“Did you see how she’s feeding her baby?”
“I can’t believe she thinks that’s ok?! He goes to bed where?”
“What kind of parent would let their child sleep that way?”
This is parenting, in public.
This is motherhood, preparing for our close-up, knowing full well that our cracks and flaws and doubts will be revealed to critics who are watching and waiting for us to fail.
I’m so embarrassed. Am I the only one in this playgroup who is feeding a baby this way?
I can’t keep my eyes open. I love where my baby sleeps, but maybe I’m doing it wrong?
Is everyone watching me? Does anyone really see me?
Welcome to the Mommy Wars, ladies.
Where we are horrible to each other online, in playgroups, and in tight little huddles in the preschool parking lot. Our parenting beliefs are not as easy to hide as religion and politics, so we use them as weapons when we need a release. The Mommy Wars are collapsing our confidence one snarky Facebook comment at a time. We are breaking each other down because we’re crumbling inside, our pre-motherhood identity slowly disintegrating under the weight of the laundry, the groceries, and the thirty thousand jackets and sand toys and leaky sippy cups that our kids have left in the car. Motherhood is hard. So why are we so cruel to each other?
1. You’re bored. I get it. If my son asks me to be the “red ninja” one more freaking time, I’m going to stab myself in the eye with his plastic sword. I spend endless minutes spinning around with him and yelling “Ninjaaaaaa-GOOOOO” like a good red ninja. Until I can’t take it anymore, and retreat to the quiet of the Internet. The parenting routine can be mind-numbing. Sometimes a good argument about how the formula companies have brainwashed the sheeple, or how breastfeeding past 12 months is perverse can make you feel like your neurons are actually firing. Our mothers’ generation watched soap operas in the afternoons. Facebook and Twitter are the new Days of Our Lives, but it’s dangerous when we can contribute to the train wreck in real time.
2. You’re angry. When you’re a mom, you can’t get mad at the kids in the same way you get mad at adults. I have an out-of-body experience when my 1 year old takes his entire breakfast and launches it off his high-chair. I hear myself saying calmly “Bennie, no throwing food. Food is to eat.” when inside my head I’m screaming “Are you fucking KIDDING ME?! I would give anything to actually eat a hot breakfast and you are throwing it on the FLOOR?!” But mothers can’t say that. So we yell at each other instead.
3. You’re jealous. You know that mom who wears the tassel bikini to the pool? The one we all whisper about, because her fake boobs barely fit in the little triangles (Who the hell wears little triangles when they’re swimming with a screaming 2 year old anyway?) And she obviously had a bikini wax. Who has time for that? Although I must admit, I considered subjecting myself to the searing pain of having hot wax put on my lady parts just so I could have 20 minutes of uninterrupted time to lie down. Why are we so judgmental and snarky about each other’s bodies? Well ladies, it’s because we’re jealous. Your fake boobs are perkier than mine. I wish I could rock a triangle bikini. We hate each other for being someone else’s version of perfect, when the truth is that we hate ourselves for not being Pinterest-ing enough.
4. You’re overwhelmed. Get kids dressed, get myself dressed, get everyone fed, feed them again, clean up food they threw on the floor, assemble the stroller, disassemble the stroller, get them in car seats, unpack the lunch boxes, make the snacks, nurse the baby, play with everyone, do the dishes, and be the red ninja. This is motherhood. I love it. But it freaking exhausts me. Then we go online and filter out the sweat and the stains and the screaming with pretty photo filters. Why do we lie to each other about real life? You show me yours, and I’ll show you mine.
5. You’re exhausted. Not even going to explain this. Instead, will go microwave my piss-warm coffee and raise it in your direction.
6. You’re not sure of your identity. New motherhood can be lonely. We all want to belong, and it helps to have a group of people who think like we do. It feels safer to be tethered together by similar parenting beliefs. In the riptide of motherhood, we’re all looking for a life raft that will help us stay afloat. Even if we have to kick you off of yours.
7. You’re dying to be recognized. Do you do a touchdown dance when your baby sleeps through the night? Do you shout it from the rooftops when you hit the 6 month mark of exclusive breastfeeding? Our celebrations scream “Notice me! Someone please tell me that I’m doing a good job, because nobody else is! Wait…I am doing a good job, right?”
Now do you see why we’re so mean to each other? We’re exhausted! We’re short-tempered. We’re terrified that we’re screwing up the little people who we love most in this world. We are needy, and lonely, and getting lost in this brave new parenting landscape because our map has been spit-up on by our baby and torn apart by our toddler. We shame each other on the Internet because we’re worried that we’re the ones doing it wrong.
Moms, I need you. We need each other. It will only get better when we start feeling better about ourselves. Put away your keyboard and put your hand on my shoulder. Log out of the Facebook groups and text your best friend. Tell her she’s doing a great job. Tell her your baby ate a crayon when you weren’t looking. Tell her the truth about motherhood. Your children are watching… is this how you want them to treat each other?