The phrase itself is so completely tired out – a cliché – and yet, it still rings true in our day-to-day existence.
When our babies are first born, there are the inevitable “hot topics" that can easily lead to arguments and one-upmanship. Will you breastfeed or bottle-feed? Will you circumcise? Vaccinate? How will you handle sleep with your babies? Ferberize? Attachment parent? And on and on and on.
Of course, these are all important decisions that each parent has to make, and we all work to figure out what's best for our families. We form strong opinions based on research and experience, and sometimes, we inadvertently contribute to the problem of mommy wars.
So how can we stop ourselves? How can we be supportive of other mamas instead of piling on the judgment? Here are some suggestions for those who wish to be part of the solution instead of part of the problem.
You know that social media post? The one where someone shares their strong parent opinion, and then other people disagree, and the next thing you know it’s just a free-for-all of statistics and personal anecdotes, maybe even an “I can’t believe you think X” comment? Ignore it. Do not engage. Don’t publicly call out other moms. No good can come of it.
The mom in Target, you know the one, with the cart full of essentials, including her melting-down toddler? Look her in the eye. Maybe even give her the nod of empathy. She could use the affirmation that it happens to everyone, because it does.
Inevitably, moms will be having a social gathering, maybe a book club, and the conversation will turn toward “concern” for another mother’s child, or marriage, or career. And it more than likely starts with actual concern, but then devolves into gossip. Don’t join in. Think of how you wouldn’t want to be the person discussed. Be the brave person to steer the conversation elsewhere.
Do you know a mama who could use a small treat? It doesn’t have to be elaborate or expensive. It could even be something from your own kitchen. Drop by with a cup of coffee, or a fresh-baked muffin. Sometimes all we need is for someone to acknowledge that we exist. That can turn around the worst of days.
No mom is an island. Call a friend or two, meet up at the park, or the zoo, or even the local mall. Let the kids run around while you take a moment to discuss at least one grown-up topic. It doesn’t need to be deep or intellectual, just enjoyable. We are social creatures. (The added benefit of tired children who may even nap on the way home and let you listen to your music cannot be ignored.)
One of my fondest memories of my neighbor was the day she showed up and took my young children, commanding me to take a nap. I was hanging by a thread, and the three-hour stretch of sleep I got as a result of my neighbor's thoughtfulness was the longest I'd slept in months. A few hours of your time can mean the world to a fellow parent.
When a mama friend is going through a rough time, give her space to vent. Don’t offer any advice unless specifically asked. Most of the time, she knows what she needs to do; she just needs someone to nod along and commiserate.
Are you making lasagna for dinner? Make two of them. Your girlfriend, who just started back to work after maternity leave, or your neighbor whose husband is deployed, or your mama friend who is overwhelmed with life at the moment could use a night off from making dinner. If you're having a good day, make the most of it. Doubling the recipe won’t require a lot of extra effort on your part, but may feel like a lifeline to a friend in need.
Working moms worry about how quickly they can reach their child in case of an emergency at school or daycare. Chances are that you would only be called upon once or twice a year, but if you're available, why not ease the fears of a friend by volunteering to be an emergency contact for when she's in a bind? This will make her afternoon commute exponentially easier, knowing that if she hits a traffic jam, you can pick up her kids along with yours.
Practice self-care. You're a mom, too! You need to make sure you are able to do your job well. If you’re exhausted, emotionally drained, and pushed past your physical limit, imagine how miserable you’ll be and how likely you are to fall prey to engaging in the mommy wars yourself. Get out of the house, even for just five minutes. Walk around the block. Weed the garden. Hide in the bathroom for a bit with a book. You need to recharge, too.
Being a parent is as difficult as it is wonderful. Instead of letting our fellow mothers wallow through the freakish misery all alone, let’s all make an effort to make it just the tiniest bit easier for one another. It doesn’t take a lot of money, or even a lot of time, to be a positive change in the world of motherhood. If we join forces instead of take sides, imagine what we could accomplish.
It takes a village!
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