“I usually make all his food, but it’s just hard when you are out, you know?” she said sheepishly as she pulled out a jar of pureed carrots. The statement was met with a chorus of nods and sympathetic looks. Of course, there’s usually one in the group, the one who starts sentences with “well, have you tried…?” and I watched as she gave her suggestion about some fancy contraption made for making baby food, some kind of machine that you place a whole carrot into and it automatically dices and purees it, then funnels it directly to the mouth while simultaneously filling out your baby’s college applications. There were appropriate oohs and ahhs over the “what-will-they-think-of-next” idea, and I watched the new mom’s face relax in relief as she passed this new level of the mommy test, an arbitrary set of rules and expectations that are constantly changing but NEVER spoken about.
First rule of mommy fight club. You don’t talk about mommy fight club. (that’s actually the second rule. First rule is we wear yoga pants on Wednesday)
I don’t know who came up with this horrible little game, but I imagine it’s been around for a long while. I’m guessing cavemoms sat around the fire and grunted about if babies should sleep on the ground or on rocks or how they just could not BELIEVE that some women give their babies Wooly Mammoth milk. Of course, before they could decide the winner, they were sadly eaten by that very same Mammoth but you get my point.
I think what makes this dynamic so difficult is that the standards of what a good mom is changes based on how many kids you have, where you live, what the current culture says, what time of day it is, sometimes what time of the month it is. It’s not like we can study for the exams- the answer key changes faster than Jenny McCarthy can write another book about “autism”.
See what I did there? Talked smack about Jenny McCarthy AND used quotes for a well proven developmental disorder. I get extra credit for that.
So here you go- let’s at least agree to make this a little easier to pass or fail, okay? Take the quiz below to determine where YOU fall in this good/bad mom scale. See scoring key below
- While in labor, which of the following did you do?
- Lamaze breathing while focusing on a sonogram picture of your baby
- Swam laps in the baby pool that you set up in your living room while your husband played a recording of whales joyfully talking to each other.
- Have your husband construct a harness so your personal photographer can hang over the doctor so they don’t miss any of the special moments.
- Scream at a med student and kick your ob/gyn in the face when they try to check you. (these questions are not necessarily created out of someone’s experience. I just heard some women probably do that)
- Your toddler wants candy at the store, and begins to whine and scream. You-
- Firmly tell him no and ignore the whining
- Leave the store because of all the stares
- Tell him he can have candy if he asks nicely
- Tell him no. Buy the candy. Eat it in front of him to prove a point.
- What do you do when your child is refusing to go to sleep?
- Compromise with one more story
- Pretend you don’t hear the footsteps moving around upstairs
- Tell your spouse that it’s their turn
- Tell your child about the lava monster that lives under the bed that eats children’s feet at night when they touch the floor.
- Your child is angry and screams “I hate you!” Your response is-
- Lovingly wrap them in a hug and tell them you understand
- Yell back that you’ll give them something to hate you for
- Ignore them until they take it back
- Send them to their room, eat ice cream and hum “Butterfly Kisses” through tears
If you scored mostly any of these, that means you actually read through this and that means you are a wonderful person. It might also mean you have too much free time.
We talk a lot about the mommy war, and how we should just all accept and support each other, and stop being so critical of each other. I agree with this, but I’d like to propose another possibility.
Stop prepping for battle.
Let me tell you an embarrassing story about me. When Selah was about four months old, Wes and I went to a party at a friend’s house and we took her with us. It started to get late, so I asked this friend if I could borrow a pack and play to put Selah down in. She led me up to their room and set it up for me. As I changed Selah into pajamas, she asked me how old Selah was. I answered “four months” and she said this world crashing statement to me-
“Wow. I could never have put my babies down like that at four months old”
Now, if you are not neurotic and over sensitive and generally crazy, you understand that she meant that at four months, her babies would not have tolerated being put down awake without screaming. That is a very reasonable interpretation of that statement.
I, on the other hand, was horrified because in my head, she meant “Wow. You must be a terrible person who hates her baby and probably hates babies in general. I am a most excellent mother and highly attached to my children. I could have NEVER have left their tiny sides a mere four months after they emerged from my womb. I am sad for you that you can carelessly toss your baby into baby jail. Just how many puppies have you murdered today?”
I’d love to tell you that I realized how crazy I was being right away…but I didn’t. I didn’t even CONSIDER that she didn’t mean that. And you know what, I believed that this woman thought I was a bad mom for Y-E-A-R-S. One day, I was talking to another younger mom about putting babies to bed, and it hit me like a ton of bricks what she really meant. And then I felt REALLY stupid.
This has been a huge lesson for me. She didn’t do anything wrong. Her innocent remark got wrapped up in MY insecurity, and was swallowed up by my desire for her to think I was a good mom and my fear that I wasn’t. Her opinion, or my assumption of her opinion, became more important than what God thought. Now, when I am sitting in that group of women and the subject of breastfeeding versus formula comes up, I try to make a choice to believe that these women are not judging me. When I am with homeschooling moms, I can choose to believe that they don’t care that my kids are in public school. When my child throws a huge fit in the park, I want to choose to believe other moms are looking at me with sympathy, not scorn.
The mommy war is real…but I don’t think the battle flares nearly as often as we think it does.
So mamas, take a deep breath today and relax. If you are holding a weapon against another mom, lay it down, but make sure you lay down your armor too because there’s a pretty good chance you aren’t being attacked.
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