Changing The (Mom War) Conversation: Suck Up and Be Nice

Wordless Wednesday: Wise, Wordful Women
Did you know there’s a war? (UH! what is it goood fo-sorry…) There’s a war on, well- everything, these days. There’s been the “War on Terror” since 9/11, and the “War on Drugs” since 1969 and Obama’s new reversal in his War on Cannabis. There’s the War on Taxes, War on Kids, War on Pitbulls, the War on Women and War on SAHM moms, which has imploded into a Civil Mom War after the exchange of remarks by Hilary Rosen & Ann Romney (click the “Mom War” link for more, in case you’ve somehow missed it) and it needs to end. NOW. (That was my Mom-tone, so you know I’m serious.) Do we really need to add to the existing struggles of motherhood by brewing up a war of our very own? Does it even really exist, or is it another tool of propaganda to fuel media fires?

Perhaps you’ve also read recently about Ashley Judd’s “puffy face”, which sparked this response; in which she too, notes the degredation at the foundation of female society when she found that the proprietors of the attacks on her appearance were not misogynistic men, but women!

Patriarchy is not men. Patriarchy is a system in which both women and men participate. It privileges, inter alia, the interests of boys and men over the bodily integrity, autonomy, and dignity of girls and women. It is subtle, insidious, and never more dangerous than when women passionately deny that they themselves are engaging in it. This abnormal obsession with women’s faces and bodies has become so normal that we (I include myself at times—I absolutely fall for it still) have internalized patriarchy almost seamlessly. We are unable at times to identify ourselves as our own denigrating abusers, or as abusing other girls and women.A case in point is that this conversation was initially promulgated largely by women; a sad and disturbing fact.”  

Sad and disturbing, indeed! Fortunately, Ashley’s apt response has prompted “The Conversation”, a topic sweeping the media over the last two weeks about body image and how women are treating each other. While “The Conversation” is not specifically aimed toward mothers, all mothers are, obviously, women.In a Salon.com article, Mary Elizabeth Williams writes:

“We as women spend our whole lives being judged, and never more so than for our roles as mothers. We suffer for it, and frankly, we dish it out in spades. We park ourselves in separate camps, casting suspicious glances across the schoolyard. And it sucks because the judgment is there and it’s real and it stems so often from our own deepest fears and insecurities. We pay lip service to each other’s “choices” – and talk smack behind each other’s backs.” 

So what gives? In Cooling -one of my original favorite Tori Amos songs- (Don’t even get me started…) she ponders, “Do I hate what she is? …Or do I want to be her?” which I think succinctly backs up Ms. Williams’ point: the negativity comes from our insecurities. It always seems like everyone else is doing it better or with more style and ease. It probably ties into the “grass is always greener” theory, too, but- now stay with me here, ladies;  could it be happening because half of the time, we’re trying to come off as put together for our friends & family even when we’re actually screaming, “I FUCKING HATE EVERYONE, GAAHHHHHHHH!!” inside? (Come on, I know it’s not just me.) Okay, so don’t scream at me next time we hang out (unless you really need to- just warn me first!) but you’re smart. You’re a woman. You get it. 

I put makeup on before I hang with my friends- or most anywhere in public, honestly. It’s bareMinerals, but it’s makeup nonetheless. The same could certainly be said for the veil I put over my life that I am certainly guilty of wearing for others, so that they don’t see my flaws. But I have a feeling all those matchy-matchy moms at the park have on their veils, too- mineral or not. We as women and mothers have the right and the duty to be honest with ourselves and others. The only thing coming from hiding ourselves from others is other people hiding themselves! 

Marianne Williamson had it right in her book, A Return to Love:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

Are you an attachment parent who has let their baby cry it out? A longtime vegetarian who now eats free range, local meat on occasion? Do you think Jesus kicks ass but get bugged by his followers? Are a single or unemployed parent with little resources who still wants to make good choices? A new mother who has made original parenting decisions she regrets, and has learned from her mistakes? A single mom struggling just to make ends meet? Are you a privileged SAHM and wife who wishes for more, or for just one day away from her husband and kids? A working mom who wishes for less and one day with her husband and kids? Are you a military wife and still a hippie at heart? A nanny or a teacher who spends all day being awesome with kids who comes home too tired to deal with her own? Are you a liberal with conservative values? A conservative who supports legalizing marijuana? Say so!

Have you both touted the importance of breastfeeding and given your infant formula? Are you a mother who has struggled with PPD and still tried to smile everyday? Have you lost a family member to cancer and had to grieve while helping your children grieve and done a shitty job at both? Are you a mother who has had a hospital birth with an OB? A birthing center birth with a midwife? A water birth? Guess what? ME TOO. I have been and am all of the above… and more. Once again, I have a feeling I’m not alone- at least not in ALL of it. My point is that women are multifaceted by nature- we all have a closet bearing many hats, even if some of them are outdated or gathering dust on skeletons. Each situation has things that are wonderful and also has things that cause us to struggle with our own feelings of who and what we should be, and are.

Any mother can tell you she’s had her battles. Whether it’s Battle of the Dishes (Captain’s Log, Sinkdate: 5,3853. It seems as if they’re breeding again...), Battle of the Mt. Washmore (R.I.P. One out of Every. Single. Pair. of baby socks) or one of the always exhausting Battles of Getting-You- Baby-to-Sleep-at-3am, or Battle to Get-Your-Toddler-to-Stop-Crying-Over-Something-COMPLETELY-Irrational (like this one) or the eternal Battle Not To Become Our Own Mothers. We’ve ALL been there… because we’re all mothers ourselves.

At least as mothers, let’s agree on these things about raising children- the tie that binds all mothers, no matter which flavor of parenting we choose. I’d love to read your own answers in the comments!

Raising children is…

Hard. So hard.

If you don’t feel the need to see Rihanna rolling in mud, just skip to 2:30 and check the pink tank and Mickey Mouse ear helmet!
Being a parent is the hardest, most trying thing EVER, if only by the simple fact that once a parent, you are a parent every hour, everyday to each child that you have- and no two are alike. In fact, I’m pretty sure our kids are custom-built to break our limits and help us grow. Think you’ve got the swing of it? That’s nice… love it up! Your offspring just got wind and boy, do they have a plan! Anyone even having gotten through labor deserves a trophy, never mind attempting to not only attempt to survive, but actually master all that follows.

Parenting requires becoming a ninja-jedi in SO many ways- mentally (Sneaking cookies, you are…) physically (You know you’ve done that lightning-reflex Bruce Lee catch and looked around thinking, “Damn, no one even saw that!“) and spiritually (I am calm… I AM CALM. THISISMYCALMFACE. 0_o) while on the job, without instructions or training. I had been a nanny for nearly a decade by the time I had kids and STILL wasn’t prepared. Babies are needy. It goes without saying that they need, well… everything. Toddlers need help with nearly everything- but just enough so they think they’re doing it themselves. After they outgrow the toddler years comes the point you have to keep track of everything in their ever-expanding universe: where they put their other shoe, their favorite shirt and (increasingly secret) favorite stuffed animal, strange names and fads that are, for some reason, “cool”, (wearing shaped rubber bands that cost $5 for 10?! Huh?) school performances and holidays, play dates, homework, baseball practice, birthday parties… (cheesecake, jelly bean, BOOM!) You get it. It makes us all the more grateful that it’s:

Rewarding. So much so that we choose to do it again! (Well, some of us. I just read a wonderful, touching post dedicated To The Mother With Only One Child that I highly recommend for all mothers) The torture of sleep deprivation, errant fecal matter (Admit it! You’ve found poo where no poo has gone- or should be- before.) and the presence of a body that somehow reminds you more of Jabba the Hut more than any skin you’d ever like to admit to being in go right out the window when babies learn how to smile, laugh, sit and walk. When they finally say, “I wuff you“, little fluffy yellow birdies carrying rainbows in teacups interspersed by clouds in the shape of “CUTEST THING EVER” circle their head for a full 30 seconds. Wait until your child picks up a skill you’ve never had in less than 5 minutes! (You can ice skate? Just like that? Screw you, kid- MY ass hurts. Oh wait- I mean uh... Wow, you’re amazing! Aren’t you proud!) With childhood comes within ourselves to the rediscover the joy of swings, the wonder and fun in a small piece of ribbon, a game, a stick, a ball, the sky… it makes then entire reason we’re on earth as clear as day.That said, parenting is highly personal. Every mom has got her own steeze. Not every child or parent will find joy in the same places & everyone’s got their own way of doing things. It’s even okay to try something, then decide it’s not quite right, and try something else until it works. What’s it to you if the world doesn’t adopt your current position?  Who & where are you, oh-mother-perfect-enough that we should all be emulating & why in your perfection, have you not written a manual for the imperfect rest of us, so we can at least know how to recognize- nevermind attempt it?

If you’re like me and simply trying to do what you feel is best for your family, high five! I always tell my kids, “Compare yourself to YOUR best, not someone else’s. Your best can change depending on a lot of things, but what’s important is that you try.” The same could be said to mothers everywhere- and no one should give anyone trying their best a hard time. If something’s not right for you, don’t do it. Just like if you don’ like broccoli, don’t eat it- but don’t launch into a tirade about how gross it is every time you see someone else trying or -gasp!- enjoying it. This is another lesson I go through with my kids all the time. 





 
Raising children doesn’t “take a village” of clones! The modern day equivalent of a village may take the form of extended family, friends, playgroups and even Pinterest; where mothers (and nonbreeders alike) can share their ideas freely. On Pinterest, differences are the livelihood and the very pulse in the nature of the beast. Can you imagine if there was only one- or even only one type- of pin? Pinterest’s most exciting part (for me) is finding the creativity of others that inspires my own. Ideas are perused through, commented on and if you’re really nifty, re-pinned. You can throw your ideas up there and present them in any way that you want- it’s still up to personal choice if people want to see them and to choose which ones work best for them, if any at all. It’s enough, as mothers, to fight the battles happening in our minds- be they from childhood trauma, misaligned ideals, trying to maintain balance while juggling work, life, partner, kids, friends and self or simply trying to remember if you locked the car and how to have adult conversation with your DH while bouncing a baby, gathering kid shrapnel from the day and wondering what the heck to make for dinner. We don’t need anything else to worry about, especially not from the ones who should understand our position the most. We would do better examining our own stumbling blocks and turning them into stepping stones instead of trying to rise by putting others down. Isn’t that what we try to teach our children?

I want my children to grow up in a world where people support each other’s ideas and creativity, where each of us is free -and encouraged– to be our best individual selves who play our best parts in the individual roles we were meant to fill. I believe Ghandi when he said, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” and I’m typing here on my soapbox and starting with me.

We’ve all read 1 Corinthians 13 about the definition of love, but what comes right before that is a message of not only tolerance, but importance and celebration of our differences. Funny enough, I couldn’t find ANY “Holier-than-thou” instructions in the entire Holy Book. (or anything that supports gay bashing, but that’s another post entirely)Take a look at this excerpt from Corinthians 12:

 
“17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be?
If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 
18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, 
every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.
19 If they were all one part, where would the body be?
20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” 
And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 
22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 
23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor.
And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 
24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. 
But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it,
25 so that there should be no division in the body, 
but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.
26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; 
if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.”


Bob Marley had the same idea behind “One Love” (just with a lot more smoke involved) and Buddha bears the same philosophy as well: We are all parts of the same whole and what you do to others, you do to yourself.

 
Karma, baby. It’ll run over your Dogma every time.

Okay, after that much scripture, here’s the much more Julie-version and a little window into my personality via a mother I’ve found intelligent, eloquent, and relevant long before she bore that title: 
 
 
The lyrics are here, if you don’ want to click through to the video.
 

What she said, folks…. 
Suck up and be nice. 

At the end of the day, we all have the same difficult, rewarding and highly personal job. An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind… but what would happen if it were an eye opening for an eye opening instead? There’s a trickle of blogs from mommy bloggers like Momology and myself and like this one from the Huffington Post calling for a truce and asking to take back The Conversation stemming from our fears and insecurities and turn it toward supporting & celebrating each other instead! I Let’s move it forward… Progress, if you will. When you see a Mom having a hard time, don’t judge. Smile. Remember the times you yourself have struggled. Find something nice to say & look her in the eye and say it. Remember the last time you were complimented by a total stranger? She will, too.
Pay it forward. Tell her she’s a great mom. Because she is
 
Which hats have you worn as a woman and mother? 
Where do you struggle with finding balance?

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7 thoughts on “Changing The (Mom War) Conversation: Suck Up and Be Nice

  1. Well….I have learned so much in 15 years of mommy-hood. I am not the same mother to caiden and ella as I was to ashley and dylan. And because of this, I try so hard to never judge another parent because you never know what they are dealing with. In this last year, having lost your dad, my grandpa and almost my caiden, nothing that was once important to me is important anymore. I love all the little things. When Caiden says a new word, when Ella says words Caiden can't…all these things fill my heart because they are all such fleeting moments that won't be there tomorrow. I wish life didn't need to take such a harsh lessons…but it is so true to always be nice because everyone is fighting some king of a battle. I was just telling the kids how when they were little there was times we couldn't even afford diapers and we would lay them on towels, that I had to hand wash because I couldn't afford to do the laundry (it was ,75 cents a load…loved this post. And I love you and I love your kids and you are a fantastic Mommy. xoxo

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  2. Hi there! Not a mommy yet, but I found this interested. It seems that women in general are spread out– and we also often turn on each other. Love the embedded quotes. Found you through blog hop, and now following you on Networked Blogs.

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  3. Thank you! You wrote that right as I was thinking, "Wow… nothing, eh? Oh well, I guess." Thanks for taking the initiative and telling another mom good job, lol! Glad we connected & looking forward to your posts as well. 🙂

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  4. Wow, what a great blog! I'm so glad you found me on Facebook, because I found your powerful writing. I am not a match-matchy mom either, and I'm definitely not afraid to be who I am and say what I think. I've found that the more confident I am, the more I am able to risk and step into situations that might have otherwise made me fearful. Look forward to following your posts!

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