I feel like a jerk for writing this.
I’ve read my share of the beautiful, heartfelt essays and Mom-to-Mom letters floating around the blogosphere lately, and been grateful for the reminder that we’re not actually all out to get each other.
When I get to the end, I usually sigh, smile…..and feel not even a little bit better.
It’s not that the sentiments aren’t important: We moms (and dads) really do need to support each other. We really do need to call it quits with the rivalries and nastiness. And we really are, usually, doing the very best we know how.
But somewhere, deep inside, I can’t actually rest with a conclusion, no matter how heart-felt it is, that we all just need to get along, and stop saying one way to parent is “better” than another.
Parenting is an incredibly emotional task. So it makes sense that we might feel like its methods are completely subjective. It might feel like there isn’t a way to qualify something so deeply individual.
But the problem is, parenting isn’t purely subjective.
Despite their highly opinionated methods of arriving in our attention, there are actual facts on the table. Real studies showing real damage and real growth with real children. So, whether it feels good or not, there is real quantifiable evidence that some parenting methods are better than others.
And the problem with all the “mommy wars” talk is that we end up trying so hard not to hurt anyone’s feelings that we start acting like those facts are just opinions. We think no one mom’s opinions are better than another, so we’d all do much better just to say, “What’s right for you is right for you, what’s right for me is right for me,” and be done with it.
We get so sensitive and careful, we miss the point.
No, I don’t think it’s okay for moms to be mean to each other. Or to hold out rivalries and be fueled by resentments. We do need to remember we are all doing the best we know how.
But that’s the key. The best we know how.
The truth is, there’s lots we don’t know. It takes some major leaps just to move beyond the way our own parents parented. And even with lots of research, we are still never going to know everything that would be good to know. We are all going to make mistakes. But we do nobody, especially our children, any good by smiling at each other but staying silent. We need to learn from each other. We need to learn how to be open to learning. To open our minds to new ideas. To have our own thoughts and habits challenged. To find out there might be a better way.
It means we may come, many times, to the conclusion that we’ve made mistakes.
Done things wrong. Hurt our children and ourselves without meaning to.
But it’s so much better to learn and make changes than to cover our ears and refuse to acknowledge real facts and real help.
And if we can learn how to do this, how to open ourselves up to learn from each other ….We will discover better ways to love our kids…. AND, maybe even better, we will give them a lifetime model of that very same skill: how to be humble, how to try something new, and how to learn for a lifetime.