I don't remember anyone talking to me about breastfeeding when my daughter was born nineteen years ago. I probably tried it for a minute because I saw it in a movie once or something, but I was nowhere near emotionally ready or mature enough to handle the responsibility. I remember being really psyched about the lot of ready-made formula bottles I got to leave the hospital with, and pretty bummed when she only drank an ounce of each when she woke up every hour the first night we were home. I know many young mothers today are making the choice to breastfeed their babies, and my hat and shoes are off to them. I just could not be bothered.
When my middle child was born thirteen years later, I was in an entirely different place emotionally and mentally. I had the support of a loving husband and the help of my then thirteen year old daughter. I was more mature, more steady on my feet, and most importantly I was ready. I tried for weeks to nurse him with blistered, cracked, and bleeding nipples, and continued even when I developed Mastitis in my right breast. Even after I learned of his lip tie, I tried and tried to get the proper latch - to make it work - but I just couldn't get it. The last day I cried, flinching and yelping at one last attempt to get it right, but I knew I was done.
I told my husband we had two options:
#1 We could start bottle feeding immediately
#2 I could go completely insane and check myself in somewhere
Needless to say, we opted for the first. I didn't feel terrible about it because I had given it the old college try, and I didn't miss the sleepless nights or sticking to my bras. I was okay with the decision that I made. Soon after, the baby started sleeping in his crib, and we began sleep training. We timed the crying and it lessened as days turned into weeks and we found sleep again. It was awesome. There was no discussion about what parenting styles we were using. We didn't read any books on the right or wrong ways to do anything. We just went with flow.
When my youngest was born a few years later, I decided to give breastfeeding another go. Keeping in mind he would be our last child, I mostly wished to experience the bonding aspects as well as prove to myself I could do it. He did not have the lip tie, and was eager and able to latch properly right away.
I attended a breastfeeding support group at the hospital where I delivered, and it was the most wonderful experience I could have asked for. I nursed for over a year, and it felt incredible.
During the weaning process, I started doing some research online and found many different opinions on the subject.
It was in some of the online "support" groups that I first encountered the, "Mom Wars." There were legit arguments between moms over the "right" and "wrong" ways to do pretty much everything parenting. It was difficult at times to not be drawn into the controversies and drama, but I did my best to listen to my own body and baby and do what was right for us. To be honest, the constant bickering was a welcomed distraction on the days I struggled with terrible postpartum depression. Some days the group chats got really ugly, and I wondered what the heck I was doing in there.
In the end, I left the online group because I couldn't deal with all the drama and yuck. I initially joined the chat rooms looking for support from other moms, and many days I left them with more anxiety than I entered with.
The sad news is that the battles continue far beyond the breast or bottle debate. "Mom Wars" seem to make their way into most every parenting topic there is, and it's not just online. Well, maybe most of the horrible bickering and name calling occurs online, because let's face it - it's just way easier to attack and say terrible things to complete strangers who disagree with us from safely behind our computer screens. There is however no shortage of segregated play groups in real life. These groups are welcoming to only mothers who conform to a specific parenting style and exclusive to these choices.
A very good friend of mine was recently struggling horribly with postpartum depression and struggling to leave the house with her two kids. She lives too far away for us to physically hang out, so I began suggesting playgroups in her area. She informed me that the only one close was a "Gentle Parenting" group that she would not necessarily "fit into to." After she finished explaining to me what that term means, I encouraged her to reach out to the facilitator and ask how "strict" the group is about member conformity.
She was right. She was not welcomed.
Here's a mom in need of support and motherhood inclusivity, who can't have it based on her personal choices. I don't get it.
I don't get it, and it makes me angry.
I don't understand why we can't support and respect our differences. I don't appreciate the fact that there are moms in a vulnerable state who are basically being told they're not worthy of support unless they make certain "acceptable" choices.
What might happen if we all just started accepting that we're not going to agree on everything? What if we all just admitted that every single child on the planet is different and there is no right or wrong way? Imagine how much we could learn from each other! Imagine how much we could enrich our children's lives by teaching them that discomfort with "different" is an opportunity for personal growth.
We don't have to hide or pretend these differences don't exist, and we don't have to barricade the door. Maybe differences wouldn't be so scary if we were all just allowed them without judgment. Maybe moms could be less afraid to tell the truth about how different they feel about the joys of motherhood. Maybe we could help each other lift the heavy cloak of depressive isolation and breathe a little easier.
Something needs to give, because this is exhausting.
I'm tired of hearing about moms being excluded because they're unique and think independently. I'm tired of watching moms defend their personal choices because someone thinks their way is the only acceptable one. I'm SO tired of seeing women tell other women that they're "bad" mothers because they dared to make decisions for their children without first consulting the list of acceptable "good" mom choices.
I'm tired of "Mom Wars."
I have no desire to compete with anyone for the title of "Mother Of The Year," and I'm tired of being asked to care that I'm not a candidate.
I just want us to be proud of who we are. I want every mom to know that she is enough. I want others to know it's possible to be in a group full of strong, opinionated women without it turning ravenous.
On a side note, I'm also pretty psyched that the Duff sisters have joined them (I lurved Haylie in Napoleon Dynamite, and I'm more obsessed with A Cinderella Story than I'll ever admit on a public level).
*clears throat* Anyway....
I really do have faith that if we all keep taking action each day to end this ridiculous "war," it will end. My hope is that when it ends more moms will feel empowered and supported, and support groups will feel more like a village than a camp.
What will you do today to end "Mom Wars?" Please visit Similac's Facebook page and share your ideas and plans for action!!!
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