It wasn’t so long ago that my daughter was eating homemade muffins when another mom said to no one in particular but really everyone in specific, “I used to make my daughter things like muffins from scratch, but then I had my other kid and I just don’t have time for that kind of stuff,” she chuckled, “I mean, I feed my kids things from cans now and I don’t think it makes any difference at all. Isn’t it sweet that you have the time to do things like that.”
Was this statement benign? Perhaps. Was it coming from a woman who feels guilty that her second child gets a different set of standards than her first? Maybe. Was it a commentary on how new moms of only children do things versus mothers of multiple kids? Your call. Did it make me want to smash a surprisingly moist and delicious whole wheat, blackstrap molasses and blueberry muffin into her eyeballs? Absolutely.
But, instead, I stood there silently and smiled. In fact, that’s what I was doing the whole time; standing there silently and smiling. I wasn’t chasing her children around the room with forkfuls of quinoa and kale, telling them they were going to die from GMO-induced brain tumors. I wasn’t gleefully talking about all the free hours I have to bake, and to plan all the ways I was going to decorate string cheese for my daughter’s kindergarten party in five years, and to sew everyone’s underwear with organic cotton sourced from Egypt or wherever we are supposed to be getting cotton from these days. But isn’t that the way it always is? The unsuspecting, well-intentioned person gets slung an arrow at something they didn’t even know was a target.
Prior to becoming a mother, I’d heard about the “Mommy Wars.” I’d already carefully curated my thoughts on whose allegiances I’d take if it came down to nuclear action. I would be pro-working moms. I would be pro-cloth diapers. I would be pro-breastfeeding and anti-cosleeping. Out of all of these things, only two of them I actually followed and one of them I realized is a non-debate. But what I really learned is that these “Mommy Wars,” if they exist at all, aren’t full calls for military action with women carrying their Ergos and Baby Ka’Tans on flagpoles to battle, but instead are hidden slyly in the little comments, in the exchanged glances between women, in the raised eyebrows and the, “I don’t have time for that.”
You know, it’s women being…well, stereotypical women. It’s the passive aggressiveness. It’s the misdirected guilt. It’s the hen house clucking and nitpicking that drives the partners in our lives crazy and runs in sometimes almost imperceptible ways through our female friendships. In sum, I don’t think it has anything to do with motherhood at all, but is just business as usual placed ever so conveniently under the microscope of parenthood. Particularly when you have children of a similar age, it is dangerously easy to start comparing not only your own child’s milestones, but every small action on your part that you believe might be contributing to that development. And through this starts the spilling out of the careless words that are somehow meant to make ourselves feel better but completely undermine the quiet joys of others. Conversely, so does the overabundance of sensitivity to what others say or think.
I plead guilty as charged on both war crimes, sir.
So what is the solution here? Be kind and careful, I guess. You let me know if you come up with something better. I’ll just be over here baking things, this time solely to make a point.