mother?
If you enjoy breastfeeding, love the bond, the contact, the time it gives you with your baby, then breastfeeding probably makes you a better mother. If your baby is happy and healthy and gaining weight and meeting milestones on nothing but your breastmilk, then You go, Glen Coco.
But what if you don’t enjoy it at all? What if you are constantly anxiety-ridden about milk intake? What if you are on medication that is contraindicated for nursing? What if there’s an issue and your baby is not gaining weight properly?
Will breastfeeding make you a better mother then?
And if some of those issues can be addressed by using donor milk, or having lip/tongue tie revision, or nursing around the clock, or going to a La Leche League meeting, or visiting a lactation consultant, how hard should you try to resolve those issues before you can claim the Mommy Wars trophy?
Only you can answer that. You need to decide what is best for the well-being of your children (and I think that it should go without saying that I am referring to choosing between safe and legal alternatives, not “carseats don’t feel right to me so I’m not going to use one” or extremes like allowing your child to cry until they vomit from distress, or physical or emotional abuse. This is about deciding what is best, not making excuses to justify harmful choices).
By ‘best,’ I mean best. Not easiest, or most convenient, or most popular, but actually in the best interest of your child.
So let’s each just take the time to decide what that is. Working outside the home might make you a better mom. Staying at home might make you a better mom. Co-sleeping might make you a better mom. Having a baby sleeping peacefully in another room might make you a better mom. Can I stop beating this horse? Is it dead yet?
Let’s ask, and answer, what makes ME a better mother than I would otherwise be? What makes me the best possible version of myself? And then, go with that.
Stop the shaming and the judgment and the sanctimommiousness.
But also please, please, pretty pretty please let’s also stop getting offended by every little thing. Listing the benefits of breast milk does not translate to “formula is poison.” Saying cloth diapers are better for the environment does not translate to “you must hate your baby.” Saying your baby loves sleeping close to you doesn’t translate to “I love my kids so much more than you do.”
Stop letting people make you feel guilty about your choices. Guilt comes from within. If you are confident that you are acting in the best interest of YOUR child, then opinions from random internet strangers should not make your feel “attacked,” “judged,” “so hurt and angry,” or leave you “literally in tears right now.”
If you are feeling guilty about some other mom’s comment, stop for a second and ask yourself why.
Scenario A: I’m at the park with friends and I mention that I’m thinking of weaning my 13-month old. A friend asks, “Why do you want to wean?” and BAM I feel guilty. Why? It’s a simple question. No judgment. No shaming. No “tone.” But it still made me feel guilty because inside I was not quite ready to wean yet (we still haven’t, but we are working on it, guilt-free now).
Scenario B: I’m outside with my other kids while wearing the baby. From another mom: “Oh she’s not walking yet? It’s no wonder, since you’ve always got her in that thing.” Grrr, right? Except no. No guilt. No shame. Nothing. I know my daughter loves being worn. I know she spends most of her at-home time playing on the floor (and now climbing on everything). I know that I’m not about to let my baby crawl around in wet dirty muck. I’ve done my research, and no one can make me feel guilty about baby wearing. Just like nobody can make me feel guilty about rocking my baby to sleep, or vaccinating all of my children right on schedule. I’m confident in those choices.
Guilt comes within. If you’re feeling shame about something, don’t project it as anger onto somebody else. Find out where it’s coming from. Are you making a choice that you feel guilty about? If you’re not, move on. If you are, fix it, so you can be better, grow, learn, and be always improving your relationship with your children. Then, you win the Mommy Wars.
But only you will know.
Happy Mothers Day from a babywearing, stroller-pushing, cloth diapering, pull-up-buying, breast- bottle- and formula-feeding, occasionally bedsharing, baby-rocking mom.